Blogs > Liberty and Power > "THINGS NEVER WORK OUT QUITE AS YOU HOPE"

Dec 27, 2003 6:43 am


"THINGS NEVER WORK OUT QUITE AS YOU HOPE"



I'm informed by James Markels that in the foreward to The Essential Neo-Conservative Reader, James Q. Wilson defines the neoconservative persuasion as follows:

"Neoconservatism is an ... attitude that holds social reality to be complex and change difficult. If there is any article of faith common to almost every adherent, it is the Law of Unintended Consequences. Things never work out quite as you hope; in particular, government programs often do not achieve their objectives or do achieve them but with high or unexpected costs. ... [A] neoconservative questions change because, though present circumstances are bad and something ought to be done, it is necessary to do that something cautiously, experimentally, and with a minimum of bureaucratic authority."

Given our current plight in Iraq, the irony is painful. That appreciation of social complexity and human fallibility certainly seemed to desert the neoconservatives in the run-up to war. But now that we're stuck trying to engineer the Iraqi Great Leap Forward from a backward tribal despotism to a modern liberal democracy, we're learning a lot about"high [and] unexpected costs."


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