Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Law of unintended consequences"

It often takes a policy to fix the consequences of the last policy. In polite company, it's called "the law of unintended consequences". We know that employer-provided health insurance in the U.S. can be traced back to World War II price controls. Employers compete on many margins and controlling any one of them is never the end of the story. The health care cost curve that policy makers are now struggling to "bend" is the legacy.

Likewise with the new rules to police credit card penalty fees. Yesterday's WSJ led with "Credit-Card Rates Climb ... Levels Hit Nine-Year High as New Rules Limiting Penalty Fees Help Fuel Rise." The new rules, of course, are part of the new financial market "reforms" and "consumer protections" that politicians will take credit for through the coming election season.