Perverse Incentives

Government is often said to be bedeviled by “unintended
consequences.” That doesn’t mean that
the consequences cannot be foreseen. Two
great examples present themselves this week. First, in Boiling Springs Lake, North Carolina, the endangered red
cockaded woodpecker has been spotted. As
a result, local land-owners have been rushing
for the chainsaws
to protect their property investments:

The [Federal Fish and Wildlife Service] issued a map marking
15 active woodpecker “clusters,” and announced it was working on a new one that
could potentially designate whole neighborhoods of this town in southeastern
North Carolina as protected habitat, subject to more-stringent building

Hoping to beat the mapmakers, landowners swarmed City Hall
to apply for lot-clearing permits. Treeless land, after all, would not need to
be set aside for woodpeckers. Since February, the city has issued 368 logging
permits, a vast majority without accompanying building permits.

The results can be seen all over town. Along the roadsides,
scattered brown bark is all that is left of pine stands. Mayor Joan Kinney has
watched with dismay as waterfront lots across from her home on Big Lake have
been stripped down to sandy wasteland.

Meanwhile, in Fairfax County, Virginia, county officials
wanted to save money by cutting government-owned cars from their fleet that are
driven fewer than 4500 miles annually. The result?

From homeless-outreach workers to zoning inspectors, Fairfax
employees are driving hundreds of vehicles across the county — or are swapping
cars with those who drive more — simply to run up the odometers. They know
that if they don’t use their cars, they could lose them.

(Hat tip: Knowledge

Government: creating more problems than it solves since 3000