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Thursday, 25 July 2019

The micro-macro conundrum

Rescuing refugees from the Mediterranean feels like a good deed because else they will drown and die. However, such rescue efforts also attract more refugees because they will expect future rescue efforts. Moreover, human traffickers are said to be cooperating with NGO's saving these refugees. How can good micro decisions be so wrong on a macro level?

To some extent, there is a link with the Law of Unintended Consequences, as "popularised in the twentieth century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton". This Law, however, assumes "outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action". Clearly, human traffickers and NGO's must know that rescue efforts will attract more refugees.

The 2015 decision of the German Chancellor to open the German borders and welcome more than a million of migrants and/or refugees is an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. While her humanitarian decision may be applauded on a micro level, its consequences on a macro level cannot be underestimated (eg, AfD, Islamic terrorismIslamic sexual assaults).

It does not seem farfetched that the unintended and unforeseen outcomes of the (First) Law of Unintended Consequences trigger a Second Law of Intended Consequences - by purposeful action. This might explain the micro-macro conundrum in the tile of my blog.

Examples of the Second Law of Intended Consequences are the detention centers for migrants and refugees in various territories, such as Australia, Europe and USA (eg, Eureka Street-2014, BI-2019Independent-2019, NYT-2019). Their mediocre humanitarian conditions are intended to scare off future migrants and refugees.

The Second Law of Intended Consequences may cause unintentional fallacies (1987 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies). An example is the current Dutch debate on freedom of religious education - as funded by the Dutch state - following Article 23 of the Constitution. This intended consequence is causing problems with undemocratic Islamic education (an unintentional fallacy).

People are often keen on solving a puzzle or riddle. The micro-macro conundrum seems difficult to solve. From a philosophical view, applying the Greater Good theory - or utilitarianism - would make sense: promoting "actions that maximize happiness and well-being for the majority of a population". From a humanitarian view, saving lives makes perfect sense.

“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.” A quote by Ken Levine (b. 1950), American writer, director and producer in the television and film industry.

 Consequences (2018) by Camila Cabello


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

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