Toward the end of his life, Malcolm Muggeridge had rather gloomy thoughts on the potential for change through politics. “The result is almost invariably the exact opposite of what’s intended,” he said. “Thus, expanding public education has served to increase illiteracy; half a century of pacifist agitation has resulted in the two most ferocious and destructive wars of history; political egalitarianism has made for a heightened class-consciousness … and sexual freedom has led to erotomania on a scale hitherto undreamed of.”

A creative theologian could use such modern examples to buttress support for the doctrine of original sin. Whatever human beings touch goes wrong. Politics, especially, runs according to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Lyndon Johnson’s sweeping War on Poverty was supposed to bring an end to poverty in the world’s wealthiest nation. Thirty years and many billions of dollars later, we have more poor people than ever before. Sex education was supposed to reduce substantially the incidence of unwanted teenage pregnancies. Instead, a rise in the pregnancy rate was accompanied by a massive increase in the number of teenage abortions. The sexual revolution of the 1960s, which promised liberation, has resulted in a soaring divorce rate and epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases. This is liberation?

A friend of mine who works at a rescue mission in Chicago recounted some Unintended Consequences among the homeless. In a moment of compassion, policy-makers classified alcoholism and drug addiction as unemployable disabilities. When word got out, addicts and alcoholics lined up to get a doctor’s certification of their condition, and soon they received retroactive payment from the federal disability fund. “Can ...

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