It has been wearisome lately, hearing all the praise heaped upon politicians as “intelligent” and “visionary” because of their grandiose programs to make the populace healthy, wealthy, and wise. Their reputations are based solely on intention, never on actual performance. Anyone who opposes such programs are denigrated as “obstructionists” and unfairly characterized as opposing the common good.
However, it does not take much intelligence at all to see the intended consequences of a policy or program. Rather, the intelligent man is the one who can foresee the unintended consequences. They are few, indeed, and they are shouted down when they dare to speak.
I would concede intelligence to those who can understand the unintended consequences when explained to them, even had they been unable to foresee them. Unfortunately, they are equally rare. That is because, ultimately, it is not just a question of intelligence, but also of moral will. There is an ethics of intelligence, and the failure to consider the unintended consequences of one’s acts is a moral, as much as an intellectual, failing.