Beware the Unintended Consequences

Harley-Davidson is going to move some production off shore due to the trade war President Trump started. If they don’t, the prices of their bikes in the E.U. would increase, leading consumers to choose competitors’ products. This one hits home for me because, as Secretary of Community and Economic Development for Pennsylvania, I orchestrated a project to keep Harley’s production in York, PA. Now some of those jobs will be lost.

We’re going to see this unfold all across the country: jobs lost due to the trade war. I suspect Mr. Trump would tell us, though, that we’ll also see job gains in certain industries and companies, and that the gains will more than offset the losses. I don’t know; we’ll have to wait and see. What we can be certain of, however, is that prices will rise and quality will suffer. But if you’re someone who gets a job due to the tariffs, perhaps you won’t care. As for everyone else, well, we’ll just have to pay  more. And put up with inferior products in certain cases.

The interesting aspect of this war to watch will be the unintended consequences. There always are unintended consequences and, usually, they’re the hardest ones to anticipate. Sometimes, though, they can end up being the most significant.

It’s a good lesson to remember, Vera: sometime when you think you’re solving a problem, you’re actually creating a bigger one. The key is to think it though and try to identify all possible outcomes. It’s probably not possible to anticipate everything, but if you hope to become a good decision maker and someone who’s more valued in the labor market than the average person, then it’s important to be able to see what others miss and to avoid the big mistakes.

Whether the trade war will go down in history as a big mistake is yet to be determined. If it is, then the vast majority of us will end up paying the price and the man who’s most accountable may skate.

That’s life.

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