Sometimes government programs have good intentions and sometimes not. And sometimes they try shit just to see what happens.
And while the history of governments doing grossly misguided things is too long and depressing to recount here, these five programs backfired in ways that could impress even the most pessimistic among us:
Just typing this gives us the whiskey tremors, but here goes: For thirteen years, beginning in 1920, the sale of alcohol was banned in the United States. When the 18th Amendment was ratified in January of 1920, prohibition went into effect and began what would come to be described as "the bleakest time in American history" by that elderly, alcoholic relative we all have.
Hi, Uncle Rick!
Without the evils of alochol abuse, it was hoped that everything from unemployment to domestic violence would decrease dramatically. People would be free to focus their energy on other things like church, work, finances and, of course, smoking mountains of still-legal marijuana.
How It Backfired:
A wise man once said, "Here's to alcohol; the source of--and solution to--all of life's problems." He may not have realized it, but Homer Simpson's profound words on the subject perfectly sum up the problems with prohibition. Taking away booze didn't result in people not wanting to drink booze.
Enter Al Capone, and the many, many guys like him who profited from smuggling newly illegal alcohol. Unfortunately for people who just wanted to buy and sell booze in peace, Capone gained control of Chicago's massive bootlegging and smuggling industry by way of a series of bloody gang wars.
At his peak, it's rumored Capone was bringing in close to $60,000,000 old timey dollars per year. That's money the government could have been taxing, which you'd have to think would have helped later during the Great Depression (we're just sayin').
As if the rising crime rate wasn't bad enough, some people suggest that alcohol consumption actually increased during prohibition. The problems caused by alcohol didn't go away, but taking alcohol away caused new, bigger problems. And the solution to those new problems? More alcohol. Just like Homer said.
Prohibition finally ended with the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1935, and America learned a valuable lesson. Then marijuana was made illegal two years later.
We all know the horrors of the old Soviet Union, thanks to a series of stark portrayals of the regime in the 80s (such as Rocky IV and Red Heat).
Glasnost was supposed to help fix all that. This was Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of loosening media controls and restrictions on freedom of speech. The policy of openness was intended to put pressure on ruling conservatives within the Communist Party who opposed Gorbachev's policies on economic reform (known as Perestroika).
Wow, searching for images for Gorbachev's policy of economic reform is boring as shit.
His hope was that a noticeable decrease in government-issued savage beatings for people who read books would lead to open debate and, eventually, widespread acceptance of his reform policies.
Unfortunately for Gorbachev, all that reading led the Soviet people to but one conclusion: "Man, fuck a Soviet Union."
How It Backfired:
Google Image Search has, like, 900 fucking variations of this picture.
Soon, stories were popping up all over Russia about the incredibly shitty Soviet economic and social situation. It's one thing to know that standing in line for six hours to buy vodka and a gently used sweater is the norm in your little neck of the frigid Soviet woods. That just makes you want to move to a less shitty town. Knowing that those lines are just as long everywhere else and it's your government's fault? That makes a person want to get a new government.
Nationalists began winning elections in the U.S.S.R. and one by one, those republics declared their independence.
Not to distract any of you from the exciting world of Nationalist politics, but Booya!
The situation finally reached a tipping point when the Soviet Union unwisely decided to host a title bout for a certain Rocky Balboa. When the crowd saw Rocky's tenacity and can-do American attitude, they began to cheer for him, instead of the Soviet-sponsored Ivan Drago. Within a few short years, the Soviet Union was dissolved .
We suppose on a list like this you could just put "Vietnam" and leave it at that. But of the several million things that went wrong in the course of that war, we think perhaps one was more retarded than the rest.
As you know from Apocalypse Now and, to a lesser extent, Platoon, one problem was that the regular farm folk who we were trying to liberate in South Vietnam, and the commie bad guys we were fighting, were often the same guys.
So we launched the Strategic Hamlet Program to try to separate the bad guys from the good, so we could then kill that first group. Makes sense.
The idea was to set up villages that would be provided with supplies and protection by the non-commie South Vietnam government. The rural folk would all move there and would be so grateful they would support the good guys. This was all based on the scientific principle that, "If you force millions of people to pack up their shit and move to a new place that they have to build themselves with a bunch of strangers, they will love you for it."
How could that shit not work?
How It Backfired:
These "hamlet" and "village" words don't really do this program justice. Protecting and supplying a couple of small towns would have been no big deal. But in all, the Strategic Hamlet Program ended up relocating 8.5 million people. The government had no ability to supply and protect that many. Basically, they had a plan in place to take control of the area, but no plan in place to tell them what to do when they took control.
Who does that?
With millions of newly pissed-off South Vietnamese villagers now condensed in small areas, the communist insurgents were able to come in and recruit support at an impressive rate. In some cases there were as many insurgent recruits inside the villages as there were outside.
This posed an all new problem for U.S. and South Vietnam forces. Take a look at these two pictures of people who, according to the professionals at ratethisasian.com, are both Vietnamese.
Would you be able to tell which one is the communist insurgent? Yeah, neither could we (although the sunflowers indicate possible hippie activity). At any rate, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces faced this same problem, albeit at a presumably much less sexy level, with the Strategic Hamlet Program. Ordinary non-combatant citizens were now living amongst just as many enemy fighters. And nobody could tell the difference.
The program was eventually disbanded in 1963. And we never ever made similar mistakes during a war ever again. The end.