May 16, 2021.
As much as we attempt to cover all the bases when considering laws and projects, life is complex. It is difficult to forecast what the long-term consequences of events might be. Sometimes predicted results turn out to be spot-on. Other times outcomes unforeseen and unexpected – unintended consequences – positive or negative – occur.
Did anyone predict the rise of organized crime with the passage of Prohibition?
In India the government, British-controlled at the time, offered a bounty for venomous cobra snakes, the animal a bothersome pest. The bounty worked – temporarily. Then entrepreneurs began breeding cobras for the bounty. The government ended the program, breeders released their cobras into the wild, and the cobra population swelled.
From the 1940s through the early 1960s, the Quebec provincial government provided the Catholic Church $2.25 per day per psychiatric patient for their care, but granted only $1.25 a day per orphan. The result: orphans were diagnosed as mentally ill so the church could receive the larger payment.
I doubt anyone foresaw that the founding of a railroad town in the middle of a desert would become America’s Sin City.
Native Americans dwelt in the region as far back as 10,000 years. Paiutes settled the area about 700 A.D. Possibly the first American snowbirds, the Indians spent summers in the mountains and winters in the valley. Centuries later, in the mid-1800’s, a group of Mormons settled the area. But they found the climate too hot and raising crops too difficult. The result: tension among Mormon leaders. The settlement was abandoned.
Union/Confederate intrigue, a treaty with the Paiutes, a new group of Mormon and other settlers, and the wilderness began to change during the late 19th century. A railroad linking Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, completed in 1905, powered through the area. A stop along the tracks, a boondocks town in the middle of nowhere, was incorporated on May 15, 1911. The town adopted the name given the place by Spanish explorers in 1829 – Las Vegas – the meadows.
The town remained a backwater with a couple of gambling dens until the construction of the Boulder/Hoover Dam in 1931. Thousands of workers descended on the desert. Casinos and bars featuring showgirls and other illicit forms of entertainment expanded on the only paved street in Las Vegas, Fremont Street, and attracted the dam workers.
In 1941 the El Rancho Vegas resort opened outside of town. Other hotel-casinos, many funded by mob money, followed, and ‘the Strip’ was born. Years later (1966) Howard Hughes moved into the Desert Inn, bought the place and never left. His presence led to the decline of mob influence and the rise of corporate development money.
Unintended Consequences: the brief, totally American story of Las Vegas, Nevada.