Cobra effect  

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"A classic example of a perverse incentive occurred when the British government in India offered a bounty for dead cobras with intent to decrease the wild cobra population. However, enterprising people began to breed cobras for the income. When the government became aware of this, the reward program was scrapped, causing the cobra breeders to set the now-worthless snakes free. As a result, the wild cobra population further increased. The term cobra effect was coined to describe a situation where an attempted solution to a problem actually makes the problem worse."--Sholem Stein

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The cobra effect occurs when an attempted solution to a problem makes the problem worse, as a type of unintended consequence. The term is used to illustrate the causes of incorrect stimulation in economy and politics. The term cobra effect originated in an anecdote, set at the time of British rule of colonial India. The British government was concerned about the number of venomous cobra snakes in Delhi. The government therefore offered a bounty for every dead cobra. Initially this was a successful strategy as large numbers of snakes were killed for the reward. Eventually, however, enterprising people began to breed cobras for the income. When the government became aware of this, the reward program was scrapped, causing the cobra breeders to set the now-worthless snakes free. As a result, the wild cobra population further increased. The apparent solution for the problem made the situation even worse.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cobra effect" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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