What is Cobra effect in political economy?

  • This refers to the phenomenon wherein policies that are aimed at addressing a problem only manage to worsen it by leading to some unintended consequences.
  • The term originates from the story of a policy pursued by the British colonial government in India to tackle the menace caused by a huge population of cobras out in the open.
  • It tried to incentivise the capture of cobras by providing a bounty, but the policy led to an actual increase in the cobra population as people began to breed new cobras in order to seek the bounty.
  • The cobra effect is usually cited to emphasise that good intention alone does not necessarily translate into desirable results.


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