true stories The Most Ironic Examples of the Cobra Effect  

Jacob Shelton
452 votes 207 voters 20.7k views 24 items

Coined by the late German economist Horst Siebert, the cobra effect calls back to an idea put in place in India during English colonization. What does it all mean? Well, let’s just say that things didn’t go as planned during colonization and that, in a nutshell, the cobra effect is created when you want to fix a problem, but your solution makes things worse than they were before. It’s sort of like a dude cutting the sleeves off his shirt to make a tank top. Yes, you were hot before and now the tops of your arms are cool, but you’re also a guy wearing a cut off shirt, and that’s horrible. That metaphor doesn't completely encapsulate the socio-economic implications of the cobra effect, but hopefully after you read this list of the most ironic examples of the cobra effect, you’ll be on board.

The unintended consequences of “good ideas” on this list range from massive global destruction, to presidents getting embarrassed on the Internet. Why try to do anything good if it’s just going to blow up in your face? Hopefully after reading this list of cobra effect examples you don’t get thrown under the existential bus and know how to solve your problems without any surprise bad results.

Vote up the instances of the cobra effect you think are the most interesting and if you can think of an example that isn't listed, leave it in the comments section for everyone to enjoy!
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The Original Cobra Effect


The Original Cobra Effect is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Ironic Examples of the Cobra Effect
Photo: Russ Bowling/Flickr
The term "cobra effect" stems from the initial British colonization of India. The British government was concerned with the amount of poisonous snakes in the region, so they offered a bounty for every snake killed. Initially this worked like gangbusters, until the locals started breeding the snakes for profit. When government officials caught wind of this, they cut off the program and the Indian region was filled with even more cobras than before.
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2 41 VOTES

The War on Drugs


The War on Drugs is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Ironic Examples of the Cobra Effect
Photo: via Imgur
America's war on drugs began in earnest in 1971, when Richard Nixon declared drug abuse "public enemy number one." Intended to suppress the illegal drug trade, the WOD backfired similarly to prohibition, but with wider-reaching consequences. Not only did it create a permanent underclass by making drug crimes a federal offense, thus stripping offenders of voting rights and removing opportunities for education and employment. On the bright side, it's fueled cartel violence in Mexican countries!
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3 18 VOTES

Barbara Streisand Can't Leave Well Enough Alone


Barbara Streisand Can't Le... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Ironic Examples of the Cobra Effect
Photo: mike krzeszak/Flickr
In 2003, Babs unsuccessfully sued Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for posting a photograph of her home online, believing that it would lead stalkers/crazed fans to seek her out. Before the lawsuit had been filed, only six people had actually downloaded the file, and two of them were Streisand's attorneys. Her lawsuit drew attention to the image, resulting in 420,000 people visiting the site, thus coining the phrase, "The Streisand Effect."
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4 9 VOTES

Scorpion Effect


Scorpion Effect is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Ironic Examples of the Cobra Effect
Photo: via Wikimedia
In 2008 the Internet Watch Foundation added the Wikipedia article for Virgin Killer, an album by German stadium rock band The Scorpions, to their child pornography blacklist, saying they considered the album's artwork, "a potentially illegal indecent image of a child under the age of 18." The article quickly became one of the most popular pages on the site and the publicity surrounding the censorship resulted in the image being spread across other sites as well.
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