In the business world, people have talked about the role of serendipity or luck in a firm's success. Is there something similar for the success of a government's economic policy?

More specifically, are there any examples in history where a government intervention in the industry was held to be poorly-conceived or ill-informed from an economic perspective. For example, how the Ghanaian government used to instruct factories to be set up at unreasonable locations. But the intervention ended up unexpectedly benefiting the industry, e.g., lead to discovery of a new technology/a new market solution...?

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    How are you defining "bad government intervention"? The obvious interpretation (an intervention is bad if it leads to a bad outcome) would seem to render your question a logical contradiction.
    – Semaphore
    Mar 7, 2018 at 14:33
  • @ Semaphore♦ Thanks for pointing out the confusions. I just revised the question. Hopefully it clarifies what I want to ask. Mar 12, 2018 at 3:34
  • Maybe building a palace (Versailles for example) would be seen as a bad economic decision, because is a waste of resources. But now, that palace is a huge tourist attraction, and probably has been an important source or revenue.
    – Santiago
    Mar 12, 2018 at 14:04
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    @Santiago Neuschwanstein is a great example of what you described. The king went into severe debts building it and his government was wildly opposed. But within years of his death it became a huge tourist attraction and a significant source of profits.
    – Semaphore
    Mar 12, 2018 at 14:34

1 Answer 1


In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue...

When Columbus approached King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the monarchs created a commission to study the feasibility of his idea. The group, called the Talavera Commission, concluded that Asia was too far away to be reached. The Commission was right and Columbus was wrong.

Ferdinand and Isabella sponsored the voyage anyway. Fortunately for the government of Spain--and tragically for everybody already living in the New World--Columbus ended up reaching the Americas.

This article has a lot more detail about the decision to sponsor the voyage.

To be clear, the arrival of Columbus was horrific for the countless people who had already lived in the area for generations. Your question seems to refer to success as defined by the government agency responsible for the intervention.

  • 1
    @MarkC.Wallace that is absolutely correct and I just edited my answer to make that more clear. Thank you for pointing out that I needed to add that. Mar 7, 2018 at 16:35

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