Causation: The Boon and the Bane of Capitalism (of life, really)

A while back, I ran across a story about the law of unintended consequences.  Cause and effect is how life happens.  Is not that why with business and finance, we think of forecasting, making judgments about risks, following the science and creating new products, taking due care, of assuming fiduciary responsibilities, of bringing stakeholder concerns into our decision-making?

This story turned on the consequences of farmers in India giving their cattle the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac.  When vultures fed on dead cattle having been so treated, the vultures suffered kidney failure and died within weeks.  From the 1990s to the early 2000s, some 90% of Indian vultures died.

Other scavengers took their place: feral dogs and rats, which carried rabies.  But more impactful were the rotting carcasses full of pathogens, which spread to drinking water.  People died.  A study concluded that in districts with vulture suitable habitats, the loss of vultures caused some 500,000 human deaths more than in districts that were less suitable for vultures.

The Economist captured these causal connections in this graphic: