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Case Study Example: The Cobra Effect

6 pages
1491 words
Sewanee University of the South
Type of paper: 
Case study
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The term The Cobra Effect was first coiled arising from a time of social fight with cobras in the British rule of colonial India. There was a concern by the British Government over the rising number of venomous cobra snakes in the city of Delhi. The government saw that the number of cobra deaths was way above what had become a tragedy for the people. Thus, it sought to eliminate this occurrence. The decision that was made here was that the cobras had to be killed. With the cobras being with the people, it was taken that the people could be used, with a pay, to kill the cobras. The government then offered a bounty for every cobra that was killed. The strategy was a success but for a particular period. A large number of Cobras were killed (Ermolaeva & Ross, 2011).

The number of the people who were stroke by the cobras went down greatly. Nonetheless, the success that had been obtained was short-lived. People started to become enterprising from the rewards they were getting. People began to breed cobras as a way of making income. It did not take any longer since the government realized what the people were doing. The government scrapped the reward program. Because of this, those who had bred the cobras released cobras since they were no longer benefiting from them. The cobra population started to rise again. Later, it was realized that the strategy and decision were taken by the government to eliminate the cobras resulted in an increased number of cobras, paralleled with an increasing number of human fatalities (How is the Cobra Effect playing out with India's e-commerce startups, 2016).

Unintended Consequences of the Decision

Cobras are dangerous animals as seen with the way in which it had killed many civilians. The intentions of the government were to have the local people deal with this problem themselves, with the immediate decision and help from the government. The government involved the British rule of the colonial India. The decision made by the government was that the people be motivated by a single bounty for every individual snake kill. This was taken as a good work for the people as they would be financially building themselves as they seek to set their environment free of cobras. The government saw this as an effective and efficient way of eliminating the menace that was hindering its growth (How is the Cobra Effect playing out with India's e-commerce startups, 2016).

The financial need for the people, however, appears to have grown way beyond their intention and need to be safe from the cobras. They wanted more of the bounty money and not the work itself. They created an enterprising avenue where they could make more money for themselves by keeping the cobras, increasing them through breeding, and providing them for a kill whenever they wanted to be paid. The government did not take long before realizing this drill. The government stopped all forms of bounty payments to the people. Now that the incentive was gone, the people felt gutted that their immediate source of income was being taken away. Because of this, they released the bred cobras to the wild. The number of the cobras increased even more than it was before. The number of cobra strikes and deaths started to escalate again. It was another menace to the people and the government. It was unintended that whatever the people did, and everything involved would result in more cobras. The situation was uncontrollable at some point (How is the Cobra Effect playing out with India's e-commerce startups, 2016). It was not expected that the people would turn against this program and bring certainty of risks to themselves and the others because of the government strategy. Moreover, it was not expected that the result of the plan taken by the government would result in many more deaths from the cobra strikes.

Process of Decision Making that was used

The government sought to have a clear solution to the existing problem. The problem was affecting the people. The government had to take an immediate response. The response was supposedly intended to bring about an immediate ending to the ongoing cobra strikes. The government would have used many other methods to eliminate the cobra strikes. Nonetheless, it realized there was more to individual human participation in killing the cobras. The government would have used different means to control cobra strikes. For instance, the government would have used the police unit to search and eliminate the cobras. The government would have resorted to poison the cobras using specialists in this field. Nonetheless, for the process to be holistic and to incorporate benefits to those who had been affected directly, it arrived at the decision to use the people to singlehandedly search and kill the cobras. This was motivated by a single bounty for every cobra killed (Esmahan, 2016).

In order to arrive at this decision, the government had to make a number of considerations. The considerations created a process that was critically examined in order to make the best decision for the moment. The extent of the fatalities was considered. The timeline for the elimination of the problem was considered. The cost of the process was also considered. It was realized that the action had to be done immediately and progressively. The people were seen to have the best mechanisms to carry out this duty. The government had the machinery to wipe out the cobras. Nonetheless, it was finally resolved that the people be involved. This resolution came after a consideration of different happenings, including the cost, the effectiveness, the efficiency, and the importance of the activity to the local people.

Before working on this project, the government followed a due process that led to the decision made. Cobras are found within the community environment. It is easy for the people to understand and focus on what is good for them concerning this issue (Esmahan, 2016). It was necessary to consolidate with the people and find ways in which they will feel the full impact of the action, and probably benefit from the same. The government went for an effective and way of dealing with the challenge. Moreover, the government wanted something that was progressive and could take place for as long as cobras were there. Moreover, it became necessary that the measure taken was to involve the people on the ground.

The process taken resulted in killing the cobras using the local people. Cobras had become a menace. Cobra strikes were increasingly costing individual lives. The government had established a need to have the cobras killed or eliminated. Thus, having made several considerations on how to get rid of these animals, it became apparent that the people to do the job best would be the individual civilians from the society (Pellegrino, 2010).

Were the decisions ethical at the time they were made?

The government took the decisions it made because it saw their ethical trueness. Killing the cobras was seen as one viable option that was ethical in that its utilitarian and deontological results seemed to be better. Killing the cobras was the only option as the lives of the people were seen to be of more importance and not those of these animals. Curbing human deaths was an ethical resolution (Ermolaeva & Ross, 2011). Using the people to do this job was also seen as ethical as it brought more benefits to the people and the government. The decision by the government was seen as of more value to the people and not the government alone. The decision to motivate the people was out of the ethical will by the government in that apart from ending the cobra menace; it also put money into the hands of the people who had suffered for a long time. The people made decisions that were not ethical and conversant with those offered by the government (Ermolaeva & Ross, 2011). Choosing to breed the cobras for financial gains was an unethical decision that the people did. Moreover, it was unethical for the people to let out the cobras knowing that they were simply increasing the danger brought to them and the government altogether (Ermolaeva & Ross, 2011). What the people decided was unethical. Moreover, it was not ethical for the people to see this rescue mission as an opportunity to make money and turn against its primary intention. The government withdrew its plan and everything that was involved. This is seen as unethical and ethical at the same time. The cobra effect, thus, happened because of both the government and the people using unethical decision to arrive at particular results.


Ermolaeva, E. P., & Ross, J. (2011). Unintended consequences of human actions. Lanham: University Press of America.

Esmahan, C. (2016). The cobra effect. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

How is the Cobra Effect playing out with India's e-commerce startups? (2016). FRPT- Software Snapshot, 13-15.

Pellegrino, K. (2010). Unintended consequences. Bloomington, IN Author House. Bloomington, IN AuthorHouse: Kevin Pellegrino

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