MCSA benefits from unintended consequences

Tom and Maggie Carpenter
Tom and Maggie Carpenter

Tom Carpenter and I are just two guys who graduated from Chariton High School 30 years ago. He may have been a better student than I was, so maybe he remembers something about economics and Adam Smith.

The law of unintended consequences states that actions of people — and especially of government — always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended, according to Rob Norton, an author and consultant who was previously economics editor of Fortune magazine.

This can be a good thing, according to Norton, who cited Smith’s belief that each individual, seeking only his own gain, “is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

That seems to be the case with Team MCSA, which was put together last year to raise awareness for homelessness in Iowa by going on RAGBRAI while also raising some money and publicity for MCSA.

My friend and former schoolmate, Tom, is but one example of the bike team’s good unintended consequences. And I’ll get to him in a minute because his participation is just the latest “invisible hand” to help MCSA via this bike team, which I started for two very basic reasons. I needed to:

  • Complete a leadership project for the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Leadership Muscatine class in 2014.
  • Find new ways to raise money and reach my fundraising goals for MCSA, which operates Muscatine’s homeless and domestic violence shelters. It’s where I am deputy director and my primary responsibilities include fundraising.

But almost immediately, Team MCSA became more than just a fundraiser when four students from East Campus, the Muscatine school district’s alternative high school program, rode with us on RAGBRAI XLII. At least two of those students have indicated they plan to ride again this year with Team MCSA.

Also, we are working out details to take up to 15 cyclists from Shanghai this year. This represents another step in the growing relationship China has developed with Muscatine since President Xi Jinping visited the community in 2012, when he was still the nation’s vice president.

Those are developments I never envisioned when all of this began. And I don’t mean to downplay their significance when I say it’s just as satisfying to see friends from my hometown joining this effort.

Tom graduated from CHS in 1984 — a year ahead of me. We played football together in high school and were both in 4-H. But I couldn’t tell you the last time we saw each other prior to the class of 1984’s 30-year reunion last fall, which my class was invited to attend. I went with my girlfriend, who almost immediately struck up a friendship with Tom’s wife, Maggie.

Janet and Maggie have since become Facebook friends. That led to Janet inviting Maggie to join us on RAGBRAI. Maggie is bringing along Tom, a truck driver for Hy-Vee who last year completed 2 million miles of safe driving for the Iowa-based chain of supermarkets.

The Carpenters will be a great addition to Team MCSA, which has 14 cyclists registered so far for RAGBRAI XLIII. Last week, I made reservations for a chartered bus that can seat 48 passengers and up to 15 of those seats will likely go to Chinese cyclists. That means 19 seats are still available. Let me know if you want some of them. But don’t wait too long.