Sometimes the government oversteps the boundaries of what most people would consider to be reasonable, usually when a small but vocal minority get upset about a specific issue. While many of these regulations are laughable, they have often had real impact on real individuals and families. The great writer Neil Gaiman once said the following in his blog, “The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don’t. This is how the Law is made.” Case in point, 25 Stupid Government Regulations That Will Make You Shake Your Head.
Rain falls from the sky, freely. Some local or state governments have a problem with that. In 2012, a man in Oregon was sentenced to 30 days in jail for collecting rainwater on his property (in a pond). In the state of Oregon, the government owns the rain, and you have to have a special permit to collect and hold it. Other states have laws against rain barrels, which is a huge plastic barrel, usually with an attached filter, that's used to collect rainwater and then water gardens. The important thing to note is that the government can't charge for rainwater freely collected.
Even front yard lemonade stands aren't immune to over-regulation. Sorry, kids. They count as a business, and you need a permit for that, and professional equipment, and a stand that's up to local building code. To sell lemonade. There are numerous stories of this happening all over the country, but one with a sweet ending is Annabelle Lockwood, of California, who was told she needed $3,500 of professional restaurant equipment and a permit. A go fund me was set up, and the internet paid for the permit, but think of all the better things $3,500 could have been spent on.
There is a processed FrankenMeat known as Turkey Ham. It's processed bits of Turkey and Ham smushed together. And it's illegal to sell it with a label of "Ham Turkey" or to have the words "Ham" and "Turkey" in different fonts. Yep. Not just illegal, it's a FEDERAL crime.
It's a federal crime to consult with a known Pirate. A person known to be a pirate, not necessarily a person actively in the act of pirating.
Florida (uh, accidentally) banned all computers and smart phones in cafes. There's a problem in Florida with internet cafes basically being digital slot machines for old people to pour their money into. In an attempt to curb these questionable businesses, the state government passed a bill banning all internet cafes (this was great for students and people without computers, thanks), and because of the way the bill was worded, it banned any internet connected device in a cafe. Um, if you're ever in a position to pass a law, anywhere, please read it thoroughly. Twice.
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A man in Pheonix, AZ, was fined and threatened with jail time for holding religious meetings in his home. Officials said it was a fire issue. So instead of their living room, they put up a small building in the back - with proper permits. Then local government said he didn't have exit signs over the doors and safety ramps. Their demands continued until he owed them $12,000. Here's the issue: If he had a detached garage, and had, say, a birthday party, he wouldn't need these things; the government wouldn't care. There have been a few laws throughout the years that try to regulate what you can or can't do in your own home. If there are no regulations against parties and other social gatherings, why are there regulations against groups of people meeting to discuss their religion?
It's a federal crime to injure a Government owned lamp. The law specifically states lamps.
It's illegal to dump raw sewage in the ocean (cool), unless you have a permit. (Not cool. Missing the point, perhaps.) There are lots of things that are only "wrong" or illegal until you pay the local or state government for permission.
Parts of Florida *require* you to recycle, with fines up to $1,000 for a violation. While this is seemingly well meaning, it's an example of big government enforcing their morals - even "green" ones - on everyone, and it just makes it gloriously easy to fine everyone a bunch of money. Other counties in other states have similar laws on the books.
Kansas has no love for cat ladies. In parts of the state, it's illegal to have more that four cats per household. So, um, what happens if your one cat has a litter of five kittens?
If the city doesn't like your garden, they'll tear it down as you watch in tears. That's exactly what happened to a woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2012. The city code enforcers said her garden (on her private property, causing harm to no one) was in violation of code because someone complained about her yard. The garden - including fruit and nut trees - was well cared for and was the unemployed woman's only source of income and most of her food. Before a judge would see her, the city ripped out her primary food source and livelihood. Because a neighbor complained. Kind of have to wonder how those people sleep at night.
If you think this is ridiculous, wait until you see number 5!
In Mississippi, it's illegal to be the parent of two or more illegitimate children. It's a law that's been on the books since the 1940's, and while it's obviously not enforced, it...could be.
Food Trucks are a way for talented chefs and entrepreneurs to bring amazing food to the masses without insane overhead and startup costs. They're also bogged down by a LOT of regulations and fees and permits. While this makes sense from a food safety point of view, some states are passing regulations that limit food trucks parking too close to other restaurants, allowing those restaurants to have a bit of a monopoly, and making it harder for food trucks to stay in business. This is an example of government favoring a larger business and offering them protection from competition, know as protectionism. If you don't want government in bed with BIG businesses, it starts at a local level with things like this. Let healthy competition happen, and don't use the government to strong arm your competition out of the market.
Texas passed a law in 2007 that required computer repair technicians to have a private investigator's license, which requires a specific degree and multi-year apprenticeship. Breaking this law could result in up to $14,000 in fines and a year in jail. While the author of the bill claims it's being misinterpreted, broad sweeping laws that are vaguely worded are a horrible idea because they have, historically, been used whenever someone has an ax to grind. It also calls into question weather or not the people who write these laws are properly knowledgeable in the field they're attempting to legislate.
Some Human resources documentation must be held onto forever. Not 50 years, not 100 years, but forever. There are many companies in the United States that are over 100 years old, and hopefully there will be more in the future. So employment applications and offer letters from 100 years ago must be retained, legally.
No zombie wine for you. It's a federal crime to sell wine with the word "Zombie" in the brand name, specifically.
In Massachusetts, it's a law that children in daycare must brush their teeth after lunch. The government even provides (via tax dollars) toothpaste and toothbrush holders. Sure, it's a great idea and all, but a law implies the government will enforce it via jail time and or fines. In case you were wondering where the term "Nanny State" comes from, it's stuff like this.
It's a crime to bring undocumented pig semen across state lines to impregnate a pig. So if you're a pig farmer in one state, and your brother is a pig farmer in another state, and you want to cross breed your stock, the government needs to be all up in the middle of that (with appropriate fees paid, of course).
In Washington DC, you have to have a license to give tours. Licensing and regulation protecting larger established businesses from competition, and using government regulations to do so. Tour Guides, really?
In Vermont, it's illegal to deny the existence of God. That's pretty amazingly anti-American. Also in Vermont, if a restaurant uses colored margarine instead of butter, it must be noted on the menu in two inch high letters.
West Virginia has laws that prohibit sleeping on trains. (What?) There's another law that states if a train passes within one mile of a town/neighborhood/community/hobo camp consisting of more than 100 people, it must build a station and stop there regularly. Sounds nice, but what if you want to run a fast route direct shipping train that happens to run through parts of WV? Oh well.
In US National Forests, if you say something to someone that makes them hit you, you, the person hit are at fault. Not the hitter. Domestic Abuse claims among campers must be fun to sort out.
Philadelphia decided a few years ago to crack down on businesses operating without a license. Like bloggers. A $300 license, which was only $289 more than the woman had made from her blog in the last two years. Theoretically business tax pays for the roads, etc, that allow a business to operate. However, the internet is maintained and run by private entities, so there's not a justification for a business tax on an internet based business such as a blog, other than "Give us money because we can make laws saying give us money."
Possibly the most well known stupid government regulation - you can't buy or sell raw milk. Raw milk is milk straight from the animal; it hasn't been pasteurized (or quick cooked). Yes, there's a small risk associated, but considering the amount of recalls in processed food for bacteria, raw milk's risk is negligible. That doesn't stop the government from raiding Amish farms at 5 am to tackle that....dangerous milk issue. This can result in fines, arrests, or you know, the government seizing the farm. SWAT like police raids on dairy farms; this is your tax dollars at work.
This isn't a regulation that's held, thankfully, but NYC tried to ban big gulps because you know, people are fat and eat too much sugar. While that's true, a lot of people are fat and do consume too much sugar, the government regulating your sugar intake isn't going to fix that. Fat people are aware that they're fat. This was just pointless regulation where some people thought that they knew better and they should be allowed to force their idea of better on everyone, using the government. If you're not free to make bad choices (provided you aren't directly harming anyone else), you aren't really free.
The US isn’t the only place with crazy regulations. Take a look at 25 Strange Things Banned By Governments Around The World.
Photos: 23. Turkey Ham (fair use via wikimedia commons), 22. Joao Lavinha via flickr, 20. mercurywoodrose via wikimedia commons, 17. Ildar Sagdejev via wikimedia commons, 1. Myke2020 via wikimedia commons