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5 Laws That Made Sense on Paper (And Disasters in Reality)

#2. Fishing Quotas Are Bad News for Fish

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As their collective name suggests, fish are very prone to being fished. When fish fishability meets our love of Friday dinners, the result is that fish run the risk of being fished to extinction for the crime of being delicious.

To avert this threat, the European Union established the total allowable catch section of the Common Fisheries Policy. Or, in everyday language, a fishing quota that slaps penalties on anyone who catches too many or the wrong kind of fish. This is a neat and easy way to ensure that fishing vessels aren't sweeping the sea clean like Mr. Burns.

And it's very simple -- when the boats return with their catch, authorities look at what they came back with and assess their penalties accordingly. Nobody caught with too many illegal fish will be in business for long, damn it!

Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Enjoy your life in jail, assholes.

The Backfire:

The thing is, the checking of the catch has to happen on shore -- the ocean is a big place, and there's no way authorities could go from boat to boat. The fishing vessels didn't have an incentive to stop catching illegal fish; they had an incentive to stop arriving at shore with illegal fish.

So, if the boat caught too many fish, or the wrong kind, the captain could bring the whole haul to shore with his handcuff-ready hands outstretched, or he could just fucking dump the excess fish back into the ocean and return only with the amount that he's allowed by law, whistling innocently. And no, we don't mean throwing the fish back alive -- the process of sorting through a catch is pretty time intensive, so the vast majority of rejected fish are dead and well on the way to rotten.

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Which eventually makes it extremely easy for you to find a good spot on the beach!

As a result, in some areas, two-thirds of the total catch is made to walk the plank in the quest for perfect specimens of the right species. In the North Sea alone, 1 million metric tonnes of fish is thrown back each year (for our American readers, that's about 2 nautical hogsheads-on-Tuesday). And all of those rotting fish carcasses pollute the sea enough to kill many of the still-alive fish that somehow avoided being caught in the first place.

#1. Tightening Bankruptcy Laws Screws Absolutely Everyone

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Back in 2005, Americans who had racked up more credit card debt than they could handle had an option that many critics saw as a magical get-out-of-debt-free card. By filing for bankruptcy, individuals could declare themselves officially, utterly broke and therefore relieve themselves of any obligation to pay their debts back.

Of course, there were some who cheated the system, spending like hell without giving a fraction of a shit and then declaring bankruptcy as soon as the banks started asking questions. That's why there was an intense lobbying effort by the big banks to pass the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which made it more costly for people to declare bankruptcy and therefore forced all the deadbeats in their solid gold castles to bite the bullet and pay back their creditors.

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"This is BULLSHIT!"

It was a big win for the banks, and, as we all know, the economy was smooth sailing after that.

The Backfire:

Unfortunately, it turned out that some people filing for bankruptcy had the audacity to actually be bankrupt. Not able to pay the additional costs incurred by the new law, those people just defaulted on all their debts, including their mortgages, which led the banks to foreclose. Effectively, banks started trading lost debts in exchange for a whole bunch of houses, which they then put on the market for sale, because what's a bank going to do with a house? It already has a house. Their house is the bank.

But still, the banks made off like bandits, right? They've got all of these free houses! Hell, this is probably what they wanted all along!

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Not a chance in the world that money is staying unfucked.

Not quite. First, remember that the banks have the house because they got stiffed on a huge mortgage that went unpaid, so they needed to unload the house fast to pay themselves back. But when they went to put their seized house up on the market, they suddenly found that, due to the new bankruptcy law, all of the other banks were doing the same thing. So the law had flooded the market, and the banks were stuck with these empty, rotting houses, begging somebody to buy them. Due to an obscure economic phenomenon known as the law of supply and demand, housing prices dropped ... and even more people defaulted on their mortgages.

So Washington Mutual, one of the lobbying bodies, actually went bankrupt itself, which just goes to show how people will stop at nothing to shirk their debts. We probably need some law to stop it.

Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Oh, don't look so glum, pussy. At least you got to keep your suit.


Special thanks to Ryan Menezes for his help with this article. Follow his Twitter and he might help you, too.

Related Reading: At least none of those laws were as petty as these. Iran's government even cracks down on water gun fights. It's hard to say if that's worse than this Kansas law imprisoning people for unpaid rent. It's easy to wind up a criminal today. You might be breaking the law right now and not even know it.

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