6 Laws That Were Great On Paper (And Insane Everywhere Else)
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And Bourbon.
The point being, history is full of well-meant laws and reforms meant to protect us from ourselves that either don't do a damned thing, or in these cases, actually make things worse.
Smoking Bans in Pubs and Bars Means More Drunk Driving
Let's face it, alcohol and cigarettes are a magical combination: They go together like peanut butter and chocolate; a rock star and a porn actress; a Cracked writer and minor felonies. You'd think it would be common knowledge by now that if you mess with one of these vices, it's going to affect the other in some way. But anti-smoking laws have been in the news quite frequently, with newly implemented indoor smoking bans taking effect all across the UK and the U.S. The benefit to public health seems obvious at first glance. But as astute readers might have guessed already, there is always a potential backfire just waiting to happen...
Keeping us safe from second-hand smoke.
How Did it Backfire?
Smokers who also drink alcohol are going to smoke when they drink alcohol. As obvious as that statement is to anyone with a shred of common sense, the unbreakable bond of smokes and booze escaped lawmakers completely. They figured that smokers would go to bars, have a drink or two, step outside for a quick nicotine fix and then resume their drinking inside. They forgot to take two tiny little things into account: Winter is cold and wet, and people with genitals typically like to not "freeze them off."
And no practical advancements in winter smoking.
A study by researchers Scott Adams and Chad Cotti discovered that, when faced with smoking bans in bars near their homes, alcohol-drinking smokers would simply drive further to other jurisdictions where the bans weren't in place. That also meant they had a longer drive home when they were potentially drunk off their asses. Adams and Cotti found that, on average, there was a 13 percent increase in drunk driving fatalities in areas that had instituted smoking bans.
Do the right thing.
If we've learned any lesson today, let it be thus: Never underestimate the love affair between beer and cigarettes, or the motivational power of cold balls.
Oh, also don't drink and drive. That's somewhere in there too.
Sex Offender Laws Make Them Harder to Track
If a stampede of pedophiles running rampant through the streets sounds like a nightmare, you might not be sleeping. You might just be in Iowa.
It all seemed like such a great idea on paper: The good legislators of Dubuque, Iowa, in an attempt to keep pedophiles and other degenerates as far away from their children as possible made it illegal for a registered sex offender to live within 2,000 feet of a school. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But then someone remembered that kids also congregated at other places besides schools. There were libraries, daycare centers, swimming pools and parks to think about too. In the end, sex offenders were forbidden to live within a half-mile of any place where adolescents might gather.
How Did it Backfire?
Somebody took a map of Dubuque and drew 4,000-foot diameter circles around every "predator free" landmark in town. They quickly realized that with dozens of overlapping circles covering the entire city, there was literally no place that a sex offender could legally live. Like some alternate-universe version of the Book of Exodus, the county's molesters had no choice but to pack their shit, sing "Let My People Go" and head for the Promised Land. The Promised Land, in this case, being the town of Galena, right across the Mississippi River in Illinois, where no such restrictions were in place.
When the good people of Galena realized that a herd of dudes named Chester was headed for its borders, they in turn passed their own Draconian residency laws. The next town down the line did the same thing, as did the town after that. A frenzied passing of sex offender residency legislation swept across the entire region and now, presumably, there is a tidal wave of homeless child molesters thousands strong that is going to crash into the Atlantic Ocean at any moment.
Iowa lawmakers reluctantly came to understand that while having sexual predators living in your town is not very appealing, knowing where they live is an important part of policing them and making sure they are controlled and accounted for. Once everyone on the sex offender registry became basically homeless, a good number of them went underground and disappeared off the police radar altogether. The end result: Like a sexually deviant remake of Predator, Iowa is now being stalked by legally invisible child molesters scattered throughout the state.
Fishing Restrictions Mean Smaller Fish
If you happen to be hunting on land, you have to follow some pretty strict permit rules like: Only hunt in designated areas, observe all safety rules and don't slaughter anything that can sing you an adorable song about the forest. So it only make sense that the same should apply for fishing, right?
Nope! Don't you look stupid for assuming that? That's what you get for applying logic, suckers!
How Did it Backfire?
Fishing restrictions are actually causing the fish to shrink and depopulate. And this isn't some new development either; this has been happening over the past century or so. The average size of cod has gone from 95 centimeters to 65 over the space of 60 years, for example. And while most people were happy to shrug it off, assuming water shrinks fish the same way it makes fools of all men, some scientists suggest we might be the ones actually responsible.
In one study, a batch of Atlantic Silversides were divided up between three tanks. In the first tank, 90 percent of the largest fish were culled; in the second, 90 percent of the smallest fish were culled; and in the third control tank, they culled fish at random (though presumably the ones that "swam like dicks" went first). Counter-intuitively, it turned out that the second tank ended up having larger fish, over longer periods of time.
Do you see the reasoning yet? As we're actively removing all the big fish from the ocean, while simultaneously protecting the smaller fish, we're teaching the genetic structure of the fish to favor slow growth. Not only does this mean that we're getting smaller fish to catch, it also means that fish are now taking longer to reach maturity, meaning they're taking longer to repopulate.
In short: We cull the strongest and the largest (the Schwarzenegger fish) while throwing back the weak and sickly (the Steve Gutenberg fish) then when nature sees this shit go down, BAM!
Perpetual nerd fish.
Related: 5 Fish Clearly Designed by a Madman
The Endangered Species Act Endangers Species
The Endangered Species Act is a law passed by the United States Congress in 1973, whose main purpose is to prevent the extinction of like, four animals you've heard of, and then 800 types of skink. If your family was constantly under siege by the sinister dusky gopher frog or the malevolent dark-tumped petrel, then you were shit outta luck after '73 when it became illegal to ask them to dance with Big Betty (Big Betty being your shotgun in this strange, strange analogy). The ESA also made provisions to protect the habitats of these imperiled species by imposing restrictions on the land where they lived. This is an important point, as you will see in a moment.
Don't worry, this man is only hunting crickets.
How Did it Backfire?
As luck would have it, an estimated 90 percent of all endangered species in the United States can be found on privately owned land. When an animal on the endangered species list is found living somewhere, the surrounding habitat is automatically protected right along with it, and any activity that might harm the animal must cease. If the Fish and Wildlife Agency identifies a particular area as home to a giant kangaroo rat, for example, then farmers are restricted from tilling the soil there. Timber companies can't harvest trees. Swinger clubs have to put the kibosh on their druid-themed outdoor orgies, and somewhere the U.S. Government has to cut George Orwell a royalty check. And these restrictions stay in place until that animal is removed from the endangered species list, a proposal that can take years, decades or eternity depending on how much they like hanging out on roads, and don't like humpin'.
And animals love humping.
Obviously the farmers weren't exactly content to let the government put the needs of a rat, no matter how giant or kangaroo-like, above their livelihoods. If their land seemed like a suitable habitat for an endangered species, then the solution was obvious: Wreck the ever-loving shit out of the property to make it as unattractive to that animal as possible, kind of like keeping the refrigerator empty and never washing towels until your dickhead roommate moves out. Alternately, if they found an endangered species living on their property before the government did, then it was time to shoot, shovel and shut up. Kill the animal, bury it and never say a word to anyone. The endangered species list basically became a hit list for any animal that was on it.
Several recent environmental studies have shown that both of these unforeseen tactics have actually done more harm to many animal species than just leaving them off the endangered list in the first place.
Boxing Gloves Mean More Head Injuries
We love boxing here at Cracked: It brought us marvelous things such as Punch-Out!!, Super Punch-Out!!, "Eye of the Tiger" and it single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union. But damn is it ever dangerous. Like any fighting sport, it's hard to make boxing safer without ruining the entire appeal of watching two dudes punch each other into the short bus. But rules did have to be introduced, otherwise the end of every boxing match would simply be "the balls."
So in 1867, the Marquess of Queensberry Rules introduced a few sensible codes of conduct, including the mandatory wearing of gloves and the ban on hugging. Gone were the days of bare-knuckle fighting followed promptly by long, emotionally intense snuggling sessions. But surely that's a reasonable price to pay for a safer sport, right?
How Did it Backfire?
The only thing boxing gloves have reduced are the number of cuts and bruises, while significantly increasing the risk of brain damage and number of deaths. Now, call us crazy, but we like to think brain damage and death sound a lot worse than cuts and bruises, unless we're opening up that whole ball area again (we'll take "forgetting multiplication" over "extensive testicle lacerations" any day, thanks).
There go the state capitols.
Yes, it turns out boxing gloves have only made it easier to punch a guy square in the face with full force. While the glove protects the hand against injury, your opponent's brain still has to deal with the full force of the blow, actually made worse by the added weight of the glove.
For all the modern boxers who don't die in the ring, there's the 15 percent chance they'll develop some kind of brain damage, while bare-knuckle fighters, on the other hand, prefer to avoid the head altogether: The skull is the hardest part of the body. The likeliness of breaking a hand against the head meant that fighters often chose to hit the body, thus saving their hands for more important things.
Gotta protect these babies for the next hand modeling gig.
If that was too subtle an entendre, we meant masturbating. That was a masturbation joke.
The Paperwork Reduction Act Does Nothing of the Sort
When the government tries to regulate itself by simplifying processes and cutting down on waste, that's usually a good time to pop some popcorn, pull up a chair and watch the hilarity ensue. Passed by Congress in 1980 (and then amended in 1995), the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) was intended to, shockingly, reduce the paperwork burden on federal employees. It was also supposed to eliminate much of the paperwork that all us common folk have to put up with when dealing with the Man, who won't even accept a "Notice of Intent Informing You to Go Fuck Yourself" without a notary public present.
How Did it Backfire?
This act was spawned somewhere within the unholy Office of Management and Budget (OMB). That's the same office that routinely authorizes $600 toilet seats and infamous earmarks like the Bridge to Nowhere, so buckle up for some righteous bureaucratic gangbangin': If a particular government agency wants to collect data from more than nine people (NO LESS THAN NINE!) they must apply for an Information Collection Requirement (ICR) from the almighty OMB. These ICR numbers have to be renewed every three years or, you guessed it, there are reams (that's government-speak for "fucktons") of reports to that have to be filed in order to update them.
For a huge entity like the Environmental Protection Agency that has to maintain thousands of ICRs, this means a constant paper typhoon exploding comically out of their building, no doubt devastating the mighty forests of the endangered tree skink in the process. Private companies being sued by the EPA have even been able to avoid litigation simply by pointing out at their ICRs were expired, and that the EPA was not in compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act.
And they were technically correct: The best kind of correct!
To put things in perspective, look at these numbers released by U.S. News & World Report: Americans spent 9.9 billion hours on government paperwork in 2009. Compare that to one billion hours spent on government forms in 1981 and you can see that the PRA isn't just backfiring, it's passionately suckling at the teat of complete failure. The solution to actually eliminating all this comically inept paperwork clutter from the Paperwork Reduction Act? Why, simply fill out Standard Form 152: The official government form to eliminate other forms. So it basically creates an eternal cycle of form-filing that we're pretty sure is one of the ironic punishments in Dante's Hell.
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For more programs that did more harm than good, check out 5 Government Programs That Backfired Horrifically and 5 Retarded Health Campaigns That Backfired (Hilariously).
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated Today!) to see what happened when no drinking ban was instituted at the office.