Friday, November 30, 2007

Crazy laws

OK, by now we all know that in Sudan it is illegal to allow a child to name a teddy bear after himself. But I'm sure that every country has its own crazy laws. In Japan, for example, it is illegal to ride one of these:

which has led to some curiously circular conversations along these lines:
Do you know why riding a tandem is illegal?
I think it's probably because they are dangerous.
Why do you think they are dangerous?
They must be, because if they weren't, they wouldn't be illegal.
What a blessing it must be to have such blind faith in the infallibility of the legislative process.

Another rather odd law is the one against home brewing beer (kits are widely sold, but using them is criminal). That's because the major brewers don't want their cash cow milked. of course. And there is plenty of outrageous and discriminatory legislation, like the Basic Education Law that guarantees an education to all children in long as they are Japanese. But that is just evil and racist, not completely hatstand in the way that the anti-tandem law is.

Most of the crazy UK legislation turns out on further investigation to be an urban legend (like the one about being able to kill Welshmen after dark in Chester, so long as you use a bow and arrow). But I'm sure there are some genuine oddities both there and elsewhere in the world. Contributions please!


crandles said...

Is it reasonable to call it an 'anti-tandem law' as opposed to a 'no consideration given to tandems law'?

It doesn't take much googling to find a few posts along the lines of:

"is technically illegal in most of Japan, simply because riding double, as students do by standing on rear axle extenders, is illegal for safety reasons. Tandems just aren't given consideration in the law (except for some reason in Nagano, I am told) so they are illegal by default. However, I have never been hassled by a cop for any reason on any bicycle, not even my tandem."

I doubt a foreigner is going to get far campaigning for a change in law to 'more than four or more than the bike is designed for' instead of 'more than one'. Nor would I want to try to argue the meaning of the law with a policeman.

James Annan said...

Well that is not so different from there being no consideration to the possibility that a young child might happen to name a teddy bear after himself. The measure of a law is in its effect, not its intention.

I'm certainly not campaigning for a change in the law, merely ignoring it on a daily basis. Things are more awkward for the Japanese Blind Cycling Association, who feel the need to be "good" about this.

Kiwi Particle Physicist said...

I have been doing home brew for the last few months. I'm on the third batch now, and recommend it for anybody who likes beer. Especially recommend it for scientists who like beer.

It's not actually illegal to brew it, but if the predicted alcohol level is greater than 1% you need to pay tax on it. Unfortunately, in order to pay tax you need a brewers license, and in order to get a brewers license you need to produce more than 60 kL per year, which must be for home consumption and can not be sold. Sadly this is more than most households are able to drink.

So you end up in a uniquely Japanese Catch 22 situation where you must pay tax, but can't even though you want to. It's not classified as a criminal offence (刑事事件)though, but rather one of tax evasion (脱税). It's sort of the tax equivalent of going through a red light. Most people don't let it stop them.

James Annan said...

Didn't realise it was specifically a tax problem - although now I think about it, I'm probably more scared of getting caught up in tax problems than criminal law :-)

I did do a bit of home-brewing in the first year or two here but temperature control is a bit of a problem. We've also come round to the realisation that the local stuff ("Kamakura beer") is actually very good, in contrast to the popular crap.