- Sometimes, even a stupid reason can be a good reason.
But nobody ever seems to stop and ask why these laws exist.
Sure, a lot of them stem from antiquated moral panics or are just straight-up pointless rules made by people drunk on power. But some actually make quite a bit of sense if you stop and think about them for a second.
Here are seven laws from the U.S. and elsewhere that you can start agreeing with once you know why they’re in the books.
1. Pickles Must Bounce (Connecticut)
Now, this is a bit of a cop-out — Connecticut doesn’t have a law that specifically prohibits the sale of non-bouncing pickles. But although the law is a myth, there’s a good reason it exists.
In 1948, two pickle packers were charged with selling pickles that were blatantly unfit for human consumption. The law that banned the sale of unfit pickles was based on laboratory tests done on the duo’s products.
However, during the court case, a Commissioner demonstrated the poor quality of the pickles by dropping one to the ground, together with a good pickle. The edible pickle bounced happily, while the other fell flat with a sad “splat.”
The demonstration was effective, though, because we still think the pickle-bouncing law exists.
2. Dying is Illegal (Norway)
If you live in Longyearbyen on the island of Svalbard, you’d better not die. Perishing is illegal in the town.
While this law sounds ridiculous, there’s a good reason for it. Located far north in the Arctic Ocean, Svalbard’s ground is constantly frozen with permafrost.
If you bury someone on the island, the corpse won’t decompose. Instead, it freezes, preserving potentially lethal bacteria that could wreak havoc at a later date — particularly with the rising temperatures globally.
If you’re gravely ill, you must leave the island to go to a hospital elsewhere in Norway. And you have the misfortune of dying on Svalbard, you definitely won’t be buried there.
3. No Whispering in Someone’s Ear While Moose Hunting (Alaska)
This law seems bizarrely specific, and it is. But consider the circumstances where it applies.
First of all, you’ll be handling a fairly powerful rifle if you’re about to shoot a moose. Second, moose are huge animals that can be dangerous, especially when a poorly aimed shot injures them.
It’s vital — often literally — to be fully concentrated on the task at hand during big game hunting. And that’s why you should wait to have your conversations in Alaska once you’re out of the woods.
4. You Must Wash Your Car (Russia)
It’d be easy to dismiss this Russian law as one of any number of the country’s draconian rules. But believe it or not, this one actually makes sense.
If you read the actual text of the law, it dictates that drivers must keep their cars’ license plates clean and easily readable. Surely you can see why that’s a reasonable requirement.
However, sensational headlines within and outside Russia have led a lot of people to believe that any dirt on your car is illegal. That’s a fact unscrupulous Russian cops are all too happy to exploit to make a quick buck (or a rouble).
5. Running Out of Gas is Illegal (Germany)
You may have heard that in Germany you’ll get a fine if you run out of gas. That’s true — but only on the country’s famous autobahns.
These roads have few speed limits, and when they do have them, they’re often very high. With cars zooming along at breakneck speed, a stopped car poses a serious safety risk for everybody.
So, to protect drivers’ safety, German officials decided to threaten drivers with a hefty fine. If you get on the autobahn, make sure to fill upon gas first.
6. Don’t Dye Your Rabbit (New York)
Perhaps you’re thinking that this New York law comes from a time long gone when people used to pay for goods with animal furs. But it’s actually much more recent.
Enacted in 1965 and last amended in 1985, New York bans the sale of baby rabbits with “dyed, colored, or otherwise treated” fur. The law seeks to protect baby rabbits being dyed and sold around Easter as essentially toys or decorations.
Anyone looking to make some quick money by dyeing rabbits probably wouldn’t put too much effort into ensuring the dyes are safe. In addition to baby bunnies, you can’t color baby chicks, ducklings, or other fowl.
7. Donkeys Can’t Sleep in Bathtubs (Arizona)
Are you an Arizona-based donkey owner? You’d better not let your donkey sleep in a bathtub.
Bizarre as this law seems, it dates back to 1924. At the time, a burst dam flooded the town of Kingman, and a donkey that had been sleeping in a tub got washed along with it.
Now, a good donkey is worth money, so the town of Kingman rescued the animal floating in the tub. But the operation turned out to be so hugely expensive and dangerous that authorities enacted the law to make sure they’d never have to pay for it again.
This is a case study of things that only need to happen once before you prohibit them.