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Crazy Laws and Their Consequences

Crazy laws might get made with the best of intentions, but they often have unintended consequences. Whether a crazy law exacerbates a problem or just plain makes people angry, crazy laws inevitably backfire on those who made them. Here are four crazy laws that turned out much different than their creators intended.

1. The British Stamp Act

In November of 1765, the British government enacted an unusual tax on its American colonies. Prime Minister George Grenville declared that every piece of official paper had to carry a special, government-issued stamp. This included not only documents like contracts and birth certificates, but also more common items like newspapers and almanacs. Even playing cards needed this government-issued stamp. Violators found with paper which did not contain the stamp were tried as tax evaders.

Ironically, the taxes collected from the Stamp Act were to be spent on keeping British troops in the colonies. Maintaining a vast overseas empire gets expensive, and the British had struggled to find a way to offset the cost. Unfortunately, no one had bothered to consult the American colonists, who did not even have a representative to speak for their interests in Parliament. From this came the origin of the beloved American phrase, “No taxation without representation.”

What the British Parliament couldn’t have known when it passed the Stamp Act of 1765 was that this law would lead directly to the American Revolution. Whoops! Colonists began to see themselves as an entirely different group of people than their British rulers, capable of governing themselves. Though rioting and protests led to the Stamp Act being repealed the following year, the feelings of independence didn’t go away.

Meanwhile, the Stamp Act was only the beginning of taxation on everyday goods in the colonies. Sugar had already been taxed, followed by tea, paint, and glass. Fresh from their victory over the Stamp Act, the colonists revolted and staged protests. The most famous of these, the Boston Tea Party, is still invoked by people who wish to protest taxation.

There has recently been a resurgence of this sentiment in the United States as new taxes are being levied on goods to make up for massive federal and state budget deficits. “Tea Parties,” gatherings to protest these taxes, take their name from the early days of the colonies when taxation led to the American Revolution.
 

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