Progressive Laws that Backfired Horribly

A law is defined as a system of rules which a country or community recognizes.” It serves to manage the actions of its members and violators face penalties as simple as community service to being sentenced to death, in some parts of the world. Unfortunately, quite a few laws have backfired thereby hurting the same people that they were meant to protect. Here’s how several progressive laws backfired in the worst way possible.

1. The Thai Queen

Queen (consort) Sunandha Kumariratana was one of King Chulalonkorn of Siam’s three wives who suffered a tragic fate at the age of 19. While sailing along the Chao Phraya River with her daughter to their summer palace in May 1880, the boat capsized due to strong currents. Their servants and guards were on another boat attached to theirs and they would have survived had it not been for one rule. There was a law which forbade people from touching royals and was punishable by death. As no one wanted to risk their lives, they watched her drown. When the king learned of the news, the lead guard at the scene was sent to prison. 

2. Vietnam Rat Control

In 1902, Hanoi, Vietnam, like many cities at that time, had a very serious rodent problem. They were showing up everywhere and were infecting the city’s residents with diseases, one of which was the bubonic plague. Investigations led to the discovery that they were coming from a 9-mile-long sewer system and a few months later, the government put together a task force to get rid of them. By June 1902, the team killed an average of 10,000 rats a day with a record high of 20,112 on the 21st. Despite their attempts, the city was still overrun so they decided to employ the help of civilians, paying them one cent for every rat killed with the only evidence being the presentation of its tail. It didn’t take long for officials to find out that some people simply cut off the tails to allow them to continue breeding. They also learned that some people imported rats from neighboring cities and that some went as far as creating rat farms. The program was canceled shortly after. 

3. Prohibition = Rise in Unregulated Alcohol 

From 1920 to 1933, the United States enacted the 18th Amendment which illegalized the manufacturing, transportation, sale, and consumption of alcohol. The law was put in place to reduce crime and corruption among other things, but the complete opposite happened. Once the Prohibition began, several gang leaders realized that this new law created a new business model for them. As such, underground bars known as speakeasies were created to continue the sale of alcohol. Liquor was brought in from Mexico and Canada and some gangs went as far as stealing medical alcohol to keep sales up. Sources claim that Al Capone made over $100 million every year from his illegal business.

4. Pest Control Leads to More Pests

The Four Pests Campaign was launched by Chinese chairman Mao Tse-tung in 1958 to help the country who were on the brink of famine. The law encouraged citizens to get rid of animals who were labeled as pests by authorities. On the list were rats, flies, mosquitos, and sparrows. In less than two years millions of sparrows were killed and the country paid the ultimate price for it. Chairman Mao added the birds to the list because they ate grain seeds, but he was unaware that while they did, they also ate other insects, one of which is the locust and with them out of the way, locust numbers multiplied. Swarms ravaged China which led to the famine they were dreading. It was estimated that between 15 and 78 million people died as a result. 

5. Rats, Cats and Rabbits

Macquarie Island, found between Australia and Antarctica, was home to several unique species of plants and animals, some of whom went extinct as a result of efforts meant to save it. Shortly after the island was discovered in 1810, rats from ships made a home on the island which caused a problem for local fauna. To control the population, sailors brought cats and they later brought rabbits so that stranded vessels would have animals to feed on. The cats ate the rats and rabbits, who managed to multiply despite the attacks. The cats then turned to the island’s native birds, some of which are now extinct. The rabbits fed on local plants, some of which can no longer be found. Several attempts were made to help save native flora and fauna and it wasn’t until 2000 that drastic measures had to be taken. They rid the island of all invasive species, but not before several penguins went extinct.


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