Even though it may seem like we invented it in America, bureaucracy can be found all around the world. Just because our system produces some of the most mind-numbing sets of regulations imaginable does not mean that other countries are not capable of producing equally bad ones. Here are a few examples proving that when it comes to senseless rules, we are not alone.
- I Don't Want Half of an Egg – The European Union proposed draft legislation in 2010 to standardize the sale of all groceries by weight. Items were to be individually weighed to verify the accuracy of the label. That may sound reasonable until you think of things like a dozen eggs or prepackaged bags of bread rolls. Even without that issue, the costs would be enormous — not that bureaucrats are generally interested in costs.
- Avert Your Eyes – Fearing the glorification of gun violence, London Mayor Boris Johnson decreed that children should not be allowed to watch shooting events at the 2012 Olympic Games. Apparently, it was okay to glorify archery. If you meet someone on a street with a bow and a quiver full of arrows and they take your money, they will just give it to the poor...or so the story goes.
- Do Your Business to Start a Business – According to one English-language news site in Greece, some entrepreneurs who wanted to open an online store in Greece faced the typical paperwork nightmares but also encountered one highly unusual request. The local health department demanded that all of the company shareholders had to provide chest X-rays, and even a stool sample. We can only hope that bureaucrats have to keep the stool samples on file in their offices.
- What If They Created a Program and Nobody Showed Up – In April 2014, the Japanese government created a program to encourage firms to promote their female workers. Firms were eligible for a payment equivalent to $2,500 for small companies and $1,250 for larger ones. The government set aside enough funds for 400 small companies to participate, but not one company (of any size) applied for the funds. The reward simply was not worth the corresponding hassles of the program. They may have been better off setting larger cash rewards for fewer companies.
- How Do You Take Your Coffee – Combining elements of the previous two regulations, the Japanese government has licensing rules regarding the use of coffee enemas and they are not afraid to enforce them. The Sankei Shimbun ran a story about three men who were arrested for "providing coffee enemas without the proper medical qualifications." This was reported via WeirdAsianNews.com, therefore it is possible that this story may be stretched, out of context, or poorly translated — but it is certainly believable.
- I Cannot Come to Work Today, My Plate Ends in a 2 – At one time, the Philippines had a license plate law intended to curb pollution. Your license plate number dictated the one day per week when you could not drive your car — for example, plates ending in 1 or 2 could not drive on Monday; plates ending in 3 and 4 could not drive on Tuesday, and so on. There are certainly less arbitrary ways to achieve the same effect. We have tried similar efforts in the U.S. — are you old enough to remember gas rationing in the 1970s?
As these examples show, we certainly do not have a monopoly on bureaucracy and mindless rules with no purpose. However, you can still make a good argument that we have perfected it.