It is not a great idea to carry a plank of wood down a busy sidewalk. Nor should you ride a horse while drunk, or handle a salmon under suspicious circumstances.
But should such antics be illegal? Still?
Thanks to centuries of legislating by Parliament, which bans the wearing of suits of armor in its chambers, Britain has accumulated many laws that nowadays seem irrelevant, and often absurd.
So voluminous and eccentric is Britain’s collective body of 44,000 pieces of primary legislation that it has a small team of officials whose sole task is to prune it.
Their work is not just a constitutional curiosity, but a bulwark against hundreds of years of lawmaking running out of control.
Over the centuries, rules have piled up to penalize those who fire a cannon within 300 yards of a dwelling and those who beat a carpet in the street — unless the item can be classified as a doormat and it is beaten before 8.00am.
To have a legal situation where there is so much information that you cannot sit down and comprehend it, does seem to me a serious problem, said Andrew Lewis, professor emeritus of comparative legal history at University College London.
I think it matters dreadfully that no one can get a handle on the whole of it.
Yet, as Professor Lewis also noted, many old laws have survived because crime and bad behaviour have, too.
One reason is that human nature doesn’t change much, Professor Lewis said,
though of course the institutions which we develop to protect, organize, and govern ourselves do change, and then it becomes necessary to adjust the existing law to practice — via redwolf.newsvine.com