The funny old laws from my homeland that Lene links to are actually a distraction from the real problem. When Michael Heseltine was President of the Board of Trade in John Major’s government, he promised a “bonfire of the regulations,” but the only restrictions he came up with to scrap were these sort of 12th century provisions. The actual red tape that was restricting businesses remained intact. The Labour government has added to that, so that now the cost of regulation is about 12 percent of GDP on top of the cost of taxation. Labour has also added about 3000 new criminal offenses, including about 640 within the purview of the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs. In one month, moreover, the European Union passed 101 laws that will affect the UK.
I for one would rather keep the old laws that allow pregnant women to relieve themselves in a policeman’s helmet if it allowed us to get rid of these things. As Tacitus said, corruptissima res publica, plurae leges.