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Top 10 Craziest Things That Used to be Legal

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden

Script written by Garrett Alden

It’s amazing, and disturbing, what people used to be able to do within the law. From smoking pretty much anywhere, to mailing children, to beheading, lets be grateful that these things are not longer permitted. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Things That Used to be Legal.

Special thanks to our user drewbrown for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Things+That+Used+to+Be+Legal.

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Transcript
Script written by Garrett Alden

Top 10 Things That Used to be Legal


It’s amazing, and disturbing, what people used to be able to do within the law. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our list of the Top 10 Things That Used to be Legal.

For this list, we’ll be examining things that are now largely illegal that, shockingly, used to be perfectly fine according to the courts. We’ll be ranking them based on just how remarkable it is that each one was once permissible.

#10: Smoking Anywhere


Many countries have gradually enacted smoking restrictions over the last half of the 20th century and into the early 21st, but prior to this, there were few, if any, regulations on where and when you could smoke. The dangerous, carcinogenic effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke were not widely known, or were suppressed by tobacco companies until relatively recently, meaning that smoking could happen anywhere and everywhere. And thanks to its addictive qualities... nearly everyone did it. Thankfully, smoking in developed nations has been drastically reduced from what it was, though, in developing countries, it is actually increasing.


#9: Mailing Children


In the early 20th century, when the United States package and parcel delivery service was still relatively new, it was cheaper for children to travel by post, since the only main regulation at the time was a weight limit. Rather than pay money for a more expensive train ticket, kids or their parents could pay to have them shipped with packages and correspondence instead. This kid shipping trend primarily during the 1910s, and efforts were quickly made by the post office to curtail the practice, as they were no doubt wary of the dangers and legal repercussions involved for damaging their young…er…cargo.


#8: Forced Castrations


The act of neutering men either through physical injury or through chemical means was actually quite common throughout history. Castration was regularly employed to create eunuch servants, whose lack of sex drives made them ideal for serving female masters. It was also frequently used to make an example of criminals and political dissidents. Fortunately for men everywhere, the practice is now widely seen as a cruel and unusual punishment. However, castration is still legal in some places as a severe punishment for child molestation or rape.


#7: Execution by Beheading


Beheading is a form of capital punishment thousands of years old, in which the executioner removes the condemned person’s head from their body. The decapitation can be brutally efficient or cruel and prolonged depending on the sharpness of the tool and the executioner. It’s this variability in effectiveness that, along with the decreasing popularity of capital punishment, has led to decaptiation being removed from most legal systems. Although frequently associated in popular culture with Europe, this execution method was used in the Americas as recently as the late 19th century, primarily against indigenous people and slaves. While it is still used today, the countries that continue to practice beheadings are few.


#6: Underaged Marriage


Child marriage, or a marriage between an older man and a younger girl, was actually the norm throughout most of human history, but the details varied by religion, region, and culture. It generally occurred after the girl had gone through puberty, as this was seen as a clear indicator that she was able to have children of her own. While the definition of adulthood varies by country, underage marriage is still legal in many parts of the world, even the United States and Canada, where large portions of both countries have the marriage age at 16 - though the unions usually require parental approval.


#5: Open Immigration


Also called free migration, open immigration is essentially immigration without much oversight or government interference. It may seem unthinkable today, but for many countries and continents, this was the norm by necessity, as monitoring and patrolling large borders or ports simply wasn’t feasible without a large population or more advanced automated surveillance. While some nations still allow open immigration today, most countries have opted for stricter control on who is allowed over their borders, due to rising populations, increased mobility, more competition for employment, and security concerns.


#4: Lobotomies


These brain surgery operations were used to alter the behavior of the supposedly mentally ill by damaging portions of the brain. The procedure was considered controversial even immediately after its inception, due to its shoddy record of success, frequent lack of consent, our incomplete understanding of how the brain works, and the fact that it’s literally meant to give people who already have mental difficulties brain damage. Nevertheless, the procedure was used by psychiatric hospitals during the early to mid-20th century, only becoming outlawed by the 1970s in most countries. That being said, evidence suggests it continued to be performed well into the 1980s.


#3: Drinking and Driving


Drunk driving, that is, driving while intoxicated by alcohol, has been illegal to some degree for almost as long as cars have existed, with a real crackdown on it occuring in the 1970s. Drinking while driving, however, is another matter. Laws against having an open container of an alcoholic beverage in one’s vehicle did not become popular, at least in the United States, until the 1990s; likely once activism and awareness about accidents caused by drunk driving had gained enough steam. Even so, driving with open containers is still allowed in about half a dozen US states.

#2: Narcotics


LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine - these illicit, recreational drugs were all completely legal, at one time or another. Narcotics are incredibly stimulating and often alter the users’ moods or behaviors, which initially made them favored by doctors, who prescribed them as remedies for everything from obesity to mental illness. However, the drastic abuse and proliferation of the drugs led most to be outlawed around the world, with a few exceptions. However, some countries have recently eased restrictions to allow for the study of their potential beneficial medical effects.


Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Optional Seatbelts


Prostitution


Dueling


#1: Slavery


As appalling as the enslavement and ownership of another human being is to our sensibilities now, the practice has been legal since the beginning of civilization, with countless cultures engaging in it. Its appeal to slave owners was no doubt the cheap, guaranteed source of labor. Efforts to make slavery illegal only began in the West in the early 19th century in Europe; and the practice was gradually outlawed worldwide over the next two centuries, with the last country to criminalize the practice being Mauritania… in 2007!. Even so, slavery and human trafficking still exist today in many countries despite its illegality.
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