You’re cleaning out your closets and generously decide to donate some clothes and old shoes.  You bundle them up and drop them off in one of those ubiquitous donation bins. You probably assume that it’s going to be sold in some local thrift shop or given away to poor people. Think again.

In 2011, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Tendai Biti, was shocked to discover many Zimbabweans bought used underwear from flea market stalls.

He immediately had a full-on meltdown, in the style of Marie Let-Them-Eat-Cake Antoinette.

“How does that happen? If you are a husband and you see your wife buying underwear from the flea market, you would have failed.”

“If I was your in-law, I would take my daughter and urge you to first put your house in order if you still want her back.”

He then passed a law forbidding the importation of second-hand undergarments of any type.

The move was billed as an opportunity to help protect Zimbabwe’s struggling domestic textiles industry and a chance to improve public hygiene and self-esteem.

But here’s the reality:  Zimbabwe has no textiles industry to speak of so the primary beneficiaries of the new law are importers of cheap Chinese undergarments.  And corrupt government officials who can now collect a bribe for allowing bales of second-hand undergarments to be smuggled across the border.

The losers?  Zimbabweans were buying used underwear because they couldn’t afford anything else.  Passing a law does not change this fact.

And by the way, even the poorest Zimbabweans take hygiene very seriously.  They don’t need a law for that, either.

Tendai Biti, who served as Zimbabwe's Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2013