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Friday, October 31, 2008

Brown on Halloween, Promises & Signed Documents

Halloween time always reminds me of the Peanuts Special, It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Of course, my thoughts turn to two wise philosophers, admirable contract scholars and lovable losers: Charlie Brown and Linus.

For example, in light of the approaching election day, don't forget Linus' pertinent reminder:

"I've learned there are three things you don't discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."

Further, the following familiar exchange between Charlie Brown and Lucy (also captured in the clip below) provokes normative questions about the tension between formal legal requirements and fundamental fairness :

Lucy Van Pelt: Say Charlie Brown, I’ve got a football. How about practicing a few placekicks. I’ll hold the ball and you come running and kick it.

Charlie Brown: Oh brother. I don’t mind your dishonesty half as much as I mind your opinion of me. You must think I’m stupid.

Lucy: Oh come on Charlie Brown.

Charlie: No.

Lucy: I’ll hold it steady.

Charlie: No.

Lucy: Please….

Charlie: You just want me to come running up to kick that ball so you can pull it away and see me land flat on my back and kill myself.

Lucy: This time you can trust me. See, here’s a signed document testifying that I promise not to pull it away.

Charlie: It is signed! It’s a signed document! I guess if you have a signed document in your possession you can’t go wrong. This year I’m really going to kick that football.

[Charlie runs and goes to kick the ball and, of course, Lucy pulls it away, causing Charlie to fall.]

Lucy: Peculiar thing about this document, it was never notarized.

Poor Charlie. He is persistent at trick-or-treating, and all he can say is "I got a rock!" I suppose that's better than a mere peppercorn. Happy Halloween!

[Meredith R. Miller]

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