Monday, October 5, 2015
This week, the The New York Times Magazine's the "The Ethicist" column is finally given over to an actual ethicist, Kwame Anthony Appiah, who is a fabulous choice. Similarly excellent is the editors' choice to add a bonus advice column from "Judge John Hodgman" and to print said column in a font that people over 40 can read (Judge Hodgman's column used to appear on a page designed to appeal to young hipsters and to put off people who really need to just bite the bullet and use reading glasses).
I hate to disagree with so learned a judge, but I think Judge Hodgman errs in his opening opinion in the new format. His column assesses whether a written commitment is binding. The writing reads as follows, "I, Taylor W., will allow Cora W. to dress me as a woman this Christmas." Judge Hodgman describes the writing as "contract," his end of which Taylor W. must uphold.
Sorry, Judge. I see nothing more than a gratuitous promise here. There is no consideration. Moreover, this seems to be a social and not a legally binding agreement. I question whether the parties ever intended to be legally bound. Taylor W. may be bound in foro conscientiae, but he is not bound under the law of contracts.