Thursday, April 29, 2010
Christopher Caldwell has written a review on Ray Madoff’s Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead.
The introduction to the review follows:
Two rough principles have governed the way we think about our duties to dead people. The first is summed up in G.K. Chesterton’s aphorism: “Tradition is the democracy of the dead.” The second is: “You can’t take it with you.” To put it crudely, while society has let dead people “vote” (in that it respects their traditions), it has not let them own property (since there would be no point to it). Things are changing, though, in the US. To judge from Immortality and the Law, a sparkling polemic by the Boston College law professor Ray Madoff, US courts and lawmakers have recently made a number of bad decisions that have turned this arrangement upside down. We hold the wisdom of previous generations in ever lower esteem. But, Madoff convincingly argues, we are granting the dead ever more elaborate property rights, which are crowding out the rights of the living.