Immortality and the Law The Rising Power of the American Dead Ray D. Madoff
- Publication date:
- 01 May 2010
- 208 pages: 234 x 156 x 23mm
This book takes a riveting look at how the law responds to that distinctly American dream of immortality. While American law provides virtually no protections for the interests we hold most dear - our bodies and our reputations - when it comes to property interests, the American dead have greater control than anywhere else in the world. Moreover, these rights are growing daily. From grave robbery to Elvis impersonators, Madoff shows how the law of the dead has a direct impact on how we live. Madoff examines how the rising power of the American dead enables the deceased to exert control over their wealth forever through grandiose schemes like 'dynasty trusts' and perpetual private charitable foundations and to control their creative works and identities well into the unforeseeable future. Madoff explores how the law of the dead can, in essence, extend the reach of life by granting virtual immortality to individuals. All of this comes, Madoff contends, at real costs imposed on the living.
Ray Madoff is a professor at Boston College Law School.
"We normally don't think that dead people have any legal rights. But in her carefully reasoned and exquisitely written book, "Immortality and the Law", Ray D. Madoff, a professor at Boston College Law School, not only reminds us of our current legal system's treatment of the dead but documents the extent to which the rights of the dead are expanding and rapidly encroaching on the rights of the living. Whether it is on issues of reproductive procedures, artistic creations, copyright protections, reputational interests, trust provisions, property rights or charitable giving, our laws are increasingly giving greater privileges to the dead while not calculating the costs exacted on the living. Particular striking is the author's analysis of charitable trusts, many of them foundations, which are founded largely on the twin pillars of donor intent and perpetuity. Both insure the "dead hand" of the past and limit the extent to which great wealth can be spent to solve today's societal problems.
Is this shift in the law good for our society and for our democracy? Has it tilted too much against the interests of the living? Professor Madoff argues that it has. She makes a persuasive argument that a balance must be restored."--Pablo Eisenberg, Senior Fellow, Georgetown Public Policy Institute