Ruled by the dead

December 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Christopher Hitchens seems to have had a few radical ideas in his time, many of which (including his support of Wolfowitz) are hard to swallow. However his theist views, or maybe rather anti-theist views, seem intriguing to say the least.

One concept I can thank him for, albeit quite ironic, is that of thanatocrazy. The idea that we are burdened by laws that were made by people long dead is worth thinking about. Why don’t our laws have expiry dates? Who says laws made a century past are still applicable to our current society? Even worse – who really benefits from these archaic laws?

A few years ago we took a holiday to Mozambique where I learnt that nobody could buy land, you could only lease it for 99 years. Given that at the time one of the issues in Cape Town was the amount of land owned by foreigners I thought this quite a novel solution to the problem. Today I wonder whether there shouldn’t be a constitutionally enforced validity period to laws. I.e. if you don’t rewrite a law within 49 years it automatically becomes invalid. It would put a greater burden on Parliament, and lead to a new set of NGOs, but it may also reduce the need for legal professionals. It might even lead to some kind of upper bound to capitalism.

Having to follow the rules of those that were long dead does leave an unsavoury taste, and I’m not sure it gets balanced out by me being able to leave an inheritance to my kids…


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