Monday, January 10, 2011
Of Pets And Willed Riches.
Reading my local newspaper in the subway, on my commute to work this morning, a story caught my eye and attention. The story said that our state governor, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, has signed a bill into law that allows pet owners to leave everything they die owning to their pet(s) - if they choose, addition mine.
This new law makes it impossible for the executors of tI was he will of the deceased owner to be able to spend the money on anything else but the receiving heir-dog or cat. This law, according to the newspaper, establishes a trust for pets that will now be enforced by the courts. Previously, persons had been designated as caretakers which made it possible for such persons to use their discretion in spending the money. This usually meant that some of the money was spent on other things beside the rich pet.
My initial reaction after reading the story was one of amusement and I chortled quite a bit before I really thought about what the law means. Once the full ramifications of the meaning hit me, I realized that it wasn't a laughing matter and that, if anything, it was more tragic than amusing. Thinking about it made me realize how our laws are now becoming more and more driven by our individual selfishness instead of our collective good.
Because laws were originated in order to protect society and, by extension, the individuals that make up the society, the laws we make should put the needs of the society ahead of the needs of the individual. What we find today is that more and more of our laws are doing the opposite by catering to individual selfishness and needs ahead of society. Ironically, this same individual selfishness was what our common laws were initially established to defeat.
Catering to individual selfishness is exactly what this new law in Massachusetts does by putting the needs of these dead pet owners ahead of the greater needs of the society at large. I can see the defense pleading freedom and free will as justification for this egregious folly. I can already hear the argument that people should have the right to do whatever they want with their money, and to that I say, when they are alive and sane. When they die and leave the money to their goats or, will that they be buried with it, we as a society should be able to stop that from happening.
We have too many human beings who need the money to allow that it be left to dogs and cats who don't really need it. We have too many people who need the money to allow that it be buried with the dead owner which is a viable wish - this, in answer to the argument that the wishes of the dead should be respected. I'm all for the respect of the wishes of the dead but, with all due respect, I think that the dead are just that, dead, and when they wish that their money should be left to their cat, dog or pet squirrel, or, for that matter, buried with them, then we owe ourselves and our society the duty to find better uses for such money.
Can anyone imagine someone like Bill Gates dying and willing that all his money, the whole $50 billion of it, be left to some pet? Or Warren Buffet doing the same but willing it to his pet cricket and having all that money locked down somewhere forever while millions of human beings die for lack of it? If you are thinking that it's ridiculous and cannot happen then I'm sorry to tell you that that's exactly what this law makes possible. These people, if they live in Massachusetts, only have to put it down as their will for it to come to pass.
So, what, really, is the sense behind a law like this one that literally puts the welfare of animals above that of human beings? What's the explanation behind putting the interests of animals above the interests of tax paying citizens? I can't find any and if anybody has some, then I'm all ears but until then, I want to say that this law is another example of a situation where we have allowed intelligence to determine our action instead of wisdom. It is laws like this that are helping send our society to the dogs, in this case, more literally than figuratively.