Friday, August 22, 2008

In Defense of Tomb-Robbing?

An old article by Adam Young, In Defense of Tomb-Robbing, presents a radical view: the Elgin marbles rightfully belong to Lord Elgin's feudal tenants!
First, the Ottoman empire gained control over the Greek mainland by conquest and thus cannot legitimately given (sic) Lord Elgin any permission .... Assuming that no one homesteaded the Parthenon before Lord Elgin, we can conclude that these artifacts were unowned at the time that he and his workmen labored to plan and excavate their removal. Presumably, therefore, Lord Elgin was the legitimate homesteader and was perfectly within his rights to remove, display, and ultimately sell his antiquities to the British government (leaving aside the illegitimate origin of the funds that the government used to pay him with).
Young takes the extreme Libertarian position. The Libertarian philosophy is partly based on the idea that groups cannot have additional rights beyond the individual rights of the members. If you believe that then Young's position on antiquities has merit. I'm not coming out in support of Young — he is taking an extreme fringe position — merely pointing out the difficulty of obtaining agreement on moral rules.

No comments: