A practical and philosophical consideration of the moral dilemmas that arise during estate planning.
One’s last will is more than just a legal document—it’s also a skein of tangled ethical conundrums that raises profound philosophical questions about the scope of individual freedom, weighed against the demands of social justice. Author Dixon-Mueller (Population Policy and Women’s Rights, 1993, etc.) has written a concise but comprehensive guide to navigating these murky waters that considers the full range of stakeholders and competing principles. She begins by sketching a synoptic history of the very idea of inheritance, discussing its ancient iteration within the Roman Republic and its several permutations through the American Colonial period until today, showing how shifts in popular attitudes to inheritance were partly a function of changing social and moral norms. Then the author discusses broader issues of equity that pull the reader into the realm of political philosophy, pitting freedom against the collective needs of society and, by extension, interrogating the proper scope of state regulation. While she provides practical guidance regarding potentially challenging conversations about the way in which one bequeaths one’s property, she artfully dedicates much of the work to raising and refining, in almost a Socratic fashion, moral problems that might be easy to miss. For example, Dixon-Mueller sensitively discusses the difficulties posed by sentimental heirlooms and contradictory claims to them. Also, she discusses problems that arise when determining the proper timing of disbursement of property: what if one’s adult children could use that wealth now, well in advance of one’s passing? The entire work is laced with a kind of pragmatic optimism; although many of these puzzles may seem intractable, the author is confident that reasonable solutions can be found: “balances can be struck; that is part of the challenge.” Overall, this is a marvelously accessible book, which is remarkable given its philosophic depth and rigor.
A valuable resource crafted with intelligence and thoroughness.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)