Thursday, February 09, 2012
Over at Slate is an article about a legal case in Florida which is receiving a huge amount of publicity, but for the wrong reason.
On Feb. 10, 2010, Palm Beach air-conditioning mogul John Goodman allegedly ran a stop sign. His Bentley convertible struck a Hyundai being driven by Scott Wilson, a 23-year-old civil engineer. Wilson's car landed in a nearby canal where the young man drowned. The near-billionaire then fled the scene. Police say Goodman had a blood alcohol content of 0.177, twice the legal limit. Not surprisingly, Goodman is being sued by Wilson's parents for a great deal of money. (He also faces criminal charges that could put him in jail for 30 years).The article continues, mentioning that many of Goodman's assets, having been diverted into a trust fund for his children, cannot be touched by the jury -- although "West Palm Beach Judge Glenn Kelley ruled early in the Goodman civil lawsuit that the jury could not be told of the large trust's existence because it might encourage jurors to impose a larger verdict against Goodman, despite the fact that he, in theory, has no control over the trust." This is apparently because one of Goodman's adopted children is his lover, and Goodman's attorney set up the trust as a tax dodge.
The case has aroused an enormous amount of interest, not because Wilson's family may receive less of an award, but because Goodman's relationship is, in a strict legal sense, incestuous. It is, of course, ridiculous to use a legal technicality as a substitute for objective moral judgement, especially when it is clear that the legal definition of incest might need revisiting.
What I find truly amazing is why such a setup is actually quite common. (It has similarly been used by homosexual couples who don't have recourse to marriage to establish a legal familial relationship.) Our society so reflexively condones confiscatory taxation that some people are left with the ridiculous choice between having their property taken by the state -- or making some screwball arrangement like this.
It is so clear that this is a tax dodge -- and that the "incest" here is only a legal technicality -- that I strongly suspect that much of the animus against Goodman -- at least for his "incest" -- is motivated, psychologically, by envy. Indeed, it is those who are casting the stones here who are using a legal loophole for nefarious purposes: to condemn a man for an evil of which he is innocent and to hide their true motivation from themselves.
P.S. I have not thought carefully about whether incest should actually be illegal. That said, laws should definitely be in place against adults having sexual relationships with minors. Under such laws, incest that is not between consenting adults is already illegal.
Today: Added a P.S.