Zombie Property LawBy http://profile.typepad.com/1237764140s22740 // August 1, 2012 in Books, Property Rights
I'm 100 pages into Colson Whitehead's Zone One, a novel set in lower Manhattan following an apocalyptic plague that turns most residents into the undead.
What grabs me most about the story is how corporate sponsorship morphs and survives the apocalypse.
The basic concept is that corporations "sponsor" America's reconstruction by expressly agreeing that certain of their property may lawfully be scavenged by soldiers and workers in the field.
Just below is a paragraph from pages 48-49 (of the trade paperback) that explains this evolution from simple advertising to a kind of bartered underwriting. "Buffalo" is metonym for the provisional government.
"Buffalo created an entire division dedicated to pursuing official sponsors whenever a representative turned up, in exchange for tax breaks once the reaper lay down his scythe and things were up and running again. (Additional goodies the public would never find out about weeviled the fine print.) There were understandable difficulties in tracking down survivors in positions of authority over, say, the biggest national pharmaceutical chain or bicycle manufacturer, but they strolled into camp from time to time, with the typical scars but eager to contribute. They generally put a price cap on their goods or specified a particular product in their brand family, one not too dear, but their sacrifices were appreciated nonetheless. Pledge all your tiny cartons of children's applesauce, in all the nation's far-flung groceries and convenience stores? It was a no-brainer: they were expired anyway. The civilians out in the wild, unaware of the regulations, would be welcomed into the system in time, and they would obey."
It's an intriguing idea, that respect for abstract title to property - from inventory to intangibles - is in the warp and weave of the human condition, not something to be attenuated by disaster.
Photo: e_monk / Flickr.