Monday, June 30, 2014

Corrupt (and polluting) legislation

I recently gave a paper on environmental law in art, on which I plan to post soon (see here). In the meantime, today's post by Dan Ernst at Legal History Blog, the final one in his series on his new book, provoked further thoughts on the subject. Ernst mentions two murals by Elihu Vedder in the Library of Congress, part of a five-mural set on "Government" executed in 1895-6. In "Good Administration" we see order and justice against a background of waves of grain.

Elihu Vedder, "Good Administration" (Library of Congress)

In "Corrupt Legislation", on the other hand, the signs of corruption are evident not only in the overturned voting urn and broken scales of justice, but in the polluting industries in the background.

Elihu Vedder, "Corrupt Legislation" (Library of Congress)

I find this intriguing. In Vedder's view, was the pollution of the late-nineteenth-century industrial revolution the result of corrupt legislation? Were the harmful effects of corruption best seen in the permissive environmental regulation of the period? What can we learn from this mural about contemporary attitudes toward pollution and the law that did or didn't control it?

Please let me know your thoughts!

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