[Ancientartifacts] Re: De Montebello responds

Posted by: "Paul Barford" pbarford@pro.onet.pl HYPERLINK
<mailto:pbarford@pro.onet.pl?Subject= Re%3A%20De%20Montebello%20responds> .
> Dave Welsh comments:
>> Citizens and institutions of these nations are not legally bound...<
> But I think the issue has a moral and ethical dimension too does it not?
Of course. However, Dr. Barford has improperly abstracted a comment that
absolutely must be taken in context. In this case the context was the issue
of compelling the return of cultural property that had been exported from
its trerritory of origination prior to the adoption of the 1970 UNESCO
Convention. In nearly all, if not all such cases the possessor has valid
title to the item in question, and the "moral and ethical dimensions" are
matters of opinion not of law.
It is my perspective that campaigns to put pressure on collectors,
institutions or governments to return cultural objects for which a valid
title can be proven, will most probably turn out to be futile and will
simply project heat upon the issues at hand, rather than illuminating them.
If cultural retentionists desire to compel return of pre-Unidroit exported
objects, the only correct approach is to enact laws to enforce such a
return. Laws are after all, the social arbiters of ethics and morality. Only
through laws can we realistically expect to sort out all the varying
ideological and moral points of view involved.
The enactment of laws has the additional advantage of compelling a
reasonable level of precision and analytical thinking, whereas one sided
ideology-based arguments (such as those advanced by Dr. Opoku) ignore the
practical consequences of the course or courses of action being advocated.
It is by no means wrong to advance a one-sided argument, but it is nearly
always wrong to act upon it without thoroughly investigating and considering
all sides of the question.
In this case, reopening the question of who has the right to own
pre-Unidroit exported cultural property would literally be opening Pandora's
box. As I pointed out in the post Dr. Barford responded to:
"If Dr. Opoku's viewpoint should be accepted and pursued to its logical
conclusion, what basis would there be for limiting the right of a state to
claim restitution of any cultural object that originated in its territory?
Should the Government of Italy, for example, be required to seize and return
everything in Italy that can be shown to have been forcibly or coercively
acquired by past Italian regimes such as the Roman Empire, and institutions
such as the Roman Catholic Church?
The list of objects to be returned under such an interpretation would be
long indeed, and its implementation would be nightmarish."
"When does it end?" and "Where do we draw the line?" are very valid and
pertinent questions. Ignoring them in development of public policy regarding
cultural property would neglect very grave risks that the "cure" might turn
out to be far worse than the "disease."
Dave Welsh
Unidroit-L Listowner


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