Thursday 8 April 2010

The "My Especial Heritage" Argument

Alfredo de La Fe continues on the Moneta-L discussion list:
The biggest issue as far as I am concerned is that Italy has no right to "own" the cultural heritage of the Roman Empire and even less of a right to consider coins as cultural heritage/property. A coin struck at Rome, Ostia, etc. can be found from one end of the the ancient world to the other. Many of my ancestors (3 or 4 generations ago) were from Spain and I consider the Roman Empire as part of MY cultural heritage/ identity.
So this means that he claims the "right" to be able to ignore export licencing which "restricts his right" to that heritage. This seems a common argument among US collectors, they ascribe themselves the "right to" particular groups of cultural material as the inheritors of these cultural traditions. I drew attention for example a few days ago to the two guys claiming to be of "Assyrian" descent - whatever that means - who felt it gave them personally some kind of a "right" to decide what should happen to a gold plaque excavated in an Assyrian archaeological site.
Dan Mancuso writes on the same list:
I say good luck to them [Italy]... it is MY Roman coin, I am of Roman decent, neither me or my coin owe anything to Italy, now or ever (other then perhaps pride of being Italian, and I probably have cousins there... Hi cuz!)
This "my especial heritage" (MEH) argument, like the indiscriminate use of the TRAMP one ("The Right to Access My Past") is a false one if it is linked with the idea "so it should be my personal right to collect as much of it whatever the circumstances". This is the case when the circumstances ignored are those of the rights of others equally (or perhaps more) entitled to the use of the same limited resource. Being a citizen of the US (or other prosperous country) with more purchasing power does not automatically bestow rights over others.

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