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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Mar 31, 2020


[with apologies to the real Legal Systems Very Different From Ours. See also the List Of Fictional Drugs Banned By The FDA]


The Clamzorians are animists. They believe every rock and tree and river has its own spirit. And those spirits are legal people. This on its own is not unusual – even New Zealand gives rivers legal personhood. But in Clamzoria, if a flood destroys your home, you sue the river.

If you win, then the river is in debt to you. The government can assign a guardian to the river to force it to pay off its debts, and that guardian gets temporary custody of all the river’s property. He or she can collect a toll from boats, sell water to reservoirs, and charge rent to hydroelectric dams. Once the river has paid off its debt, the guardian is discharged, and the river becomes free to use once again.

Clamzorian precedent governs when you may or may not sue objects. If you swim in the freezing river in the dead of winter, and catch cold, that’s on you. But if a hurricane destroys your property, you can absolutely sue the wind for damages, and collect from windmills. Suits against earthquakes, volcanoes, and the like are dead common. Suits against diseases happen occasionally. Sometimes someone will sue something even more abstract – a custom, an emotion, a concept.