Don’t burn it

Tom Stoppard weighs in on the burn it/don’t burn it debate about Nabokov’s unfinished work: "It’s perfectly straightforward: Nabokov wanted it burnt, so burn it."

That is from Bookslut, but Stoppard is wrong.  Dead people don’t count in the social welfare function. (If they did, how many of them would prefer non-democratic or racist outcomes?  And would we count that?  We shoudn’t and we don’t.)

Don’t destroy the output.  Nor is there an incentive problem.  If we release Nabokov’s papers as a book, maybe the next Nabokov will burn the manuscript in the first place.  We’re no worse off, compared to not releasing such manuscripts.  Kafka told Max Brod to burn his works, but we’re all glad Brod didn’t.  Think of the current generation as a player in the multiple selves game of the author (he could have burnt it himself long ago) and then the right answer is obvious.


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