Monday, June 18, 2007

Legal Wonders of the World

Our colleague, Diane Marie Amann, draws our attention to, and invites our nominations for, an interesting contest that she and her co-bloggers at IntLawGrrls are conducting to name the "Seven Legal Wonders of the World." Here's Diane's description of the contest and its inspiration:

A contest launched 6 years ago by the entrepreneurial New7Wonders Foundation has driven more than 4 million people to cast 28 million votes for humankind's 7 most wondrous feats of engineering or architecture (of the traditional 7 only 1, the Pyramids, is still in existence). You've got just 60 days left to choose among the 21 finalists, which range from Athens' Acropolis temple to Bavaria's Neuschwanstein castle, from the statue of Jesus in Rio to the Statute of Liberty in New York. If the spirit moves you, vote here.

Or, help IntLawGrrls put together a different list -- of the World's 7 Legal Wonders. Post a comment or e-mail us at with your nominee. Names of persons, things, events, ideas all are fair game. And your nominee may be a "wonder" in the negative as well as the positive sense of the word. [link]

So far, the nominees include: (1) the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, (2) the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, (3) the Law Merchant, and (4) the Edicts of Aśoka.

Just as interesting as any particular candidate for "Legal Wonder" may be what the nominations say about the cultures from which these Legal Wonders have emerged and our own. Mary Rebecca Bynum has written that when she teaches her undergraduate course on "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World," her purpose is not simply to teach students about the Seven Wonders themselves, but to explore "how members of one culture view other cultures, and what use they make of other cultures in their own world." This contest, too, may be as much a window into our own values, ideals, and culture as it is into the cultures that produced the particular "Legal Wonders" being nominated.

So who or what do we nominate here at Dorf on Law? There are of course many worthy candidates, but I nominate Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a Dalit (or so-called "untouchable") leader who at times clashed with Gandhi and other Congress leaders during the Indian independence movement and later became one of the principal architects of the Indian Constitution, which among many other notable things abolished "untouchability." Over fifty years after his death, Ambedkar remains a deeply influential figure in contemporary India, although to many people also a controversial one. A crude indicator of progress under Ambedkar's Constitution may be seen in the sweeping recent victory in the state of Uttar Pradesh by the Bahujan Samajwadi Party, a party created principally to represent and advocate on behalf of Dalits. Not only did the BSP surprise observers by winning an absolute majority of seats in the state -- returning Mayawati, the first Dalit woman to lead any of India's states, to power as the state's Chief Minister -- but it apparently did so with significant support from a "rainbow coalition" that included significant numbers of upper caste Hindus. On the other hand, for a sense of how far India has yet to go to fully realize its formal abolition of untouchability, recall my post on the status of Dalits from several months ago.

Feel free to post your nominations for the "Legal Wonders" contest, along with your reasons, in the comments to this post (or, co-bloggers, perhaps in blog posts of your own). Or send an email to If it seems easier to identify "legal blunders" than "legal wonders," that need not hold you back, for if a blunder is bad enough -- if it's a downright fiasco -- perhaps it inspires wonder on that basis alone. So whether fabulous or fiasco, fire away with your nominations.


Caleb said...

I'd suggest the Magna Carta, and - in a bout of sentimentality perhaps - the Canadian Constitution. It did what few contemporary constitutions did, and tried to enshrine principles of equality and protection between different groups without forcing assimilation.

Juan said...

Wonder -- The Geneva Conventions.

Fiasco -- The entire set of Office of Legal Counsel memos penned by John "Voodoo Law" Yoo.

Saint said...

I applaud Anil's nomination of Dr.Ambedkar, the greatest intellect India ever had so far and I doubt there will be one in the future. He was the best ecomonist of India (ask a economist nobel laurete about Dr.Ambedkar, he will agree on Dr.Ambedkar). He was the best bar-at law and legal expert in the world (who wrote the constitution of India, basing it along the lines of US constituition that treats every single human with equal rights and dignity, which was sabbotaged by Hindu's for centuries in India). He brought out laws of discrimination and laws to eliminate untouchability in India (though still it is a huge issue, but it was Dr.Ambedkar who fought to bring justice by dedicating himself to this cause, other leaders merely used this issue for their own survival and personal fame (like Gandhi, who believed that people should be discriminated and it is good, what a tragedy!?).
Dr.Ambedkar is the greatest philosopher and orator India ever had, and his writings and speeches are inspiration and life to 300 million Indians and much more followers of him around the world. He was the messiah of safegaurding the poor and innocents, a human rights activist of the highest calibre, he was woman's right activist and there is no better example for a finest human in every sense one can look at Dr.Ambedkar. Who followed Lord Buddha's teachings and his path of Dhamma life.

There are so many other great charecteristics of Dr.Ambedkar that no living or dead Indians can be matched with.

Dr.Ambedkar is the best choice and I aggree with Anil.


Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

I do hope you send in your nominations. Having nominated Ashoka's Edicts, I can't send in another nominee, but if anyone is interested in nominating Jalāl-ud-dīn Muhammad Akbar (1542-1605), ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1556-1605, I can send along information to help you pen your case in support of him. The material comes courtesy of Stanley Wolpert and Amartya Sen.

Dennis said...

A great wonder: The constitution of the United States. It was the first written constitution and it survived and has remained serviceable for over 200 years.

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