A selection of published articles by Paul Rampell
By Paul Rampell
Articles: The Washington Post August 4, 2013
We all know that far too many marriages end in divorce, yet this institution does not adapt. Indeed, most Americans today want to expand conventional marriage to include same-sex couples.
So why is there no effort to improve the legal structure of marriage, when it shows itself to be deficient?
Marriage is a legal partnership that lasts a lifetime — one lifetime to be exact, that of the first of the spouses to die. Generally speaking, that is a long time for any partnership. People, circumstances and all sorts of other things change. The compatibility of any two people over decades may decline with these changes to the point of extinction.
In real estate, one may own a life estate in a piece of property. This is comparable to the term of a marriage — a lifetime. And in real estate, one may hold possession of property for shorter terms through a lease.
Why don’t we borrow from real estate and create a marital lease? Instead of wedlock, a “wedlease.”
Here’s how a marital lease could work: Two people commit themselves to marriage for a period of years — one year, five years, 10 years, whatever term suits them. The marital lease could be renewed at the end of the term however many times a couple likes. It could end up lasting a lifetime if the relationship is good and worth continuing. But if the relationship is bad, the couple could go their separate ways at the end of the term. The messiness of divorce is avoided and the end can be as simple as vacating a rental unit.
A marital lease could describe the property of the spouses in detail, so separate ownership is clear. If a couple wishes to buy something together, or share ownership, they can keep a schedule of these items and decide as they go along how these would be disposed of in the event of a partner’s death or if they do not renew their wedlease. Landlords and tenants have proved the effectiveness of making clear their separate property and its disposition at the end of property leases.
If the couple has a child, there could be an option to have the lease automatically continue until the child reaches the age of majority. Of course, relationships change with family additions and an extended term may not be feasible. But considering the number of children born out of wedlock these days, would it not be better for parents to at least commit to a wedlease, even if it doesn’t last a lifetime?
A wedlease could also imitate a real-estate lease through the use of security deposits. Each spouse could deposit a sum of money with an independent third party to ensure compliance with the wedlease. A further step could be to authorize the third party to arbitrate disputes between the spouses.
Our society has become comfortable with premarital and postnuptial contracts. The marital lease would be similar, except that it addresses the reality that the marital relationship between two people often does not last a lifetime.
When a college noticed that students did not use sidewalks around a courtyard but cut across the lawn for efficiency, administrators decided to move the sidewalks rather than continuing to post signs to “Keep off the grass” that people ignored. Similarly, why doesn’t society make the legal structure of marriage more congruent to our behavior? A wedlease may be a practical improvement to an institution whose success, today, is something of a coin toss.
By Paul Rampell
Articles: The New York Times, September 21, 1989.
To the Editor: (PDF)
I wish to improve on Donald T. Regan’s idea of a one-time exchange of old bills for new bills so that cashhoarding drug dealers may be identified (“The Color of Money Can Stop Drugs,” Op-Ed, Sept. 18).
All Cash – that is, green currency – should be eliminated. We can convert to an economy in which only checks and credit cards are used. The elimination of cash would hamper drug dealers, who generally use cash in their transactions. Prosecution f traffickers would be facilitated by police analysis of the financial records of suspects to determine the flow of their funds. Al Capone was convicted by the auditing of his records. Nothing else worked in finding the powerful black marketeer of alcohol during Prohibition; nothing else will work in policing our illegal drug market.
Crimes such as loan sharking and kidnapping, requiring cash, would be difficult. Auditing in criminal prosecutions could cover tax evaders, arms traders and all black markets.
We would face inconveniences in a checking and credit card economy. It seem absurd to write a check for bubblegum or to use a card at a hot dog stand, but coins could still be used.
Elimination of paper cash my be inflationary. The expense of credit would be added to the price of all transactions. This could be offset by advances in the efficiency of charge card use, for instance, machines through which cards are quickly passed. Retailers and 24-hour bank tellers use this equipment already.
A checking and charge card economy will not be drug free, of course. Sophisticated dealers will still conduct transactions using phony corporations, wire transfers and precious metals. Nevertheless, most dealers would have a tougher time and most law enforcement agencies would have an easier time: trails are left by checks and charge slips, but no with cash. Moreover, more drug profits could be taxed.
Palm Beach, Fla.