If you’re like most people you’ve heard of Hammurabi’s Code described simply as, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” You’ve probably also heard the disparagement that following this code will soon leave us all blind and toothless.
You’ll be delighted to know this popular understanding is not a correct statement of Hammurabi’s Code.
Hammurabi the Great of Babylonia was one of the great minds of human history. In or around 1772 B.C., 500 years before Moses, 1200 years before Socrates, 1650 years before Julius Caesar, 400 years before Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, and of course, 1772 years before Jesus Christ, issued a code of conduct that was all encompassing, yet amazingly fair and flexible.
It was far more complex than a simple “eye for an eye.” It tried to cover all human interactions and attempted to marry two concepts – – “the strong shall not injure the weak” and “all shall have a right to prosper in line with their effort.” It covered crime, property rights, divorce, military service, inheritance, loans and bankruptcy. Gee, maybe we should try something like that…oh wait.
Anyway, we must remember that as long as 4,000 years ago there existed active markets in just about everything. We should not be astonished that they were essentially free markets. Hammurabi’s Code didn’t set the terms of trade, it only sought to prevent fraud and theft. Now, there is something we definitely should try.
Hammurabi’s Code brought great peace and prosperity to the people for centuries, at least until the Democrat party was formed.
So where did the notion of “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” come from? Oh, it’s in the Code alright. It just doesn’t mean what we’ve come to think it meant. We need only recall that one of the two central purposes or Hammurabi’s Code was, “The strong shall not injure the weak.” This tells us to look twice at “eye for an eye” and try to understand what it really meant. It meant the strong have no entitlement over the weak, that a nobleman’s eye is equal to a peasant’s eye, a rich man’s tooth is due no more respect than a poor man’s tooth.
We ought to try to duplicate those concepts. Remember, those concepts are what brought peace and prosperity to the people for centuries.
UPDATE: A modern Hammurabi would support the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution which restrains government from infringing “the right off the people to keep and bear arms.” If ones agrees with Hammurabi’s Code that “The strong shall not injure the weak” then one would also support Samuel Colt’s invention of the modern revolver which makes it possible for the weak to defend themselves from the strong. It’s not true that the advent of modern firearms made us more violent. The world was more dangerous before firearms existed because the weak were more vulnerable. Gun free zones create victims by making them unable to defend themselves against criminals who will enter the zone with a gun. Any government or property owner who invites the public into a gun free zone should have a legal duty to protect those they have made vulnerable to criminal attack.