The ‘original’ idea of law was based on a commercial idea of justice. A wrong committed against an individual was balanced by that same wrong inflicted as punishment on the perpetrator. There was a sense of balance to these judgments, but also a sense of trade. One loss was exchanged for another. The crime ‘equaled’ the punishment. Hammerabi’s Code, one of our earliest written records of law, proclaimed that an eye should be taken in recompense for the loss of an eye. In Classic depictions of justice, the scales of the marketplace are used to balance the fitness of punishment to crime.
But law is not always about a trade. Social responsibility extends not only to the victim, but to the criminal. Punishment should not create more loss of life, property, or health, but seek to avoid it. And can’t the analogy extend in the other direction? Can we not give and give, as well as take and take? There’s that whole Biblical thing about giving your shirt as well to someone who only asks for your coat, so it’s not an idea that hasn’t occured to others before. Sorry i don’t know other religious traditions as well, but here’s a nice Buddist story to tie in:
There is an organizantion I’ve recently discovered (Thank you, Lucy Costa) that has their own idea of a gift for a gift. TOMS is a shoe company with a policy they call ‘One For One’. If you buy a pair of shoes, that means a second pair of shoes is going to children someplace who don’t have any. True, this is more like ‘spend extra money and we’ll give the extra to poor kids in the form of shoes’, but at least you know your hard-earned cash is going to a company that’s Doing Something, rather than financing corporate glut. And these shoes are awesome! I have yet to find the details on their website regarding the greenness and/or fair trade ness of thier shoes, but I will be doing a little more research into this area for sure. Some of them are vegan as well. And I want them. Oh yes, my suede patch fleece lined, or red/silver glitter, or vegan wrap boots inspired by Argentine polo horses, I will have you. Soon.