The Journey series
This week’s Mustard Seed examines rights in community. A community may be a couple, a family, a group of friends, a workplace, a town, a country, or the world. Small communities are subsets of larger communities.
Communities offer companionship and security; they can also improve efficiency, effectiveness, and economy. The cost of community is a degree of autonomy. To belong to a community one must accept responsibilities, obligations and limitations. Justice is the proper balance of rights between individuals as well as between individuals and the community. For a community to function properly members must adhere to communal standards. Those who disagree with the rules may debate to change the consensus of the community, but they must still defer to the rules until such change is approved — or they must accept consequences.
An eye for an eye may seem a just consequence at first glance. It balances the scales of justice between the two men. Those two men, however, are members of other communities. The taking of the second eye will impair that man in his duty of service to the other communities. An eye for an eye also fails to bring balance in another area, the blinded man’s state before and after the attack. Taking the second man’s eye does not restore the sight of the first man.
Transferring assets that approximate the value of the lost eye from the perpetrator to the victim will serve justice better than mere retribution. The victim will return to an approximately even state and the perpetrator will bear a cost proportionate to his actions. This too, however, is blind to other important factors; ability, intent, motivation, incidental costs, and faith in community. Since their conflict also impacts broader communities it is rightly resolved at the highest level of community materially affected. If their conflict is impossible to resolve within that community help must be sought from the next highest level of community. Arbitrators are assigned, evidence is gathered, the facts are weighed, and judgement is pronounced. The expense of legislators, judges, jurors, and enforcers is born by all members of the community.
Next week: Solidarity and subsidiarity.
Peter T Elliott