Why do communities need laws?
The harvest has failed and, like many others, you have little to eat. There are animals in the temple, but they are protected by law. Your cousin decides to steal one of the pigs to feed his family. You believe that laws should not be broken and try to persuade him not to steal the pig. But he steals the pig and is caught.
The law of the Babylonian Empire—Hammurabi’s Code—holds people responsible for their actions. Someone who steals from the temple must repay 30 times the cost of the stolen item. Because your cousin is unable to pay this fine, he is sentenced to death. You begin to wonder whether there are times when laws should be broken.
EXAMINING the ISSUES
1. What should be the main purpose of laws: to promote good behavior or to punish bad behavior?
2. Do all communities need a system of laws to guide them?
3. Task: Hold a class debate on these questions. As you prepare for the debate, think about what you have leaned about the changes that take place as civilizations grow and become more complex. As you read about the growth of civilization, consider why societies developed systems of laws.