We are all familiar with the “Eye for an Eye” policy. Perfectly equivalent payback of wrongdoing is what most lawmakers seek, and simply repeating the offending act is a fairly straightforward way to achieve it. Easy to see why it was one of the first systems of law. The thing I have a problem with, though, is why “eye?” I, personally, find it rather odd that there were people wandering around poking people’s eyes out on purpose. Sure, every now and then, but, come on, enough to develop a philosophy about it? To NAME a system of law after it? What, was it a fad? Was there some eye poking trend setter out there who started influencing people. “You are only cool if you poke eyes out.”
Ignoring the motivation for the initial eye poking, there remains the matter of the reciprocation. Do you do the eye poking yourself? One would think it is a matter best left to someone whose depth perception is still intact. Otherwise you might poke out the wrong eye, then he would have to poke out your other eye for revenge, and then what? You already poked out the eye he just poked out, and even if you wanted to poke out the other eye, you are blind now, so good luck pulling it off. The alternative is that someone else does the eye poking for you, but now the new guy has done some eye poking of his own and is going to have to loose an eye. It strikes me that, no matter how you slice it, there are going to be a lot of blind people if you institute this system for any length of time.
Plus, there are crimes this doesn’t really work for. Take, for instance, copyright law. If you have a great idea for a movie and someone steals it and makes millions, what do you do? Wait until he has a million dollar idea and then steal it? If he was capable of a million dollar idea, he wouldn’t have had to steal one from you. I know what you are thinking, just hand over the money, right? But that wouldn’t be “Eye for an Eye.” That would be “Vision for an Eye,” a system which may have merit, but is not really plausible.
Even if we limit this thing just to the body, there is another problem. What about other parts of the body? How would this system deal with Lorena Bobbit? Is there a chart somewhere of roughly equivalent body parts? “A penis is worth one whole breast or both nipples.” It certainly would make for a more interesting name. If there were marketing gurus back then, they sure dropped the ball. Tell me you wouldn’t be intrigued by the “Two nipples for a penis” system of law. Sign me up! Of course, if there WERE marketing Gurus back then, they probably would have lived on the top of a mountain and given advice on what to sell in your market. I imagine they would offer up sage wisdom like, “Sell Figs.”