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Law & Order - Rights of the People

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posted on Nov, 1 2013 @ 01:59 PM

The state of society and the laws that govern us are up for much debate. Are we a bunch of slaves being thrown around by the officers of the state, or do we have rights that allow us certain liberties, protecting us from the abuse of power?

Questions like this can be answered when looking into history and the how and why of law was created. In a sense, you may discover the reality is far more grim than you expected, or you may be relieved to know exactly what the deal is.

Personally, I prefer some of the old ways, as I find the new forms of rule are just an illusion, which make the commoner feel like they aren't common. They are told one thing, but live in a world of double meanings.

In the past it was quite clear the order of things. A common man knew not to speak certain ways to nobility, as nobility declared them to be much more than a commoner, and a slave, well they knew their place too well. In recent times, our ruling parties tell us we are all equal, yet carry the disdain that has existed for centuries.

The Origins of Law & Rights

(Note: I am going to wiki the crap out of this thread because I don't feel like sourcing. Sorry.)

The Code of Hammurabi

One of my favourites. The Code of Hammurabi is considered to be one of the first codes of law ever developed. One that gave people certain rights and held them to a standard.

The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating back to about 1772 BC. It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay tablets.

Surprisingly, while the code of Hammurabi was incredibly harsh in certain judgements, I feel the rights of people were actually held in high regard during the development.

Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract, establishing, for example, the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, for example, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another.

A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity and sexual behavior. Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official; this provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently.[3] A handful of provisions address issues related to military service.

Imagine that! Holding a man of judgement to their actions, requiring them to pay penance for a mistake. I can't say that we have that even in this day and age…

On the flip side though, when I say the code was harsh, I mean it:

1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.

3. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.

4. If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.

Hmm… Yep, all the good stuff of the days of old, even things like proving your innocence by floating in the river while the guilty drown…

But even in that kind of morbid nonsense many of the laws provided security of person (family):

14. If any one steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.

21. If any one break a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried.

22. If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.

You kind of have to gloss over the whole issue of slaves being common property (we are talking about rights of free people not slaves), and you can see that a persons safety, security and the pursuit of building up their stock of goats, sheep and indentured women was of paramount importance.

Of course the world was full of haves and have nots, and life favoured the former as always. (You will see this as a continuing trend throughout the ages.)

And the "haves" couldn't do business without contract law!

151. If a woman who lived in a man's house made an agreement with her husband, that no creditor can arrest her, and has given a document therefor: if that man, before he married that woman, had a debt, the creditor can not hold the woman for it. But if the woman, before she entered the man's house, had contracted a debt, her creditor can not arrest her husband therefor.

Draconian Law

This one would be familiar to most as the term "Draconian Laws" implies something inhumane, unjust, or just really, really barbaric. Yet, Draco (The Lawgiver) was actually charged with improving (by matter of opinion) the state of law and order.

Draco (/ˈdreɪkoʊ/; Greek: Δράκων, Drakōn) (circa 7th century BC) was the first legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece. He replaced the prevailing system of oral law and blood feud by a written code to be enforced only by a court. Known for its harshness, draconian has come to refer to similarly unforgiving rules or laws.

Draco Wiki

Whether or not it was intentional, when Draco codified the laws, it brought to public attention Athens' outrageous and archaic penalties. Part of the excess was Draco himself.

The story goes that when asked about the harshness of his punishments, Draco said the death penalty was appropriate for stealing even so much as a cabbage. If there had been a worse penalty than death, Draco would gladly have applied it to greater crimes.

As a result of Draco's strict, unforgiving code, the adjective based on the name Draco -- draconian -- refers to penalties considered excessively severe.

"And Draco himself, they say, being asked why he made death the penalty for most offences, replied that in his opinion the lesser ones deserved it, and for the greater ones no heavier penalty could be found."

Draconian laws allowed people who were in debt to become slaves to their creditors. So long as they were of a lower class. (Talk about class warfare.)

People read/hear this, and probably think how archaic this kind of thing was. Yet, you would just as easily go hit up the predatory loan sharks for a cash advance should you be working a minimum wage job and be short on your rent. Work another 60 hours next week and you might pay off the exorbitant interest rates. The question is whether or not it's that much different?

At least today you won't be put to death in the street, but has the system really changed that much?

For about 200 hundred years a constitution came with the Draconian Laws. They were displayed publicly so anyone who was literate could take advantage. This, another means of upper class advantage.

edit on 1-11-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 1 2013 @ 01:59 PM
reply to post by boncho

The constitution featured several major innovations:
Instead of oral laws known to a special class, arbitrarily applied and interpreted, all laws were written, thus made known to all literate citizens (who could make appeal to the Areopagus for injustices): "... the constitution formed under Draco, when the first code of laws was drawn up."

Sort of like today when someone knows the legal system in and out, or knows how to present themselves to officials. The well educated have a much better means of winning in civil law matters, or knowing what to say in criminal matters (so they don't self incriminate).

That feeling of guilt a commoner has, like everything they do is wrong, probably reflects itself over the ages.

An interesting note about how Draconian laws came to be, was the opinion of the nobles who saw their impulsive actions against people who spited them was causing a general disdain among commoners. This would be in tune with "the people" vs "the elite" or "the government". Essentially, civilian dissent. What was bred out of this eventually was new law and democracy. The idea that everyone had a voice, to quell hatred for the ruling class. Did the people win or did those in power? One could argue that the people were now considered stronger, they could not have arbitrary punishments handed down on them at the whim of some lucky born elite. At the same time one might argue that it was just a nice way of quashing dissent, and allowing people to think they were higher up in the food chain than they really were.

The son of this Alcmaeonides was called Megacles. During the days when Megacles was foremost of the nobility occurred the first effort to turn Athens from an oligarchy to a tyranny. In the year 610 B.C. a young nobleman named Cylon called all the people to aid him in overthrowing the rule of the nobles. The revolt failed; Cylon escaped in secret, and his followers clung to the shrines of the gods for protection. They were deliberately torn thence and murdered by command of Megacles. Because of this insult to the gods, the entire family of Megacles, the Alcmaeonidae, were thereafter regarded as accursed.

Even before this outbreak, the nobles had agreed that somewhat more consideration must be shown to the common folk. The rulers decided that all the cruel laws they had passed whenever the impulse seized them should be arranged in a single plainly stated system; thus, at least, the nobles could no longer twist the laws as they willed; and a poor man might know what the law really was, and so avoid breaking it unconsciously. The man who was summoned thus to "codify" the laws was Draco. So severe were many of the old half-forgotten laws that when they were all thus clearly set forth, men were horrified at their severity. Death was made the penalty for every tiny crime, even the stealing of an apple from an orchard. Draco is said to have declared that the smallest crime deserved death, and that he knew of no severer penalty to attach to greater crimes. Of this grim code of laws men said that they were "written in blood," and the word "draconian" remains in use today as signifying a rule unflinchingly severe.

The laws of Draco did not quiet the tumults in Athens. The friends of Cylon continued to aid the common people, especially in their protests against the "accursed Alcmaeonidae." Supernatural portents were said to betoken the anger of the gods, and threatening ghosts appeared. Disasters overtook the Athenians in a war with the city of Megara. Finally, the Alcmaeonidae were banished in a body. Even the bones of their dead ancestors were exhumed and sent from the country with solemn formalities to avert the wrath of the gods. At the same time another lawmaker, Solon, was authorized to prepare a new set of laws relieving the misery of the poorer classes.

The Laws of Solon and Birth of Democracy

Solon (/ˈsoʊlɒn/ or /ˈsoʊlən/; Ancient Greek: Σόλων, c. 638 BC – 558 BC) was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in archaic Athens. His reforms failed in the short term, yet he is often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy.[1][2][3][4]

During Solon's time, many Greek city-states had seen the emergence of tyrants, opportunistic noblemen who had grabbed power on behalf of sectional interests. In Sicyon, Cleisthenes had usurped power on behalf of an Ionian minority.

See: Businessman with no reigns, warlords and pillagers.

When someone is given the power of being able to do no wrong, and not only that, but to have their words hardly questioned, to be able to gain information on people, it allows them the ability to rise to power far faster than any common person. Compare that with the systems we have in place today, where certain positions and titles allow your word to be of far greater importance than another's. Or give you the ability to spy on people, put them in jail, ruin their credit, etc. Perhaps just take them to court and bleed them dry of money.

In any case, during the Draconian rule of law, and after, there was a chaotic state in Athens… Solon's laws were meant to reform, but had little immediate success, yet they credit him with a huge hand in democracy.

edit on 1-11-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)

edit on 1-11-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)

edit on 1-11-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)

edit on 1-11-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 1 2013 @ 01:59 PM
reply to post by boncho

The change of power from an Oligarchy to evened distribution.

There is consensus among scholars that Solon broadened the financial and social qualifications required for election to public office. The Solonian constitution divided citizens into four political classes defined according to assessable property[48][57] a classification that might previously have served the state for military or taxation purposes only.[58] The standard unit for this assessment was one medimnos (approximately 12 gallons) of cereals and yet the kind of classification set out below might be considered too simplistic to be historically accurate.[59]

The Areopagus, as viewed from the Acropolis, is a monolith where Athenian aristocrats decided important matters of state during Solon's time.
valued at 500 medimnoi of cereals annually.
eligible to serve as Strategoi (Generals or military governors)

valued at 300 medimnoi production annually.
approximating to the medieval class of knights, they had enough wealth to equip themselves for the Cavalry

valued at a 200 medimnoi production annually.
approximating to the mediaeval class of Yeoman, they had enough wealth to equip themselves for the infantry (Hoplite)

valued 199 medimnoi annually or less
manual workers or sharecroppers, they served voluntarily in the role of batman, or as auxiliaries armed for instance with the sling or as rowers in the Navy.

The change in the power structure lead to a more civilized world for ancient Greece.

Two contemporary historians have identified three distinct historical accounts of Solon's Athens, emphasizing quite different rivalries: economic and ideological rivalry, regional rivalry and rivalry between aristocratic clans

Money and power vs the will of the people.

"...there was conflict between the nobles and the common people for an extended period. For the constitution they were under was oligarchic in every respect and especially in that the poor, along with their wives and children, were in slavery to the rich...All the land was in the hands of a few. And if men did not pay their rents, they themselves and their children were liable to be seized as slaves. The security for all loans was the debtor's person up to the time of Solon. He was the first people's champion."

Eventually creating democracy and probably the most influential Empire the world has ever seen. There are plenty of threads on the fall of Rome. I suppose it's pointless to try and condense it all into just a few thread posts, but we all know how it ends. I surmise there is a very good balance between the rise and fall of any power structure, where law & order is at near even odds with rights and liberties.

The question you have to ask yourself, is exactly what stage are we in and what direction are we headed? Talks of a dystopian future and the ills of Big Brother, which really is nothing new. As everything we can learn about our future is hidden in our past. The trick is recognizing the similarities and how the old ways are not much different than today, but dressed up in a different gown.

I'd like to cover about a dozen other periods in this thread but I'm not sure I will get around to it. Enjoy this if I have made any points.
edit on 1-11-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 1 2013 @ 02:25 PM
Part of the downfall of Athens was that it was a direct democracy. One man, one vote. In practice it became easy to rule Athens if you could demagogue the mob. Anyone who could sway the simply majority holds the power, simple as that. When such at thing comes to be, the minority is consistently trampled underfoot, and anyone with the means to sway the mob, whether through clever words or simply money, is the de facto ruler.

Rome was designed as a Republic, not a democracy, but in the end, she fell from a Republic to an Imperial dictatorship/oligarchy through the same mechanism - power to sway and demagogue the mob. We've all heard "bread and circuses." And the Imperial Rome eventually decayed through many of the same forces that the original Republic fell.

We were designed as a Constitutional Republic because the Founders studied their history and knew that direct democracies did not work. Notice how hard every push to change our electoral system has been to change it more toward a direct democracy? The Republican system actually works more to protect the electoral minorities by giving them some seat at the table and breaks up the mob. This is why Federal Senators were originally appointed by the state legislators not elected directly by the people, for example.

However, I see us at the cusp of losing our Republic and devolving into an Imperial state if we don't collapse entirely. The populace is complacent and too reliant on bread and circuses. The Republican system that needs an engaged and largely moral (i.e. people of good character and integrity) populace to keep it going is crumbling because those people are few and far in between and swamped by the greedy, the ignorant, the hedonistic and the lazy. Those people neither know nor care about rights, theirs or others, they only care about what they can get the most of for the least effort making them ripe for demagoguery and vote buying.

posted on Nov, 1 2013 @ 02:26 PM
Eventually creating democracy and probably the most influential Empire the world has ever seen. There are plenty of threads on the fall of Rome.reply to post by boncho

Okay,I'm confused now. You start off talking about Greece and they're system,then switch to the fall of Rome?? Did I miss something?

posted on Nov, 1 2013 @ 02:31 PM

Eventually creating democracy and probably the most influential Empire the world has ever seen. There are plenty of threads on the fall of Rome.reply to post by boncho

Okay,I'm confused now. You start off talking about Greece and they're system,then switch to the fall of Rome?? Did I miss something?

I was trying to focus on the shift between eras. In one case, you had an oligarchy ruling with arbitrary rules, taking advantage of everything they could, then came a fundamental shift which was great for people for hundreds of years, and slowly it descended into the very thing it was meant to get rid of.

I think the mirrored example is pretty obvious, as did ketsuko, as they actually pointed out a few things better than myself. I wanted to focus more on the transition periods. I also wanted to include a couple Chinese dynasties in this thing, but ran out of willpower…

Past Chinese dynasties are kind of grey area throughout the rise and fall. Similar to the times of Hammurabi. Ancient Greece seems black and white to me, with shorter grey areas right before the major shift in power structures.

I am up for being schooled on my interpretations though.
edit on 1-11-2013 by boncho because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 1 2013 @ 11:10 PM
Nice O.P it seems like what ever the society we want to be governed by codes of behavior whether written or passed on by oral tradition and have never been comfortable with an anarchist mode of living.

Take a peek at this tread created about a month or two ago
Kouroukan Fouga The Constitution of Ancient Mali
By me.

This document was as important for that region of Africa as the Magna Carta for Western Europe and from at about the same-time,the Kouroukan Fouga however was formally in oral tradition and then codified in about 1236 the same time of the Magna Carta in 1215, most people would have recognized the Magna Carta as having a great impact on the eventual idea that Man is a free being with formal representation in governing counsel , that idea would take centuries to realize off- course and many found it as a precursor to the US constitution and the parliamentary system in Britain, In the Malian empire a similar document was being put into place.

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