Hammurabi reigned over Babylon from 1795-1750 BC. The code of law that he set down (on an 8 foot stone pillar) is considered the predecessor of Jewish and Islamic legal systems alike. Here are rules that applied for a house builder
- If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.
- If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.
- If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.
- If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.
- If a builder build a house for some one, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.
The Hamurabi code was brutal – but no doubt extremely effective. Poor workmanship in roads and other major infrastructure is not mentioned – infrastructure was somewhat limited back in Babylonian times.
Question for today: If you were to bring the code up to date for infrastructure, what might you include? And would you limit your penalties to workmanship alone, or would you include poor decision-making? Have fun!