What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. The precise nature of law is subject to much debate. Some theories suggest that laws are manifestations of societal beliefs or norms, while others claim that they are naturally occurring due to human nature and the ability to reason.

The most commonly accepted view of law is that it consists of rules or guidelines established and enforced by a governing body. This governing body may be a federal, state or local government. The laws are then interpreted and applied by judges. This interpretation is based on previous court decisions, evidence and a variety of factors.

One of the main goals of law is to ensure a well-ordered society. However, even in the best-ordered societies conflicts arise. Conflicts can be about property, money or personal freedoms. Laws provide a means for resolving these disputes peacefully by providing a system for determining who is right and what should be done. Laws can also protect the rights of individuals and the integrity of communities.

In addition to protecting the rights of citizens and ensuring order, law provides a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. The study of law involves consideration of such issues as how the law was developed, how it is interpreted and applied, and whether it should be changed.

Law is an extremely complex subject. It can be divided into several areas of study:

Administrative law – concerns the regulations that govern how government agencies operate and their relationship to other parts of the public sector. Criminal law – deals with the punishment of those who commit crimes. Civil law – provides compensation for those harmed by the actions of others, whether through an accident or defamation. Laws concerning family – provide protection for children and their parents, and deal with divorce proceedings.

Labor law – provides regulation of the tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade union, and covers issues such as collective bargaining and the right to strike. Evidence law – concerns the rules that determine what can and cannot be used in courts.

The complexities of law mean that it is impossible to make laws that cover every possible situation. As such, the law is constantly changing and evolving to reflect new circumstances. However, the basic principles of law are clear, publicized and stable. They guarantee human rights and property, and ensure that justice is delivered promptly by accessible, impartial representatives and neutrals who reflect the makeup of their communities. In addition, laws are consistent and equitable. This is known as the rule of law. The rule of law is further supported by the judicial process, which must be fair and independent. The rule of law is a cornerstone of democracy. Without it, democracies will collapse. This is why the United States and many other countries have enshrined the rule of law in their constitutions.