What is Law?

The law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is a complex concept and the precise definition is a subject of long-standing debate. The law may be enforced by the state through mechanisms such as punishment or censorship, or it can be self-enforced by individuals through private contracts or alternative dispute resolution procedures. The law is a central part of all societies and plays a role in politics, economics, history and society in many ways. The rule of law is a concept that seeks to ensure that a country has laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated and that are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. The concept is a key component of a democracy and a stable economy, as well as providing an avenue for individuals to claim their fundamental rights and freedoms.

The study of law encompasses a number of sub-fields, including the fields of criminal, administrative, commercial and labour law. The study of each field involves examining specific types of legal rules and regulations that have been created by a government, a corporation or an individual for the purposes of governing a certain type of activity. Criminal law, for example, involves the study of a nation’s criminal code and the rules that a citizen must follow to not commit a crime. Civil law deals with the rights of an individual as they interact with other people, whereas labour law deals with the tripartite industrial relationship between employer, employee and trade unions. Law also has a more general meaning and can be used to refer to the body of all laws in a nation, such as when someone says that murder is against the law.

Law has numerous goals, but four of the most important are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Different countries have varying systems of laws to achieve these goals, and the political landscape is vastly different from one country to another. Many of these differences arise from the fact that laws are often influenced by the constitution (written or tacit), and the rights encoded within it.

The law may be created by a group legislature, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or by judges through precedent, referred to as common law in some jurisdictions. The law is also shaped by the way in which it is interpreted and enforced. The interpretation of a law can significantly alter its effect and the manner in which it is applied. The interpretation of a law can also be impacted by the societal beliefs and values that a person holds, as these may influence the criteria they use to make their decision. For example, the belief that judges should remain impartial can be a significant factor in the way a judge interprets a case.