What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways. It is often described as a science and as the art of justice.

Legal systems can be broadly divided into (a) civil law jurisdictions, where legislatures codify and consolidate laws, and (b) common law countries, where judges make up the law through precedent. Religious laws are derived from precepts of various religions, such as the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, while Christian canon law still survives in some church communities. Law can also be derived from philosophy, sociology, anthropology and other disciplines.

The Law defines rights, duties and responsibilities in all facets of people’s lives, from defining the boundaries between personal freedoms to determining property ownership. It is the foundation of a functioning economy, democracy and social stability. Law can be applied to any subject, as long as the rules of engagement are clear and understood by all stakeholders, and they are enforceable.

There are many specialized fields of law, including contract law, labour law and tax law. Contract law governs all agreements to exchange goods and services, from buying a car to trading options on a derivatives market. Labour law covers the tripartite relationship between employer, employee and trade union, governing issues such as the right to strike or to be paid a minimum wage. Tax law includes regulations concerning value added tax, corporate tax and income tax.

Laws are based on a wide variety of criteria, some of which cannot be verified empirically. This makes it difficult to determine whether or not they should comprise certain precepts. In addition, the shape of the physical world and its limitations prevent any law from mandating behaviours that are beyond human capabilities.

In modern times, the development of laws has been accelerated by technological advances and the spread of international trade and investment. Countries once divided by linguistic and cultural differences are now joined in a globalized legal system that requires shared standards of conduct.

Law is the set of rules that a country or region develops to deal with crime and business agreements. It also governs the relationships between private citizens and their government. A legal system provides order, stability and peace through ensuring that all participants are held accountable by a clear and publicized set of procedures. It promotes and protects people’s rights, including the right to contract, property and fair trial. The legal system also protects the environment and natural resources. In addition, the laws can be interpreted and enforced by a range of individuals and organisations, including police officers, judges, jurors and lawyers. They can be written or oral, and may vary from one country to another. The legal system is also governed by international law, which covers issues that are not specific to any individual country.