Law is the body of rules that governs a society or community. These rules may be created and enforced by a state, with its legislative authority reflected in statutes and decrees, or by the executive through regulations, ordinances, and edicts, or by courts based on precedent (called common law jurisdictions). The creation of laws can also take place within private communities that are not controlled by a government. In these cases, the rules are typically private contracts. The term law is not to be confused with ethics, which are the set of principles that a person should follow to achieve his or her goals.
The concept of law is broad and varied, reflecting the complexity of our social lives. Laws govern everything from the right to compensation for harm done to a person or their property, to laws that regulate commercial transactions, to legal procedures for settling disputes and determining family rights. Laws are based on the beliefs, values, and assumptions of the people who create them and those who use them.
For example, in a culture that believes in the separation of church and state, there is religious law, which deals with matters relating to worship and the rights of individuals to free expression. In a culture that is democratic, there is constitutional law, which is the body of laws that dictate how a democracy is to be run and which rights citizens are guaranteed by the constitution.
Laws must be adapted to fit social situations that change over time. For example, the growth of the modern military, policing and bureaucracy as power over daily life has raised concerns about accountability that previous writers like Locke and Montesquieu could not have foreseen. This has prompted new thinking from modern legal pragmatists who put more faith in judges’ insight into current situations than in the application of fixed rules or strained analogies to ancient precedents.
In addition, there is the fact that there are many fields of specialization within law: for instance, tort law deals with compensation for damage caused to people or their possessions by others, while intellectual property law regulates the use of a person’s ideas and trademarks. Space law addresses the use of outer space by nations through treaties, while tax law covers such things as taxes on corporations and individuals, investment regulations, and banking laws that cover minimum standards for capital and best practices for loans. The topic of law is so extensive that any article about it would require the use of a large library and perhaps a translator for those who do not understand the technical language of lawyers or the legal process. However, anyone with good research skills, a pragmatic mindset and the will to explore the issues systematically can write an informative article about Law.