What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. When these rules are broken sanctions can be imposed. The precise nature of the laws is often difficult to define, as they differ between different legal systems and individual people.

Law influences politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It can shape a country’s constitution, written or tacit, through the rights encoded within it. It also governs relationships between individuals and between the government and its citizens.

Some theories of the law have been based on science, while others have focused on philosophy. A few of the most influential theories are the law of nature, the law of universality and the law of physics.

The most common definition of the law is that it is a system of rules enforced by a sovereign. This sovereign is a human being, normally an attorney or judge, who interprets the rules to determine whether they are enforceable and what punishment should be imposed if they are not.

The laws of a sovereign are created by the legislative branch, which creates statutes; by executive action, creating regulations; and through judicial decisions, called precedents or stare decisis, which gives broader weight to a prior decision than would otherwise be the case for a new dispute. Each of these forms of law are distinct, but they are all part of the larger law.

There are many specialised branches of law, including labour law (dealing with the tripartite industrial relationship between employer, worker and trade union), criminal law (dealing with crime and punishment) and property law, which defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property (i.e. land and buildings) and intangible property (i.e. money and shares in a company). There are also areas of law that cover specific fields of activity, such as aviation, bankruptcy, evidence, civil procedure and criminal procedure.

The law is a reflection of the power and status of a sovereign, so it is important that it be just and fair. However, a sovereign’s laws are also influenced by the aspirations of its citizens for greater freedoms and protections under the law. These aspirations may inspire revolutions, or they may be reflected in constitutional amendments and revisions. The most stable societies tend to be those with stable political structures that are responsive to the laws of the people. This does not always guarantee that the law is fair, however. Humans are not perfect, and even reasonable attorneys and judges disagree sometimes on what the law should be. This is why the law can be so confusing. It is not surprising that it has inspired so many books and articles containing numerous different ideas about what the law should be. These ideas are often contradictory, but they all serve the same purpose: to inform and educate the public about law. This information will help people make good decisions, both when they are deciding how to act and when they are deciding what laws to follow.