What Is Law?


The law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition has been a topic of long debate. Generally, it is described as a system of rules that are coercive and made by authorized institutions which must be obeyed by the community/society, and include threats of punishment or sanctions for violations of these laws.

Some of the goals that are accomplished by law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. The law can also serve to control power, ensuring that people do not abuse their privileges or powers over others. However, the political landscape differs from nation to nation, and many legal systems fail to accomplish one or more of these major functions.

Law is the basis for social stability and peace, but it does not automatically lead to justice or equity. For example, some states have authoritarian governments which keep the peace, but may oppress minorities or other groups, or impose unjust economic policies. Other states have democratic government, but may allow the emergence of powerful private companies which compete with government-run industries or public utilities, leading to problems such as privatisation. Still other nations have a strong tradition of civil society and the rule of law, but struggle with issues such as terrorism or corruption.

The legal system can be divided into three main parts: criminal law, commercial law and administrative law. Criminal law deals with the protection of human rights, and relates to matters such as homicide, fraud, and illegal drugs. Commercial law relates to contracts and transactions, and relates to the buying and selling of goods and services, as well as issues such as taxation. Administrative law relates to the operation of government departments, such as health and safety, immigration, education, and local authorities.

Despite the wide variety of goals and functions that are fulfilled by the law, some people feel that there is an underlying theme that runs through it all: The law is about power. The more power that is exerted by the authorities, the more the law is viewed as a weapon in the battle of egos and ambitions. This leads to an emphasis on hierarchies and status, as well as a desire to control the population.

It is important for the law to be clear and accessible, so that citizens can know what is expected of them. In addition, the law must be fair and equitable in the way it treats people of different wealth and status, and must promote collaboration between citizens and government officials to improve the quality of the rule of law. Finally, there must be checks on the authority of the state, such as a free and independent press, so that there is accountability for its actions. The legal system must also be transparent and accountable, so that the public can monitor the way it manages public resources and make complaints about poor service.