What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules that people must follow or face penalties. It includes things such as laws about stealing, and laws that say you can’t kill someone.

Some legal rights are so abstract that they don’t seem to conflict at all with other rights, though there are instances where these conflicts are more apparent. For example, people’s right to freedom can appear incompatible with other rights to equality, but in most cases they can co-exist peacefully in the same legal system (Feinberg 1973: 69, 72).

Other legal rights are much more specific in their application and thus more difficult to resolve. They include rights to ownership of real property, movable goods, and intangible assets like stocks or shares.

There are also special types of legal rights that relate to a particular state, such as laws concerning immigration. These laws can be complex and sometimes even controversial.

Generally speaking, legal rights are often associated with a natural law tradition of morality. This view eschews considerations of utility and policy in favor of natural unchangeable principles rooted in the natural law tradition, as well as the concept that a right is “not depended on social convention or recognition”.

However, there are occasions when rights do not correlate to duties correlating to them. In such cases, law regularly recognizes a right, but does not give that right effect until the duty corresponding to that right vests or becomes effective. For instance, a law may grant a right in a decedent’s estate, but it is not effective until the executor of that estate fulfills his or her duties to pay off debts and satisfy existing claims.

This is because, if there were no correlative duty to be satisfied, the right would not be recognized by law. For these reasons, Hohfeldian correlativity between claim-rights and duties is not necessarily normatively favored.

The primary purpose of law is to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes, and protect liberties and rights. It also serves as a means of control over other legal systems and their activities.

Other purposes for law include regulating the conduct of parties, protecting property rights, and providing remedies in the event of violations of legal rights. These are typically enacted through legislation and regulations and are enforced by law enforcement agencies such as courts and police.

Rights can take the form of active rights (claims, privileges, and powers) or passive rights (immunities).

Claim-rights are the most common type of legal right. A right-holder has a claim-right against another with respect to some ph if and only if the other is under a duty to X to ph (Kamm 2002: 476).

Privilege-rights are less common, although they may be found in some duty-based normative systems such as Jewish law or in the law of nations. A privilege-right is a right that entitles the right-holder to a privileged position in some other normative system.

Power-rights are similar to claim-rights in that they determine what a right-holder can and cannot do, but they are more general than claim-rights. They also entitle the right-holder to a privileged status in some other normative system and are often accompanied by secondary rights for restitution of unjust gains, compensation for proximate losses, or both.