What is Law?


Law is a set of rules created and enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. Generally, it includes the rule of right and wrong, to which people must submit in order not to be punished. It also defines rights and duties toward tangible and intangible property. The law may be categorized as civil or criminal.

The purpose of Law is to make society safe and peaceful by establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Some legal systems are better at serving these purposes than others. For example, an authoritarian government can keep the peace and maintain the status quo but also oppress minorities and restrict social change.

In the broadest sense of the word, Law covers all forms of human conduct that are enforceable by a state’s supreme power (such as the decrees or edicts of absolute princes, including kings and emperors), or of a constitutionally established government or its officials or agencies. The law may also be defined as the judicial system of a state or country, which is the body that administers, interprets and enforces its laws.

Laws are based on a number of principles, most importantly that all people are treated fairly and with respect. It is important that the rules of law are clear, publicized and stable and that everyone understands them and can appeal decisions. Laws are typically justified by reference to other law or legal norms, for example ‘Joseph has a right in his good name’ is a valid claim-right only if it is based on a general rule such as ‘every person has a right in their own name’.