What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules that society and governments develop in order to deal with crime, business agreements, social relationships, property, finance and other aspects of human activity. It is controlled and enforced by the governing authority, which may be either a government or an organisation such as a school or church. People who work in the law are often known as lawyers, judges and other legal professionals.

Law can take many forms, ranging from the rules that govern how to operate a car to the regulations that apply to a company’s tax position. It can also include moral stances, such as the ban on insider trading or due process (the principle that there must be fairness and decency in governmental actions).

Most countries use some form of law to guide their operations. Some, like the United States, have a common law system that relies on judges’ decisions about specific cases; these are collected and published as case law. Others have written systems, such as the Japanese civil code. These laws are written and compiled into books that are designed to give clarity and consistency to interpretation.

Regardless of the type of law, most of it is designed to accomplish four main tasks: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. The law sets enforceable rules, provides the penalties for violating those rules and prevents tyrannical rulers from using force to control their subjects.

The law also enables communities to interact with each other in ways that do not harm people or the environment, and it allows for the peaceful transfer of ownership of things such as land or a house. It also ensures that goods and services are delivered fairly, and it regulates the activities of financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies. It protects the interests of consumers by ensuring that companies offer competitive rates and that their employees are properly trained.

Some people argue that not all laws are created equal. They point out that the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein, for example, was still law even though it violated international law and was morally wrong. But there is a problem with this argument: If someone can create and enforce a bad or arbitrary rule, it does not follow that the rule should be called “law” simply because he has the power to enforce it.

The varying definitions of law reflect the complexity of a social phenomenon that is not easily defined. Nevertheless, most of us accept that the law is important to our lives and needs to be properly interpreted.