What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is a complex and multifaceted system of governance that incorporates many aspects of life.

The term is most often used to refer to a particular nation’s legal system, although laws may also be made by individuals or groups. Laws are usually written and passed by a legislature (such as a parliament or a council) or executive branch, and then enforced by courts or other agencies.

Laws can be categorized into various types, ranging from criminal to civil to corporate. The specifics of each type of law depend on the context and purpose of the rule. Some examples include the granting of rights and obligations by contracts, property ownership law, and tax laws. Laws can be influenced by religious or philosophical precepts, and by the constitutions of states and countries.

In the modern world, governments create laws to solve problems, ensure a safe society and maintain stability. Governmental institutions, such as police departments and courts, must adhere to a code of conduct established by law. Similarly, businesses must follow laws concerning contracts, taxes and employee protection. The rules governing these areas are called legislation, regulation and jurisprudence.

While a legal system is meant to guide human interactions, it is not always perfect. Even in the best of times, people sometimes disagree and are unable to settle their disputes peacefully. For example, when two people claim the same piece of land, they can go to court and have a judge decide who owns it. In order for this to work, everyone must be treated equally under the law.

This is one of the principles that underpins the concept of a constitutional democracy. The principle of equality under the law means that all citizens are equal before the law and that there is no discrimination based on race, religion or any other factor. It also means that citizens can hold their government accountable for the way it operates.

Law is a complex and layered concept, with the precise definition of law being subject to debate. Generally, however, it refers to any set of rules that can be enforced to control the behaviour of an individual or group. These rules can be enacted by legislatures, creating statutes; by the executive, through decrees and regulations; or through judges’ decisions, resulting in a doctrine of stare decisis.

Different regions and countries have developed their own systems of law. Some, like England and France, retain the legacy of a common law tradition. Other regions, such as most of Africa and Asia, have retained a civil law tradition, and the laws of some of these nations are codified into civil codes. In some mixed jurisdictions, such as in Australia, France or the Pacific islands, civil and common laws coexist alongside each other. A few systems of law – particularly relating to natural resources such as water – are regulated by international bodies rather than national governments.