Law is the set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been variously described as a science, the art of justice and an institution for maintaining order in society.
The term law is also applied to legal procedures, as in a court case or a criminal trial. The word law comes from the Latin lege, meaning a “law” or a “rule.”
Although there is debate about the precise definition of the term law, the most common usage implies a set of rules that are imposed by an authority and must be followed by all people who are subject to that authority. This is typically a reference to state or federal laws.
Moreover, in many countries the word law is used to refer to a rule of behaviour or procedure that is accepted as valid by the general population. This can be a statute (written law) or a precept (oral law).
A precept usually means something advisory and not obligatory, whereas a statute suggests a rule of conduct or procedure established by an authority and which has been widely accepted as a guide to behavior.
Examples of law include the law of marriage and divorce, the rights of children, the law of property, and the law of employment.
The laws of a country are made and enforced by its government, which consists of the legislature and the executive. Generally, the legislature adopts statutes, which are the foundation of a country’s legal system. The laws are then applied by judges and public officials.
Nevertheless, a government may fail to follow the laws it has enacted. In these cases, the people of a nation-state often revolt against its political leadership, seeking a new set of laws that protect their rights.
The resulting revolutions are usually contentious, but in most cases they end in the establishment of a democratic government. This is a fundamental change in the relationship between people and their governments, and is one of the primary functions of the law.