What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to control the activities of a society. Law is considered to be a social technology that is used to manage society in ways that are consistent with the goals of the individuals who inhabit it. Laws are often based on social or economic interests, as well as on moral or ethical values.

There are many different definitions of law, with the exact nature of it being a highly contested topic. Some people believe that it is simply power backed by threats, while others suggest that the existence of laws and the fact that they are enforced creates an obligation on the part of everyone to obey them. The exact meaning of law also varies from country to country, as different nations develop their own legal traditions.

Regardless of its precise meaning, it is clear that the existence of law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways. The most visible aspect of this is the fact that it dictates how governments operate, as well as what rights citizens possess. In a democratic country such as the United States, law is formulated through a system of elected representatives, giving citizens a say in how their government operates.

The laws of a state are the basis for its civil and criminal justice systems. In the United States, these are mainly established through legislation by legislatures and judicial decisions, resulting in statutes and case law. The legal system that originated in England and is still used in the United States is known as common law. It consists of an articulation of legal principles in a historic succession of judicial decisions and can be amended by legislation.

A wide variety of laws exist that govern different activities, including contracts, labour, property and taxation. Contract law covers agreements between two or more parties, and includes anything from selling a car to renting a room in someone else’s home. Labour law deals with the tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade union, covering issues such as collective bargaining and the right to strike. Property law encompasses the ownership and rights toward tangible items such as houses and land, as well as intangible things such as money and shares of stock.

There are also specialized areas of law, such as patents, copyrights and trademarks. Other specialized areas of law include administrative law, which deals with the operations of government agencies and public corporations; criminal procedure, which concerns the rules that must be followed in trials and hearings; and evidence law, which addresses what material is admissible for use in courts. There are also a number of different international and regional laws. These are generally related to a nation’s treaties with other countries, and to international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union. Laws in these fields can be highly complex and vary considerably between nations.

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