What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules that governs the actions of individuals, groups and institutions. It is a complex discipline that covers a wide range of topics, from criminal law to tax and social security law, and human rights.

A common understanding of law is a set of enforceable regulations created by governments and enacted in the form of laws or statutes, often by legislatures or courts. It also includes a variety of other forms of legal regulation, such as those made by executive departments and agencies, such as regulations and orders.

The meaning of law is debated; some argue that it incorporates morality, whilst others believe that it reflects natural law. Utilitarians on one side, such as John Austin, believe that it is a matter of commands backed by threats of sanctions from a sovereign, while natural lawyers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, believe that it is a reflection of essentially moral and unchangeable laws of nature.

There are two major types of rights: in personam and in rem. In personam rights relate to a specific, definite right-object; in rem rights are more general, covering the right to be recognized as a right-holder (right to property) or to be given effect in a particular state of affairs (right to justice).

Justification and validity

Justification is the process by which a legal norm establishes its status as a legal norm (the legal justification of a law), usually through a groundsing in other legal norms or a source of law. For example, the legal justification of a law that grants a right in a decedent’s estate involves a duty whose validity is grounded on certain states of fact that have occurred at the time of the vesting of the right.

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