What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Laws may be created by a collective legislature through statutes, decrees and regulations; they can also be established through judicial decisions in common law jurisdictions. The legal system also includes private laws that bind individuals and families, such as contracts, property and wills. The law may be based on religion, for example Jewish halakha and Islamic Shari’ah, or on science, such as the principles of natural law or quantum mechanics.

In addition to providing a source of legal authority and control, the law is an important topic for scholarly study and debate in areas such as philosophy, history, political science, economic analysis and sociology. The law raises issues of equality and fairness that are central to democratic societies.

Blackstone, for instance, was one of many writers who used the term “law” to describe a set of rules that govern a society and its people, and which are enforced by a court of justice or other governing body. A more recent view of the law is reflected in the four universal principles developed by the UN Commission on Human Rights. These are that the law is clear, publicized and stable, and is applied evenly. The law protects citizens’ human and civil rights and property. The law is administered and adjudicated by competent, ethical and independent representatives and neutrals that reflect the makeup of their communities.

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