What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society and the protection of individual rights. People have differing views on what constitutes law, and legal systems vary widely. Some view the law as nothing more than power backed by threat of sanctions, while others see it as reflecting a moral code.

In general, laws are created and enforced by a sovereign or other central authority. A nation-state’s specific legal system is determined by its history and connections with other countries, and reflects both secular and religious influences. For example, Hindu and Islamic law were supplanted by common law in the British Empire, while Eastern Asia maintains a tradition of civil law. The law in a given state may also be influenced by the cultural beliefs of its majority ethnic group.

Substantive law includes legislation, common law and court decisions. It defines the rights and responsibilities of people in a society, establishes a governmental structure and provides for the punishment of those who break its rules. It covers areas such as property, contracts, criminal and administrative law.

People may be liable for a number of offences, including stealing money or goods, committing fraud, and libel. The penalties for these offences include fines or imprisonment. The law also regulates businesses and utilities, such as water, gas and electricity, to ensure they are provided safely. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that all laws are obeyed.

Governments may set up agencies to investigate and prosecute criminal offences, as well as to protect the interests of citizens. These agencies are often referred to as the police, military or civil service. Other governmental bodies are concerned with the administration of justice, such as tribunals and courts, or with international issues, such as asylum seekers.

The law also covers the relationships between individuals. For example, employment law deals with workers’ rights to wages, working conditions and holiday leave. The law also covers inheritance and family relationships, such as marriage and divorce. People who have been injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of another person are covered by tort law, which allows them to sue for compensation.

The term “law” is also used to refer to a collection of rules, such as a code or constitution. It can also refer to the department of knowledge concerning these rules. The word is also used to describe the practice of law, which involves advising clients and representing them in court. Lawyers achieve their distinct professional identity through a process of certification, usually by passing a bar exam. They may also be awarded a number of honorific titles, such as Esquire (a title of distinction), or Doctor of Laws. The law is the central institution of a democratic society, and it is essential to human progress. Those who break the law should be punished, but the punishment should be proportionate to the crime. This principle is enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence, which states: “The right of every man to life, liberty and security of property, shall not be infringed; nor shall private property be taken from any citizen by force or fraud.” The U.S. Declaration of Independence was drafted in 1776, and has become one of the most famous pieces of legislation in the world.