What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and has been variously described as a science, an art of justice, and an institution of power.

Generally, laws are created by a government and must be enforced by the state. They can be made by a legislative body or a single legislator, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or established by judges through precedent, known as the doctrine of stare decisis (Latin for “to stand by decisions”) in common law jurisdictions. In addition, private individuals can create legally binding contracts.

The purpose of laws are to keep the peace, preserve the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, ensure social justice, and provide for orderly social change. Some legal systems achieve these goals more effectively than others. For example, an authoritarian regime may keep the peace and maintain stability, but it can also oppress its people or even murder them to keep the power balance in check.

In addition to keeping the peace, laws also help people cooperate with each other by providing a means of resolving disputes and protecting their property. For example, if two people have a dispute over who owns a piece of land, the courts can decide who has ownership rights by interpreting a property’s history and evaluating its value.

There are many different types of laws that cover a variety of topics and areas of life. For example, contract law governs agreements between individuals or businesses to exchange goods and services; tort law protects people when their health or property is harmed, such as in an automobile accident or through defamation; and property law defines the rights of people to tangible objects like land and buildings, and intangible things like bank accounts and stock. Other laws include those that prohibit discrimination, ensure safety, and regulate the practice of medicine. In addition to these laws, there are also ethical and moral laws that guide the conduct of a person. These values are important to a well-functioning society. Without them, people would be likely to behave unethically and indiscriminately, leading to chaos and disorder. Having laws in place can ensure that everyone follows the same rules, which can lead to a more peaceful society. Laws can also be a way to encourage innovation and creativity, as long as they are based on good intentions and not just a way to control society.