What is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. While it has many definitions, it is commonly understood as a set of precepts that govern the interactions between people and the physical world.

The main purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Law is a complex and often contentious subject. It has been the source of much scholarly inquiry in fields such as legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology.

Most modern nations use a political-legal framework to establish and administer their laws. This involves the balancing of power between an elected government and a powerful military or bureaucracy. Throughout history, there have been revolutions against established political-legal systems and aspirations for greater equality or justice.

Some jurisdictions are based on common law, which is judge-made and evolves over time through judicial precedent. Other jurisdictions adopt a constitutional framework that guides the drafting and interpretation of laws.

In the United States, for example, citizens are protected by a federal constitution and a system of state courts. They can sue in civil court for damages in cases like car accidents, while a criminal court deals with offenses against the community, such as robbery or murder. A nation’s laws can also include regulations that dictate tax policies, banking practices and the rules of the stock market. These are topics of intense debate, particularly when they are influenced by special interests such as corporate lobbyists or the political influence of individual judges.

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