What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules developed by governments and societies to deal with crime, business agreements, social relationships and more. It can also refer to the profession of people who work in this area, such as lawyers and judges. There are many different ideas about what the law is, and some people may have very strong views on what it should be. However, most laws aim to create a framework that ensures a peaceful society, and to punish those who break these rules.

The law is a very diverse field and there are numerous different branches of it. For example, contract law deals with people’s agreements to exchange goods and services. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible and intangible possessions, including buildings, cars and money. Banking law sets minimum standards that banks must meet and regulates financial investment practices. Aviation law governs the safety regulations that airlines must follow for flights, and these are largely aligned with recommendations or mandatory standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The law can also be applied to the behaviour of companies, governing things like company directors’ responsibilities and shareholders’ rights.

Generally speaking, the purpose of the law is to impose order, settle disputes, protect rights and liberties, and promote social change. The way in which a legal system achieves these goals, though, is what can be so controversial. For example, a tyrannical government may keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it may also oppress minorities or political opponents.

Some philosophers have tried to define the nature of law. For example, Jeremy Bentham defined it as “commands, backed by the threat of sanctions, from a sovereign, to whom people have a habit of obedience.” Others, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, argued that the laws of nature reflect innate moral values.

Other fields of the law include administrative law, environmental law, labour law, criminal law and civil law. The latter two areas concern the way in which a citizen’s case is dealt with by the courts, and include questions such as whether or not evidence should be admitted and what constitutes a fair trial.

Most countries have a national legal system, which is governed by laws and statutes. These are divided into broad subject areas, called titles, which are further subdivided into chapters, subchapters, parts, sections and clauses. For example, United States law is governed by the US Code, which is divided into Titles, such as Title 18 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure, and then further subdivided into Chapters, Subchapters, Parts, Sections and Clauses. The law is also influenced by international treaties, which can have a great impact on the way in which a country’s citizens are governed.

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