Law is a set of rules that a government or organisation creates and enforces to ensure the community adheres to certain moral and social standards. Normally, laws are made by a legislature, resulting in statutes, or by the executive, resulting in decrees and regulations. However, private individuals can also create legally binding contracts which are enforceable by courts. Laws are often created to serve a number of different purposes: setting standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights.
While laws can be applied in almost any situation, there are some that are more fundamental than others. For example, it is against the law to steal, so if you are caught stealing you may be fined or sent to prison. The law is designed to protect people from harm and encourage good behaviour, and to punish bad behaviour.
Whether it is the law against stealing or the law of gravity, all laws are established to serve a purpose. In a well-ordered society, even a peaceful one, disagreements can arise. Laws can help to settle such disagreements by establishing rules that are universally acceptable and that govern how such issues are handled.
The main categories of law include criminal, civil, and commercial. Civil law covers the resolution of lawsuits (disputes). Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered a threat to social order, such as murder or robbery. Commercial law is a branch of law that deals with business and trade.
Another area of law is constitutional law, which is the study of how a constitution is written and interpreted. Law is also a subject of scholarly research and inquiry in many disciplines, such as history, philosophy, political science, sociology, and economic analysis.
It is important to remember that, unlike a mathematical statement of fact (such as the law of gravity) or a descriptive statement about a natural phenomenon (such as weather), there is no possibility of empirical proof for statements of legal import. This is because laws deal with the behaviour of humans and cannot mandate actions that are beyond their capability.
From an analytical viewpoint, the process by which law is created and maintained is complex. This is because, unlike other disciplines, it involves normative as well as descriptive statements. Normative statements tell people how they should behave or what they must require from others. Normative statements in law are called “norms” and they differ from the norms in scientific fields, such as physical science (as the law of gravity) and social sciences, such as economics or social science.