Law is a set of rules that governs human society. It is a system of justice that provides a means to settle disputes and punish wrongdoers. Law shapes politics, economics and history in many ways. It also provides a foundation for social interactions and mediates the relations among people. Law is not universal and is highly dependent on the culture in which it operates, but its underlying principles are consistent worldwide.
Law is an abstract concept that is not susceptible of empirical verification. However, it can be classified as either natural or artificial. Natural laws are those that describe a process or sequence of events that occurs invariably under the same conditions. For example, the law of gravity states that a falling object will hit the ground. Artificial laws are those made by humans, often based on previous decisions and reasoning. This includes a judge’s decisions in a case or the rules of a courtroom. Examples include rules governing the conduct of criminal trials or civil proceedings.
In some jurisdictions, the laws are based on religious precepts. This is the case for Judaism’s Halakha and Islamic Sharia, as well as Christian canon law. While religious law has no binding power, it can have an influence through judicial interpretation and the application of law to everyday life.
The laws of a country are a set of principles that define the legal structure of the state and its relationship with citizens. They are enacted by the legislature and enforced by courts and other bodies. The rules of the law are often influenced by the philosophy of the ruling class and the culture in which the nation is rooted.
Generally, the rules of the law are broad and encompass most activities. In the United States, for example, the laws cover a wide range of topics including employment, bankruptcy and criminal procedure. In addition to these core subjects, the law also covers specific areas such as family, civil rights and military conscription.
The rules of the law are interpreted and applied by a group of judges and lawyers, known as the judiciary. These individuals are the custodians of the law and are bound by oaths to decide cases according to its provisions. In “common law” systems, these judicial decisions are acknowledged as “law” on equal footing with statutes adopted through the legislative process and regulations issued by the executive branch. This is known as the doctrine of stare decisis, meaning to stand by past decisions.
The law is a complex and often confusing subject, with countless terms to learn and countless exceptions to be considered. A few of the most common are: