What Is Law?

What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. The word law most often refers to a body of enforceable rules or standards that is binding on all citizens, whether they are in agreement with them or not. It can also be applied to the whole of a legal system, such as the laws of a country or state. The term law is also used to refer to the practice of jurisprudence, which involves making decisions about the interpretation and application of law.

A central concept in the study of law is the rule of law, which entails the commitment by all parties to the supremacy and universality of law, the equal application of the law, due process of law, and independent adjudication. The concept of the rule of law is closely linked to that of human rights and includes the responsibilities of the state to protect, promote, and fulfill the rights of its citizens.

In the English common law tradition, Blackstone said that law is “a rule of action imposed by authority upon those subject to it commanding what they ought to do and forbidding what they should not do; being uniform as to persons and places; and binding everywhere in the same case.” The rules of the law are generally written or unwritten, but are considered binding by all members of society.

A fundamental assumption underlying the rule of law is that it is morally correct and reasonable to follow the commands of God. Many of the rules in the Old Testament and the New Testament are related to this, including the prohibition against blasphemy and idolatry. Those who disagree with God’s law are therefore not considered to be following the rule of the law, and those who break the law may be punished.

The law is the basis of a society’s ethics and is used to control behavior, including criminal activity and war. The law is also a foundation for democracy and the protection of individual rights, such as freedom of speech and religion. The most important source of the law is the constitution, but other sources include judicial precedent and legislative intent.

In the modern world, the law is most often found in civil systems that are based on Roman and canon law, with some influence from local custom or culture. These systems are found on all continents and cover about 60% of the world’s population. They are largely responsible for the development of international law. For more information on the law, see the articles on censorship; crime and punishment; and political structure. For an examination of the relationship between law and other social restrictions, see social justice. For an examination of the role of the law in governing systems, see administrative law.