What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules and principles that a community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. It is often seen as a means of maintaining social justice, promoting civility, keeping peace and preserving individual liberty. Law may also be viewed as a tool for economic development and the protection of property.

The laws of a community are usually set in two ways, by statute and case law. Statutes are enacted by government authorities, such as Congress or a state legislature. In the United States, statutes are written in the form of bills and published in the Federal Register and codified as the United States Code. Many statutes give executive branch agencies the power to create regulations, which are usually printed in the Code of Federal Regulations. Both statutes and regulations can be used to create enforceable rights, and judicial interpretations of their meaning carry legal force under the doctrine of stare decisis.

Case law is a legal doctrine that develops through the decisions of judges, who apply precedent to new cases. It can therefore change as the prevailing views of a judge on a particular issue change, but the basic structure of the law remains intact. The judicial process is important to a democracy, and it is essential that courts be transparent to the public, and that their decisions are well-reasoned and made in accordance with constitutional principles.

Besides laying down general rules, law also regulates specific activities and institutions. For example, a body of law called banking law sets minimum capital standards for banks and rules about best practices in investment. Similarly, a body of law called insurance law establishes how much premiums must be paid for coverage, and what type of coverage is available. In addition, a body of law called regulatory law governs how public services and utilities are delivered, such as water management or electrical transmission.

Most of the world uses a system of civil law, and the laws of some countries, such as India and Pakistan, have been partially influenced by Western law. However, the law in all countries is not identical: the legal systems of a nation reflect the culture and values of that country.

For instance, some religious traditions have a comprehensive legal system based on religious precepts, such as the Jewish Halakha or Islamic Sharia. In other religions, such as Christianity, the canon law of the church is still followed. The law of a nation also reflects the power of the ruling authority: an authoritarian regime will keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it may oppress minorities or limit the freedoms of its citizens. In contrast, a democratic government is tasked with balancing these competing interests and ensuring that its laws are fair.

By adminssk
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