What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crimes, business agreements and social relationships. It can also refer to the people who work within this system, such as judges and barristers. Law is a complex field, with many different aspects and disciplines intersecting. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice.

A basic principle of law is that it should be impartial as between a person and their case. The Bible teaches that there should be no respect of persons in judgment (Deuteronomy 16:18). This is because it is not right to show favouritism in any case, and it is especially wrong in legal cases where the rights of people may be at stake.

The law deals with the whole range of human activity in society, from private disputes to international treaties and trade. It is an incredibly broad area and it can be divided into three main categories: criminal law, civil law and administrative law. Criminal law covers crimes such as murder, theft, fraud and rape. Civil law is concerned with issues such as contracts, family law and property ownership. Administrative law is the collection of laws that govern public agencies, such as schools and hospitals.

Other areas of law include space law, tax law and banking law. Space law deals with issues of international relations in outer space. Tax law involves rules about value added tax, corporate and personal taxation, and banking law sets minimum standards for banks to ensure they do not pose a risk to the financial system.

Law also covers the whole scope of human rights, from a person’s right to privacy to their right not to be tortured or killed. This subject is controversial, and there are ongoing debates about the extent to which a country’s laws should protect its citizens from the actions of other countries.

Whether a country’s laws are considered to be just or not depends on whether it adheres to what is called the rule of law. This entails that laws must be logical and clear, with no ambiguities. It also requires adherence to principles of natural and common sense.

The rule of law is further enhanced by the fact that decisions by higher courts are binding on lower courts, through a principle known as stare decisis. This ensures that similar cases are likely to reach similar results. In contrast, there are systems of law that are not based on the rule of law, but on faith and tradition. Such systems are known as civil law systems, and their laws tend to be shorter and less detailed than those of common law. They are often codified, with the French Code Civil and the German BGB being the most influential civil codes in the world. A third type of law is religious, based on scriptures such as the Jewish Halakhah and Islamic Sharia.