What Is Law?
Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a subject of longstanding debate. Law is often described as a system of justice, though it can also be seen as a form of control, an institution that seeks to prevent disorder and promote prosperity by regulating trade, commerce, and other aspects of society. Generally, it is considered to be a system of enforceable rights and duties that is created and maintained by societal institutions, including governments and private organizations, and is regulated by courts.
Among the most important aspects of law are its logical structure, procedural integrity, and fairness. A logically sound legal rule is one that is clear and well publicized, has a consistent application, and is free from conflicts of interest. Procedural integrity means that the rules of law are administered and adjudicated fairly, impartially, and efficiently. Fairness is a critical component of law because it ensures that all people, whether government employees or members of the public, are treated equally in accordance with the rule of law.
Another important aspect of law is its legitimacy. The legal system is legitimate when it reflects the views and values of the majority of the population in a jurisdiction. In addition, it is legitimate when it respects fundamental human rights and the freedom of speech, religion, and conscience. Finally, it is legitimate when the law is based on principles of natural justice and due process.
In law, a legal right is an entitlement that confers normative power on its holder. This power is usually defined as the capacity to change and create legal positions, relations, and norms (Hohfeld 1919: 50-57). Typically, a legal right correlates to a correlative duty, which may be vested or not. For example, surviving children of a decedent hold a legal right to a share in the estate if and only if the executor of the estate has not already distributed the shares to other beneficiaries (MacCormick 1982: 163).
Law is a vast topic that covers many aspects of the human experience. The most common branches of law include contract law, property law, and criminal law. Contract law regulates the exchange of goods and services, ranging from purchasing a bus ticket to trading options on a stock market. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, such as land or buildings, and intangible property, such as bank accounts or stocks. Criminal law, on the other hand, regulates conduct that is against the moral and ethical standards of a community and provides punishment to offenders. Aside from these main areas, there are other specialized fields of law such as administrative law, international law, and constitutional law. In general, laws are constantly changing to adapt to social changes and meet the needs of a community. This is a continuous process that requires an ongoing effort to maintain the integrity of the law.