The Importance of Law


Law is a set of rules that are 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. Law informs many aspects of our daily lives, from regulating the purchase of a movie ticket to determining whether to invest in a certain company. It establishes standards, maintains order, resolves disputes, and protects liberty and rights.

There are a number of different types of law, with some governing specific activities and others establishing general principles. For example, contract law dictates the terms of any agreement that transfers ownership or control over an object of tangible value—such as a house or automobile—and includes everything from buying a bus ticket to trading options on a derivatives market. Property law determines people’s rights and duties toward tangible objects like land or buildings, while criminal law governs the punishment of crimes committed by individuals.

A country’s political landscape is an important determinant of its legal system. A democracy, for instance, is characterized by a clear separation between the executive and legislative branches of government and by the rule of law. In contrast, an autocracy is ruled by a dictator or an oligarchy, and its laws may be unrestrained by oversight. The rule of law is a crucial factor in determining the health of a nation.

While most nations have their own unique traditions of enforcing the law, some of them follow common legal systems derived from Roman or canon law. These are often supplemented or modified by local custom or culture. Civil law systems are found on all continents, and most countries that practice civil law have codified statutes known as civil codes. These codes are meant to create a clear structure for cases, reduce the risk of bias, and promote the speedy resolution of claims.

Despite the importance of the law to a healthy society, there is much debate about how and why it works. One of the most contentious issues centers on whether judicial deference to executive statutory interpretation should be limited by considerations of constitutionality and morality. Generally, scholars and courts have favored the no-evidence-of-malice standard for statutory deference.

This Article challenges this consensus by arguing that the no-evidence-of-malice requirement undermines the integrity of the legal profession and jeopardizes the ability to efficiently solve public problems. The Article suggests that the law should be reformed to recognize and address this problem, while still upholding the central principle of judicial deference. It also offers a new way of understanding the statutory interpretation process that might improve jurisprudence and help restore the law’s legitimacy in this century.