What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules and regulations that shape politics, economics, history and society. Its function is to regulate relations between people and the institutions of the state, such as police, courts, and censorship.

The word law is derived from the Greek words leges, meaning “law”, and ars, which means “sacred”. The term has several variants, including statute (from Latin, sacrarium), ordinance (from Greek, , arkhme), canon (from the Old French canon), and precept (from the Middle English, precepte).

A legal system is a set of laws or rules that govern the actions of individuals and organizations within a country. The law serves a variety of functions: it keeps the peace, maintains the status quo, preserves individual rights, protects minorities against majorities, promotes social justice, and provides for orderly social change.

Some legal systems are more successful at these goals than others. The most prominent and widespread legal traditions are civil law, common law, and the law of nations.

Among the most important areas of legal concern are property rights, contracts, criminal and civil procedure, and the law of war and armed conflict. Other fields include administrative law, jurisprudence and criminology, and international and public law.

Legal justification is the process by which a rule or regulation is deemed legal, that is, grounded in a legal norm or other legal norms. It involves a normative analysis of the context in which the rule or regulation operates and how it should be applied to that context.

Many theories of the justification of law have been developed, but the most prevalent are those based on natural rights and deontology. Generally, these views see legal rights as expressing moral values rooted in the principles of a moral order without dependence on enforcement or social convention.

Other approaches, especially in the United States, are based on consequentialist considerations of utility or the common good as a basis for justifying law. These perspectives are not necessarily incompatible with treating legal rights as justification, but they may sometimes lead to a less enlightened view of the scope and content of rights.

In the United States, for example, the constitutional rights of citizens are primarily seen as limitations on government power over individuals and are often couched in terms of such limitations. However, these rights are not entirely amoral, and they do in fact have the potential to create conflicts in the legal system.

Moreover, there are many legal rights that express broad and abstract aims. These tend to be largely incompatible with each other, although at high levels of abstraction they can co-exist relatively peacefully in the same system.

Some rights, such as the right to privacy and the freedom of speech, are more concrete in nature. These rights can also be abused and distorted by judicial decisions, which can have negative consequences for citizens.

Generally, there are three types of legal rights: claim-rights, privilege-rights, and immunities. Claim-rights determine what the right-holder may do or must not do; privilege-rights determine what the right-holder is able to do or cannot do; and immunities protect against certain harms that are not covered by other rights.