The Basics of Law


Law is a set of rules that are usually made by government and must be followed. If you break a law, you may face fines or jail time.

The Rule of Law

A nation’s laws are generally intended to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice, and provide orderly social change (Fitzgerald [Salmond] 1966: 221). Legal systems are sometimes criticized for failing to serve these purposes effectively, but most nations have laws that are considered to be fair, clear, and stable.

Typical Rights

Typically, legal rights are defined as rights that are either enforceable or imperfectly so (Fitzgerald [Salmond] 1967: 232). Imperfect legal rights include unenforceable contracts and claims barred by lapse of time.

Rights vary in stringency, meaning that they are judged by a range of factors, including moral justifications, background social and political values and commitments, expediency, and institutional considerations. These assessments are matters of normative jurisprudence, political and constitutional theory, and judicial practice.

Weight of Rights

In contrast to other reasons pertaining to whether or not to ph, rights are often qualitatively preemptory–that is, they “punch” above their normative weight when in conflict with even more weightier reasons. This is because rights are generally deemed to be “fundamental” or “core,” and protective of particularly significant interests and values, such as civil and human rights. In addition, rights are often regarded as “preemptory”–that is, they preempt infringement by preventing it before that infringement has a significant effect on the overall good or utility of the situation.