What is Law?

Law is the set of rules that a country or state has, which people must follow or face punishment. For example, if you’re caught stealing something, you can be fined or put in jail.

Generally speaking, the law serves four principal purposes: establishes standards; maintains order; resolves disputes; and protects liberties and rights. The primary goal of the law is to create an environment in which human beings can live together in peace and harmony.

The civil law tradition, also called continental or Romano-Germanic legal systems, consists of a set of rules and concepts that originated with Roman law, but were often supplemented and modified by local custom and culture. These systems are found on most continents and cover about 60% of the world’s land area, including the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa.

One of the most fundamental aspects of civil law is its “doctrine of precedent” or stare decisis (Latin for “to stand by a decision”), which requires that court decisions be followed to assure that similar cases reach similar results. Usually this is accomplished through the inclusion of explicit references to previous courts’ judgments in future cases.

A well organized system that favors cooperation, order, and predictability, based on a logical and dynamic taxonomy developed from Roman law and reflected in the structure of codes. An adaptable system that permits the judiciary to tailor laws to changing social needs, by way of interpretation and creative jurisprudence.

Normatively, over the centuries many have thought of legal rights as (at least ideally) reflective of natural rights, that is, moral rights not dependent on enforcement or social convention, or recognition; a view rooted in the natural law tradition. But a tension between these views and other, more utilitarian principles is evident.