What is 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. It has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways.

The rules of a society can be written down in a constitution or tacitly enshrined in custom and practice. They may be created by a legislature, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees or regulations; or by judges in common law jurisdictions through case law. Private individuals can also create legal contracts, including arbitration agreements that adopt alternative methods of resolving disputes to standard court litigation.

The purpose of law is to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberty and rights. Ultimately, it is up to individuals to respect and follow the laws.

Generally speaking, to be considered law it must be consistent with the facts of a situation. If it is not, it cannot be enforced as such. It must also be universal as to place (it is not a local rule). It should apply equally upon all, as God tells us in the Bible: “Thou shalt not show partiality; neither shall the Judge favor a poor man, nor a rich.”

Laws are typically written by a legislative body – a parliament or national assembly – with the approval of the people. They can also be based on precedent, a concept which developed through the legal system of the ancient Roman Empire. This concept is referred to as the “doctrine of precedent”, or stare decisis, which means that decisions made by higher courts are binding on lower courts and assure that similar cases reach similar results.