What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules that forms a framework for the orderly conduct of society. The rules ensure peaceful relationships among people and provide punishment for those who break them. Law also protects and enlarges the rights of individuals.

Most nation-states have a legal system based on some form of civil law or common law. Laws are made and enforced by a ruling authority that is usually a government or a body that acts for the state. The authority may be military or civilian.

A central concept of law is that it reflects morals, concepts of natural justice or the will of a deity. Some think that morals should not be part of law but others believe that law can’t fully serve its purposes without morals informing it.

The scope of law varies from nation to nation, and even within a country, laws differ from one part of the country to another. The constitution of a nation establishes the basic laws that govern a country. These laws may be written in the form of statutes and codified into a code like the United States Code. Regulations created by executive branch agencies and issued in the Federal Register or Code of Federal Regulations also contain law, and judicial interpretations of them can carry legal force.

Laws are also applied to specific groups like corporations, families and children. The law governing these groups can be called substantive, administrative or procedural law. Substantive law deals with legal relations between individuals, while procedural law outlines the steps to be taken in a court case and how to interpret and enforce laws.