What is Law?

Law is the set of rules that social or governmental institutions create and enforce to regulate human behavior. It is a complex subject, with many definitions and interpretations. For example, some people define law as a means of social control, others see it as a tool to satisfy individual or group wants, while still others view it as an institution that provides security and order.

The laws can be created and enforced by a government, which results in statutes; by an individual legislator, which results in decrees or regulations; or by judges through precedent, which is common in the case of common law jurisdictions. Private individuals may also create legal agreements, such as contracts and arbitration agreements, which are binding in some jurisdictions.

Another important aspect of the rule of law is that it should not allow anyone, including the highest officials of the state, to act arbitrarily. For example, the military dictatorship in Myanmar, known euphemistically as the State Peace and Development Council, imprisoned the democratically elected prime minister, Aung San Suu Kyi, in violation of the rule of law.

Besides regulating the behaviors of citizens, laws can be used to protect natural resources such as water and wildlife; control pollution such as air, noise and water pollution; and ensure safe travel by airplanes, which is regulated by aviation laws, which are usually aligned with the recommendations or mandatory standards of international organisations such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). However, a more general definition of law could be any strong rule that must be obeyed, even those rules made by individuals.