The Study of Law
A law is a set of rules or guidelines that governs an individual, group or community and determines how they are treated. The study of Law is a rich source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. The law reflects and shapes society, culture and human interaction and provides insights into such issues as justice (the proper distribution of privileges and burdens in a society), morality (right and wrong behaviour), good and evil and social organisation (how societies work together).
A basic definition of law is that it is the set of rules created and enforced by a state or nation to achieve a particular purpose, such as keeping the peace, maintaining order and resolving disputes or protecting liberties and rights. In the case of a state, laws are formulated and applied through the legislative and executive branches. Laws are typically formulated to address the perceived problems of society, such as poverty, corruption, crime, inequality and discrimination. The state may also act to promote economic development and stability, or to protect the environment.
There are two main types of law: common and civil. Common law legal systems have a long history in Europe and are based on the principle that courts will look at the facts of each case and apply established precedent to reach a decision. Common law decisions are binding on lower courts under the rule of stare decisis. Civil law systems, on the other hand, have their roots in the ancient Roman legal tradition and are found worldwide today. They are based on categories, concepts and rules enshrined in constitutional or statutory constitutions and statutes and supplemented by custom and local culture. Civil law is used in about 60% of the world’s countries.
Laws govern every aspect of life in modern societies. Contract law regulates agreements between people to exchange goods or services, ranging from buying a bus ticket to trading options on a derivatives market. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, such as land or buildings, and personal possessions such as books, cars, clothes and computers. Intellectual property law, which covers patents and trademarks, is the most complex of these branches. Commercial law and tax law are two more examples of the many areas of regulation under the law.
A fundamental tenet of the rule of law is that all persons, institutions and entities must be subject to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. This tenet is a necessary precondition to the broader objective of sustainable development and poverty alleviation through adherence to international humanitarian and environmental standards. However, the rule of law requires a more complex set of principles than those listed above. These include supremacy of the law, equal application of the law, participatory democracy and legal transparency, and separation of powers. The rule of law is also influenced by the degree to which people feel they can trust the authority that makes and enforces the laws.