What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules that governs human behavior, primarily by regulating private or public institutions. These laws can be made by state legislatures or judicial decisions, typically in common law jurisdictions.

The term “law” is used in many different fields of study. The major areas of law include constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law, family law, and civil law.

Constitutional law relates to the basic structure of government and the rights that citizens have to certain aspects of their lives. It includes rights to freedom of speech and religion, to due process, to equal protection of the laws, and to trial by jury.

Administrative law covers the regulation of businesses and other activities. This includes the provision of public services such as energy, gas, telecomms and water.

Criminal law deals with the punishment of people who break the law. This includes prosecuting people for crimes such as assault and fraud.

Family law is concerned with matters such as divorce and custody of children. It also covers inheritance.

Commercial law covers contracts and property rights. It also encompasses such fields as company law, agency, insurance and bills of exchange.

The legal concept of “rights” has received much debate. A major issue is whether rights are valid, that is, whether they are legally enforceable. Some scholars have argued that legal rights are merely formalistic rhetoric and are less legitimate than other kinds of legal norms, whereas others argue that they are actually moral principles (Finnis 2011: 210-213).

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