What Is Law?

Law is a body of rules developed by society and enacted by a government or other controlling authority in order to deal with crime, business, social relationships, property, finance, and the like. There are a variety of ways to define Law, but the core concept is that a person or organization must follow some set of rules in order to do anything in a particular territory. These rules are enforced by the controlling authority, usually through penalties. Law is also a field of study, which encompasses legal philosophy and the profession of law.

A variety of different types of law exist, ranging from international customary law to patent law. The most well-known type of law, however, is criminal law. For example, if someone breaks the law by murdering another person, they could be prosecuted for a crime and potentially sent to prison.

Other kinds of laws include immigration law and family law, which address the rights of individuals to live and work in a country that is not their own and to marry and divorce. Commercial law deals with the rights of businesses to make money and the rights of individuals to own and use property, including intellectual property like trademarks and copyrights. Law also includes a number of fields pertaining to the environment, such as environmental law and aviation law. Aviation law outlines all the regulations and technical standards that must be met by airlines in order to operate aircraft safely.

While some people ascribe to a view of law that is purely utilitarian, the truth is that many laws seem to imply some kind of morality. For example, a prohibition against insider trading seems to be based on the notion of fairness, which is a moral position against cruelty. Similarly, due process is a concept of law that imposes certain minimum standards on the way governments treat people.

Regardless of how law is defined, its importance cannot be disputed. As human societies grow more complex, the need for a system of rules that governs behavior becomes more important than ever. Whether or not this system of laws is just is a matter for debate, but there is no denying the fact that law serves many purposes and can be an important tool in a society’s development. For a further exploration of the philosophical aspects of law, see Law, philosophy of; and Law, political philosophy. Also see censorship; criminal law; and Law, jurisprudence of. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. This article may be used, provided that the source is properly cited and linked, and in no way altered. For more information on LibreTexts’ licensing policies, click here. This page was last modified on 19 November 2011. The most recent version is available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.1.0/. This page has been accessed 29,976 times since 17 February 2009. Powered by WordPress.