Law is a system of rules that regulates and controls behaviour, and is enforced through penalties. It covers a wide range of topics, including contracts, family law, property and taxation. It also includes the legal professions of lawyer, jurist and judge. The law influences politics, economics and history, and shapes society in a variety of ways.
Different nations use different systems of law. The United States, for example, has a common law system, in which judicial decisions are explicitly acknowledged as “law” on an equal footing with legislative statutes and executive regulations. The principle of stare decisis means that the decisions of higher courts bind lower courts to assure that similar cases reach similar results. Other countries have civil law systems, in which laws are written in codes that explicitly specify the rules judges must follow when deciding cases.
The purpose of the law is to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. It has many branches: contract law covers agreements such as those for purchasing or renting goods or services; intellectual property law protects the rights of people over things they create, such as music, art and literature; labour law governs the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union; and administrative law deals with the way governments and public corporations manage their affairs.
Some laws are made by parliament or the executive, while others are enacted by courts, tribunals or arbitrators. The laws made by a government are known as its legislative policy. Legislative policy is the basis for legislation, and may be guided by the principles of constitutional law.
In some countries, laws are made by elected legislatures or parliaments, while in others they are formulated by dictatorial or autocratic rulers. These types of laws are often unfair and oppressive, and may cause people to rebel against them.
The law is also influenced by religion, and can include Islamic Sharia law and Christian canon law. It is often contested whether these laws are valid, and many people have religious beliefs that they have special knowledge of what the law should be.
The law is a complex subject, and the discipline that deals with it is vast and varied. It is divided into several fields, and there are countless specialisms within each field. Some of these are quite narrow, such as tax law or criminal law; other fields have a broad scope and a great deal of cross-over between them. The law is the basis for a huge number of careers, from journalism to zoology. It is a fascinating area to explore. There are several good books on the subject, and it is well worth reading articles about it in newspapers and journals. There are also numerous television programmes that provide an overview of the law. The topic is a rich source of interest, and is constantly developing, as the needs of the world change. It is important to keep abreast of developments in the law, so that we can understand and make informed choices about the way that we live our lives.