Law is a set of rules that regulates the behaviour of people and communities, and is enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. It may be based on custom and tradition, or it may be formally defined by statutes, regulations, and judicial decisions. It can be applied to individuals or institutions, such as corporations or universities.
The precise definition of law is a subject of ongoing debate, and differs from country to country. It can be viewed as a means of social control, as a tool for satisfying social wants and as an expression of moral values.
Many different laws exist for various purposes, such as to protect the rights of minorities against majorities or to encourage economic development in a nation. Law can also serve political goals, such as maintaining a status quo and protecting the power of an authoritarian government.
The laws of a country can be made by a legislature, leading to the production of statutes; by the executive, through decrees and regulations; or by judges in a common law system, which depends on judicial decisions that become precedents. The latter system is often referred to as “stare decisis”, because past decisions are binding on future courts.
The subject of law covers almost every area of human life. For example, labour law is the study of a tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union, and may include laws concerning a minimum wage or the right to strike. Competition law addresses the regulation of business mergers and price discrimination. Banking law sets standards for the amount of capital banks must hold and rules about how companies should manage their finances.