What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules that a society develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It also can refer to a particular branch of law such as criminal or commercial law. Law is often studied at university level and is the subject of jurisprudence, the discipline that studies these laws and their enforcement.

Legal systems vary widely. Civil law systems, which are used in most of the world, rely mainly on legislation – including codifications of laws enacted by governments, and on judgments handed down by courts. Some civil law traditions have a history stretching back millennia, with one of the earliest examples being the Babylonian Codex Hammurabi.

Other kinds of law include international law, which covers international treaties and conventions as well as the rights of individuals in relation to other countries. Space law is a new field dealing with the human activities that occur in Earth orbit and outer space, while banking and financial law are areas of law that regulate the minimum standards banks must meet in order to ensure safe and sound operations.

Law is also about the processes through which these laws are adopted, administered, adjudicated and enforced. The principle of the rule of law requires that public and private actors, including the government itself, are accountable under laws that are clear, publicly promulgated, consistently applied and upheld, and that ensure human rights as well as property and contract rights.

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