Law is the body of rules that a community recognizes as binding and enforceable by its controlling authority. These rules typically govern relationships and interactions among people, with the ultimate goal of promoting public order and stability. The precise definition of law is a topic of longstanding debate and encompasses a broad range of disciplines, including legal philosophy, constitutional theory, criminal law, and international law.
In its modern sense, the term law refers to a system of enforceable commands and prohibitions promulgated by a government and enforced by the courts. It is an essential part of a civilized society and serves four basic purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberty and rights.
The idea that there is an objective legal order rooted in natural reason and revealed in nature and Scripture was central to the thinking of America’s founding fathers. Blackstone, who wrote Commentaries on the Law of England in 1723, defined the law as “the will of the Maker” and noted that if human law is contrary to this natural law, it cannot be valid.
Unlike the laws of science, which are absolute—for example, the force of gravity is equal to the product of the masses of two objects and the distance between them—the laws of human society are more subjective and subject to change with changes in circumstances. Even so, the laws of science are a source of confidence in our understanding of the world and in mankind’s ability to control its ills and achieve its full potential.
Some of the most important legal concepts are derived from philosophical and theological sources, such as the law of nature, the law of God, and natural justice. These ideas are also the basis for the concept of legal rights. These rights, according to Raz, are a combination of privileges and powers that determine what right-holders ought to do or may do, respectively. These rights are conditioned on certain states of affairs and do not vest until the condition is met.
Generally speaking, law consists of the sum of all that has been decided by the courts and recognized as binding on all citizens in a jurisdiction. These decisions are based on the fundamental principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and are designed to promote social justice, protect the individual, and provide peace and tranquility. There are a wide variety of legal fields, including contract law, property law, criminal law, and family law. In addition, the United Nations has a wide range of treaties that form part of world law. These treaties set out the basic rights of humanity and guide countries in their relations with one another. Laws in these fields are generally binding in all jurisdictions and do not differ in any significant respect. In contrast, the laws of the world’s cultures and customs are highly varied and tend to reflect specific values and traditions. This is particularly true of civil law systems, which cover about 60% of the world’s population and are based on Roman law and some of its derivatives.