The Law is a set of rules that governs human conduct and imposes obligations and duties on the people who make up society. It is a system of rules that shapes politics, history, economics and culture in many different ways and serves as the mediator between the relations between people. It combines the principles of justice, fairness and public order with the goals of economics and social stability. It also ensures that the processes by which laws are adopted, administered, adjudicated and enforced are accessible, fair and efficient.
A common definition of the law defines it as a system of enforceable rules developed by a society or government to regulate behaviour. It covers everything from crime to business agreements, and it governs how people live together. The precise nature of the law is a source of debate, with some theorists seeing it as a form of religion, others arguing that it represents the collective conscience of the community.
Law is a central part of most societies. It governs relationships between individuals and between societies and governments, and it is a source of scholarly inquiry in fields such as legal history, philosophy, political science and sociology. It raises many complex issues about equality, justice and fairness.
Legal systems differ from country to country, but they can be broadly divided into civil and common law jurisdictions. Civil law is based on sources of law recognised as authoritative, such as legislative statutes and case law. The latter is the result of decisions made by courts, which are binding on other lower courts and judges in future cases based on similar facts.
In civil law, courts decide cases by considering evidence presented and deciding what the correct answer to a dispute should be. The doctrine of stare decisis states that a court’s decision will be followed by future judges and will help to make sure similar cases reach consistent results. In contrast, in common law systems, which cover about 60% of the world’s population, decisions are based on precedent set by previous judges in similar situations.
Criminal and civil law are the two main branches of the law. Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to society and carries penalties, such as imprisonment or fines. Civil law deals with lawsuits between members of a society, including disputes between the government and citizens or businesses.
Other types of law include consumer, competition, patents and intellectual property laws. These laws protect consumers from unfair contracts and terms and promote fair competition between businesses by preventing companies from taking advantage of their economic power. Competition laws can range from anti-trust legislation like the U.S. Sherman Act and Clayton Act to regulations on airline baggage insurance policies. Patent and intellectual property laws protect the creators of creative works, such as inventors, authors, musicians and artists. This helps them to gain recognition for their work and to be financially rewarded for their efforts. This allows society to advance in technological and creative endeavours.