What is Law?

Law is a set of rules made by an authority that citizens must obey. This is in contrast to a suggestion or good advice, such as “eat five fruits and vegetables a day.” Laws are enforced by threat of punishment, for example fines or imprisonment. Law can be created by a group, such as a legislature, creating statutes; by the executive, resulting in decrees or regulations; or by judges through precedent, in common law countries.

The exact definition of law is contested, but most definitions imply that laws are the rules that govern social interactions and institutions. Laws can be created by the state or by communities, and they govern social interaction and institutional structure, as well as individual behaviour. A central theme in the study of law is how people comply with these rules.

There are many different fields of law, including labour, contract and property laws. Labour law encompasses the tripartite industrial relationship between employer, trade union and worker; contract law regulates agreements to exchange goods or services, from a simple purchase of a bus ticket to trading options on a derivatives market; and property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible possessions such as land and buildings, but also intangibles like shares in a company.

The Rule of Law is the principle that all citizens, public and private institutions, as well as the government itself, are subject to publicly disclosed laws, which are clear, stable and impartially applied. This involves accountability, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty and avoiding official arbitrariness.