What is the Law?

The law is a set of rules that determines what people can and cannot do. It covers things like contracts, property and criminal activities. Most countries have different legal systems. Some are based on the Bible or Koran, others are based on Western laws like the Common Law, and still others have traditions of their own. Lawyers or jurists are professionals who study and argue about the law.

The purpose of the law is to regulate people’s relationships, protect their liberties and rights and prevent crime. The laws also establish standards and maintain order in society. The main types of law are criminal, civil and constitutional.

Criminal laws prohibit certain actions and punish people who break them. Civil law helps people settle disputes and gives them rights to possessions. Constitutional law gives government a framework for making and changing laws.

Many people believe that the law reflects moral values, for example the principle of equality before the law. Others, like Jeremy Bentham and Jeremy Sanderson, argue that the law is a set of commands, backed by threats of punishment, from a sovereign to whom people have a habit of obedience.

Modern policing and military power pose particular problems for accountability that earlier writers like Locke or Montesquieu did not anticipate. Max Weber and others have reshaped thinking on the extension of state power into ordinary citizens’ daily lives, whilst the custom and practice of the legal profession is an important part of people’s access to justice.