What Is Law?

Law is the set of rules that a society or government creates to control behavior and organize its affairs. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate, and it has been variously described as a science and an art.

People value the Rule of Law for a variety of reasons. In one sense, it mitigates the asymmetry of political power that is inescapable in any society. It establishes what Fuller (1964) called a bond of reciprocity of constraint between the rulers and the ruled. In another sense, it makes possible a degree of justice that might not be feasible without the Rule of Law. It ensures that the interests of the public are given consideration in legislation and, at least in principle, laws cannot sanction cruelties, intolerances, or injustices. Finally, it provides the basis for a sense of stability and security that people desire.

In a broad sense, the word law can mean any type of rule that a society or government sets up and enforces. It can also refer to a specific body of laws that govern a particular area, such as a country or state’s statutes or the Constitution of the United States.

A more narrow definition of law is a system of rules that governs certain areas of human activity. It can also be used to describe a profession, such as the practice of law, which involves studying and advising clients on legal matters. Finally, it can be used to describe a group of judges in an appellate court (en banc) who are sitting together rather than dividing into groups for routine disposition of cases.

An important characteristic of a law is that it must be objective, which means that it must be based on facts, not on opinions or beliefs. It must also be transparent, which means that the source of the law is available to the public, and that the laws are clear and understandable. This is why a good lawyer should be familiar with the rules of jurisprudence.

In addition to these qualities, a law must be rational, which means that it must be consistent and coherent with the values of the society that created it. It must also be fair, which means that it should treat different people in a way that is consistent with the values of the society, and that it should not be arbitrary.

A law must be enforceable, which means that it is binding and that the person who breaks it will have to pay a fine or go to jail. A legal system requires courts to interpret and enforce laws, which is why it is important that lawyers be familiar with the law and how courts make their decisions.

The law is an idea that has been around for millennia, and it is not surprising that there are many different ways to define it. It is also not surprising that the meaning of the law changes over time as society and culture change.