Law is a comprehensive set of rules and principles enforced by a government that establishes standards, maintains order, resolves disputes, protects liberties, property, and human rights, and governs social change. Law is the basis for political authority and is central to the study of politics, sociology, economic analysis, and history. Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness, and justice.
Law may be based on custom and tradition or codified by a state or group of people. It is an expression of the will of a group of people who are united in a community and share common values, goals, and principles. Law serves many functions but four are particularly important: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. Different nations or regions of the world have distinct legal systems, which vary widely in their effectiveness.
A nation’s laws reflect its culture and traditions. The most important law is the constitution, which establishes the basic structure of a nation and provides the framework for interpreting other laws. Other important laws include regulations and policies that are enforced by the government to ensure fairness, safety, and fair pricing of goods and services. These can be public health, education, and housing policies or the terms and conditions of employment.
The law of a country is also the result of a dynamic process of interaction between the government and its citizens. The most effective law is one that reflects the needs of the nation and the desires of its people. In general, laws are most effective when they are based on a strong and stable democracy.
The study of law is a rich source of scholarly inquiry in fields such as legal history, philosophy, and economic analysis. Law is a broad field that extends beyond criminal and civil law to encompass a variety of subjects, such as labor law, which includes tripartite industrial relations (worker, employer and trade union) and workplace protections; administrative law, which involves the regulation of private businesses, such as telecommunications, energy, water and transportation; and evidence law, which determines what information can be used in courts to build cases. A wide range of scholarly journals and book publishers focus on the law, including those that examine comparative laws and legal history; legal methodology; law and society; and international law. Those articles that examine the relationship between law and politics are constitutional law; ideology; legal profession; and legislative process. For those that examine the role of the law in a democratic society, see democracy and law; human rights; and legal system.