What Is Law?

Law, also called legal norms, governs society by establishing rules that individuals or communities must adhere to. It serves many purposes, such as establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting rights and liberties.

Law can be made by state-enforced bodies, such as a legislature, or by the executive, through decrees and regulations. Or it can be established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions.

In some jurisdictions, law is also influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. It is an ongoing process that evolves and adapts to changing circumstances.

It can be broken down into three main categories: property law, which covers land and movable possessions; civil procedure, which includes the rules that courts must follow during trial and appeals; and criminal procedure, which concerns a citizen’s right to fair trials.

These areas overlap and extend into nearly every area of life. Examples include banking and financial regulation, environmental protection and aviation law.

There are several factors that limit the usefulness of law as a means to guide behavior. First, it lacks complex theories as to good and evil, empirical and social science or justice (proper distribution of goods/privileges and burdens in a society). Second, it is dependent on the shape of the physical world, its limitations and the capacity of humans to conduct mental operations.