What Is Law?

Law is the set of rules that a state or society establishes to deal with crime, business, social relationships, property and finance. These laws may be enforced by a court or a police force, and they may involve penalties for transgressions. These laws shape politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways. The study of law is called legal studies, or the practice of law, and it is a popular career choice for young people.

The laws of a country are shaped by political structures, which differ greatly from nation to nation. Aspirations for greater democratic control of the state and for rights for citizens are often reflected in legal systems. There is a strong correlation between a state’s military and economic power and its ability to make and enforce laws.

In common law systems, the law is comprised of legislative statutes and judicial decisions. The judicial decisions, called precedents, are binding on lower courts and help assure that similar cases reach similar conclusions.

There are also constitutional and international laws, which govern the relationships between nations and regulate activities such as trade and war. These laws, based on international conventions, are designed to protect the rights of citizens and to ensure that a country does not violate its treaty obligations.

Some legal scholars, such as Roscoe Pound, argue that law is primarily a tool of social engineering and is coercive by nature. Other scholars, such as John Austin, offer utilitarian explanations of the nature of law.

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