The Basics of Law


Law is the set of rules, customs and policies that a community establishes and enforces to regulate behaviour. The discipline of law studies these laws and their interpretation and enforcement, and is called jurisprudence.

The fundamental function of law is to ensure that society is orderly, fair and safe. This is accomplished by regulating activities, punishing wrongdoers and protecting people’s rights. Law also provides a means of solving disputes. For example, if two people claim the same piece of land, they can turn to the law to decide who owns it.

Despite its central role in human societies, there are many different forms of law. Some are based on a constitution or other written documents, while others are based on tradition or practice and can be oral. The laws of different nations and cultures vary widely, as do the goals they aim to achieve.

Some forms of law are purely legal, while others address political and social issues. Examples of purely legal laws are contracts, property and tax laws. Other kinds of law are based on scientific theories, such as the laws of physics, chemistry or biology, and are applied by scientists. Still others are based on moral ideas, such as the law of self-preservation or concepts of natural justice, and are applied by philosophers and judges. Other important types of law are based on cultural traditions, such as the Chinese law of Confucius or the Jewish Talmud and Midrash.

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