Law is a system of rules and principles that governs human behavior, regulating and controlling people’s interactions with each other. It is generally described as a set of social and governmental rules that are enforceable by courts and are binding on citizens, companies, organizations and individuals. Law is a crucial component of any democratic society and it has many important functions, including setting standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting rights. It is based on the fundamental principle that all humans, regardless of their wealth or social status, must be treated equally by the government and that core human, property and procedural rights should be protected. This concept of fairness is known as the Rule of Law.
A legal system is a complex entity that includes not only the formal laws themselves, but also the institutions that make them up and enforce them. The term “law” is usually used to refer to the formal legal system itself and to a particular country’s laws, but it can also be used to describe a specific area of law, such as tort law or criminal law.
The law is a vital component of any democracy and it has many important functions, including setting rules, maintaining order, resolving disputes, promoting cooperation, and ensuring that the most basic rights are protected. It is based on the fundamental principle of equality before the law and the separation of powers, and it is designed to be accessible to all, understandable by ordinary citizens, and enforced by independent judges.
Laws are usually established by legislative statutes, which may be supplemented or modified by judicial decisions and/or regulations issued by executive branch agencies. The judicial decisions of higher courts, which are binding on lower and future courts, form the doctrine of stare decisis.
A well-developed legal system is also designed to promote the growth of civil society, which consists of the social institutions and communities that help people gain access to justice, defend their rights and participate in the political process. It is also concerned with how the state extends its control over private citizens, which has changed since earlier writers such as Locke and Montesquieu. Modern military and policing power over everyday people presents special problems for accountability that earlier writers did not anticipate, and this issue is a major concern in many countries.
H.L.A. Hart, in his 1964 book The Morality of Law, formulated principles of what he called “the inner morality of law”–principles requiring that laws be general, public, prospective, coherent, clear, stable and practicable. Although some jurists, such as Raz 1977, believe that this is a mere formal/procedural ideal, others argue that these principles contribute to the notion of the Rule of Law and are fundamental to democratic political life. The latter view combines the formal/procedural and substantive dimensions of law in a way that makes it difficult to separate them from one another.