Law is a system of rules and practices that a government or society develops to deal with crime, business agreements, social relationships and property. It can also refer to the profession of lawyers and judges who work in this system.
The principal purposes of law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Different legal systems serve these purposes in different ways. For example, an authoritarian state may keep the peace and preserve the status quo but might oppress minorities or promote social injustice. In contrast, a constitutional democracy is more likely to achieve all of these goals with relative ease.
In the United States, law informs every aspect of daily life. Contract law regulates all agreements to exchange goods or services and includes everything from buying a bus ticket to trading options on the stock market. Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to the social order, while property law outlines people’s rights and duties toward their tangible and intangible assets (e.g. land and buildings).
Unlike the laws of science or social science, which are descriptive in nature, the law is normative, telling people how they should behave and what they must or must not do. This makes it more complex from a methodological standpoint, as there are no means to test the truth of such authoritative statements (be they comprised of statutes or legislation, judicial precedents or custom). The complexity of the law is also reflected in the number of disciplines that study it, including legal history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis.