Law is the body of rules and principles that a community adheres to and enforces through its control by a political authority. It creates a condition of social order and justice. Law is a subject of scholarly inquiry in many areas, including legal history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis. It informs our lives in a wide variety of ways.
Contract law, for example, regulates agreements that exchange goods or services. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible possessions, such as houses and cars, as well as intangible possessions such as bank accounts and shares of stock. Criminal law prohibits conduct that threatens social order and punishes those who break it.
The law also provides a framework and rules for resolving disputes between individuals. Civil litigation involves courts at every level, from local to federal. In general, the process by which laws are made and implemented is transparent and publicized. It ensures that people’s rights to liberty and property are respected. And it provides a means for people to challenge their government or private actors for arbitrary and abusive behavior.
However, these fundamental goals can vary widely from nation to nation. For example, an authoritarian regime may keep the peace and maintain the status quo but may also oppress minorities or political opponents. Laws may be influenced by the power relations that exist between a country and other countries, or by the aspirations for democracy or greater “rights” for citizens.