What Is Law?


A law is a set of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate, but it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. Some legal scholars argue that it encompasses everything that is morally right and ethically acceptable, while others limit it to those things that have a positive effect on society.

The principal functions of law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes, and protect liberties and rights. The first two of these can be accomplished through legislative, executive, and judicial processes; the latter through constitutional and other legal procedures. Laws must be clear and publicized and should apply equally to all citizens. They should also be enforced by a competent, well-trained, and adequately funded police force; and the courts must be accessible, fair, efficient, and reflect the makeup of the community they serve.

Legal systems vary from nation to nation, and some are more effective at achieving the principal functions of law than others. For example, an authoritarian government may keep the peace and preserve the status quo, but it can also oppress minorities or political opponents (e.g., Burma, Zimbabwe, or Iraq under Saddam Hussein). An illiberal regime, on the other hand, may not be as effective at keeping the peace and maintaining order.

Whether a legal system is good or bad depends on the extent to which it respects human rights and liberties, and to the extent that it provides a safe and stable environment in which business can be conducted. A legal system that respects human rights and liberties is one that ensures that criminals are treated fairly by the judicial system, while at the same time protecting the interests of property owners and enforcing contracts.

In a democracy, the law should be based on a common set of principles that are consistent with the values of the democratic majority. The principles should be a combination of traditional, universal, and contemporary values. They should also include respect for the autonomy of the individual and the integrity of the democratic process.

Writing a legal article requires a thorough knowledge of the subject area and the ability to present the information in a logical manner. Using a structured format such as an introduction, body, and conclusion is essential to presenting a cohesive argument that will be understood by your audience. Use legal research tools such as LexisNexis and Westlaw to find relevant legislation, case laws, or court decisions that support your arguments. Avoid using personal experiences or anecdotal evidence unless it can be backed up by legal authority. When citing legal authorities, be sure to provide the full name of the authority, the year of publication or date of judgment, and the source of the law. The author of a legal article should also be aware of any obiter dictum, which are statements that are not part of the main argument but might influence the reader.