What Is Law?

Law is the system of rules established and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. Its precise nature is a matter of long-standing debate and it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. It is a hugely complex subject and its study covers a wide variety of fields. Contract law includes everything from contracts for the sale of goods to agreements to exchange services; criminal law encompasses a wide range of offences from murder to tax fraud; and family law defines people’s rights and duties toward each other, their children and their possessions (including land and buildings) – as well as the right to marry or divorce. Law also covers regulations governing the business and financial sector, including competition law (as in the Roman decrees against price fixing) and banking laws such as the regulation of interest rates and capital reserves.

The fundamental principle underlying law is that a government or other body must be held accountable to its laws by an independent judiciary; this can vary greatly from country to country, however, as many regimes are not democratically controlled or do not promote human rights. Law also encompasses the rules governing international relations, for example, treaties. There are also laws regulating individual activities, such as air and space law; the field of law known as constitutional law covers the constitutions and legal systems of different countries; and, finally, there is a branch of law called public law, which deals with the management of utilities like water, energy and communications.