Law is the set of rules established by a community and enforced by its authority. Law is a complex concept with many different aspects, and the study of it requires a deep understanding of the interplay between social and political systems, as well as an appreciation for the history of legal thought.
Legal systems vary widely, but the fundamental principles of Law are universal: a rule-based system that sets standards and clarifies rights and duties; an open, democratic process for adopting laws; transparency in the making of decisions; and judicial independence. In addition, laws should be publicized and stable. They should be applied equally to everyone and be enforced by an impartial system of courts and tribunals.
The subjects of Law are broad and include everything from contract law, to tax law, banking regulation, space law, property law, labor law, bankruptcy law, evidence law and civil procedure, among others. Space law, for example, addresses the rights and obligations of human activities in Earth orbit and outer space. Tax law consists of regulations concerning value added tax, corporate and income taxes. Banking law involves laws about deposit-taking and investment, including minimum capital standards and prudential rules for banks. Property law enshrines people’s ownership rights in tangible objects (such as land or buildings) and intangible assets, such as stocks and shares. Labor law focuses on the tripartite industrial relationship of worker, employer and trade union, and encompasses regulations on collective bargaining, job security and the right to strike.
In the common law legal system, judges – government officials who decide lawsuits – are a key element of the law. A judge’s decision is called a judgment. Judgments are based on the law and are binding upon lower courts, under the principle of stare decisis. In some cases, however, a judge may deviate from a previous decision by the same court, or other courts of appeals, for specific reasons.
Modern law also incorporates a variety of ethical principles, including honesty, integrity, and impartiality. It is important for judges to be aware of these when applying the law in their day-to-day work.
The purpose of the law is to protect individual liberty and promote social stability. To do so, it establishes standards and maintains order, resolves disputes, and ensures justice is served. It does this by providing a clear statement of rights and duties, with appropriate remedies. It adapts to social change and new needs by adjusting the existing rules through the judicial process, by way of interpretation and creative jurisprudence. It is also transparent and accessible to all citizens. The legal system should be rooted in universal principles of equity and justice, while reflecting the demographics of the community it serves. The law should be fair, impartial, and predictable. It should be administered by competent, ethical professionals. Finally, the law should be accessible to all, and be free from political interference. The Law is the backbone of a democratic society. Without it, a society would collapse.