The Importance of Law


The law is a system of rules that a society or government develops to deal with crime, business agreements, social relationships and more. The term can also refer to the people who work in this system, whether as judges or attorneys. A large part of the law deals with rights and responsibilities within a community, such as the right to privacy or the obligation to pay taxes. In the case of a nation-state, its laws may cover international relations and issues such as the treatment of diplomats in foreign countries.

There are several approaches to the definition of law. Utilitarian philosopher John Austin defined it as the aggregate of commands backed by threat of sanction from a sovereign to whom people have a habit of obedience. Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that laws reflect a moral code that is unchanging and transcendent.

Most societies have laws that apply to everyone, but some also have laws that apply to specific groups of people such as children or drivers. These are called statutory laws. There are also judicial decisions, which are legal precedents that carry more weight than a statutory law and that can be used as the basis of future cases. Judicial decisions are sometimes referred to as stare decisis.

A law can be a statute, a regulation or a court decision. Statutes are duly enacted laws, usually by a legislative body like a parliament or a congress. They can be permanent, but more often they are temporary and can be changed at any time by a new statute. Regulations are rules issued by a government agency, such as the FDA or the FAA, and they can be either permanent or temporary. The most important source of public laws is the United States Code, a compilation and codification of all federal statutes.

Many laws are interpreted by courts, which can be federal or state, but most often are local district or circuit courts. The interpretations of judges are based on the law, but they are not always unanimous and can change with different cases. The interpretations of judges can influence the meaning of a statute or a regulation, and they are legally binding on future judges.

Law is the framework that ensures a peaceful society by providing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties. The law is a product of politics, and its importance varies greatly from one country to another. It is a reflection of a nation’s political structure, and unstable or authoritarian governments frequently fail to serve its principal functions. In some cases, the desire for greater rights for citizens prompts revolt against existing political-legal structures. The framers of the United States Constitution designed a constitutional system that provides checks and balances to prevent any one person or group from wielding too much power. This is known as the separation of powers. This system, together with the federalist concept of limited powers, enables the United States to function well as a democracy.