Law is the body of rules that govern the conduct of individuals, communities and nations. These laws are based on principles that are universally accepted and can be enforced by a controlling authority.
There are many different kinds of laws, and a legal system can vary greatly from country to country. Some of the most well-known legal systems include:
Common law and civil law
The term “law” is used to refer to a set of principles and regulations, both legislative and customary, which are enforceable by a controlling authority, usually a government. In most countries, these laws are codified in a code.
A law may be created by a group legislature or by a single legislator, leading to statutes; it may be established by the executive, through decrees and regulations; and it can be established by judges, through precedent.
Some laws are created by governments, but most are made by private citizens. Often, private individuals and companies create legally binding contracts that regulate the behavior of others and establish rights to certain goods and services.
The word law is sometimes referred to as the “morality of law”. Natural lawyers argue that a law should reflect essentially moral and unchanging values, while utilitarians believe that law should be a tool of economic welfare.
There are two main approaches to the study of law: a realist approach and an idealist approach. A realist approach studies the workings of law and its effects, while an idealist approach focuses on the philosophy and principles behind law.
An example of a realist approach is the idea of “law as it is” and not just “law as interpreted by courts.” A realist believes that a court should be neutral, allowing people to express their feelings and opinions freely while protecting their rights. A realist also believes that a judge should be impartial, deciding cases on the basis of their facts and law.
A realist approach has been influential in a number of areas, including criminal law and international law. It is particularly useful in analyzing the role of the judiciary, and has played a role in redefining the concept of crime.
Some of the most prominent modern advocates of this approach are:
Joel Feinberg, Stephen Darwall and Richard Swinburne
Among contemporary liberal legal theorists, a third position has gained some attention. This is a “demand theory of rights,” according to which a right-holder has a claim against another person (called the “right-object”) if that individual is under a duty to the right-holder.
The demand theory of rights, in contrast to the other two, argues that a right-holder has a claim to recover something from a right-object. The claim can be for a particular item or a sum of money.
This theory explains why a person may have a right to compensation in the event of a personal injury. In this case, a person would have a claim against the person who caused the injury if that person was under a duty to compensate them for their harm.