What is Law?

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Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. From a philosophical viewpoint, the study of law is parochial in a different sense from other branches of philosophy: unlike normative statements in empirical sciences (such as the laws of gravity) or social science, such as theories of ethics or justice, which are designed to judge who should receive benefits or burdens in society, law lacks means that would enable us to verify the truth of its authoritative claims.

The most familiar form of law is common law, which consists of legal systems found throughout the Anglophone world, in which specially trained lawyers argue cases on behalf of clients and in which judges play a quasi-legislative role in fashioning legal rules in the form of precedents. Such rulings are binding upon later courts in the same jurisdiction for the purposes of deciding similar cases.

Other forms of law include civil law, based on Romano-Germanic legal principles; and religious laws, which are based on the Bible or other scriptures. Law covers a vast array of topics and facets of human life. Its core subjects are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Its more specialized subjects include labour law, which deals with the tripartite industrial relationship of worker, employer and trade union; property law, which involves ownership of land or other movable assets; and criminal law, which includes such crimes as murder and fraud.