What Is Law?

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Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition has been a subject of longstanding debate. It has been described as both a science and as the art of justice. Many different laws and legal systems exist. The concept of law is central to human rights and the social structure of most nation-states.

The primary function of law is to govern the use of coercive force to provide a framework of social regulation and direction. It provides a system for resolving disputes between individuals and between nations, including the resolution of conflict over property, inheritance, and money. Law also serves as a source of scholarly inquiry into areas such as legal history, philosophy, economic analysis, and sociology.

In a law-governed society, conflicts between people are inevitable. Law allows people to resolve these conflicts without violence by providing a means of resolving lawsuits and settling disputes. Laws also protect citizens by establishing the right to freedom of expression, privacy, and religion, as well as the right to life and liberty.

Law also provides a framework for regulating the provision of public services and utilities. Water, electricity, gas and telecommunications are commonly regulated in most OECD countries. Other areas of law include space law – the regulations governing human activities in outer space, employment law – covering issues such as equal pay and anti-discriminatory practice, and banking law – covering the minimum capital requirements and best practices for investment.