A law is a set of rules created by a government that people must follow. When people break the laws they can be fined or sent to jail. The laws can be about anything from stealing to murder. Some people study to become lawyers so they can help people understand the laws and defend them in court when they are broken. The law can also refer to the whole system of courts and laws of a country or region.
This article uses the term law broadly to refer to the whole system of laws and judicial decisions in a region or nation, including both civil and criminal. The law can also refer to a specific type of law, such as environmental or property law.
The concept of law is an important part of the political philosophy of democracy and a central idea in legal education. The law is the foundation of a healthy society and enables people to protect themselves, settle disputes, and develop productive and peaceful relationships with others. The law enshrined in constitutions, legislation, and judicial decisions can protect individual liberty and promote economic development and social progress.
For millennia, scholars have debated the nature of law. Some believe that it is a body of ethical principles, while others see law as a system of rules governing human relationships. For example, scholars have argued whether the law can be based on divine revelation or if it can be derived from social experience and scientific evidence.
A fundamental question is who makes the law. This is not a simple question, as the prevailing political and military power in a region determines who has the right to make and enforce the laws. Each year there are revolts against existing legal-political authority, and many people have aspirations of greater rights for citizens.
Many different legal systems exist around the world, and each has a distinctive historical origin and a variety of legal doctrines that are followed. Some scholars have used these differences to compare and contrast different versions of the Rule of Law.
A common definition of the Rule of Law includes four universal principles. These are accountability of the government and private actors, the integrity of laws and institutions, access to justice, and the equality of all persons before the law. Accountability requires that the public should have access to information about how their taxes are spent and that they have a say in their government. Integrity and accessibility require that the law should be clear and accessible, and that people of all backgrounds and social class have access to legal institutions to defend their interests and resolve their conflicts with each other and with government officials and agencies.