What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules that governs social relationships, crime and business agreements. It is a system that can be found in many places and people across the world.

Law spreads from the core subjects into virtually every area of life, including individual and public employment, civil procedure and criminal procedure, property, evidence, contract and intellectual property. It also encompasses a variety of sub-fields, such as environmental law and taxation.

In the United States, laws are arranged in the United States Code by subject, and include bills that have passed both houses of Congress or been signed by the president, as well as federal regulations. Regulations are written by executive departments and agencies, and may be referred to as rules.

Observer-participant definitions of law enable Alice to understand her own observations and also to make sense of Bob’s conflicting observations, as does Holmes’s probabilistic definition of law (Holmes 1970: 17-18). As experience flows, a participant’s probability estimates are updated and his or her understanding of the laws of the universe reinterpreted.

A legal system committed to rights is oriented towards the ideal of treating the individual person as law’s primary unit of concern. Its primary purpose is to protect individuals, ensuring that they are treated with respect and dignity.