The Basics of Law


Law is a body of rules that governs the affairs of a society and is enforced by a controlling authority. It shapes politics, economics, history and society in a wide variety of ways and acts as a mediator between people. Law is complex from a methodological viewpoint since its statements are both descriptive and prescriptive; they are normative, telling people what they ought to do or not do. They cannot be verified empirically, unlike statements in a scientific discipline such as physics (as the law of gravity) or social science such as sociology (as the law of social conflict).

The law of a country is the set of judicial and administrative principles that control a state’s relations with its citizens and other countries. It includes statutes, treaties, and judicial decisions. Legal systems vary from country to country, but they generally fall into groups or patterns with some similarities based on historically accepted justice ideals.

Some broad categories of the law are contract law, criminal law, property law and tort law. Contract law regulates agreements to exchange goods or services, including contracts for the sale of land or houses. Criminal law focuses on punishing wrongdoers by imposing penalties such as fines or jail sentences. Tort law covers civil actions that involve a plaintiff or defendant alleging injury caused by the negligence or wrongful conduct of another party.

In addition, the law can encompass the following:

Space law addresses human activities in Earth orbit and outer space. Banking law and financial regulation outlines the minimum standards that banks must follow for capital and also sets rules about best practice for investment. Laws on labour and employment concern a tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union and include rights such as the right to strike. Laws on health and safety at work aim to protect citizens from workplace hazards. Laws on taxes and the use of public resources impose obligations and restrictions on citizens.

The Bible provides a vision of a good law that was established by God to guide people and to serve as a model for nations to follow. It separated Israel as a special people for whom Messiah would come, while providing occasions and patterns of worship that focused on substitutionary sacrifice for sin. In addition, it provided a framework for life in general that was patterned after the way of the Lord. The law served as a tutor and guardian that shaped and guided life until the time of the full inheritance. See also law, philosophy of.