Law is a social institution that shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways. It is also a powerful force in resolving disputes and protecting rights and liberties, and in enforcing order and responsibility.
In a nutshell, law is the set of rules that governs people’s lives and transactions in a particular area of the world or a specific type of agreement. These rules are considered right and important for the majority of people, often for moral, religious or emotional reasons.
There are many types of law, from laws of nations to individual contracts and agreements. Each has its own guiding principles and regulations.
The main types of law are legislative (written by legislators), executive (adopted by Congress) and judicial. Legislative law is the body of laws that a country’s government must follow. The constitution of the United States, which is written and signed by the President, establishes federal laws that can be changed only after both branches of Congress enact and sign a new law.
Legislative laws are usually written by members of a bicameral legislature, which is divided into the Senate and House of Representatives in the United States. A bill must be passed by both houses in exactly the same form before it becomes law. When the two houses cannot agree, a compromise is attempted.
A legal right is a legal position, relationship or obligation that has the status of a legal norm–that is, it is recognized as valid by courts or the legislature. Typically, legal justification involves the grounding of a legal norm–a legal standard, such as that “every person has a right in their good name” or that “no one is subject to slavery.”
Some rights are correlatively liable to other legal powers (e.g., the legislative power to enact law or the prosecuting power to prosecute criminal defendants). Others are not.
There are three broad categories of legal rights: the property right, which gives people the ability to own land and other property; the eminent domain rights that allow government to take private property for public use; and the right of a person to be treated equally under the law.
In most societies, these rights are secured by laws and treaties, which require governments to protect them. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a good example.
The legal justification of these rights varies from society to society and is sometimes determined by political circumstances or the state of the economy, but they all have a common characteristic: they are oriented towards the ideal of treating the individual person as law’s primary unit of concern.
While some rights are based on the principle of protecting the individual, others are concerned with securing the general welfare or public order. Some, such as the right to life or the right to be safe from torture, are often limited by conflicting values.