The Definition of Law
Law is a system of rules and customs developed to regulate and control various aspects of life such as crime, trade, property, family, social relations, finance and more. It is controlled and enforced by the governing authority. Jurists have defined Law in different ways but mainly as a means to an end, which is the securing of justice.
The most common definition of Law is the societal view, whereby law is what society (or a represented majority) believes to be necessary for orderly governance and the protection of its people. This view of law is very common and pervasive in the modern world.
Other theorists have viewed law from a more idealistic perspective, whereby law is a moral and unchanging concept. These views on the nature of law are more difficult to define, but a number of ideas have been put forward. These include Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concept of natural law, Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian ideas and John Austin’s analytical positivism.
The practical definition of law is that it is the body of laws in a country, including case law, statutes, codes and treaties. These laws cover a wide variety of topics, such as air law which concerns aviation regulations and standards; environmental law which deals with protection of the environment; criminal law which covers the prosecution and punishment of crimes; constitutional law which covers the basic structure of a country’s legal system and administrative laws which are the procedures that courts must follow when hearing cases.
A key aspect of the practical definition of law is that it must be adaptable to changing situations. This can be seen in the way that a court may issue an opinion which departs from existing precedent or by issuing a decision in a case of first impression. The same is true of legislatures which may repeal or amend statutes and the higher courts can strike down a piece of legislation on constitutional grounds.
Some of the most important functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order and resolving disputes. These are important for any society and many countries have laws that aim to achieve these goals through the use of a civil or criminal court. Other important functions of law are to safeguard the privacy of individuals and restrict the ability of government to confiscate private property. These principles are embodied in laws that protect the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly, as well as the rights to equality and privacy contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Finally, laws can also serve to penalise polluters in the context of environmental law. This is a function which has been undertaken by governmental bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency in the UK and the International Civil Aviation Organisation in the US. Similarly, private companies can make arrangements with third parties to provide them with liability insurance. This provides the company with a financial incentive to comply with environmental legislation. However, the insurance industry may also be able to impose its own regulations and this could potentially conflict with legislative intent.