The Purpose of Law


Law is a system of rules enacted by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior and ensure that individuals and a community adhere to certain standards. Laws can be created by a collective legislative process, resulting in statutes, or by the executive branch through decrees and regulations. Individuals can also create legally binding contracts with each other or with third parties, and courts can establish legal precedent through judicial decisions (called “stare decisis” in Latin). Laws can be based on the Bible, the constitution, or custom, as well as on common sense and ethical principles.

There are four primary purposes for law: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Even in a well-ordered society people disagree and conflicts arise. Laws provide a way to resolve these disputes peacefully and fairly. Laws help to keep the environment clean by setting limits on pollution, they prevent cruelty to animals and protect private property by ensuring that everyone is held to the same standards. Without laws, the consequences of one person’s actions would be unpredictable and could range from minor inconveniences to criminal charges and jail time.

Laws are also important to a society’s economic health by regulating business activities, creating a stable environment for investment and ensuring that businesses pay taxes. A major field of law is corporate and commercial law, which includes the laws governing the formation and operation of businesses (including limited liability companies), contracts, employment, property, and financing. Other areas of commercial law include insurance, bills of exchange, insolvency and bankruptcy, sales, and the law relating to securities.

Another purpose of law is to govern public institutions, such as schools, government offices and the military. This involves both the creation and enforcement of military, civil and constitutional law, as well as the regulation of activities and relationships between these entities and their employees. It is a complex field that requires skilled and knowledgeable professionals.

The exact nature of law is debated by scholars and philosophers, and its precise definition is not always clear. It has been variously described as a science, an art, or as a system of justice. It is an area of study that has been influenced by many philosophical traditions and by the ideas of philosophers such as John Locke, Montesquieu, and Max Weber. The modern practice of law has a number of unique challenges that did not exist in the past, including the growing scale and scope of the military and police, and the rise of bureaucratic power over the daily lives of ordinary citizens. These challenges have shaped the modern debate about the extent to which a state should be able to intervene in the lives of its citizens. This has been reflected in the changing nature of the law, which is now more flexible and responsive to changing circumstances than in the past.