Law is a body of rules that regulates the conduct of people and groups. These rules are enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. The purpose of law is to make people live together peacefully and to protect their property and their freedoms. There are many different types of laws. Some laws are international; others are specific to a region or a country. Some laws are based on principles of natural justice or on the will of a deity; others are based on the practical considerations of economics or science.
People need laws to keep order, ensure that everyone is treated fairly, and allow for social change without violence. The laws must be publicly promulgated and equally enforced; they should not discriminate against people based on their wealth or social class. The laws must also provide mechanisms for people to challenge government actions and for a free press to report on the actions of the government.
In most nation-states (as countries are called in international law), it is the people or groups that have military power that can command the political power needed to make and enforce laws. This makes it difficult to know who is in control of a nation, as well as how stable or democratic that rule is. Each year, there are revolts against existing political-legal authority by people who believe that the current regime does not meet the principal functions of law.
While a legal system may serve to keep the peace and maintain the status quo, it can also oppress minorities or restrict individual rights. The laws of some nations do not promote social justice, and some even violate human rights.
A legal system consists of the courts, laws, and other public institutions that determine how people should behave and what they are permitted to do. It also includes the people who enforce the laws and the private individuals who obey them. There are several articles that address the structure of a legal system and how it works.
Various fields of law deal with specific areas of people’s lives, from contracts to property ownership. For example, contract law defines the rights and obligations of those who agree to exchange something of value—anything from a bus ticket to shares in a company. Property law identifies the rights and duties of people toward tangible possessions like land or buildings, as well as intangible possessions such as bank accounts and stock ownership.
Often, the legal field addresses questions of ethics and morality, as well as the application of the law. For example, an article on abortion might analyze the constitutionality of a particular procedure or issue a critique of recent legislative changes. This type of article typically uses more technical language than the articles on other topics.