What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules that governs the behavior of people and groups in a society. It encompasses the principles of equality, fairness, separation of powers and participation in decision-making. It enables citizens to hold the state accountable for its actions and ensures that laws are transparent, justly applied and enforceable.

It is an interdisciplinary field that covers a wide range of areas, from criminal justice and civil rights to public policy and corporate governance. It is an area that is constantly evolving as legal scholars seek to keep pace with changing social conditions, while also maintaining a strong foundation in historical analysis and academic doctrine.

Some legal systems are explicitly based on religious precepts, such as Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia. These are often augmented by human elaboration, such as Qiyas (reasoning by analogy), Ijma (consensus) and precedent.

Law in the modern sense is a social construct that emerges from a combination of individual and group decisions that produce outcomes with varying degrees of predictability. The resulting system is the product of many individual predictions about the intersection of each person’s narrative with an external reality that is shaped by other people’s stories.

A key part of this process is the observer-centric definition of law, which involves assigning true or false values to mathematically undecidable propositions. The act of a participant’s assigning these values constitutes experience, and as participants’ experiences flow through the system their probability estimates are updated, and the law is redefined anew.

Another important element of the law is a system of redress that allows for corrections and damages. In the United States, for example, there are several laws that deal with compensation and redress for victims of crimes and accidents, including consumer protection laws.

The law can also refer to a system of rules that is used to organize and control an activity, such as the rules that determine how to conduct business or operate a government. A company must follow all applicable rules when forming a partnership or hiring employees, and the government must enforce tax laws and regulations.

Law can also refer to a set of rules that a community has agreed to abide by, such as traffic laws and societal norms for treating women and minorities equally. It can also refer to a particular region or country’s political climate, such as Mexico’s liberal political asylum law. Laws can also be written, such as a constitution or treaty. They can be private, public or both, and they can affect the individual as well as the collective. Examples of both include the constitutions of Switzerland and the United Kingdom, which are private laws, and the international convention on human rights, which is a public law.