Law is a system of rules that determines how people can live and work together. It shapes politics, economics, history and society in a great number of ways. Many people are able to live peacefully within the framework of law, which is generally enforced by police and courts. Other people struggle with laws that do not protect their rights or that they find oppressive. Some of these people seek to change the laws or challenge their application. Those who do not seek to change the law may feel frustrated, powerless or even endangered.
Some countries have different types of law, but all systems are designed to protect individual liberty and promote social justice. They all have a basic framework for their governing system, which is usually written in a constitution. Those who govern the country then make further laws for specific matters of detail. Most modern societies use a constitutional democracy to choose groups of politicians to represent them in a legislature, such as a parliament or congress, elected by the governed peoples. This group will then create laws and make decisions about the overall structure of a nation and its government.
Most legal systems also have a principle known as stare decisis, which is Latin for “to stand by things decided.” This means that judges must follow the decisions of previous cases when making new rulings on the same or similar issues. In this way, the law becomes a set of precedents that guides future court decisions. It is this principle that gives the legal system a great deal of stability and consistency.
Other types of law include criminal, constitutional, intellectual property, trust and business law. Criminal law consists of the laws that help to prevent people from breaking the law and punish them when they do. Constitutional law covers the most important aspects of a government and its relationship with the governed. Intellectual property law protects the rights that people have over things they have created, such as art, music and literature. It can also cover the names of businesses or trademarks, which are protected by a form of law called trade mark law. Trust law relates to the rules about money that people put into savings or investments, such as pension funds. Finally, business law covers the rules that apply to commercial transactions.
All these areas of law have deeper dimensions that are not immediately apparent. For example, a big debate is about how much of an impartial role the law should play in society. There is also a lively discussion about the need to ensure that the law does not discriminate against people because of their race, religion, wealth or status. These are just some of the many complexities that have grown out of the original, fairly simple, concept of law.