Law is a system of rules and regulations that governs the actions of people within a country or community. It covers areas such as crime, business, social relationships, property, finance and more. The law can be broken or not and can result in a variety of consequences, including fines, jail time or both.
Definition of Law
A law is a rule made by the government that all citizens must follow, or face punishment for breaking it. Usually, this is through legislation passed by the government, but it can also be established by court rulings and decisions.
There are many different types of laws, such as civil law and criminal law. Some of these laws involve compensation for injuries, while others provide for punishment for crimes against the government or a community.
Case law, or legal precedent, is a series of rulings that have been made by higher courts and are followed by lower courts to reach similar results. It is the basis of “stare decisis” (Latin for “to stand by”), a principle that guarantees the same outcome in future cases.
In common law systems, judicial decisions are regarded as “law” and are treated as equal to statutes and regulations issued by the legislative branch of the government. Generally, in these systems, decisions made by the highest courts have more weight than those of lower judges or barristers, because of the greater degree of deliberation and research required to decide cases.
The Oxford Dictionary of Law provides more than 34,000 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedia entries across this broad discipline. It offers authoritative coverage of the major terms, concepts and processes underlying all of the legal systems in the UK, US, and Australia–from criminal law, tax and social security law, and human rights law, to international law, family and employment law, and major debates in legal theory.
The concept of a legal right has been the subject of much theoretical discussion in recent years, especially in the field of normative jurisprudence. The main lines of argument center around the relationship between legal rights and other norms.
Some argue that rights are not norms at all, but rather a means of exclusion, whereby certain other norms can or should be excluded in favor of the claim-right holder’s interests. This is referred to as the demand theory of rights, and is most prominently defended by Joel Feinberg and Stephen Darwall, who emphasize the capacity or power of claim-right-holders to make demands for their own interests.
A rebuttal to this view is that some legal systems, such as Jewish law, are designed to embody just and reasonable duties to respect and safeguard others. These duties, however, are not owed to those who they are supposed to benefit, as claimed by Feinberg and others.
Nevertheless, there is a growing movement of philosophers who have embraced the idea that legal rights are moral principles. This movement, rooted in the natural law tradition, argues that, as opposed to duty-based moral principles, which are dependent upon observable rules and practices, legal rights are reflective of essentially immutable moral values, unchanging in time.