Law is the set of rules and regulations established by a government that dictates what people are permitted or not allowed to do. It also governs how people are treated by other people, and it provides a means to settle disputes. Law is often viewed as the foundation of a civilized society, and it helps ensure that everyone is treated fairly.
Laws are enacted by governments and enforced by police and courts. They also guide the activities of private individuals and businesses, such as through contract law, which regulates agreements that exchange goods or services for money; property law, which defines people’s rights to tangible property (like houses and cars) and intangible property like bank accounts and shares of stock; and banking and tax law, which establishes standards for banks and companies and regulates how they are taxed.
The function of laws varies greatly from one nation to the next. For example, an authoritarian regime might keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it might not protect minorities or allow for social change. In general, however, laws aim to (1) provide a system for settling disputes, (2) promote social justice, (3) preserve individual rights, (4) protect public safety and health, and (5) prevent abuses of power.
The study of law is a complicated process, and its implications are far-reaching. It involves many different topics, including anthropology; political science; philosophy; and sociology. For a more in-depth discussion of legal principles and theories, see jurisprudence; law and society; constitutional law; and criminal justice.