What Is the Law?


The law is a set of rules that an authority makes and then enforces by punishing those who break them. It is generally made by a government, and it can be about anything from not stealing to who gets to have your house. It can also be used to refer to the legal field, or to a specific job like being a lawyer.

There are many different theories about what the law is, but most of them have some version of the idea that a law should be consistent with the general will and design of God as revealed in nature and Scripture. Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England, for example, argued that if a human law contradicted the law of nature or the laws of Scripture then it was illegitimate.

Law can serve many different purposes, but four of the most important are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting rights and liberties. Some legal systems are better at serving these purposes than others are. For example, an authoritarian regime might be good at keeping the peace and maintaining the status quo, but it might also oppress minorities or political opponents. By contrast, a democracy may not keep the peace as well as some dictatorships do, but it can preserve individual rights and promote social justice. Legal systems also differ in how much they allow for the kind of orderly and controlled social change that is necessary for a civilization to flourish.

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