The Essential Features of Law


Law is a system of rules that a society develops to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It is also a general term for the people who work in this area, such as judges and lawyers. Law is a subject of intense debate, not only about what it means, but about how it should be made and used.

Law includes both the formal and the unwritten aspects of a society’s rules, regulations, and codes. It is a complex topic that requires study in a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, history, sociology, and political science.

The purpose of law is to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes, and protect liberty and rights. Some legal systems do better at one or more of these goals than others. For example, an authoritarian regime may keep the peace and preserve the status quo, but it can also oppress minorities and suppress political opponents. On the other hand, a democracy may be less stable but it can also promote equality and provide orderly social change.

An important aspect of law is that it should be broadly applicable. This is reflected in the longstanding constitutional antipathy to Bills of Attainder, but it also means that laws should be clear and accessible to everyone. This is a difficult goal to achieve, since human situations differ so much. But some scholars have tried to define the essential features of law, such as the requirement that rules should be relatively general rather than aimed at particular orders.

Other essential features of the law are that it should be transparent, accessible, and equitable. This is difficult to achieve, since it involves balancing competing values such as speed, clarity, and fairness. However, there are ways to improve the law, such as requiring that laws be made openly and in advance, leaving room for interpretation and creative jurisprudence, and using broad definitions of equity to resolve conflicts.

Law is a very important part of every society. People value it for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most basic is that it takes away some of the uncertainties and risks of human life. Whether it’s protecting us from terrorist attacks or giving us the freedom to speak our minds, the law is there to help us navigate a sometimes dangerous and confusing world. The rule of law is therefore something we should all strive to uphold, whatever our politics or beliefs might be. See also judicial process; legal training; jurisprudence; legal philosophy; and law and society.