What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules enacted by governments, which citizens must obey or face punishment. This includes both criminal laws and civil laws, such as regulations on air, water and energy use.

Legal systems are primarily legislative in nature, but they leave room for interpretation and creative jurisprudence. They are generally codified, usually in codes arranged in categories and easy to understand for citizens and jurists.

The three main categories of legal subjects are property law (involving the legal aspects of possession, transfer and ownership of land); civil procedure and criminal procedure (both involving a citizen’s right to a fair trial and appeals); and evidence law, which involves which material is admissible in courts for a case to be built up. Additional areas of law include company law (including contracts and agency); estates law (involving the legal aspects of estate planning, wills, estate taxation and property distribution); and labor and employment law.

A normative power is a legally recognized ability to alter or create certain legal positions, relations and norms. The opposite of holding a power is normative disability.

Normative rights are typically either active or passive, and these have been variously described as claims, privileges and powers. Loosely, claim-rights entitle right-holders to what they “ought” or can “be entitled” to; privilege-rights determine what the relevant parties may “suffer” under certain norms, and immunity-rights exclude certain “suffers”.

For example, claim-rights hardly qualify as rights for women; and immunity-rights do not exclude self-serving interests such as the predatory slumlords sometimes protected by legal property rights.

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