Law is a system of rules that governs the way people and societies interact. This includes laws about crime, business agreements, and social relationships.
A law can be created and enforced by a government or a society, or it can be created by an individual who creates legally binding contracts. It can also be a law that explains the workings of the world and the forces within it, such as Boyle’s law, which describes what happens to the volume of a gas if its pressure changes and its temperature remains the same.
Creating, Adopting, and Enforcing Law
In most countries, the law is made by government authorities, either through a group legislature or a single legislator, or by executive decrees and regulations. Alternatively, it may be established by judges through precedents, typically in common law jurisdictions.
Rights in Personam and In Rem
Legal rights are fundamental components of any legal system. They represent the most basic building blocks of positive law, and a foundation for the construction of other normative elements, including legal power, justice, and equality.
Some theories of law attempt to explain these features through a philosophical lens, while others view them as an essential component of the practice of law (e.g., MacCormick 1977: 189-206; Sumner 1987: 68-70; Raz 1994: 263-268).
While these theoretical approaches often point to different sources for the creation of rights and legal powers, the underlying principle that a legal system must be committed to a set of liberal values is shared by all.
Moreover, all of these theories share the insight that a legal system committed to rights is oriented towards treating the individual person as law’s primary unit of concern.
The concept of a right, or a claim to legal protection or privileges, is pervasive throughout the history of the world’s civilizations and legal traditions, spanning countless cultures and societies. Its pervasiveness is a result of the enduring presence of rights’ salient features, which are rooted in an idealized understanding of human dignity and human relations.
In a legal system committed to rights, the individual person is at the forefront of the development of positive law and the elaboration of norms. This is because rights are the core of the human self.
A legal system based on rights also reflects the values and attitudes of a particular society’s dominant culture, as well as its prevailing philosophy and moral standards. In some countries, a strong commitment to rights is the primary driving force behind political and social change.
These values and attitudes have a direct impact on the legal system’s ability to serve its primary function, which is to ensure that individuals are treated fairly and equally under the law.
The principal functions of law include establishing a legitimate political order, protecting and promoting property, contract, and civil rights, enforcing judicial decisions, and ensuring that all actors are accountable to the law. A strong rule of law is a hallmark of any society’s stability and democratic legitimacy.