Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Whether laws are made by a legislative body, resulting in statutes, decreed by an executive authority, such as a president or prime minister, or established through judicial decisions, the result is a legal framework that governs societal life. Law has a broad range of applications and is governed by many different factors, from the shape of the physical world to the human mind.
The law may be regarded as a form of social control, an instrument to prevent exploitation or an embodiment of a moral code. The precise nature of the law is a topic of debate and has been described as a science and an art. It is also a complex and evolving subject with significant practical importance.
There are numerous branches of law, such as contract law (which regulates agreements to exchange goods and services), family law (regarding marriage and divorce proceedings, the rights of children, and the division of property), or tax law (which relates to income, corporate, value added, and estate taxes). International law deals with people’s relationships with one another and with their nation-states, as well as issues like terrorism and asylum.
Some of the most important aspects of law are those related to its application in a given society, such as its ability to punish crime and to ensure basic freedoms for all citizens, regardless of social class or wealth. Other considerations include whether laws are transparent and easily accessible, and whether the governing body has accountability mechanisms, such as a free press and a fair electoral process.
Whether the law is effective and equitable in its application depends on the political situation, which differs from place to place. For instance, the power of military and policing authorities can be greater in some nations than in others, so there are varying levels of lawfulness. In addition, the aspiration for democracy and greater rights for citizens often leads to revolts against existing political-legal systems.