Law is a system of rules that govern the relationships between individuals and groups. These rules are used to protect people and their property. They also regulate how people can interact with each other, for example by dealing with crime or business agreements.
There are many kinds of laws in most countries. These vary in their length and detail. The United States, for instance, has hundreds of federal laws. Some of these laws are made by executive departments and agencies, while others are made by legislatures or courts.
Some of these laws are based on a specific area of expertise, such as the law of war or criminal law. Other laws are broad in scope, such as the law of human rights.
The study of laws is a diverse and interdisciplinary field, with influences from political science, economics, sociology and philosophy. It raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness and justice.
In many cases, legal systems are based on a combination of historical precedent and codification. In a common law system, for example, decisions by courts are considered to be a form of “law” on equal footing with legislative statutes and regulations that the executive branch has adopted.
Another way that legal systems vary is in how the validity of a norm is determined. For example, a legal norm may be validated immediately after being published in a court’s decision book (stare decisis), or it might take some time before it becomes valid and enforceable.
A legal norm that is not validated or enforceable may be terminated by the competent authority at any point in time by derogating it, for example by adopting a new normative act to regulate the same relations. The Latin phrase vacatio legis is often used to explain how a legal norm can be rescinded and replaced, even after it has been valid for a long time.
One of the most interesting aspects of law is that it involves a variety of ways in which power can be transferred from one person or group to another. In some nations, for example, military commanders can have political powers that they may exercise to make and enforce laws in their own sphere of influence.
In other nations, however, citizens can have a greater degree of control over how their government exercises its power. This has been the case in revolutions, in which a popular movement calls for a change in government.
Some nations have written constitutions that delimit the powers of particular authorities and define certain rights of individuals. This can help secure against them a range of fundamental human rights, such as the right to liberty or to privacy.