The Importance of Law

Law is a set of rules created and enforced by the state to ensure a peaceful society. It encapsulates the moral, social and economic structures that govern human interactions. Its importance in human life can be measured in many ways, influencing relationships, governance, commerce and individual rights. It is the foundation for a well functioning society, and its complexity underlines its significance.

The precise nature of law is a matter of ongoing debate, with some arguing that it encompasses morality and others asserting that the idea of law is simply an expression of man’s desire for order. Utilitarians, such as John Austin, argue that law is commandments backed by the threat of sanctions from a sovereign to whom people have a habit of obedience, while natural lawyers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, maintain that it reflects innate and unchanging laws of nature.

Regardless of their differences, all theories of law recognise that it is an important part of a modern civilised society and imposes various requirements upon societies to make justice and equity possible. This includes clear, publicly available laws that are stable and consistent, enforced evenly across all social classes, and encompassing core human and contract rights. It also includes mechanisms for checks on the government’s power and an open and transparent system of justice.

In addition to these broader aspects, there are numerous specific fields of law that define the legal environment in which we live. For example, contract law regulates agreements to exchange goods and services, influencing everything from buying a bus ticket to trading options on the derivatives market; property law defines our rights and duties toward tangible assets, ranging from land and buildings to personal possessions and intangible investments such as bank accounts and shares of stock; criminal law is the set of principles that governs crime and punishment, from minor offences to murder and can include fines, imprisonment or the death penalty.

These different types of laws are broken down into statutes, regulations and court decisions. Statutes are duly enacted laws from the legislature, while regulations are legally binding but have a limited scope; and court decisions (or precedent) are legally binding and have broader legal weight that can apply to future cases – this is known as the doctrine of stare decisis. This system provides consistency in the administration of justice and prevents the arbitrary or dishonest decisions of a single judge. However, this approach can be vulnerable to changes in the culture of a society and to the influence of public opinion.