Law is a system of rules that a society or government develops to deal with things such as crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It also refers to a number of professions such as lawyers, judges, and police officers who work in this system. Law is a complex subject because it is both empirical and normative. Empirical laws are based on observations of the real world such as gravity or the speed of light, while normative statements in law are rules that people should follow, such as the rule against making obscene phone calls.
There are four purposes of law: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. It is not possible to separate these because they are often interrelated. For example, the law against obscene phone calls may protect the right to free speech, but it is also a means of preventing disorder and insuring civil order. It is important that the law be enforceable, so that it can have a deterrent effect. The way this is achieved is through the court system.
In addition to the courts, laws are shaped by other institutions such as education and religion. Educators try to impart a value system that is consistent with the law. This helps students understand the morality of the law and the principles that govern good behaviour. Religions provide religious precepts, such as the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, which guide some communities in settling secular matters. Christian canon law also survives in some churches.
Another aspect of law is that it provides a system for people to resolve disagreements peacefully. This is particularly important for the protection of property rights. If two people own the same piece of land, the law can decide who is entitled to it. This is especially useful for large, complicated properties where people have a lot at stake.
Other areas of law include the responsibilities of businesses and the rights of individuals in a democracy. Tax law relates to the amount of tax that businesses and individuals must pay, while labour law deals with wages, working conditions, and holidays. Criminal law covers offences against the state, such as robbery and murder.
Laws relating to international relations and space are still developing, but they address topics such as international treaties, air law, and the carriage of goods. Laws related to finance are increasingly important, regulating areas such as banking and financial services, capital investment, and liability. This is in response to the increasing complexity of the global economy, which can have far-reaching implications for ordinary people. In addition, issues of human rights are gaining more importance in relation to international law.