The Basics of Law


Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It is the basis for governments, businesses and individuals to interact with one another within nation-states, as well as for international relations between them. Its principal functions include establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.

Legal systems vary from country to country. Civil law jurisdictions codify and consolidate laws, whereas common law systems accept judge-made precedent as binding law, in a process known as stare decisis. In either system, the law is not only made by legislative statutes and regulations, but also by judicial decisions, in a practice called case law.

The difference between scientific laws and scientific facts is that scientific facts are simple, one-off observations that have been proven to be true. By contrast, a scientific law is more like a general rule that can have exceptions and can evolve through further research.

Examples of legal fields are competition law, which includes anti-trust legislation and the English restraint of trade doctrine; space law, which addresses international human activities in Earth orbit and outer space; and tax law, which covers banking regulation and guidelines for value added tax, corporate tax and income tax. Other areas of law include intellectual property, labour and family law. The law is not a fixed entity; it changes and evolves through the use of courts, judges, barristers and solicitors to resolve disputes, as well as through social, cultural and political developments.