The Meaning and Purpose of Law

Law is the body of rules that governs a society. It covers things like the rules of a court, the rights of individuals and businesses, laws for immigration, nationality, social security, taxation and family law.

It also deals with the relationship between law and politics; it is an area of study in its own right. It is important in societies with stable governments and in those where people feel safe and happy.

The word law comes from the Latin legalis, meaning “lawful”, but it can also mean a rule or regulation. It can also mean a precept or a statute; a law enacted by a government.

Typically, a law is justified by its status as legal; the legitimacy of a legal right involves the existence of a legal norm grounding–as a matter of law–the right (MacCormick 1977: 189 & 206; Sumner 1987: 68-70; Raz 1994: 263-268).

It can also be justified by the fact that the legal norm has an impact on how law is made and enforced. It is often the case that a law is justifiable because it is designed to promote something good.

In addition, it may be justifiable because it is part of an overall political scheme, for example, a constitutional law or a legal system that guarantees human rights and protects minorities against majorities.

The purposes of a law are to keep the peace; to maintain the status quo; to preserve individual rights; to protect minorities against majorities; to promote social justice; and to provide for orderly social change. The effectiveness of a law in each of these purposes depends on the political structure of a nation. Unstable or authoritarian governments, in contrast, can fail to fulfill these goals.

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