Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. It can be state-enforced, resulting in the criminal or civil consequences of breaking it, or private and voluntary. Law can be based on moral or religious values, or a combination of both. It is a source of complex and fascinating research for those interested in legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. It also raises important issues of equity, fairness and justice that are at the heart of political debates – for example, over whether judges should be impartial or should use their own sense of justice to judge cases that don’t fit the usual interpretation.
The precise definition of law is a subject of long-standing debate. Generally, however, it is seen as a set of laws that express a consistent reality, be that objective (e.g. that anything thrown up will come down) or subjective (e.g. that a murderer must be punished).
Law is the main area of study for lawyers, though there are some other areas of specialism, such as space law (international agreements about human activities in outer space) and tax law (rules concerning value added tax, corporate tax and income tax). The law provides a rich field of study to explore a wide range of questions about how our society works, how we can organise it better and how we should treat those who live in it.