Law is a special framework that governs many aspects of our lives, and its deeper dimensions are the focus of much scholarly inquiry in areas like legal history, philosophy, economic analysis, and sociology. At its most basic, law is a set of standards that governs conduct and ensures justice.
Its precise nature is a subject of longstanding debate, with scholars distinguishing between law as a system of rules that defines people’s rights and duties (substantive law) and law as a set of rules that regulates social or governmental institutions (procedural law). Some laws can be interpreted as morally right, such as the rule against murder.
A nation’s law is often a reflection of its political culture, and the law can have several functions: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. Nations with stable, democratic governments are more likely to have laws that serve these functions well; authoritarian or dictatorial states are less likely to do so.
The law is also a tool for regulating the economy and promoting social welfare, with laws guiding everything from labor to property. For example, contract law defines people’s rights and obligations in contracts (e.g., buying a car) and property law establishes their rights and duties toward tangible and intangible possessions, including money (like dollars or euros) and shares of stock (like those on the New York Stock Exchange). In addition, the law provides a framework for dispute resolution and provides a basis for assessing a country’s economic stability.