Variously described as a science, an art of justice, or a political construct, law is a set of rules that governs the behaviour of people and social institutions. It is enforceable by governmental institutions, such as courts. Law is a major aspect of public policy and influences virtually every aspect of human life.
Law varies from country to country. Common legal systems include civil law, common law, and Islamic law. Among the major differences between these systems are their rules of legal interpretation, their legal syllogisms, and the methods of legal reasoning. Some of these systems are very detailed and require extensive human elaboration. Others are shorter and involve only a single judicial decision.
Common legal issues include family law, immigration, and debt. Other common legal problems include housing and consumer rights. In addition, legal issues can arise unexpectedly. For example, a person might get injured in an accident or he might be accused of a crime.
Law also affects the treatment of survivors of violence against women. In many domestic legal systems, the environmental protection law serves as a penal system for polluters. In international legal systems, disarmament and climate change are subject matters.
Some types of law are explicitly based on religious precepts, such as Islamic Sharia and Jewish Halakha. Others are based on analogy, reasoning by analogy, and consensus. Several religious laws survive in church communities. Law has a history of entering mainstream culture through the writings of Thomas Aquinas.
One of the most important areas of law is financial regulation. In OECD countries, water law, energy law, and telecomms law are regulated industries. In the United States, competition law (also known as antitrust law) traces its roots to the Roman decrees against price fixing. In addition, banking law regulates minimum capital requirements for banks.
The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is the United Nations’ primary dispute settlement organ. It has been involved in more than 170 cases, and has issued numerous judgments and advisory opinions. Its current members include 34 representatives of the world’s major legal systems. It is also tasked with promoting the progressive development of international law. It prepares drafts on various aspects of international law and consults with specialized UN agencies. The International Law Commission was established by the General Assembly in 1947.
The United Nations legal work has spanned many issues, including human rights law, environmental protection, and combating terrorism. The Organization has also addressed issues of international dimensions, such as combating drug trafficking and migrant labour. In addition, the Secretary-General receives more than 500 multilateral treaties. The Commission also promotes the codification of international law.
Law is a powerful force in shaping our society, politics, and history. As a result, it is often the object of competing interest groups’ attempts to influence policy makers. In Western-style democracies, law is largely shaped by the government, while in other forms of government, law is shaped by competing interest groups.