Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. Its precise definition is a subject of long-standing debate, but it usually involves the application of an objective moral standard by which people are judged. It can be applied to private individuals, groups or organisations and may be enacted by a collective legislature through statutes, decrees or regulations, by the executive through orders and regulations, or established through precedent by judges in common law jurisdictions. In nations, the law can serve several purposes including establishing standards and maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting rights and liberties. It also functions as a source of scholarly inquiry in the fields of legal history, philosophy and sociology.
The law is a complex concept. It has a normative aspect that establishes what ought to be done, and a descriptive aspect that provides guidance on how things actually are. It is a source of controversy and debate, for example about whether the law should protect sexual offences against children or about the way in which laws are made.
Another key concern is about the relationship of law to politics and the extent to which the state should extend its power over the lives of citizens. This is an issue of particular importance to countries in which the military, policing and bureaucracy exercise substantial power over the daily lives of ordinary citizens, and is an important point of difference between authoritarian regimes and democratic nations. It is also an issue for nation-states that are members of international organizations, such as the United Nations or NATO.
The most obvious function of the law is to keep society safe and secure. It can also help to preserve individual rights and provide a framework for orderly social change. The law can be a powerful force for good, but it can also be abused by people with power or wealth. In addition, the law can be used to oppress minorities and political opponents. These are the reasons why it is so important for the international community to promote and support good governance, rule of law and democracy. It is also why we need to continue to work for human rights and the expansion of global legal systems. We need to make sure that the benefits of globalization extend to every person, regardless of their background or social class. We must ensure that everyone has access to justice, and that core human, procedural and property rights are protected and respected. This is not an easy task. It will require sustained effort by governments, communities and civil society. It will also need to be complemented by a range of mechanisms to prevent abuses, such as freedom of speech and the press, and to monitor the exercise of power by states.