What Is a Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced by governmental institutions to regulate human behavior. A law may be as simple as “Don’t steal!” or as complex as a country’s liberal political asylum laws. It can also refer to the professions that deal with advising people about the law or representing them in court, or to the legal system itself.

There are many different theories about what makes a law valid, but all of them share the insight that a law is something a society agrees to respect. Some of these theories make rights the primary unit of concern; others treat property as the primary unit of concern. Still others focus on relationships between people, such as contracts or family law.

Sir William Blackstone, whose Commentaries on the Law of England was the standard text for early American lawyers, believed that man’s laws should be consistent with the law of nature and the law of revelation (Scripture). If any human law violated these principles, it was not a law.

A legal theory may describe how the natural world works, such as Boyle’s law that states that a gas will expand to fill its container when the pressure and temperature are constant. But a law may also be a human rule that explains how things should be done or what punishment is to be given for breaking the rule. A law is a statement of indisputable facts about the way forces in the universe work, such as the force of gravity between two objects that always pull them together.