Law is a collection of rules created by a government that form the framework to ensure a peaceful society. These rules are enforced by the state through sanctions. It is not easy to define exactly what law is as everyone has a different idea about it. Many books containing various ideas about law have been written.
The main types of law are civil, criminal and administrative. Civil law deals with disputes between citizens and is enforceable by courts or tribunals. It encompasses areas like contract, torts, property and employment. Criminal law deals with offences against the state and is enforceable through the police and courts. Administrative law deals with government agencies and organisations. It includes fields such as taxation, health and safety and intellectual property.
Some laws are based on culture and social habits and are often trusted by people. Religious laws have also been important to some societies, and are often referred to as God’s law.
Most countries have a different legal system that governs their activities and regulates behaviour. Some have a common law system that relies on judges’ decisions in cases that come before them and is not set in stone; this is also known as caselaw. Other countries, such as Japan, have a civil law system that has been set out in books, which judges use to guide their decision-making.
Other parts of law are more specific, such as medical or criminal laws that deal with certain crimes. Physician-patient privilege protects a patient’s private conversations with doctors, as well as their personal information that may be shared with them. Medical negligence is a type of tort that can be pursued by patients in civil or criminal law.
Competition law is the area of law that aims to prevent businesses from using their influence over market prices, which can cause consumers to pay higher prices than necessary. This kind of law has been in place for centuries, and traces its origins to Roman decrees against price fixing and English restraint of trade doctrine.
There are also other kinds of specific laws, such as family law (which covers marriage, divorce and rights to children), labour law, and trust law. Banking law deals with the rules about how much capital banks must hold, and also regulations on investments in stocks or property. Intellectual property law involves the rights that individuals have over things they create, such as art, music and literature; copyright protects these works. Patents are a kind of legal protection for inventions. Labour law covers the rights of employees to unionise, negotiate with employers and be paid a minimum wage. Laws on evidence, such as whether particular items can be used as evidence in court, are also part of the law. A final area of law is international law, which encompasses the legal rules that apply to individuals who are not citizens of a state and their right to asylum or to be granted citizenship by another nation-state.