Law is the system of rules that a nation or society recognizes as regulating its citizens. There is a wide variety of ways in which laws are made and enforced, including by legislatures, the executive and courts.
The primary purpose of a nation’s laws is to keep the peace and maintain the status quo. It also preserves individual rights, protects minorities against majorities and promotes social justice.
Some legal systems serve these purposes better than others. For example, authoritarian governments often fail to keep the peace and maintain the status quagmire, while democratic ones have the best record in terms of protecting individual rights.
There are a number of common types of laws and regulations that govern everyday life, from the way we pay taxes to how we use the water. These include federal statutes and regulations, state laws and municipal ordinances.
In the United States, for example, Congress creates and passes bills and then the president signs them into law. Federal courts review them and may strike them down if they don’t agree with the Constitution.
Regulations, on the other hand, establish requirements or prohibitions that government agencies must follow. They can be published by the executive branch or they can be adopted as part of existing legislation, for example, a funding agreement.
In civil law jurisdictions, which include most countries in Europe, America, Africa and Asia, the basic principles of the law are codified in what is called a civil code. These codes are used to set up courts and to give citizens access to justice.