The Rule of Law

A body of rules of action or conduct prescribed by a controlling authority and having binding legal effect has been defined as law. A law is something that citizens must obey and follow in order to avoid sanctions or legal consequences.” [1]

Although the legal system and its rules are intended to defend citizens’ fundamental rights and liberties, the common citizen may not always understand them. Where do we draw the line between legal and illegal, and why is it set in the first place? Most people understand (and accept) rules outlawing murder, thievery, bodily harm, and financial misbehaviour, but there are a slew of additional laws that should make us think twice. In Minnesota, for example, any game in which participants attempt to catch a greased or oiled pig is prohibited. Turkey scrambles are likewise prohibited by the same laws. [2] In West Virginia, don’t try to replace a hunting dog with a ferret. Anyone who uses a ferret to hunt, catch, take, kill, harm, or pursue a wild animal or bird will be fined $100 (but not more than $500) and sentenced to 10 (but not more than 100) days in prison. [3] Even if you’ve never considered participating in a bird scramble or hunting with a ferret, chances are you’ve broken the law at some point—possibly even in the last 24 hours. Have you ever gone over the speed limit while driving? Do you ever ride your bike through a stop sign at an empty intersection? Do you go to the supermarket without fastening your seatbelt? Although it is doubtful that you would be punished and imprisoned for these minor traffic violations, you did break the law. Why do we have so many rules and regulations? Let us investigate the role of law in society and why laws are made in the first place.

The Law’s Purposes

In a culture like the United States, the law influences daily life in a variety of ways and is reflected in a range of legal branches. Contract law, for example, governs agreements to exchange products, services, or anything else of value, which might range from purchasing a bus ticket to trading options on a derivatives exchange. Property law establishes people’s rights and responsibilities in relation to tangible property, such as real estate (i.e., land or buildings) and personal property (i.e., clothes, books, vehicles, and so on), as well as intangible property, such as bank accounts and stock. When someone or their property is hurt, whether in a car accident or by defamation of reputation, tort law provides recompense. These are areas of civil law that deal with inter-personal issues. Offenses against the federal, state, or local government are covered by criminal law, which allows the government to penalise the perpetrator.

The law serves a variety of functions. Establishing norms, preserving order, resolving conflicts, and defending liberties and rights are the four main ones.

Developing Standards

The law serves as a guideline for socially acceptable behaviour. Some acts, for example, are crimes because society (via a legislative body) has decided that certain behaviours that injure or damage people or their property will not be tolerated. For example, under most state laws, it is illegal to inflict bodily harm on another person without justification—doing so is usually referred to as assault. [4]

Keeping the Peace

This is a side effect of setting standards. In a civil society, some appearance of order is required, and this is reflected in the law. When the law is followed, it maintains order in accordance with societal norms. Wildlife management rules, like as those prohibiting the use of ferrets for hunting in West Virginia, were enacted in an effort to save game that had been nearly hunted to extinction during the eighteenth century. Such rules demonstrate society’s value for wildlife preservation for future generations to enjoy. [5]

Dispute Resolution

In a society where people have various needs, goals, values, and perspectives, disagreements are unavoidable. The court system is a formal mechanism of settling disputes provided by the law. [6]

Defending Civil Liberties and Rights

The United States’ and its states’ constitutions and statutes guarantee a variety of liberties and rights. One of the functions of the law is to protect these varied liberties and rights from infringement by individuals, groups, or the government. For example, the First Amendment to the Constitution, subject to certain limitations, prevents the government from enacting legislation that restricts freedom of speech. Someone who believes that the government has violated his free speech rights can file a lawsuit in court to seek redress. [7]