What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created and enforced by authority that governs a geographic area such as a city, state or country. A common way to think of the law is that it is a set of orders that people must obey or face punishment. For example, it is illegal to steal in most places, and if you are caught stealing you can be fined or sent to jail. The law can also be seen as a way to control behavior by limiting what you can do and what you can not do.

Different people have different views about what the law is. There are many books about law and legal systems, and many debates over what the law is.

Some people think that the law is nothing more than power backed by threats. They argue that if the only reason for following the law is that you will be punished if you don’t follow it, then the law doesn’t really matter whether it’s good or bad. They point out that tyrants like Hitler and Saddam Hussein were able to create arbitrary laws and then use them to oppress their subjects.

Other people believe that the law is a morally binding system of natural principles that are unchanging. This view is sometimes called “natural law.” The idea of natural law was popularized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and reshaped in modern times by philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and John Austin.