Law is the body of rules established and enforced by a governing authority to govern conduct, maintain order, and ensure justice. Law reaches into nearly every facet of people’s lives, including the mundane activities of daily living. It shapes politics, economics, history, and society in various ways. The precise nature of law is a topic of longstanding debate, but generally it can be described as a set of enforceable regulations.
Law reflects and shapes the way people live together, which is why it is important for our well-being. In a more formal sense, it establishes what Fuller (1964) called the “inner morality of the law”: namely, the principles that laws should be general, public, prospective, coherent, clear, and stable. While these principles are purely instrumental to legal activity, they do take some of the edge off political power by making it less arbitrary, more predictable, and less peremptory and coercive.
For example, tax law deals with the rules that guide a government’s collection of value added, corporate, and income taxes. Banking law imposes standards on the amount of capital banks must have and rules about how best to invest it, insuring that financial crises do not occur. Tort law protects citizens from injury to their persons or property, whether through an automobile accident or defamation of character. Evidence law governs which materials can be admissible in court to build a case. The subject of law extends far beyond these core areas, however, and is divided into three categories for convenience: