Law is a body of laws developed and imposed by governmental or social institutions to socially regulate behaviour, with an exact definition hardly ever a subject of longstanding debate. In common use, it’s usually defined as an idealistic approach to justice and law that seeks to maximize the well-being of society as a whole. It was often variously defined as the art and science of justice. But as a legal concept, the law has a much more dynamic dimension, covering much more than just the legal systems we know today.

The original meaning of the term, according to many legal dictionaries, was “a code of conduct prescribed to be observed by men for the attainment of certain privileges or immunities”. This code, which includes rules about behavior in public and private life, was further subdivided into laws relating to private life, religion, government, and politics. These laws were to ensure equal opportunity in education, workplace, political party, property, and more. For many years, the long description above has also included civil law, but civil law only really started to acquire the attention of westerners when the idea of democracy came along.

In contrast to the original long description above, the word ‘law’ is generally understood to mean ‘ordinance’, ‘decree’, or ‘law’. The word is thus used to describe formal arrangements or rules within society, such as family laws, marriage laws, divorce laws, and various legislation affecting minorities. A wide range of other laws exist, not always in the form of formal legislation: rules of conduct, norms of public conduct, conventions, and so on. These laws are enforced by the state through the authority granted to it by the constitution and are considered to be part of the legal system.

In this modern era, however, laws are not necessarily enforced by the state. They may be recommended by communities, voluntary organizations, or even private individuals. If they are not properly implemented, they may not be implemented at all. For instance, the laws against discrimination are not enforced against private parties, since the state does not have the power to influence this type of interaction. Similarly, laws against abuse of children are not enforced against those who sexually abuse them; parents do not have a legal right to abuse their own children. In fact, if someone did abuse a child, it is likely that the state would be able to help with the problem, and in some cases provide shelter and care to the victim or family members.

Civil law is different from criminal law in many ways: first, unlike criminal laws, which can be brought against individuals (including minors), civil laws are enforced against an entity or individuals. For instance, if a person were to steal something that belongs to another, then that person would be charged with theft, not to simply steal the item. Therefore, civil laws tend to have more latitude in terms of who can be charged with criminal offenses, since these crimes occur within the jurisdiction of the state rather than within that of a federal court. Unlike criminal law, there is no centralized body of laws enforcing the rule of law across the country. As a result, there are no official laws that regulate the affairs of the individual or the community as a whole, although there are certain informal rules that people are expected to observe.

There are many schools of thought concerning the application of the rule of law. Most modern-day liberal constitutional thinkers (including many on the current Supreme Court) believe that a constitution should not restrict the rights of citizens in the areas of their lives that are related to their liberty of speech, religion, and private property. More conservative thinkers tend to believe that laws should respect a person’s right to make choices about how to live his or her life. No matter which school of thought one belongs to, it is clear that the moral philosophy behind most criminal laws is a source of concern for civil rights enthusiasts all over the country.

By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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