The Basics of Law


Law is the study of the rules that govern how people and governments interact. It covers a wide range of subjects, from property and contract law to evidence and taxation.

The law also regulates the activities of private individuals and companies, especially those that provide public services. For example, water, energy and telecoms companies must comply with regulations.

There are three main categories of law: legal rules, rights and principles.

Legal rules are laws that set out how the government and private parties are to act, what duties they have, and what damages they may be awarded in cases of breach. They are usually set out in a statute, a code or a paragraph in a document.

Rights are a set of legal norms that determine what people can and cannot do, and what they should do and should not do (Fitzgerald 1966: 229-230). They can be active, such as a claim right to enforce a rule or a privilege to benefit from it, or passive, such as immunity to a rule or a power to change it.

The most common view is that of natural rights, a view rooted in the idea that human beings have certain inalienable moral and political rights that are not dependent on enforcement or social convention or recognition. This is sometimes called a “demand theory of rights” or a “natural-law-based model.”

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