The Basics of Law


Law is the body of rules, regulations and policies that govern the behavior of individuals, groups and societies. It covers a wide range of areas, from immigration laws to social security and family law.

Generally, there are two primary ways in which legal rights are created: by acts of law and by legal recognition of certain actions intended to create rights as in fact constitutive of them (Fitzgerald 1966: 333-341; Paton 1972: 319-320 & 433-485). The first mechanism, often called “acts of law” involves the enactment of specific laws or judicial decisions that directly bestow rights.

In contrast, the second mechanism is often called “legal recognition of certain actions” and consists of a legal rule that identifies certain acts as causing a certain effect, such as granting a person a right in their own property or a right against another party to a contract (Raz 1994: 268-269; Wellman 1995: 25-29). These acts may be gifts, forfeitures, consents, appointments, last will and testament, and contracts.

A legal rule is usually set out under a statute, a code or a paragraph in a legal document. It regulates the conduct of parties, their duties, expectations, measure of damages in cases of breach and how to resolve conflicts.

An example of a legal rule is Article 14 of the United States Constitution, which states that Congress has the power to enact laws “respecting the rights of citizens.” Federal courts interpret federal and state law to establish individual “rights” under the Constitution.

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