The Goals of Law


Law is the body of rules governing conduct in a given community and enforced by a political authority through penalties. It is also the condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system. The term is also used for the profession and discipline concerned with legal rules, procedures and institutions: to study law is to study jurisprudence.

The most basic goal of law is to provide a way for people to resolve their differences peacefully. This requires that all citizens have equal access to the law and that they be treated in a fair and consistent manner regardless of their wealth or status. It also requires that the legal system respects individual rights and ensures that public business is conducted transparently.

Another essential goal is to make it possible for ordinary people to internalize the law and figure out what it demands of them in particular situations. This, in turn, requires that the law be epistemically accessible – that it be promulgated publicly so that people can study and understand it. It also requires that the law be sufficiently clear and accessible to allow them to seek professional advice if they need it.

These goals are embodied in the concept of the Rule of Law that is so central to contemporary political philosophy. The idea is that the Rule of Law provides the foundation for democracy, the peace and prosperity of the community and individual well-being. This requires the independence of the judiciary, accountability of government officials, transparency of public business and rigorous standards for transitions of power, as well as core human, procedural and property rights.

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