The Importance of Law

The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways and serves as a mediator of relations among people. The legal system of a country can differ significantly from one nation to the next, but there are four universal principles of the rule of law: laws are clear and publicized; they are stable and apply evenly; justice is available to all and is delivered timely; and judges and other court officials are competent and impartial.

In civil law jurisdictions, legislatures codify laws, while common law systems follow a system of precedent established by court decisions. In mixed jurisdictions (where a dominant system exists) both types of law coexist. For example, most of Africa still follows a continental civil law tradition, while America has largely adopted a common law system. In addition, religion has shaped some regions’ legal traditions through religious courts and Islamic Sharia law.

The law has a normative character, meaning that it prescribes how people ought to behave or what they can and cannot require from others. But unlike empirical science (such as the law of gravity) or social sciences (such as the law of supply and demand), there is no possibility for empirical verification of the contents of the law. This peculiar feature of law gives it a different status from other types of knowledge.

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