Law is a set of rules and principles that regulates social behaviour. It includes the commandments and principles prescribed or recognized by the governing power in an organised jural society as its will in relation to its members; it may be mandatory, ordering what shall be done; prohibitive, forbidding what is to be avoided; permissive, declaring what is to be permitted; or enjoining duties of piety and morality.
The concept of law incorporates a number of different viewpoints and theories about how it works. For example, John Austin’s utilitarian theory stated that the purpose of law is to ensure justice and that this can be achieved by the punishment of those who break the law. Philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Aquinas believed that laws are derived from the natural order of things and that they are invariably based on moral principles.
In the modern world, a large amount of law is set through judicial decisions. These decisions are often used as legal precedent in future cases and can be used to help determine the outcome of a trial. Legal precedent is particularly important in the US because higher courts, such as federal court decisions, are binding on lower courts across the country.
Other types of laws are enacted by the government and provide protections for certain groups, such as the elderly or children. There is also criminal and civil law, which deals with disputes between individuals. Other examples of law include banking and financial regulation, which set minimum standards for capital and best practices for investment; and public service laws, which require companies to meet certain levels of social responsibility for utilities such as electricity, gas, or water.