Law is a system of rules that society develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships. People often use the word “law” to refer to the people who work in this system, but it can also be used more broadly to refer to a set of laws that all citizens must follow or face punishment for breaking.
Laws are made by governments, and can be changed or abolished. Some laws are set up to protect certain groups of people, such as women or children, while others are designed to make life better for everyone.
The Law defines Rights
A legal right is a claim or privilege that imposes a duty on another person to act in a specific way. This can be done in the form of a right in personam or in rem, which means that the right is given against a specific person (like a promisor) or against a particular property (such as land).
It also has the ability to define obligations between individuals, such as contracts and trusts. It can also regulate businesses that provide goods and services, such as energy, gas, telecomms, and water.
In principle, most legal rights are peremptory; that is, they exclude many but not all possible conflicting reasons for a specific action or decision. However, this may not be the case in practice.
Exceptions are made to the rule that rights are peremptory if there is an underlying public duty that is not owed to the individual beneficiaries of the right but to others, such as promoting or protecting the common good. In this case, rights can be considered as “deontological side-constraints” on the common good.
The Function of Rights
A number of theories have been developed to explain the function of rights in a legal system. They differ in how much emphasis they place on the individual’s role as law’s primary unit of concern and in how their justification is based.
One theory of the function of rights is referred to as the “proportional demand” theory of rights, which focuses on the capacity or power of the right-holders to demand (see Feinberg 1970; 1980; 1992; Darwall 2006).
This idea has been used to argue that a legal system should be committed to protecting individuals rather than groups. It is a counter-intuitive position, but one that has been widely accepted.
It is also a more conservative idea than the view that all individuals have a morally constituted right to live in freedom and equality. It can be criticized for its reliance on abstract principles of justice and the absence of concrete demands.
Other theories of the function of rights emphasize the importance of specific circumstances, such as the nature of the victim or the degree of deprivation or harm. This concept has been used to justify a number of different kinds of laws, such as the ban on smoking in public places, or the prohibition against discrimination against women and people of color.