Law is a system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate, and it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. Law is usually enforceable by mechanisms such as penalties, and it covers a wide range of topics, from the right to privacy to corporate taxation. It is the subject of many different professions, including law schools and the practice of law.
Most countries employ a common law system, which relies on decisions made by judges on cases that have come to trial. The compilation of these decisions is known as case law, and it serves as the basis for most legal arguments in court. Other countries, such as Japan, use a civil law system. This consists of written codes that explicitly specify the rules that judges must follow when making a decision. In either type of system, the final decisions are not open to individual interpretation.
The laws that govern a country vary, but in general they are designed to protect people and their property. They set out rules for how people can live together, do business and go about their lives. They cover a broad range of topics, from the right to privacy and freedom from harassment to taxes on businesses and other types of regulation.
Many people argue that there are too many laws, and that they are not well understood or followed. However, it is also important to recognize that laws are often a reflection of the society that has produced them. Changing the laws is a difficult task, but there are often ways to improve them. One example is to make sure that the courts are not too influenced by lobbyists, who may try to influence judicial decisions by providing the judges with money and other advantages.
Another way to improve the law is to encourage diversity in the judging class, so that judges are more likely to understand the problems of people from other backgrounds. There is also a lively debate about whether or not judges should be free to disregard laws that they think are unjust, and to instead use their own sense of what is right and fair.
A final way that the law can be improved is by making sure that all parts of a country are represented in its courts. The United States, for instance, has twelve regional circuits, each with a court of appeals, plus a thirteenth, the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent and other cases, without geographic limitation. The decisions of higher-level courts are binding on lower courts in that jurisdiction, while those of the district courts carry only persuasive authority. This structure, known as the separation of powers, helps ensure that no one person is able to become a dictator and overrule all other branches of government.