Legal systems around the
world elaborate legal rights and responsibilities in different ways. A
basic distinction is made between civil law jurisdictions and systems
using common law. Some countries persist in basing their law on
religious texts. Scholars investigate the nature of law through many
perspectives, including legal history and philosophy, or social sciences
such as economics and sociology. The study of law raises important
questions about equality, fairness and justice, which are not always
simple. The central institutions for interpreting and creating law are
the three main branches of government, namely an impartial judiciary, a
democratic legislature and an accountable executive. To implement and
enforce the law and provide services to the public, a government's
bureaucracy, the military and police are vital. While all these organs
of the state are creatures created and bound by law, an independent
legal profession and a vibrant civil society inform and support their
progress. Legal subjects
is a system of rules, usually enforced through a set of institutions. It
shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways. Contract law
regulates everything from buying a bus ticket to trading swaptions on a
derivatives market. Property law defines rights and obligations related
to transfer and title of personal and real property, for instance, in
mortgaging or renting a home. Trust law applies to assets held for
investment and financial security, such as pension funds. Tort law
allows claims for compensation when someone or their property is injured
or harmed. If the harm is criminalised in a penal code, criminal law
offers means by which the state prosecutes and punishes the perpetrator.
Constitutional law provides a framework for creating laws, protecting
people's human rights, and electing political representatives.
Administrative law relates to the activities of administrative agencies
of government. International law regulates affairs between sovereign
nation-states in everything from trade to the environment to military
action. Law manifests itself throughout the community in many more ways,
and serves as the foremost social mediator of relations between people.
"The rule of law", wrote the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle in 350
BC, "is better than the rule of any individual."
Though all legal systems
must deal with similar issues, different countries often categorise and
name legal subjects in different ways. Quite common is the distinction
between "public law" subjects, which relate closely to the state, and
"private law" subjects.In civil law systems, contract and tort fall
under a general law of obligations and trusts law is dealt with under
statutory regimes or international conventions. International,
constitutional and administrative law, criminal law, contract, tort,
property law and trusts are regarded as the "traditional core subjects",
although there are many further disciplines which might be of greater
Rule of law
The Rule of Law, in its
most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. Thomas
Paine stated in his pamphlet Common Sense (1776): "For as in absolute
governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be
king; and there ought to be no other."
In England, the issuing of the Magna Carta was a prime example of the
"rule of law." The Great Charter forced King John to submit to the law
and succeeded in putting limits on feudal fees and duties.
Perhaps the most important application of the rule of law is the
principle that governmental authority is legitimately exercised only in
accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in
accordance with established procedural steps that are referred to as
due process. The principle is intended to be a safeguard against
arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or by mob rule.
Thus, the rule of law is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy.
Samuel Rutherford was one of the first modern authors to give the
principle theoretical foundations, in Lex, Rex (1644), and later
Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws (1748).
In continental Europe and legal thinking, the rule of law has
frequently, but not always, been associated with a Rechtsstaat.
According to modern Anglo-American thinking, hallmarks of adherence to
the rule of law commonly include a clear separation of powers, legal
certainty, the principle of legitimate expectation and equality of all
before the law.