Law is the set of rules that a community or a state creates and enforces to regulate behavior, often through penalties. Law is a broad and complex subject, a source of intense debate and scholarly inquiry. Its precise definition is not fully understood, but is usually described as the system of rules that control a society and protect the interests of its members.
In modern societies, there are many different types of laws. Contract law covers agreements to exchange anything of value, including services and ideas; property law governs people’s rights and duties toward their tangible possessions, from land and buildings to stocks and financial assets; criminal law deals with acts that may be harmful to social order; and tort law provides compensation for damages caused by others’ actions or omissions.
Law also deals with the rules and procedures for resolving legal disputes. For example, judges in a civil lawsuit decide which side has the stronger argument and should win. Prosecutors prosecute criminal cases on behalf of the government, and public defenders represent defendants who cannot afford their own lawyers in criminal matters. Dispute resolution also includes probation officers who screen applicants for pretrial release and monitor convicted offenders released under supervision. Finally, tax law and banking law establish the rules for assessing and collecting taxes and regulating the amount of money that banks must keep in reserve. These and other issues raise difficult questions of fairness, justice, and equality.