Law is the set of enforceable rules devised and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate human behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Law of England (1723-1780), defined it as “a rule of civil conduct imposed by authority upon those under their control commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong, being permanent as to time, uniform as to place, and binding everywhere in the world.”
Legal scholars often define law by its purpose: four major ones are setting standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. Law also serves other purposes, however, including keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo, and promoting social change in a manner that is not disruptive or oppressive (e.g., in a democracy).
The most widespread form of law is the civil law tradition that is found on all continents and covers about 60% of the world’s population. It consists of concepts, categories, and rules that are generally derived from Roman law or canon law, sometimes supplemented or modified by local custom and culture. This system often places a high value on cooperation and promotes equity. Nevertheless, it is often inconsistent in its application because it may not always identify the duties correlating to the rights, especially when those duties are conditioned on certain states of affairs and do not necessarily vest at the moment the right is exercised.