Is Law Essential to Human Life?

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Law is a crucial part of a healthy society. It helps us establish standards, maintain order and justice, resolve disputes and protect our liberties and rights. It can even help prevent us from killing each other in a dispute over who owns a piece of land or who should be allowed to open a business. However, if we look closely at the nature of law and the purposes it serves, it may not be clear whether law is in fact essential to human life at all.

Many legal theories aim to provide a coherent account of the concept of law and cognate concepts such as legal validity and legal obligation. On these sorts of views, the intuitions that people are disposed to possess in virtue of a shared concept of law can be thought of as pre-theoretic judgments. The goal of a theory of law is to systematize these pre-theoretic judgments in order to provide an account of some substantive conception of law.

The legal systems of most countries are based on common law, civil law and other types of codified law. These systems differ in how laws are made and enforced, but the core features of all include a rule of law, where public authorities as well as private individuals and institutions are accountable to the law and subject to it.

The idea of a rule of law dates back to ancient scholars and is rooted in all major legal traditions. It describes a system of laws, institutions, and norms that delivers four universal principles: accountability, just law, open government, and accessible and impartial justice.