The Basic Building Blocks of Law


Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It can include statutes, executive decrees or court decisions established by precedent, primarily in common law jurisdictions.

Law can serve various purposes, including keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo, preserving individual rights, protecting minorities against majorities and promoting social justice. Some legal systems serve these goals better than others.

Typically, laws justify themselves by grounding them on legal norms, rather than validating them by their own authority (Raz 1970: 175-183; MacCormick 1977: 189). This is especially true in civil law legal systems, where judicial syllogism, analogy and argumentative theories often dominate.

Legal rights are among the most basic building blocks of law. This entry elucidates the concept of “legal right,” covering features common to all rights, and demonstrating how those general features manifest in the particular instance of legal rights (Sections 3-5).

The moral function of a legal right for its right-holder is to provide them with a claim to secure just treatment under the law. For example, property owners may hold claims against other people to not trespass on their land; promisors might have contractual rights that their promised actions will be fulfilled.

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