Functions and Responsibilities of Law


Law has many functions and responsibilities. It is a powerful force that helps define economics, society, and politics. As a mediator of human relationships, it shapes society. Some of the most important functions of law are as follows:

The first function of law is to prescribe behavior, but its content depends on evaluative judgments. These judgments are not always clear. A descriptive account of law can capture its central features, but it does not commit to moral evaluation or justification. It focuses instead on its foundational facts, without considering the moral implications of law. That’s the main advantage of a purely descriptive account of law. But such an account is not suited for all cases, and we need to consider its limits.

If law is normative, it imposes sanctions on violators. Without a law, these violations would be more likely to happen. But if we do not enforce our rules, we risk suffering punishment. And if we punish others, we would be violating the law. But if law were a moral obligation, it would be imposed only when the consequences of violating it were severe enough. Therefore, the law is an efficient sanction provider.

However, Dworkin’s legal theory articulates the idea of moral content in the legal domain. But unlike the classical natural lawyer, Dworkin does not claim that moral content is a precondition for legal validity. Instead, he says that the distinction between values and facts in the legal domain is blurred. In other words, deciding what the law is in a given case depends on moral-political considerations. Thus, the question of what is legal is a fundamental philosophical question.

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