Law is a set of rules created by a nation which form the framework to ensure a peaceful society and, when broken, can be enforced with sanctions. The laws of different nations vary widely and are the source of intense debates about their appropriateness and efficacy. They are a central subject of scholarly inquiry in the fields of history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology.
The main functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting individual rights and liberties. However, the political landscape varies widely from nation to nation, and many regimes do not satisfactorily fulfil the functions of law (e.g., Burma under military rule). Each year there are revolts against existing political-legal authority.
In the broadest sense, law covers almost every area of human activity. For example, contract law governs agreements to exchange goods and services; criminal law deals with conduct considered harmful to social order; and evidence law stipulates what materials are admissible in court.
The study of law also provides insight into the workings of a political system. For example, the principles of stare decisis (a Latin phrase that means “to stand by what has been decided”), whereby courts are expected to follow earlier decisions in similar cases, provide a measure of stability in jurisprudence.
A central aspect of the law is that it cannot be empirically verified; it is a system of rules created by humans and depends on the way that human beings think about morality, good and evil, justice (proper distribution of privileges and burdens within society) and what constitutes fairness in a particular context.