The Role of Law in a Democracy


Law is the system of rules a society or government develops to deal with such things as crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It is a system that includes both written and unwritten codes, judicial decisions, customs, policies, and regulations. It is also a field of study, called jurisprudence, and a practice area that includes lawyers who specialize in different areas of the law.

Law covers a vast number of subjects and relates to all aspects of human activity. It can be very complex, involving such topics as constitutional rights and property law. It can be used to define the borders of a country or to enforce the peace. It is a source of order and stability in society. It is not without controversy, however, with debates over the need for more diversity among judges or the validity of certain laws.

In some countries, such as England and America, the law is made mainly by case-by-case court decisions. This is called a common law system. In other countries, such as Germany and Australia, the law is largely set by legislation passed by a legislature. Regardless of the type of law, it must be clear and accessible to citizens. It must be fair in its application and not arbitrarily apply to different people. It must be permanent as to time, uniform in its application to all persons in a given jurisdiction, and universal as to place.

This Article examines the role of the law in a range of politically and sociologically important issues, including freedom of expression, intellectual property, and criminal justice. It finds that in a democracy, law is most effective when it promotes fundamental values like supremacy of the law, equality before the law and its enforcement, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and fairness in the administration of the law.