Law is the collection of rules enforced through social or governmental institutions to ensure that individuals and groups adhere to certain standards, maintain order and resolve disputes. It is the subject of a wide range of disciplines, including history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis. Law is also a source of employment for many people, especially in the legal professions of lawyers, judges and police officers.
The legal system can be divided into two broad areas: criminal law, which deals with conduct that is deemed harmful to society and results in punishment by a court; and civil law, which addresses disagreements between individuals or groups. A third area is administrative law, which covers the regulations of a country’s economy and services.
Laws can be formulated through a collective legislature, as statutes; by the executive, through decrees and regulations; or by judicial precedent, as in common law jurisdictions. In most countries, a constitution sets the framework for the legal system and codifies fundamental rights. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, such as arbitration agreements.
The concept of law is very complex from a methodological standpoint. Unlike normative statements in empirical science (as the laws of gravity or the law of supply and demand), the statements made by legal systems are descriptive rather than prescriptive. Holmes explains this phenomenon by saying that law is a betting system: it makes predictions about a variable, the behaviour of bad men. If the prediction is correct, then it becomes a law.