Natalie TasciInternational LawProfessor O’Meara23 January 2018Whatis the Law? Thereare many definitions of law. Merriam Webster defines law as, “(1): a bindingcustom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed orformally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority (2): thewhole body of such customs, practices, or rules.”1 EncyclopediaBritannica describes law as being, “the discipline and profession concernedwith the customs, practices, and rules of conduct of a community that arerecognized as binding by the community. Enforcement of the body of rules isthrough a controlling authority.
” 2Shaw in “Why Law Exists,” defines law as being, “that element which binds themembers of the community together in their adherence to recognized values andstandards.” 3Combining these definitions together, law can be defined as rules of conduct, whichare recognized as binding by the community in adherence to values andstandards; in other words, a set of rules by a community or government, putinto place to regulate behavior and avoid chaos. Just as backgrounds andcultural traditions of different areas around the world are unique, so are laws.Law echoes the cultural traditions of the country it works in. 4 Withdifferent parts of the world, come different forms of government and rule. Inthe West, we have swayed farther away from laws based on religion, whereas incountries like Saudi Arabia, Shari’a law, or Islamic law, based on the laws ofthe Quran, is in full effect. Other countries with strict religious ruleinclude Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Vatican City, and Yemen.
5Modern democratic legal systems usually accommodate some form of religiousplurality and refrain from establishing or privileging any particular religiousentity or practice through legal sanction. 6However, some can argue that all laws come from the basis of religion. Beforethere were different faiths, there was man, who had empathy, morals, and asense of right and wrong.
Religion conquered the world, and revolved itselfaround these morals, implanting them in their teachings. We know not to murder,kill, or steal, not because religion tells us it’s wrong, but because we knowit’s unjust behavior, unless one happens to be a sociopath. If morality weresolely based from religion, we would be in grave danger by the growing amountof atheists in the world. These morals instilled in us from the day mankind wasborn is called natural law. Natural law is a body of rules of universalrelevance, and because the ideas and precepts of the ‘law of nature’ wererooted in human intelligence, it followed that such ruled could not berestricted to any nation or any group, but were of worldwide relevance. 7 Everyorganized social institution including homes, schools and countries, haverecognized rules, which proves that humankind is dependent on established codesof conduct. 8 Lawis a normative social practice: it purports to guide human behavior, givingrise to reasons for action.
9 The purpose of law is to set up standards, keeporder, resolve conflicts, and protect the liberties and rights of citizens. 10 Lawsput rules into place to protect citizens from being hurt, give justice to thosewho have been, and punish the offenders. By punishing offenders who disregardthe law, citizens of communities are forced to think twice before committing anillegal act.
In addition to deterring crime, the law offers a peaceful way tosettle and resolve conflicts through the court system. However, not alllaws are good. There are bad laws that do more harm to society than good. Howcan we tell the difference between a bad and good law? Good laws are laws that arein the interest of the people, laws that do not discriminate, that arereasonable, and that are not made to intimidate people.
11 Agood law is a law that a majority of the community can agree with. Moralityshould be the basis of good law and policy. 12If morality isn’t the basis for law and policy, and it is replaced by power-itnever leads to good government.
13One way of evaluating whether a law is good or bad is to see if the law hasunintended consequences, whereby attempting to achieve its purpose, prohibitsother conduct which is not of itself harmful or damaging to society. 14Laws that don’t solve an issue or that removes freedoms from the people is abad law. Thereare different types of law.
While international law is defined as the lawbetween nations, domestic law is the law that exists within one particular state.15 Theprimary subjects of international law are nation-states on one global platform.International law is divided into conflict of laws and public internationallaw. 16 Thedomestic law deals with the law governing and regulates the act of individualsand organizations within a country or state. The domestic law includes locallaws and rules, and comes from legislature and customs, whereas internationallaw consists of treaties and customs between countries.
17The major difference between international and domestic law is how these lawsare enforced. Unlike international law, those who violate domestic law receivea punishment based on the severity of the crime, decided by a court executive. 18 Internationallaw is more of a slap on the wrist.
Whilethe line between ethics and law may be blurred, there are significantdifferences when we look at the two terms side by side. The Separation Thesisis an important negative implication of the Social Thesis, maintaining thatthere is a conceptual separation between law and morality.19 Lawis defined as a legal system that is made up of rules and principles set by thegovernment to guide the affairs of the community, while ethics are defined asmoral guidelines set, executed, and followed by an individual by their ownpersonal choice. Ethics cannot be enforced and may or may not be consistent. 20In contrast, law is a system of rules meant to lead a society or community.
Unlike ethics, it is enforced, and not abiding by the law may result in severeconsequences. 21 Lawis judged by judicial standards, while ethical behavior is judged by one’smoral standards. Unlike law, ethics are universal and can be practicedanywhere.
Laws vary by country and state.1 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. “Law.”Merriam-webster.
comhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/law(accessed January 24, 2018)2Encyclopedia Britannica. “Law.” Britannica.comhttps://www.britannica.com/topic/law(accessed January 24, 2018)3 Shaw, “Why Laws Exist.” Studocu.comhttps://www.studocu.com/en-us/document/rijksuniversiteit-groningen/public-international-law/summaries/summary-shaw-international-law-lecture-1-13/173614/view?auth=1=0=1=0=1(accessed January 24, 2018)4ibid5 https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-theocratic-governments-today.html6 http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/law-and-religion-law-religion-and-morality7Shaw8 https://www.reference.com/government-politics/purpose-rules-laws-8bfcbee674f0d9639 https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/lawphil-nature/10 http://www.businesslawbasics.com/chapter-3-purposes-and-functions-law-111 http://hosbeg.com/characteristics-good-law/12 http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2010/09/what-makes-for-good-law.html13ibid14 https://richardkennedysolicitors.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/what-makes-a-bad-law/15 https://hawaiiankingdom.org/blog/the-difference-between-international-law-and-national-law/16shaw17 https://www.slayerment.com/international-law-vs-domestic-law18idib19 https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/lawphil-nature/20idib21 http://www.differencebetween.info/difference-between-law-and-ethics