How Law is Made Around the World


The law shapes politics, economics and history and governs society in a wide range of ways. It defines the rights and obligations of people as citizens, business owners or partners, and it sets standards for morality and fairness in all aspects of human life. It can regulate commerce, protect the environment, and ensure public safety and security.

Legal systems around the world vary from one another in many respects, including their structure and how law is made. In common law jurisdictions, for example, several stages of research and analysis are required to determine “what the law is” in a given situation. This process starts with ascertaining the facts and finding relevant statutes and cases. Then the lines drawn in these sources are combined using principles, analogies and statements by various courts of what they consider important to produce a “law” for the present case. In addition, decisions of higher courts — like a country’s supreme court — have more weight than decisions by lower courts.

Other legal systems are based on religious precepts, such as Jewish Halakhah and Islamic Sharia. These systems also often require further elaboration by human scholars using methods such as interpretation, Qiyas (reasoning by analogy) and Ijma (consensus) to make them useful in a modern legal system. Still others, such as the statutory laws of competition or aviation, are framed by international conventions and recommendations that have evolved over time. These international conventions are then incorporated into national law.

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