Although we all have an understanding of what law is, and generally why it’s appropriate that it should be in place to serve and regulate our conduct in society, we seldom think of what law actually means in an everyday context. What is law for the average Joe in the street? How does law impact on our lives from day to day? Indeed, is the law a distant concept with which we find it hard to relate? In this article we will look at some of the fundamental ways law operates in society, in addition to the nature of the law as we know it.
For some people, they feel as though the law is there merely to protect their interests, and that they have no need for daily interaction. However, they assume that if the day comes where their behaviour is called into question, the law will operate, the course of justice will be run, and the will of the people will be fulfilled. This is perhaps a naïve interpretation of the function of law, and indeed the way it operates in our lives throughout the day. For instance, at the top level we have the constitution, establishing parameters within which the government can and cannot act to protect the citizens of our nation. That has an overwhelming effect on the way in which our government and indeed our country is run, which has a knock on effect on everything we do throughout the day and how we do it. Even at a local level, the law interacts with the services we are provided, the jobs we work and pretty much everything to do with the lives we lead. A distant concept? I don’t think so.
The law does not just operate in criminal spheres, nor is it confined to merely constitutional matters and the distribution of power. Law is a significantly more sophisticated tool in the orchestration of the day-to-day organisation of society, through regulating not only personal conduct but also the way we act in business situations. Take for example the everyday task of boarding a train. The law regulates many aspects of this feat: (1) the criminal law and the constitution permits us to board public transport. (2) The constitution permits us to make contract with another. (3) The laws of contract permit us to form a contract for transport with the train company, and ensure that that contract is fulfilled. (4) The laws of contract and tort allow us to board without fear of injury, or with remedy should the worst happen. Finally the law of ownership and currency allows us to hand over money in consideration for this service, which is of value to the other contracting party. In fact, the law regulates just about everything we do, and is vital in doing so to ensure the smooth running of community and every aspect of our lives.
The law is not some abstract notion that can and will protect us when we need to rely on it. The law is an integral part of democratic life, and something which regulates our conduct, and in essence allows us to act according to our own desires within reason. Some may think the law is too restrictive in certain areas, but it works. The law serves its function as regulating our behaviour very well, and if it doesn’t? We can change it.
The fact is, law has been an important part of society since it began, with implied legal and social orders and boundaries that could not be crossed. Today, it is a sophisticated network of guidelines and regulations which is adapted to shape the way we live our lives from one day to the next. There is no doubt that the law is important to the citizen, and plays a profound impact on the lives of the people on a daily basis.