Understanding the Basics of Law


Regardless of your beliefs, it is important to have a firm grasp of the laws that govern your daily activities. Whether you are trying to keep your finances in order, avoid a lawsuit, or simply understand what you can expect from your government, it is essential to know how the law works.

Formalism vs legal realism

Generally speaking, Formalism and Legal Realism are two different perspectives on law and legal theory. Formalism, as the name suggests, is a philosophy of legal theory that emphasizes empirical case studies and systemic conceptual thinking. On the other hand, legal realists seek to understand how judges make decisions.

Formalism originated in the late 18th century when the legal profession began to develop a conceptual framework that separated law from politics. This framework created a distinction between law and politics, but it also reinforced the idea that law is largely unambiguous and predictable.

Generality in character

Generally speaking, a law is general if it applies to anyone. A law can be general in a variety of ways. It may be general in a purely formal sense (i.e., it’s a rule of law), or it may be general in the sense of having a general scope. Laws that address an undefined body of facts are not general in the legal sense.

The formal concept of generality requires that a law be subjected to an equal protection review. It is also necessary to recognize that not all laws are created equal. For example, a rule involving a house number may be akin to a tax on those without the means to make their own house numbers. The simplest way to recognize the generality of a law is to make sure it applies to all citizens.

Opponents of the Rule of Law

During the political history of nations, Rule of Law has been a prominent ideal. Rule of Law demands that people in authority exercise power within a well-established set of public norms. Rule of Law also protects against the Hobbesian war of all against all. Among the most vocal advocates of Rule of Law are international institutions, which worry about unraveling international action.

Despite its prominence, Rule of Law is a difficult ideal to evaluate. While it has been praised by thinkers like Plato and Hobbes, it is also contested. Some legal philosophers argue that the rule of law is only a formal ideal, while others believe that it is a substantive ideal.