The Role of Law

Laws are “the body of rules or principles, prescribed by authority or established by custom, that a state, community, society, or other group recognizes as binding on its members” (Ferguson Publishing, 1999, p. 105). The purposes of laws are to maintain peace and order, to define the rights of citizens, to secure justice, to harmonize conflicting interests, and to provide means for punishing wrongdoers. Laws are applied and interpreted by courts. The courts do not seek out law-breakers but hear only those cases brought before them by private citizens or by the executive branch of the government.

The enforcement of laws, therefore, is an administrative, rather than judicial function. Kinds of Law There are two basic kinds of law, substantive and procedural. Substantive law creates primary rights and obligations of individuals. It concerns both persons and property. Laws that define crimes and those that define rights (such as the rights of a person owning property or making a contract) are examples of substantive law. Procedural law consists of the rules governing legal practice and the way in which courts operate.

Procedural law provides the methods by which rights guaranteed or obligations place on persons by substantive law are protected and enforced. Indictments, warrants, and writs are among the legal forms dealt with in procedural law. In addition to these two basic kinds of law, there are various fields of law; each dealing with a different subject matter. Each field makes use of both substantive and procedural law. These fields include criminal, civil, administrative, and various other types of law. Criminal law deal with crime – an act committed in violation of a law prohibiting it or and act omitted in violation of a law demanding it.

Civil law deals with the individual’s relation to other individuals or groups of individuals, not with society as a whole. Administrative law consists of the rules of administrative commissions that regulate such matters as interstate commerce, civil aviation, communications, and utilities. In the United States, commissions derive their authority from Congress (or state legislatures). They issue regulations that interpret the legislation that created them. These regulations define the rights and obligations of persons or corporations engaged in the industries regulated by the commissions.

The rulings of such commissions have the effect of court decisions but can be appealed to the regular courts. Administrative law is sometimes considered a specialty within civil law, but with the rapid growth in the number and powers of public commissions since the early 1930s administrative law has more and more assumed the character of a distinct field. (Ferguson Publishing, 1999) The Roles of Law in Commerce Without a system of laws in place, businesses would believe it necessary to fight for any rights of entitlement. Commercial law is the collective name for the branches of law that deal with commerce.

These include the laws governing negotiable instruments (such as checks and money), sales, suretyship (business debt), and parts of maritime law and banking law. Commercial law to a large extent is not governed by common-law principles. Much of it derives from Roman law and the customs of the ancient Greeks and Phoenicians (Ferguson Publishing, 1999). Each industry is protected by the same laws they must uphold on a federal, state, and local level. Laws exist in business and industry that involve the hiring of new employees, taxes (both paying and withholding), and protecting the environment.

The laws vary in effect from industry to industry but are consistent in content. For example, the role of environmental laws is to regulate the way an industry interacts with the habitats and animals in any given environment. A single list of “do’s” and “do not’s” does not exist for every industry and every environment. The laws are adjusted pending on the environment affected and the industry affecting it. In other words, the type of industry and the type of environment will have laws specifically written to cater to each respectively.

Furthermore, business is consistently conducted between people who do not know each other on a personal level or even people from different countries. International trade is a must for the survival of some industries. International trade laws are in place to enforce contracts, exchange monies, and help with the return of unused products. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, is an independent agency of the United States government that seeks to maintain competition in commercial dealings and to protect consumers. It is concerned mainly with prohibiting monopolistic controls and unfair or deceptive trade practices.

The Federal Trade Commission is concerned with the protection of the consumer more than the protection of the industry or specific businesses of an industry. The President of the United States nominates the five members of the Federal Trade Commission. Each member serves for seven years. A maximum of three members can belong to a single political party. The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition acts to promote free and fair competition in interstate commerce. The Bureau of Consumer Protection acts to prevent misleading advertising and unfair prices.

The Federal Trade Commission has various means of enforcing compliance, such as by issuing a cease-and-desist order. If there is still failure to comply, the Federal Trade Commission can obtain a court order forcing immediate compliance, and if that fails it can bring suit against the offending company seeking damages. Just as each society needs laws to abide by, business and commerce must have laws that govern the practices and functions of industries. Laws and agencies are in place to ensure the protection of each consumer and each industry.

Without such laws, functioning commercial practices would not exist. Laws encourage prosperity and accord among the industries and environment. Laws enable international trade to exist, much less thrive among the different nations. Agencies are in place to ensure the regard of the commerce laws and to enforce such laws. References Ferguson Publishing. (1999). New Standard Encyclopedia (10th ed. ). Chicago, IL: Ferguson Publishing Company. Melvin, S. P. (2011). The legal environment of business: A managerial approach: Theory to practice. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.