220.127.116.11: Law and the Legal System
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- Define law and explain how it differs from a legal system.
- Explain the concept of the rule of law and discuss the role of flexibility and fairness in a legal system governed by the rule of law.
- Discuss the primary functions of law in the United States.
In the eighteenth century, when the legal and regulatory environment of everything was a lot simpler than it is today, the great Irish satirist Jonathan Swift likened laws to cobwebs because they seem to stretch in every direction to catch innocent flies while failing utterly to stop wasps and other creatures responsible for much greater crimes against human comfort. Like George McGovern, many people no doubt find this comparison at least as true today as it was in Swift’s time. After all, in order to be law-abiding innkeepers (or just plain citizens), we must negotiate a vast web of constitutional law, federal law, regulatory law, and state and local law; criminal law, civil law, and common law; substantive law and procedural law; public law and private law; and business law, which includes contract law, product-liability law, patent law, consumer-protection law, environmental law, employment and labor law, insurance law, cyberlaw, agency law, and a host of other forms of law. In fact, being a truly law-abiding citizen is virtually out of the question. According to one estimate, the average American driver deserves ten speeding tickets a day. Other underpenalized violations range from stealing cable TV and scalping tickets to exhibitionism and illegal fishing and hunting (Sexton, 2008).