Law for beginners - Part 1

This is a series of posts aiming to make the law more understandable to high schoolers. The target readers are junior high school and senior high school students who want to enter law school someday.

Each post has ten items. As the reader reads and jumps from part to part (from Part 1 to Part 2, Part 3, etc.), she is expected to start developing a clearer understanding of the role of law in our society and an understanding of what the law means and how the law applies to our everyday lives.

It is advised that each post be discussed by the reader with a law student, law graduate or a lawyer so that any question or confusion can be answered sufficiently. It is also recommended that the reader NOT proceed to the next parts unless and until the previous part is FULLY clear to her.

Let's start.

[1] Image a world where there is only you. There are no other people in this world. As a result, you can kill any animal, eat any food and stay wherever and there would be no other human being to hold you answerable or accountable. No one will blame you for any mistake and you cannot blame anyone either if you get hurt.

[2] In such a world where there is only you, there is hardly any need for a law because you determine the law. What you do is based on your own assessment and understanding of what is right and good. If you eat a whole pig in one day, that is for you to decide.

[3] Now, imagine a world where there are only two people: you and another person. In such a situation, rules have to be set in order to avoid conflicts. Since there is more than one person in this world, there is a possibility of disagreement and misunderstanding. There is, of course, no inherent need to make laws but they are necessary in order to keep things peaceful, orderly and fair between the two.

[4] In a world where there are only two people (from here, called Danica and Peter), one may say: "This cow is mine." Or, "Do not come near my cave." If both Danica and Peter agree that certain things are owned by one and other things are owned by the other, that would be the start of property law.[5] If, for example, Danica wants to get some of Peter's chicken, and Peter wants to get some of Danica's apples, they may agree to exchange, say, ten apples for one chicken. That would be the start of the law on barter.

[6] Of course, if Danica and Peter agree on who owns what, it would be unfair for one to take the property of another without the latter's consent. If Peter, for example, does so (that is, take Danica's apples without her consent), that would be theft. Danica would be angry and would want to punish Peter. That would be the start of penal (criminal) law.

The relationship between Danica and Peter would end if one kills the other. In such a case, we will go back to a one-person world.

[7] Now, let us leave this imaginary two-person world and imagine another world where there are only 100 people. The same situation about property would probably prevail among these 100 people but there are more problems.

In such a big group, fights and quarrels would sometimes occur. The direction of the group would be unclear if there is no leader. Who makes sure that the 100-person society would be peaceful and orderly? Who decides what the rules should be? Who makes sure that rules are followed? Who tells them what is right and what is wrong when people fight? This would be the start of political law.

[8] Eventually, this 100-person world will realize that it is better if there are certain people within them who can settle fights and controversies so the society can be more stable. They may think that the eldest (elders) among them would be wiser and more competent in deciding who is wrong and who is right. That would be the start of a judicial system.

[9] Eventually, this 100-person world will realize that it is better if there is one or there are two or three people in charge of the whole group. Such person or persons would be the leaders of the society and every member thereof should obey what the leader decides to do in order to give direction and purpose to the society. That would be the start of an executive system.

[10] Eventually, this 100-person world will realize that it is better if there are two ore more persons who decide what the rules should be. Every member of the society is busy with his or her own affairs, anyway, such as hunting of animals, gathering of fruits, building of houses and others. Therefore, it is better if there are designated people whose job is to create rules or laws which people should follow. That would be the start of a legislative system.

NEXT: What if one person is the leader, the writer of laws and the judge at the same time? To read PART 2, click here.

Popular Posts