Law is a system of rules governing the conduct of people and their relationships with each other. It has important social, political and economic consequences.
The rule of law implies that every person is subject to the law, and that laws are enforced by a government. A nation’s legal system can help to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect individual rights and minorities against majorities, promote social justice, and provide for orderly social change.
In the broadest sense, there are two primary ways in which rights arise: “acts of law” (legal rules and judicial decisions directly bestowing rights) and “legitimately acquired” rights (e.g., gifts, contracts, consents, appointments, and last wills).
Legitimately acquired rights can be divided into two groups: claims and privileges (first-order norms), which determine what right-objects may do; and powers and immunities (second-order norms), which determine whether right-holders are able or unable to alter certain norms.
Often, the right-holders of legal rights also possess considerable control over Hohfeldian positions that they stand in in relation to others: within limits, they can waive compliance with certain obligations owed them and forgo remedial rights; and they can annul or transfer some of their claims or rights.
Despite their significant control over Hohfeldian positions, right-holders are often constrained by other aspects of their status in society. For instance, their status as a citizen or a member of a society can affect the scope of their rights and privileges; their position in a family may limit their ability to claim certain property, rights, or immunity from harm; and their occupation may affect their ability to assert claims for employment-related benefits.