Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of debate, but it has been variously described as a science and an art.
Law can be classified into several fields: public law, which sets rules for how people interact; private law, which settles disputes among individuals and compensates victims; and international law, which deals with laws that apply internationally or between states. In addition, law is influenced by religion, moral philosophy, and human reason.
The origins of law are often debated, with some arguing that the only legitimate sources are rules that have been expressly enacted by a government. Others hold that natural law, moral philosophy, and religion have a greater influence on the rules of society than does the government.
Legal rights vary in stringency and are judged on the basis of normative jurisprudence, political and constitutional theory, and judicial practice. They range from rights that are “fundamental” or “core”, deemed to protect particularly significant interests or values (e.g., civil and human rights), to those that are more flexible but still provide a foundation for evaluating decisions.
For example, an individual’s right to be free from arbitrary deprivation or abuse of power may be considered a fundamental right because of its importance to that person’s dignity and autonomy. At the same time, other values and interests are considered to override a right when they appear to be more beneficial for the common good.
These views are sometimes called “individualism.” Some of the most prominent figures in this movement include Nozick and Dworkin.
While the views of these two scholars have influenced many, they are not the only ones. In addition, a number of other important legal theories have emerged in recent years.
One of the more controversial and important strands of these theories is the “right as outcome” model, which focuses on the legal justification of rights. It is based on the view that when a right is enacted, it should function as an outcome of the rights-holder’s legal reasoning rather than as an objective fact to be measured against countervailing factors.
This is a radically different perspective than the traditional “right as end” model, which emphasizes a right’s objective significance and the resulting balance of its legal justification and its consequences. Ultimately, the “right as outcome” model is more likely to reflect actual circumstances and situations than the “right as end” model.
In addition, the right as outcome model also provides an opportunity for more rigorous legal reasoning that might otherwise be stifled by a “right as end” approach. It is, therefore, potentially more valuable in promoting the common good than the “right as end” model.
Despite the differences, both models are useful in helping to understand the relationship between rights and other important factors in legal decision-making. The “right as outcome” model, for instance, can help to establish a balance between the competing elements of an individual’s right-holder’s moral justification and background social and political commitments and expediency and institutional considerations.