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Difference Between Law and Justice

The concepts of law and justice are often confused and misinterpreted by many. While the two are strictly connected, they are not the same thing. Justice is a broad concept that is based on equality of rights, fairness and morality. Conversely, law is a body of regulations and standards set up by governments and international bodies and is (or should be) based on the idea of justice. Laws are written norms that regulate the actions of the citizens and of the government itself in all aspects, whereas justice is a principle that may or may not be universally recognized.

Difference Between Law and Justice

What is Law?

Laws are rules and guidelines established and enforced by the government and its entities. They vary from country to country and there is a body of international laws that applied to all states that decide to ratify certain treaties or conventions. National laws are principles and norms that regulate the behavior of all citizens and of all individuals under the government’s jurisdiction. Laws are created by the government thorough a long and complex process, and once established they are implemented by governmental entities and interpreted by lawyers and judges. Laws establish what citizens, business, and governmental agencies can or cannot do. Although there is a set of written legislations, the judiciary system has the power to interpret them and to enforce them in all different situations. Laws vary from one country to another (or even from one state to another in the United States): that is why lawyers can only operate in the country where they passed the national exam.

What is Justice?

Justice is a broad and somehow abstract concept based on equality of rights, fairness, kindness, dignity, moral and ethics. In a just world, we would not have:

  • Discrimination;
  • Violence;
  • Abuses;
  • Poverty;
  • Slavery; and
  • Injustices in general.

Therefore, all laws should be based on the idea of justice and all governments should enforce national laws in a just and equal way. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and laws are often broken, non-respected and/or enforced in biased and partial ways. Furthermore, justice supersedes national legislation and applies to all individuals without discriminations or limitations.

Similarities between Law and Justice   

The concepts of law and justice are fairly similar as most laws are thought to be just and fair. Some of the main similarities between the two include:

  1. Both concepts regulate human behavior and aim at creating a more just and equal environment;
  2. Law should be based on the idea of justice and should be implemented and interpreted in a just manner – without discriminations; and
  3. Both are based on the ideas of morality, equality, order and fairness.

Difference between Law and Justice

Although the two concepts are strictly linked, there are key differences that cannot be overlooked:

1. The term law refers to an existing and concrete set of written regulations established by the government in order to regulate and control the actions of the citizens. Conversely, justice is not a universally recognised concept and is subject to interpretations. Justice is often depicted a woman wearing a blindfold– representing equality and fairness, and applying laws and regulations to all individuals without discrimination. Yet, there is no common understanding of justice and there is no unique book or text to refer to; and

2. Laws can vary from country to country and the process with which they are created can change as well. For instance, in democratic countries, laws are adopted following a long debate and an even longer process of checks and balances; conversely, in authoritarian countries, laws are decided and established by the ruling party (or by the ruling person) without seeking the support of the majority. Conversely, the idea of justice is more or less consistent across all countries: moral values and ethics tend to supersede borders and geographic divisions.

Law vs Justice

Building on the differences outlined in the previous section, we can identify few other aspects that differentiate law from justice.

Difference between Law and Justice: Comparison Table

  Law Justice
Implementation Laws apply within one country and to all individual under the government’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, international law applies to all countries that ratify certain covenants or treaties. National laws are enforced by the government and its bodies (police, judiciary, etc.) while international law is enforced by international organizations and tribunals. Justice is the underlying principle upon which all laws should be based. Yet, there is no implementation of justice as such, but laws and norms can be implemented and enforced in a just and fair way by judges, governments, lawyers and international bodies.
Creation Laws are created by politicians through a long process of checks and balances and can be approved (or not) by the country’s population. The creation of a law follows a different process depending on the country, and can last few days or even months. Justice is not created; it is a broad concept that unites universal ethical and moral standards. Although it is not universally recognised, the idea of justice is based on values and principles that are intrinsic to the human nature.

Summary of Law and Justice

The terms “law” and “justice” refer to two similar yet different concepts. The ideas of law and justice often go hand-in-hand but refer to two different ideas. Law is a system of regulations, standards, principles and norms created by a country’s government in order to regulate the life and the actions of the citizens. Laws are found in written codes and are enforced by the government and its bodies, including security forces, police, judiciary, etc. Conversely, justice is a more abstract concept based on the idea of equality of rights, and fairness. All laws should be based on the idea of justice and should be implemented and enforced in a just way without discrimination of sex, gender, age, color, race, religion, language or any other status.


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References :


[0]Kelsen, Hans. What is Justice?: Justice, Law, and Politics in the Mirror of Science: Collected Essays. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2000.

[1]Kelsen, Hans. What is Justice?: Justice, Law, and Politics in the Mirror of Science: Collected Essays. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2000.

[2]Ross, Alf. On law and justice. Univ of California Press, 1959.

[3]"Image Credit: http://thecollaboratory.wikidot.com/state-and-local-government-2012-13"

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