Law is a word having such different meanings that a different word for each of them would be convenient as well as conducive to comprehension and clear expression. Even different phrases containing this word do not always denote essential distinctions. Therefore, the absence of definitive terms in addition to or instead of the principal word "Law" furnishes a reason for an occasional review of its meanings.

The English word "Law" came from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a thing laid down; and it still has this meaning. As now used, the primary meaning of the word "law" is a rule of action established by authority to enforce justice or to prescribe obligations. All other meanings are derived from this one, even though the connection is not always evident.

In effect, the civil law by which a person can acquire and own a home, or any property, declares and enforces his rights and obligations as the owner thereof. Likewise, a penal law declares and enforces the obligation of every person to refrain from specified conduct which is regarded as injurious to another person or to the public. For instance, the sale of intoxicating liquor can be prohibited because this traffic is injurious, not only to consumers, but also to other people and to everybody. In many situations, a sound public policy must regard personal choice or will as subordinate to the public interest and the general welfare.

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Possible and Impossible
December 13, 1930

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