The History of Modern Law

United States today is looked at as a law full of law suits. The famous case of McDonalds getting sued for not writing a warning for hot coffee being hot is still talked amongst people all over the world today. People make jokes at every situation that might be possibly end up being a lawsuit. With all these fact, it might even seem like the United States is the heart and home of the laws and rights. But where did laws originate from? Who first said you cannot steel from others without consequences?

The development of law is closely related to development of human civilization. Civil codes are written when a steady civilization is created. The oldest civil codes can be dated back to 3000BC in Ancient Egypt. The code is based on social equality and impartiality. The oldest known tablet containing a law code that is surviving today is The Code of Ur-Nammu. It was written in 2100BC in Sumerian language. The laws written in the code is arranged by if-then pattern. It was quite advanced because it institutes fines of monetary compensation for bodily damage than eye for an eye principle except for capital crimes such as murder, adultery and rape which are punished with death.

Around 1760Bc, King Hammurabi further developed Babylonian law, where eye for an eye is exercised, by codifying and inscribing it in stones and placing in several copies throughout the kingdom of Babylon as stele for the entire public, both citizen and visitors, to see. Though some of the codes might be applicable to today’s laws, the cultures of the Babylonian age can be observed from the tablets. The Old Testament of the bible is probably the oldest written law that can still be relevant for modern legal laws. Dating back to 1280BC, it takes the form of moral imperatives to make a better society.

In Asia, Ancient India and China represent distinct traditions of law. They even had independent schools for legal theory and practice. The Indian law was not exactly a law, but a way to rule and govern with the philosophy that went with tolerance and Pluralism, and was eventually cited across Southeast Asia. The Indian law, with Hindu tradition along with Islamic law, was affected by the common law when India became part of the British Empire. Along with India, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Hong Kong were affected as well. Though the Asian legal tradition reflects a blend of secular and religious influences, massive transformation took place with the adaptation of the common European law. Japan was the first country to westernize their law, probably affected by the German Law.

Today, in most advanced countries, the act of judging according to the law is taken care of in courts. It is typically overseen by either a government or independent regulating body such as association for a certain organization or a law society. Lawyers are often higher to represent the person or people in courts and give advice about legal rights and duties. In some countries the Judge decides the case and in others, a group of juries, made up of common citizens, make up the decision.

Whether it be cruel punishment or a monetary compensation, law has been existing for a while, but we all must keep in thought that it is made not to punish us but to protect us.

Business Law Impacts All Aspects of the Commercial World

The generic term “business law” covers every aspect of commercial interactions today. In its broadest sense, the term can be defined as the group of laws, regulations, and practices that apply to commercial entities such as companies, corporations, and partnerships. These statutory requirements involve the entire spectrum of interactions from forming a new enterprise, negotiating contracts, arranging financing, meeting all government requirements, and any other topic or activity that impacts, directly or indirectly, the operation of a business.

In this highly specialized area, the legal practitioner has to have a broad spectrum of knowledge in order to represent the interest of his or her commercial clients adequately. It is easiest to view this type of practice from the life cycle of a business operation to understand its scope.

Starting a New Enterprise

One of the most important aspects of business law is how to set up a new corporation or company. The law of corporations, local licensure requirements, as well as dealing with contracts for the space that the company will occupy, all require various legal formalities to be met even before the doors can open for the first customers. Employment laws for employees have to meet federal and state requirements.

Financing agreements are an essential part of the stage of the business cycle. Legal practitioners will negotiate with lenders, ensure that all forms are filed properly with the Federal, State, and Local authorities, and help establish the necessary record keeping that may be required for that particular operation.

Day-to-Day Transactions

Once things are up and running, business law attorneys will be involved in many daily transactions. Handling the negotiations of contracts and representing the client in various legal actions that may involve issues of breach of contract, liability, and statutory violations are just some of the matters where lawyers in this field may be called upon.

As the company grows, concerns involving secured transactions, securities (stocks and bonds), SEC filings, and other related subjects would also become part of a commercial lawyer’s practice. As governmental regulations continue to become more complex, making certain that a commercial client is in compliance requires an even higher level of diligence from practitioners in this legal field.

Changing or Merging the Operation

One of the most dynamic areas of business law today is that of mergers and acquisitions. It is difficult not to look at the financial news without learning about the latest buy-out, merger, or hostile take-over of one company by another. At the heart of this activity are the lawyers who represent the concerned parties. In addition to involving the transfer of ownership and financial arrangements, it is often necessary to obtain government approval to complete the deal. It is no wonder that specialists in this area of the legal profession are highly sought after for their expertise.

All aspects of 21st-century commercial enterprise involve the application and practice of business law. Navigating the complex legal waters is best accomplished by the retention of a competent, experienced counselor who understands the legal complexities of running a successful operation today.

History of Alcohol Law

Interested in history? Not many people are, but it helps to know a little bit about the history of alcohol. Booze has been with us about as long as people have. It is mentioned in the “Code of Hammurabi,” which is the first known recorded set of laws. I have no idea whether the code records anything about “contingency fees,” but it does have rules and regulations about drinking and the sale of wine. This would lead one to assume that more than one Babylonian had a drinking problem back in 2000 B.C. The Bible too has much to say about intemperance.

Read it for yourselves; there is no room for all the reference’s here. The Greeks and the Romans were no shrinking violets when it came to drinking. It is common knowledge that the beverage of the average run-of-the-mill orgy was not milk. The booze problem was not the exclusive property of Western civilization either. In China, for instance, prohibition was tried some 47 times. The Chinese are notoriously temperate people too! How to distill liquor was discovered sometime during the Middle Ages. Some noble character noted that by boiling fermented liquid and then condensing it, he could produce a concoction that would liven almost any party. Routine fermentation yielded about 12 to 14 percent alcohol by volume; with distillation the alcoholic content rose to 3 or 4 times that amount.

Distilled beverages produced marked changes in the drinking habits of Europeans during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. It was indeed a marvelous thing to be able to drink less and get just as crocked! Did you know that one of the major contributing factors which put the New World on its feet was rum? The triangular traffic of rum, slave, and West Indian sugar cane did the trick. Makes one want to throw back his shoulders and swell with pride, doesn’t it?

From the Revolutionary days until now, Americans have not been noted for their temperance. Here’s a story you might enjoy: The U.5.S. Constitution started out from Boston in 1812, carrying 475 officers and men. Their supplies listed 74,000 pounds of shot, 11,500 pounds of powder, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, and 70,000 gallons of rum. Six weeks later the warship made Jamaica, where she took on 68,300 gallons of rum. Three weeks later, pro- visioning at the Azores, she shipped 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine. After shooting up the sea lanes around England, she made a raid up the Firth of Clyde and captured, among other things, a distillery; 40,000 gallons of Scotch whisky were transferred to the hold, after which the Americans headed for home.

The Constitution arrived in Boston several months later with all ammunition gone. So was all the rum, wine, and whiskey; but, as the story goes, still in the hold were those 48,000 gallons of water. Here is a recipe for one of the favorite drinks of Revolutionary days: Chatham Artillery Punch Three gallons of Catawba wine, one gallon of rum, one gallon of brandy, one gallon of rye whiskey, five pounds of brown sugar, two quarts of cherries, and the juice of three dozen lemons. Smooth with one gallon of gin. Just before serving, add three gallons of champagne. It sounds like something you’d put in your car, but, in those times, it was the drink of the day.

In order to counteract the enormous drinking pattern in the New World, the Temperance Movement was founded. It was no joke. Most of us recall pictures of the outraged women of the period, carrying huge signs and pointing accusing fingers at amused males who were getting plastered at their favorite tavern. And these women were quite successful with their protests. By 1920, 33 states had some form of prohibition.

The Eighteenth Amendment was passed in 1920. But, let’s face it, the law was highly unsuccessful. People merely made and drank a lot of bad booze for 13 years. Even though alcoholism declined somewhat, the turmoil was too high a price to pay. In 1933 the lawmakers called the whole thing off, and the populace felt much better, because now they could consume publicly the liquor they had been consuming privately despite the law. Today, about 70 percent of the adult males in the United States use alcohol, and better than 50 percent of the adult females are tipplers. These figures are conservative, to say the least.

As already noted, the latest figures on alcoholism list about 10 million alcoholics in the United States. The figure gets larger every time I see it. In 1971, American consumers spent 22 billion dollars for beer, wine, and whiskey. The measurable cost of enforcement, keep, and repair as compared to amounts collected in taxation on alcohol consumption is estimated at four to one. I do not know what Americans blew for booze last year, but I believe we may safely assume that it was a great deal more than 22 billion dollars.

The State of International Law Today

Today, international law seems to be in a paradoxical state. On the one hand there are signs of a loss of its authority, and perhaps even signs of its disintegration, as the US ambiguously either violates some of its rules or puts forward politico-legal justifications by which important rules would lose their capacity to make behaviour foreseeable. Some political rhetoric even goes further. On the other hand there is an increasing amount of international treaty-making and legislation taking place which suggests that the building of an international legal order is in full blossom. There are two alternative models which may serve to interpret this state of affairs (1.). They can be applied to different areas of international law, such as treaty-making (2.), jurisdiction, (3.), and human rights (4.).

Two Models

A first model would see the paradox as confirmation that international law is indeed changing towards a hierarchical system with the US in a position of unaccountability at the top: International law develops as far as the others bind themselves or let themselves be subjected to exercises of political power by the US which is itself much freer from legal constraints. This model can be called instrumental, as international law is seen to be relegated to an instrumental role, that is the role of stabilising the rule of the governing actor who himself remains relatively unconstrained.

A second model would interpret the paradox in a more dialectical fashion: The flourishing of international law among the rest of the world may also be a first counter­reaction to US unilateralist tendencies. While the web of international obligations may at first sight leave the US unconstrained and even help it to stabilise a world order which is under its control, this web also creates a subtle form of counterweight by which it becomes more difficult for the US to influence others. They have tied themselves together as Ulysses tied himself to the mast as a precaution against the seductive power of the sirens.

Treaty-Making

Recent treaty-making exemplifies this paradox: The US has been reluctant to participate in major recent law-making treaties. The best-known examples are the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol, the Landmines Convention, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Biological Weapons Verification Protocol. It is too simple to say that every state has a right not to participate in a treaty, just as it is too easy to say that a leading state has a moral obligation to participate in international law-making. The more appropriate approach for our purposes is to ask whether such treaties are likely to become law only for the second-rate rest of the world, serving the unbound imperial power to preserve stability, or whether a “compliance pull” (Franck) on the reluctant super-power will emanate from them. It is possible that a working International Criminal Court, for example, will mobilise moral sensibilities demanding equal justice for all, sensibilities which are particularly embedded in Western societies. An environmentally free-riding US should be difficult but not impossible to persuade.

Jurisdiction

Issues of jurisdiction are also important indicators for the general development of international law. The US has long been the champion in extensions of jurisdiction. Some of these extensions may have been substantially fed by characteristic forms of American self-confidence and self-righteousness. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that certain extensions of jurisdiction have been occasioned by objective factors which raise an issue for all legal systems in a time of globalisation. Here again, we are probably in a period of trial and error. When the US was the champion of extending its jurisdiction, other states and entities, such as the EU, partly followed suit which in turn led to a more ambiguous position of the formerly avant garde US. Today, the US is the main actor resisting the exercise of universal jurisdiction with respect to international crimes. It is another question whether this means that the US is only resisting the exercise of jurisdiction by others while at the same time pursuing its own extensions of jurisdiction. There may be political tendencies to that effect, but the important question is whether self-contradictory tendencies would be sustainable as state policy. This is to be doubted.

Human Rights

Human rights are currently under particular pressure from the US. Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, security concerns are being given a higher priority at the expense of the rights to life, liberty, property, privacy and others. “Guantanamo” has become a symbol of the US effort to free itself from certain international humanitarian and human rights law constraints in its “war against terrorism”. It is important to note, however, that such pressures on international law have little, if anything, to do with the contemplated “changing nature of the international legal system” from a more egalitarian to a more hierarchical legal order. Human rights are already the result of a certain loss of the egalitarian character of international law. They are primarily directed against the exercise of hierarchical exercises of authority. And there is nothing wrong, in principle, in reassessing the relative weight given to security concerns as opposed to privacy interests in the light of new developments. It should not be surprising, and it is legitimate, that the US is today a champion of security concerns. It is the shared responsibility of the US and all others to ensure that these security concerns are not exaggerated and that they remain appropriately balanced.

It would be significant, however, if the US claimed to be free from international human rights constraints (as opposed to domestic constitutional rights constraints) and at the same time insisted that other states remain bound by them. Although instances of such a “the king can do no wrong” attitude can be found, a double¬≠standard attitude is unlikely to be seriously adopted, or likely to attain more than occasional international or US domestic support. The interest of the US to use certain means which it wants to deny to others can only be satisfied by assertions that the situations are different. Due to its powers to characterise and to define situations, the US can achieve certain successes in efforts at distinguishing, particularly if it does not subject itself to formal international supervision procedures. There are, on the other hand, certain inherent limits to such powers. Human rights issues mostly concern individual cases, the circumstances of which can be independently verified and made subject to public discussion. Therefore, the accusation of hypocritical behaviour can be easily substantiated, with all the political inconveniences that this may entail. This is different, for instance, with respect to the assertion that a particular state should be treated as an international pariah because of its (suspected) harbouring of terrorists and/or developing of weapons of mass destruction.