All forms of commerce and social interactions are regulated and overseen by a form of law in various categories. The basic function and role of the law in business and society is to ensure that there is peace, personal freedom and social justice within a given society and social context. The law achieves these through the setting up of guidelines and regulations for various economic relationship and transactions and also by punishing those who do not adhere to these rules and regulations. In the American society, there are several types of laws. The overriding law is the federal law which transcends all the different States of America. There are also individual State Laws which deal with business and social issues that are unique and specific to a given State and do not significantly affect other States. This paper outlines some of the basic functions and roles of law in business and society in general.
The different laws affecting and influencing business and society can be classified into various relevant categories. These include constitutional or federal laws, statutes, treaties, ordinances and executive orders among others. Each of these categories covers a specific jurisdiction and has differing level of influence in both business and society. For instance, the federal laws mainly deal with interstate aspects of commerce and business. This means that the business activities that take place across and affect several states are covered under the federal laws. These may include the regulation of inter-state transport services and modes including road, rail and air transport. These interstate laws are drafted and regulated by the Congress under the Commerce Clause in the United States constitution which outlines the powers of the Congress to regulate business activities that have a substantial economic effect on interstate and commercial exchanges.
One example in which the law has significantly influenced a business activity that in which I was involved in the past is during a job interview whereby I was part of the interviewing panel. In this panel, one of the candidates who was applying for an accountancy job was disabled and on a wheelchair. His job was not going to be in any way hindered by his disability. However, his presence in the office was going to entail significant changes that the management was unprepared for. The candidate was greatly qualified compared to other candidates who had applied for the same position. However, the company had to hire the candidate because, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, one cannot be disqualified from employment if the disability did not hinder their productivity in whatever business role they were playing.
Apart from this personal experience, there have also been cases and incidences within the judicial system whereby the influence of law on business activities has been significantly felt. One example of this is the Cipollone v. Ligget Group case of 1992 in which Cipollone filed a suit against Ligget Group, blaming the company for his mother’s death because they had engaged in a course of conduct including false advertising. However, the plaintiff had based his claim upon the state laws which required advertisement to give specific details about the dangers associated with the product. The lawsuit was however lost because the federal law preempted these local state laws as it had a provision that specifically dealt with cigarette products, the products in question. According to the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965, the specific information that the plaintiff complained was missing was not required by the law (Mallor et al., 2005). This example indicates how a legal requirement would have ended up costing a business organization thousands of dollars in case the lawsuit was successful.
Lastly, the roles and functions of the law in business and society can be broadly classified in several utilitarian functions. For instance, the law ensures certainty and consistency in the society. When one knows what the rules are, it becomes easier for people to make investment plans and business contract decisions because they are assured that the terms are going to be adhered to. In the matters of consistency, the law ensures that all participants in a commercial activity are on the same page and those who may be tempted to stray are righted back into place. This results in a sense of security and protection for the majority who would still adhere to the set conditions of commerce. Since the law ensures fairness, entrepreneurship is encouraged as people’s rights are protected (Bagley & Dauchy, 2003). The law also keeps the government in check by ensuring that those in power do not unreasonably and suddenly change the rules of the game to favor them.
In conclusion, the ultimate role and function of the law in business and commerce is to ensure fair play and promote a moral balance that cannot be entrusted to individual people who may be corrupted by selfish concerns (Nesteruk, 1996). By ensuring that human rights are preserved and protected while at the same time setting limits regarding how business within the society should be run without unnecessarily harming or unfairly discriminating against some people, the law manages to ensure that commerce rises up to its full capacity in society. Law and ethics are therefore the spine and the heart of any given society. It is easier to control an individual person, but it takes the law to ensure individuals in the masses do not deviate from the common values of the society.