What Does The Law Mean To You? Although we all have an understanding of what law is, and generally why it's appropriate that it should be in place to serve and regulate our conduct in society, we seldom think of what law actually means in an everyday context. What is law for the average Joe in the street? How does law impact on our lives from day to day? Indeed, is the law a distant concept with which we find it hard to relate? In this article we will look at some of the fundamental ways law operates in society, in addition to the nature of the law as we know it. For some people, they feel as though the law is there merely to protect their interests, and that they have no need for daily interaction. However, they assume that if the day comes where their behaviour is called into question, the law will operate, the course of justice will be run, and the will of the people will be fulfilled. This is perhaps a naive interpretation of the function of law, and indeed the way it operates in our lives throughout the day. For instance, at the top level we have the constitution, establishing parameters within which the government can and cannot act to protect the citizens of our nation. That has an overwhelming effect on the way in which our government and indeed our country is run, which has a knock on effect on everything we do throughout the day and how we do it. Even at a local level, the law interacts with the services we are provided, the jobs we work and pretty much everything to do with the lives we lead. A distant concept? I don't think so. The law does not just operate in criminal spheres, nor is it confined to merely constitutional matters and the distribution of power. Law is a significantly more sophisticated tool in the orchestration of the day-to-day organisation of society, through regulating not only personal conduct but also the way we act in business situations. Take for example the everyday task of boarding a train. The law regulates many aspects of this feat: (1) the criminal law and the constitution permits us to board public transport. (2) The constitution permits us to make contract with another. (3) The laws of contract permit us to form a contract for transport with the train company, and ensure that that contract is fulfilled. (4) The laws of contract and tort allow us to board without fear of injury, or with remedy should the worst happen. Finally the law of ownership and currency allows us to hand over money in consideration for this service, which is of value to the other contracting party. In fact, the law regulates just about everything we do, and is vital in doing so to ensure the smooth running of community and every aspect of our lives. The law is not some abstract notion that can and will protect us when we need to rely on it. The law is an integral part of democratic life, and something which regulates our conduct, and in essence allows us to act according to our own desires within reason. Some may think the law is too restrictive in certain areas, but it works. The law serves its function as regulating our behaviour very well, and if it doesn't? We can change it. The fact is, law has been an important part of society since it began, with implied legal and social orders and boundaries that could not be crossed. Today, it is a sophisticated network of guidelines and regulations which is adapted to shape the way we live our lives from one day to the next. There is no doubt that the law is important to the citizen, and plays a profound impact on the lives of the people on a daily basis. Washington D.C. in the House After being told no for the last 200 years, the House of Representatives have okayed a bill that would allow a House of Representatives position to be created for the residents of the District of Columbia. This is a complete shock to some, who analyze the situation and state that technically the District of Columbia is not a state and has no right to a representative in the house. Along with adding a member of the house for the D.C. area, Utah has been given a fourth seat. Now the bill is passed along to the Senate to have a final approval but with the District of Columbia not being a true state, many are expecting the bill to be squashed. Some may not have realized but 200 years ago it was determined that the District of Columbia would be banned from a seat in the House since it was not a state. Utah was declined an additional seat in the house after falling shy of the required residents to acquire a fourth seat after the last census. However, since they are in the process of adding additional seats and Utah is so very close to the requirements it is expected that by the next election they should have the required number of residents to justify the additional seat. This is a major milestone in the House of Representatives, which has sat at 435 seats since 1960; it has been over 45 years since additional seats were added to the house. Opponents of the new bill have all been quick to point out that while it's wonderful that the House is looking to grow, the Constitution clearly states that the members of the House are chosen by the people of the states, which since the District of Columbia is not a state, causes a major snafu in the plans of the Democratic majority House. The House is slated to keep the 437 seats even after the 2010 census, which is when Utah is slated to be expanding to a 4th district. While this is the first time this measure has actually passed the House, it is not the first time it has been discussed, nor debated. Back in 1978, it was mentioned that the District of Columbia should be given a vote in the House of Representatives; however, the amendment was discarded after it was unable to be ratified by a quorum three-fourth majority of the states. Once again, the measure was attempted in 1993; however, this attempt was focused around moving the District of Columbia into statehood and transforming the District into a full-fledged state of the United States. This proposal was also rejected, so this is a major victory that has been attempted several times previously. Whether it will pass through the Senate, and ultimately receive legal effect, is still left to be determined. Many have argued that the District should be allowed a seat in the House, since the residents of the District pay taxes and fight in the wars of this country just like residents of any other state. The debate and battle rages on, and it will be a rather interesting experience to see if the District is able to win their bid to a permanent seat in the House. What is Crime? In simple words an act or behavior that violates or breaches the rule of political, moral or criminal laws and is liable for punishment and public prosecution. What are the basic reasons which make a people criminal? The answer lies in following points like: Increasing rate of Unemployment is the major problem of increasing crime rate. Consider a situation when the qualified young graduate is remains unemployed for longer period after he completed his education. His family has lot of expectations from him and to satisfy their expectations he can go up to any extent and cross any limit just in desire of small payment. At this stage he is not in a position to make a correct decision between what is just and what is unjust but he don't want to miss any of the opportunity that life is giving him and in this feeling only he accepts those offers which can change his life and can break their social and moral ethics and they are ready to commit crimes, they are ready to kill a person, they are ready to accept any offer that can prove to be a money earning source for them. And this major unemployed segment of society is the main source for crime. No criminal is by birth a criminal but it is the circumstances which make him do so. But this problem is mainly associated with the developing countries. So what about developed countries? Do they not commit crimes? No they also commit crimes. Even the crime rate is higher in highly developed country like USA than other developed countries of the world. High ambitions are also the one source for crime. A person who has high ambitions like if he wants to enjoy all the comforts of life or wants to achieve the high status in his life he wanted to complete them at any cost may achieve unfair means to fulfill his wish. To make his wishes come true or to enjoy the luxuries of life he can come in the way of crime as this seems to be an easy money earning source for them and when they do crime for the first time then professional criminals tae advantage of it compel them to commit such acts again and again and now if they want to come back they can not be their way back to path of justice and honesty. Technology Advancements are also one of the reasons for increasing of crime rate. This is because technology advancements have broadened the mind of people and they now can think better ways of committing crimes. Like most of the young person want to own and make use of highly sophisticated arms. And if they are not made available to them, they think for different ways and professional criminal's takes advantage of this. Technology advancements have now made the way of criminals easier than before. Do the allow of guns to people for carry and own will reduce the rate of crime or increase the rate of crime. A study conducted by scholar presents the fact that if people are allowed to carry guns then it will reduce the rate of crime. The Scope and Nature of the Criminal Law In our private lives, the area of law we will experience the most, either directly or indirectly would have to be the criminal law. Not necessarily through contravening its principals, the individual citizen will more commonly encounter its breadth in the course of their everyday lives, considering as a factor the legal ramifications of any desired conduct or decision in the decision making process. For most of us, we tend to live our lives within these predetermined boundaries with no second thought or question as to the morality of the prohibited option nor the moral authority behind it. In this article, it is proposed to look at the nature and scope of the criminal law in our society, and to discuss whether as an entity it is too intrusive, or whether it is naturally a required aspect of regulating society. It is often said academically that the citizen enjoys freedom to act as he wishes in his life, subject to the regulatory provisions of the criminal law and the criminal justice system. It is thought that as citizens of a particular country, largely at freedom to choose where we live in the world, we impliedly accept the authority of the relevant legal provisions which, for the most part, regulate on a moral level. Of course there are exceptions, i.e. criminal laws of a regulatory or secondary nature which do not directly bear any moral message, such as speeding limits or parking restrictions. So, then, to what extent does the criminal law reflect morality, and further from what source is this morality derived? The criminal law is said to operate in mind of the public good, and the benefit of society. It could, therefore, be argued to be crossing the boundaries into serious restrictions on liberty when it regulates personal conduct like drug use which may not have any wider impact than on that of the person indulging accordingly. Why should the criminal law impose restrictions on what a person can do with his or her own body? Surely our own freewill is a good enough justification for acting outwith the scope of the law in these types of scenario? Furthermore an interesting area of the criminal law is potential liability for omissions. In this sense, the citizen can actually be punished without acting at all in a specific way. This takes the criminal law beyond a regulatory framework for the public good into an actual coercive force to make people positively act in a certain way. For example, in some jurisdictions there is a legal duty to report a road traffic accident. This means a citizen who is aware of the occurrence of such will have committed a criminal offence where he does not act in the prescribed manner. Again, this is surely affording a broad scope to the criminal law, which may be seen by some as intruding on the fundamental freedoms and values upon which most modern nations were built. It is interesting to consider the real impact of the criminal law, and the sheer breadth of conduct it regulates. From the objectively morally wrong to the less obvious cases of imposition of liability, the criminal law places severe restrictions on the general principal of absolute liberty, which is clearly the subject of much academic and philosophical debate. Succession Law: The Importance of Having a Will Although we might not like to think of it, death is a certain fate for us all. When we pass away, our families will go through a stressful and traumatic time as they come to terms with their loss. At the same time, there is a requirement for the administration of our estate, and this is usually bestowed upon a close relative or friend during this already painful time. However, a lack of foresight and planning can be catastrophic, leaving behind a tangle of assets and liabilities and possibly a hefty inheritance tax bill, depending on jurisdiction. On top of that, the absence of a will can mean a distribution of assets on the basis of standard 'default' rules, rather than on the basis of your individual preferences. In this article, we will look at some common provisions in the absence of any will, and aim to justify the benefits of making a comprehensive and clear will during your lifetime. Most jurisdictions will bear some liability to tax on death. This can be a specific problem for the administrators of estates, usually close friends, who must ensure every known asset and liability is accounted for before making legacies and signing off the tax bill. A major problem comes with the personal liability attributed to the administrators, which means that should anything 'slip through the net' which is later discovered, there may be increased liability to tax. In practical terms, this could mean a surprise bill for several thousand which has already been distributed in legacies and for which the administrator must personally account. Providing for these outcomes in a will is one of the best ways of avoiding this hassle and stress, and it can also be the best way to ensure all assets and liabilities are uncovered. By drafting an effective will, you can be sure your loved ones don't face financial hardship after you're gone. In the absence of a will providing specifically for the administration of a deceased's estate, it is up to the laws of intestacy to determine what happens to the entirety of our worldly possessions. Unfortunately, this doesn't usually correspond with the way we'd like things to turn out. For example, in a number of jurisdictions there are automatic provisions for spouses and kids, meaning you can disinherit, even with a will. There is also usually a default order of preference of who gets what and how much they get, which doesn't necessarily match your favourite relatives, or correspond to actual family set ups. In fact, cohabiters might run into problems getting anything, including the house in which they live without proper testamentary provisions in their favour. As you can see there are a number of obvious benefits to drafting a will during your lifetime. Sadly, many thousands of people die each year without making these provisions, and it really is a real headache for their friends and relatives who are left with the burden of a fair settlement. Intestacy causes hostility and stress, which can be readily avoided by just simply making a written will. If you haven't made a will, it is probably a good idea to make a appointment as soon as is convenient with a legal adviser to do so, to ensure your family are provided for as you would intend and to promote a favourable distribution of your estate on death. Writing A Will One of the most important legal activities each of us faces is deciding how, after our death, our assets will be used and who will benefit from them. Estate planning and the writing of a will is a deeply meaningful way to make a powerful statement with these assets. However, a great number of people die "intestate" (without a will). When that happens the state or others decide for us where and how the estate will be distributed. If your preferences have not been clearly stated in a will, then it is likely that those preferences will not be carried out. It is, therefore, vital that you have a will. It is a wonderful way of expressing your love to the people and organizations you cherish. It is a way to take control of your assets, and make a positive statement. Guidelines to Consider When Writing a Will There are four "P's" of estate planning: People: Consider all the people who are important to you and for whom you'd like to provide. This might include your spouse, children, relatives and friends. Property: Consider all property that you own including bank accounts, real estate, stocks, bonds, life insurance, pension plans and personal property. Plans: Ask yourself how you'd like to provide for the people in your life, and how you can make this happen. Will the people who are important to you be provided for in the future? Will you have enough income to manage during your retirement years? Planners: Who are the people who will help you with your financial goals? Consider attorneys, accountants, bank trust officers, stock brokers and insurance agents to help you meet your financial goals. Tips on Naming Beneficiaries: * Understand the limits of a will. * Know when beneficiaries are required. * Decide who gets what. * Don't name your estate as a beneficiary. * Don't name minor children as beneficiaries. * Consider setting up a trust. * Think about tax ramifications. * Name contingent beneficiaries. * Keep everything up-to-date. * Make copies. FAQ Q: I don't have a will, where do I start? A: As a will is a legal document, it is strongly recommended that you consult your solicitor. Q: What about home-made wills? A: Home-made wills can be disastrous. You may omit particularly important details, or inadvertently write sections in a way that can be misinterpreted. Making a will with the help of your solicitor is the only way you can be sure that your wishes will be followed after you die. By drafting a will with a professional, you will save your family a lot of extra worry. Q: What can I include in my will? A: Wills aren't solely about passing on your assets. You can also include specific funeral arrangements: for instance, burial, cremation, or the use of your body for medical research. You may also want to appoint legal guardians to care for your children if you and your partner should die before they are 18. Q: Who do I appoint as Executors? A: One other important consideration when writing your will is the appointment of your Executors -- the people who deal with your estate in the event of your death. Ideally, these should be business-minded family or friends or professional advisers. Glossary of Will Terms Administrators. Those appointed to administer an estate where there is no will or no executor. Bequest. Same as "Legacy". Beneficiary. A named individual or organisation who benefits from your Will. Codicil. A document making minor changes to your Will. Must be signed and witnessed in the same manner as your Will. Crown. This means the Treasury, where your money will go if you have no next of kin and did not make a will. Estate. Everything belonging to you, and owed to you, at the time of your death. Executors. Referred to in your Will as trustees. These are the people you appoint to deal with all your affairs after your death. Guardians. Those you appoint to care for your children until they reach the age of eighteen years. Intestacy. A person is said to die intestate if he dies without making a valid Will. Pecuniary. Legacy Specific sum of money given by a Will. Probate. A procedure, required under law in most cases, to establish formally whether you left a legally valid Will and who your executors will be. Residuary Legacy. The residue of an estate, or a share in it. Residue. The remains of your estate after payment of all debts, expenses, tax and distribution of pecuniary and specific legacies Specific Legacy. A tangible item, such as a gold watch or an engagement ring. Testator. The person making the Will. Copyright Copyright is a legal fiction designed to protect the works of artists, inventors and innovators. In essence, it is a legal bar, allowing exclusivity for those who create works in the form of an intangible asset which can be sold or relinquished, and which expires upon a certain period of time. With the growth of the internet, and the creation of more and more content, the question of copyright is becoming increasingly more relevant, and one which more and more webmasters are considering to protect their own interests. Additionally, with the rise of the freelancer market, the issue of copyright is becoming a heated topic of debate for both buyers and sellers at every stage in the production chain, and the effects of not having the relevant rights could be potentially catastrophic. In this article, we'll look at what exactly copyright is, and how it relates to the internet in content creation. Copyright is an artificial concept that gives the creator of a work, or the person he sells the right to, the legal right to use or modify in whole or in part, and to call their own. It has a different meaning in most jurisdictions, however the basic principle is the same: the creator owns the original copyright to the work in question, and has the freedom to pass this on at will, usually in consideration for money. Where a creator is working on commission, copyright is designed to act as a lien in his favour, meaning that if he creates and passes on but does not receive payment, he can withhold copyright and sue for breach where applicable. Of course, he would also have remedies under the ordinary law of contract, but the grasp of copyright is a very powerful tool, which can even be used against the third party buyer from the original commissioner. Copyright is designed as a tool to cover what is known as intellectual property. Committing intellectual thoughts and ideas to paper, or making them tangible is usually sufficient to give rise to the copyright protection, which usually lasts for a number of decades in preventing others from steeling ideas. This is primarily designed to encourage forward thinking and art, and can be a vital tool in protecting the financial interests of those responsible for some of the world's most vital progressions. Consider the inventors of the seatbelt, Volvo. Volvo could have used their copyright to prevent other manufacturers from installing seat belts, and this would have been sufficient to protect any other manufacturer from doing so. Of course they waived their rights for the safety of the general public, which is also a possible consideration for the creator of something new and innovative. Copyright is an exhaustible right, and it usually expires on a given date, after which all works enter the public domain. This means that those who create new products have sufficient time to capitalise on their idea before the world at large can join in. Unfortunately for many musicians, this means their artistic works can no longer make them money specifically, and can be used royalty free; a fact that has caused much uproar and unrest in recent years. Copyright is a dynamic area of the law, and is particularly relevant to the internet. As more and more content of more and more varieties is created online, there comes a need to find protection in copyright law to prevent unscrupulous parties from using content without authorisation. In combating this, a number of international legal organisations have been established with a view to tackling copyright violation, and helping those without legal support to fight cases for the protection of their work. It is undoubtedly an area of law that is on the ascendancy, as lawyers worldwide strive to find a cohesive structure to online intellectual property law, and the protections online authors should be afforded for creating their works. At least within national boundaries, it is highly possible to rely on copyright laws to protect and govern material. Women's Rights In previous years, generations ago women were considered property of the husband or father to whom they belonged. Now as we have progressed into the 21st century women have stepped up to the plate and are an integral part of society and politics, on an entirely equal footing with men. In the past, women were considered as belonging to their husbands or fathers, now they are the CEO's of major corporations. Women today are a very important part of society, with women in jobs such as judges, Senators, Congress, and even Governors -- a feat that would have been highly surprising even twenty years ago. These positions were not possible previously, with widespread social reform needed to bring about this change. In previous years, women were only allowed to work on the family farm, or be a teacher, rather than being afforded experience in practical situations. Women were expected to be married by the end of their teenage years, and were overlooked in conversations as being unable to contribute anything valid. When elections were first started, women were not allowed to vote, they were barely allowed the right to run their own homes. As society has progressed, we have seen women moving from the back of the line, to the front of the public eye, occupying more and more positions of authority and respect. More women now than ever are working outside the home, and proving their own worth without a man to hold them up. Many women are even choosing to not get married, as well as not have children, although experts are suggesting this will have implications for future generations. With the push towards women's rights, there has also been pushes towards expanding the rights for the lesbian community. More women are stepping forward to fight for the rights that they are owed and due, alongside those already afforded to the male homosexual community. Women have been taxpayers for as long as men have, at the same rates, and there are daily battles and struggles to overcome the problems and oppression that women are faced with, especially within the homosexual community to level this unfairness. Even in today's society and the move away from sexism there is still a notable difference in the amount of money a man earns compared to the amount of money a woman earns for the same job. This is regardless of experience, training, and education, as many employers still feel women lack the competence to work within a competitive environment. There are always major differences in the way issues are handled and there seems to be new differences appearing each and every day. How society adapts is the important part, we are on the brink of the first woman in history winning a democratic party bid for the Presidency and this makes a wonderful time for women. We are in the days, weeks, months and years following the Clinton presidency, and since then, Hillary Rodham Clinton has set an exception example for women by stepping out from behind her husband's shadow and making a name for herself in the political arena. With her impact on the forthcoming Presidential elections still unknown, it will be interesting to see the effect this has on women's rights both domestically and across the world. Women are fighting and struggling each and every day to prove their worth, but with each day that passes a small victory for women's rights, we are proving each and every day that we are a force to be dealt with. Many people are eagerly awaiting the day when men and women are truly treated as equals. It might be 2 days from now or perhaps 20 years from now, but it is a work in progress and will be accomplished. By working together with the community as a whole, and avoiding a destructively defensive view point, women can promote their interests, as can men, to create a truly equitable environment. The INS, Role, and Responsibilities In the days following the 9/11 attacks there have been many changes in the organization and how the government handles the flow of people coming into the country. The INS was first started as the organization that was responsible for handing the people who were applying for citizenship and residency. INS stands for Immigration and Naturalization Service, the organization charged with respecting the safety of the USA. The INS is now responsible for many tasks that it never had before, including inspecting travelers who are entering and exiting the United States gates through more than 300 points of entry nationwide. Whether you are coming or going from the United States, you are likely to be passing through an INS worker who is responsible for helping make sure anyone who is wanted by the law is not able to gain entry to the country. Although largely a precaution, it is thought that this will be most helpful in preventing possible threats to national security. Other tasks of the INS include handling the residence status of all who apply for residence and citizenship. They also handle and seek to regulate the status of all permanent and temporary immigration requests. The INS. also handles tourists, and students, as well as those coming for conventions, special classes, visiting family and all other business. The INS has also been given the tasks of controlling all of the borders into the United States, especially the borders between Mexico and the United States and Canada and the United States. This is an extremely large task since the United States shares such large land borders with two other countries. This allows for an almost daily flow of people trying to enter the country illegally. INS workers are also responsible for handling and removing all people who have no legal rights to be in this country. They are responsible for removing the parties in accordance with the laws, and by following all of the standards that are set in place for obtaining temporary status, or returning the person to the country where they came from. In a report the INS released in 2001, there was 31,971 employees on staff. This resulted in a rate of 24,233 of these employees being classified as enforcement personal were used to enforce the laws, rulings and policies of this country. The INS today is a function of the Justice Department and serves mostly as an investigative unit, unlike many other departments, which serve as law enforcement units instead. In recent years, the borders have had more illegal entry than previously, which has resulted in larger amounts of staff being added to help secure the borders and protect our country. Without being able to know who is entering our country, we are unable to truly protect our citizens and other people. Border patrol agents is the one largest area where the INS has seen growth in jobs available. Due to the increase of jobs in the border patrol, we are able to see much fewer illegal entries into the country. As we progress into a country that is, more accommodating of people from various cultures it will be quite interesting to see how the INS is changed to adapt and become more friendly to the needs of all people, even those entering the country. The Fairness of Limited Liability Limited liability is one of the most successful commercial creations of all time, almost singularly responsible for the growth and expansion of capitalism. Encouraging risk and promoting successful enterprise through both small and large businesses alike, limited liability has been the driving force behind economic success in the Western world and is one of the most celebrated legal creations of all time. But what is it about limited liability that makes it so successful? Indeed, is the structure of limited liability fair as regards creditors, who ultimately bear the brunt of this mechanism? Limited liability in general means a sacrifice of privacy in return for the benefit of limited personal liability. In layman's terms, this means that the company promoter is not personally liable for any of the company's debts, thus encouraging risk and promoting enterprise. For most small businesses, it is a lifeline, and without it the economy would level out and stifle with fewer new start-ups each year. At the back end, however, these businesses leave behind a trail of debts that ultimately result in financial loss for lenders and those that operate on credit terms. This raises the general question of whether limited liability as a creation is fair for the creditors it so apparently prejudices? Limited liability has given life to companies across the world, by providing the reassurances necessary to entrepreneurs to take the risk, safe in the knowledge that personally speaking they should come out unscathed. From this, more companies have grown and flourished, which has led to more jobs and better state welfare for virtually all capitalist economies. The strength of this function has gone a long way towards building the great superpowers, and is seriously underestimated as a legal construct. Limited liability leaves a gap in the pockets of those companies that lend money or offer their customers credit terms during the course of their business. As a consequence of the promoter's ability to walk away with his hands clean, many businesses find the squeeze of bad debts too severe, and end up having to take on credit of their own to meet the shortcomings. In theory, limited liability leaves creditors in a weak situation, with relatively limited powers to regain the full amount of any monies due. In reality, limited liability doesn't operate in that way. Of course, many businesses go under every year as their owners walk free of encumbrance, but generally speaking the economic world does not work between insolvent companies. However, the flexibility allowed by limited liability has meant debt in a sense has become effective currency, and has helped businesses to survive during tough times, and to seek the financial help necessary without the appropriate risk. Limited liability might be seen as slightly unfair at the razor's edge, but it works all round to ensure that everyone has access to credit and the benefits of limitation of damages when it is necessary. Ultimately, it promotes a more competitive, lower-risk environment within which business can flourish and economies can grow and multiply, providing jobs and economic strength to nations embracing its basic form. As legal fictions go, the limited company has undoubtedly prove itself to be one of the most popular ever created, and its growth looks set to continue as it is developed and refined across the world. The European Convention on Human Rights: The Wider Implications The European Convention on Human Rights has seen vast changes to the legal framework of countries across Europe. By imposing fundamental freedoms and liberties in an indefeasible form, it has created a host of legal problems and issues for courts to tackle in an attempt to improve human rights. Distinct from the US, which already retains fundamental freedoms through its definitive constitution, much of Europe in particular the UK doesn't have the same codified provisions for its citizens. This has now been revolutionised by the ratification of the European Convention (ECHR), which sets out certain primary standards that must be attained in relation to each individual citizen. In this article, we will look at the advantages of the ECHR, and the wide-ranging impact it has had on the various constitutions around Europe. The European Convention on Human Rights was established as an international treaty to afford a uniform standard of human rights treatment across Europe. Covering basic freedoms like the right to life through to trickier issues such as the right to liberty and the right to marry, ECHR has had an astonishing impact on Europe both legally and politically. In passing legislation, European governments have to as a matter of law legislate in accordance with the provisions contained within the ECHR. This means parliaments of signatory countries are being bound by their predecessors to legislate in a particular way, which has ruled out a number of would-be pledges and meant the reversal of certain national laws. One area where this has caused problems is in abortion. The perpetual morality debate aside, abortion has been held to contravene the right to life provision in certain European countries. Although there is still great scope for challenge, this could potentially cause problems in the coming years as more and more cases of this nature are brought before the European court. Another major problem area is that of same sex marriages. The universal right to marry means that any provision stopping same sex marriage anywhere in Europe could potentially be struck down as illegal, requiring nations to actively realign their current provisions to avoid any discrimination. For this reason, the UK, amongst others, have taken proactive measures to permit same-sex marriages to avoid the embarrassment of a public ruling against them. This obviously raises problems of national power and freedom: nations are now utterly bound by the principles of European 'liberty', whether they like it or not. Thankfully this social and legal upheaval is working towards a more liberty-orientated Europe. It is certainly taking time, and given the fact that the ECHR is over half a century old, its impacts are becoming more and more apparent as time wears on and as courts are presented with modern challenges located within the context of the original ECHR provisions. Additionally, the European Convention on Human Rights is being regularly updated and amended to provide a steadfast constitution for the citizen whilst retaining the flexibility to adapt to contemporary situations. Although the ECHR and the provisions contained within it have met stiff opposition throughout their lifetime, most would now agree that the level of individual certainty provided by these fundamental freedoms is making for a better quality of life and reducing the scope for discrimination and prejudice across Europe. Taxation Law for the Sole Trader They say the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes. For the sole trader, this is definitely the case, and at times it can seem like an overbearing pressure. Thankfully, for the sole trader there are many ways in which you can minimise liability to income tax and leave more in your bank account at the end of the month. In this article, we will look at some of the key features of tax management from the perspective of the sole trader, and some of the ways in which the sole trader can minimise the legal consequences of his operation. As a sole trader, you are usually accountable for your profits in terms of income tax. This can be particularly problematic, given that the structure of income tax in most jurisdictions is a fairly heavy burden on the citizen, particularly those with higher incomes. The first thing that should be considered is incorporation. As a corporate entity, you will be required to handle more paperwork, but ultimately it will save you money. Corporation tax on profits is lower than income tax in the majority of situations, and dividend income carries less taxable weight than other income, for example wages and salaries. The first thing to do, as a sole trader within the top income tax bracket, is to incorporate, which could potentially save thousands every year. The sole trader must be aware of the fact that there are certain items that cannot be discounted from income. In fact, certain everyday items must be declared and must give rise to tax. For example, say a self-employed solicitor is given a bottle of fine wine by a particular client every year as thanks for his service. This wine, although not initially apparent, will usually require declaration for tax, on the basis that it is an ongoing gift or benefit arising from employment. It is therefore important to watch what is included and what is ignored from your tax return. If you are at all unsure, it is better to include an item and pay tax, rather than running the risk of neglecting to mention its existence. Alternatively, it may be a good idea to consult a specialist on the particular laws of your jurisdiction, and to determine whether or not it would be possible to avoid liability. Another important thing to remember is that there may be certain personal capital gains liability for disposal of a primarily business asset. As a sole trader, this means you will be liable to account for the disposal of the asset and any capital gains at market value, which can be a costly business. Again, it is probably advisable to consult a tax lawyer or tax adviser to minimise liability on disposal and to manage your tax liability more effectively. Tax law is a particularly intricate area of the law, and one that is in perpetual change. This means the small business owner is required to keep one eye on tax developments to avoid being caught out, which means there is less room for focus on the core areas of business and making money. Alternatively, the advice of a tax specialist can be invaluable in minimising overall liability and ultimately saving money from your tax bill every year. Taxation Law for Small Businesses Taxation law is a complex and in-depth area of concern for the small business owner. With potential pecuniary and criminal consequences, it is of paramount importance to ensure as a business owner, you are familiar with the tax consequences in your jurisdictions, and the ways in which you can minimise your liability. Whilst one of the most legally important things to understand as a small business owner, taxation law also provides an excellent opportunity for saving money and increasing profitability within a small business environment. In this article, we will look at some of the main and most common tax implications of running a small business, and some of the most effective ways of ensuring you pay less tax through your small business operation. Tax regimes vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and the implications of running a small business also vary, both in terms of the legal and financial requirements. Having said that, there are a number of common elements that transcend jurisdiction and appear in numerous guises across various systems that can be of use to the small business owner. One of the first things to consider as a small business owner is to establish a limited liability company. The primary reason for this is that limited liability companies usually provide a more relaxed tax regime as compared to income tax liability. A sole proprietor operating out-with the parameters of a corporate entity is liable to account for profits as income, which can lead to a greater tax liability and potential individual state contributions. As a corporate entity, the owner can pay himself via share dividends, which carry a lower tax liability and thus minimising his overall liability to tax. This is significantly better than paying oneself a wage, which bears the tax liability from both ends, i.e. the company is liable to taxation as is the employee. Another essential for the small business owner is what is known as capital allowance. By means of capital allowance, business owners can offset the acquisition cost of assets on a graduated scale in accordance with the specific principles of the regime in question. This is in effect a deductible expense, which ultimately minimises yearly tax liability. There is a particular benefit in that many regimes allow an accelerated relief for business assets. This can be exploited to an extent by acquiring assets through the business, for example a car, which can also be used for personal purposes. Rather than buying a car from personal income, buying it through the company allows you to offset the amount of the expense quickly against your business profits, which ultimately reduce your liability to tax. Before embarking on any tax reducing strategies, it is important to ensure you are acquainted with the specific laws of your jurisdiction to avoid running into trouble with the authorities. In some of Europe, for example, there is a requirement to declare any specific tax minimising strategies to the government to allow for rectification of loopholes. It is important to ensure you are acquainted with the specific laws to avoid potential criminal liability as a consequence of ignorance. By familiarising yourself with the laws in your jurisdiction, you can avoid the potential pitfalls and create a tax planning strategy that provides the most cost effective solution for you and your small business.
Supreme Court Abortion Decision After much deliberation and discussion, the Supreme Court has returned a critical strike to the core of women's rights in the abortion arena. The court in a 5-4 decision banned a medical procedure known as a partial-birth abortion or Dilation and Extraction. This abortion procedure was performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. While the pro-rights crowd is naturally upset over the ban, they are horrified over the fact that there are no exceptions to the ban that would enable a doctor to save the life of a woman if it was medically necessary to perform the procedure. Doctors can face up to 2 years in prison if they are convicted of performing the procedures, which will greatly limit the numbers of doctors performing the procedures and likely increase the number of states placing bans of the entire abortion procedure as well. The decision came from a split Supreme Court, with two of the justices being hand picked by Bush himself. This is a cause of great concern, suggesting that the Supreme Court has turned into a very conservative place, despite the lack of support for Bush and many of his ideas and practices on a broader level. The Supreme Court's involvement in politics is usually noted, but given the gravity of this decision it is clear where certain allegiances lie. Is the Supreme Court really following the wishes of the majority, do they really have the legal right to determine that a medical decision can or cannot be performed? The anti-abortion camps in the GOP are happy following the decision and are busily looking for more ways to put a damper on the rights of women in regards to abortions. How will this decision be regarded when it comes election time, and the Presidential elections come around? What about the midterm elections next time they are scheduled? Many people are left to wonder if the Supreme Court decision is truly a legal decision, or nothing more than a very carefully selected group of ultra conservative judge's who are following Bush's wishes and desires in regards to the case. The case was sitting before a panel of judge's who seem to thrive off of the acceptance of Bush, and Bush was noted as being encouraged by the ruling and declaring it as a victory for his administration. The court defended its decision by saying that it was doing nothing more than drawing a line between abortion and infanticide. There is a difference between killing a child, or an infant, and an abortion. One of the most notable differences is that a child or infant is not considered an infant until the first breath of air is taken into the lungs. An abortion does not allow the infant to take that first breath of air, therefore, removing the term infant from their being. While it is noble that the Supreme Court is looking and seeking to protect all forms of life, they should also concern themselves with the lives of the mothers who carry babies, who should not be allowed to continue to term for medical reasons. There are numerous women each year who become pregnant who are unable physically to carry a child to term, and must abort the child, or risk their own life. What has the Supreme Court done in order to protect those mothers, or improve their quality of life? Straight Marriages -- Gay Unions The debate of gay marriages has been a very hot political topic for many years and with being such a hot topic it is almost astounding the number of places that have come out publicly either for or against the topic. While there are few states who allow the idea of a gay or same-sex marriage there are those more liberal affording almost equal rights. Massachusetts is the only state currently in the United States that allows same-sex marriages. The state of Rhode Island is generous enough to recognize as legal marriage any same-sex marriage that is performed in Massachusetts, which is a major victory for many same-sex supporters. The elections of recent years have seen this as a very hot topic button, and with the White House, stressing that marriage involves a man and a woman only, not same-sexes many states have been very reluctant to allow the same-sex marriages. However, a few states have come forward and allowed same-sex civil unions, which are very similar to a marriage. These states are California, Hawaii, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont. The District of Columbia also recognizes same-sex unions and soon the Governor of New Hampshire has stated publicly that he will sign a bill giving the ok to same-sex unions. This is a major victory for those who are supporting the movement. While many states have not given the green light on the same-sex issue, there are states who are sitting around discussing the issues. Many couples who are fighting for their rights have argued that there is no difference in the way they run their households compared to their heterosexual counterparts. They have also stated that while they may be with a partner who is the same sex as them, they do still love their partner and should have the right to get married. This has always been a hot topic, and likely will continue to be a hot topic for many years to come. With the issues raging within the states and at the national level it will likely be a very long time before the gay and lesbian rights groups are able to truly declare a victory for their cause. Nevertheless, there is some solace to be taken in the small victories as they occur, and another Governor of a state being willing to allow a civil union is at least a step in the direction towards a victory. The fact remains that often the views of the individual states tend to reflect the views of the President. With a President in office who is a staunch opponent to the concept of same-sex marriage as well as civil unions it is unlikely to allow much room for many victories until a more accommodating, or rather liberal, President is in the White House. Once the bill passes all of the channels, it can go into effect as early as next year for the New Hampshire residence who have long been awaiting this victory. With each state that gives this right to its residents, it opens the doors to more states to start becoming more tolerant of all their inhabitants. Finally, this is paving the way for America to join the bulk of Europe in recognizing the legal inequalities between straight and gay couples nationwide. Stem Cell Research- Good or Bad? This is a very 'hot button' issue that keeps arising in the face of politicians everywhere in the country. What if anything should the government involve itself in for the issues of stem cell research? How far should the government press into the fields of medical science research? Should the government interfere at all, or stand back and come up with laws to handle the consequences of such research? It comes into question, how many ordinary Americans really know and understand what stem cell research is, how it can effect our lives, and what does it have the ability to do in the future? With topics such as abortion being very hot and causing pressures on all sides, it only seems natural that stem cell research should cause just as much controversy. Many supporters argue that the research gathered will be able to save millions of lives, while those opposing the research all argue that they are killing thousands of innocent children in the process. This brings the question, where do the embryos come from? The majority of the embryos used in the research come from couples that have donated them, following a treatment for infertility; there are often 10 or more embryos left over after such procedures, which can be put to use in the laboratory environment. The options for those embryos are limited; they can be preserved, adopted to a needy couple, destroyed, or donated to medical research. The embryos are only a few mere days past conception when they are frozen, and are unable to sustain life in any form on their own. From a legal standpoint, they are not living humans, and are not an infant since legally an embryo becomes an infant once the first breath of air is taken. This leaves the questions of who has the right to determine what can happen to them. The embryos are the building blocks of people, yet, they have no rights themselves. Whom do they belong to? Who is responsible for ensuring they are taken care of? Many consider the embryos being used in research as the same category as murder. Is it actually murder when the child is never born, and is only conceived in a test tube? Who should really make the decision about how these embryos should be handled? The embryos themselves are rich in stem cells, which scientists have said can help cure some of the worst diseases and conditions in the world. This makes the concept very tempting, but is this dabbling in aspects of science that shouldn't be used? Should humans really be trying to recreate whole body parts and organs from the stem cells in order to help a few, but at the expense of a few other lives? The current administration has tried to place a ban on this research and block the use of the embryos. This has upset many supporters who feel this research is vital to the survival of the human race, while those who digress the ideas are upset that is has not been banned fully yet. Where is the better side to stand? Should we allow the government to meddle into the scientific aspects of medicine, or should we continue the research to save thousands, or millions of lives? Sex Offender Laws With the high rise in the number of sex offenders who are also repeated offenders the federal government decided to impose laws requiring all convicted sexual offenders to register with the states in which they live. Although this measure is controversial, government officials are claiming that it is an increasingly effective method of avoiding re-offending in some of the most serious criminals. Is this an invasion of privacy that the states and politicians have imposed upon someone who has served their sentence, or is this a legitimate measure of control for some of society's most dangerous offenders? At some point in time, it became acceptable for the government to track former criminals; in requiring them to register as an offender, they are essentially tracking the criminal. They do nothing more than monitor closely their whereabouts, actions, friends, lifestyle, etc. How this came to be is quite scary, while it has occurred for a crime that fits the punishment, after all our children should be protected. It also comes with a price. Many people see this as an intense invasion of privacy and human rights, and in Europe under the banner of the European Convention on Human Rights, such procedures would almost certainly not be allowed. Since beginning this and requiring that all sexual offenders register with their respective states, it opens the door for criminals of other crimes to be required to register. Once that occurs, it allows the governments to start requiring slowly that everyone be registered for one reason or another. Is this something that the people are willing to let happen? Should the government have full knowledge and control over where you go, who your friends are and where you work? Many feel that the laws for the sexual offenders are not stiff enough; they call for stricter punishments and heavier penalties for these most despicable of criminals. This comes from the side of people that wish to seek nothing more than revenge. At the same time, if someone commits a crime whom is sent for mental help, instead of jail they are not required to register. Their offenses are recorded differently, and their punishment is much easier. This can cause serious problems in terms of people not being registered that really should be registered as an offender. The main goal of the program is to protect the interest of the children; after all, they are the main resource worth protecting in society. Nevertheless, how far is too far? Some have suggested implanting the offenders with a microchip that would enable law enforcement agencies to track the offenders' movements continuously. Is this something that the American public is willing to accept? With this being talked about, what are the chances of this occurring for other crimes as well? What is the point of releasing someone from the judicial system if they are so dangerous that they must be continuously tracked? As a woman, or a child how safe do you feel knowing that there are people surrounding you whom have been convicted of serious crimes against others? What about as a man, does this change your opinion? The requirement for registration causes social problems and victimization for those offenders, arguably justifiably, who have shown themselves to be dangerous. This has the knock on effect of altering the course of justice, given that these people will have served the appropriate sentence for their crime, and hopefully have progressed through the systems of rehabilitation in place. How do you think it should be handled? There are some people who truly believe that the registrations processes should be removed, that once their time is served the offenders should be allowed to disappear back into the woodwork and free to live their lives without being under the public scrutiny. These are the people who are looking to have yet another law changed, that could have some very devastating effects on society, particularly for our children in the coming generations. Positivist Legal Theory The question of the character of law is primarily a simple one, although it presents a diversity of argumentation to make it an academic favourite and a thought-provoking topic of debate. Positivism is the term describing the school of legal thought that follows that law is an authoritative, binding, regulatory construct. It holds at its core the idea that law is enacted as an authoritative statement of how society must behave. It rejects the concept of any connection with morality, and suggests that there is no room for subjective consideration of the law -- the law is, with no room for negotiation. Positivism has been criticised, particularly in Germany, as a means of affording tyranny and extremism to enter mainstream politics. It is said that the general concept of accepting and enforcing the law by virtue of its status allows unjust laws enforcing prejudice and discrimination respect by virtue of their enactment, placing an indefeasible trust in the legislature. As compared to other legal theories, positivism has gathered a great deal of respect and support across the world, making it one of the most prominent considerations of the nature of law. Positivism places strength on the rules as they are laid down, on the premise that the process of the legislature is the time for challenge and interpretation. Although this may generally be the case, it does throw up some problems in relation to the practical consequences of certain enactments, which reflect better with experience the level of effectiveness. Another feature of the positivist movement is that rather than be guided by moral considerations, the law can be used in certain circumstances to determine what is right and what is wrong, on the basis of its status as in accordance with or against the law. Again this causes problems that have formed the basis of much academic argumentation in the area. One of the main criticisms of positivism as a theory came in light of the linguistic considerations of HLA Hart, a leading international legal philosopher. He stated that the positive law is far from fixed in nature, for the simple reason that language is not fixed. For example, the famous scenario offered for this point is a sign in a local park stating 'no vehicles allowed'. This is by no means a fixed and definitive statement of the law, because 'vehicles' can be taken to mean a broad range of things. For the most part it will be fairly obvious what falls within the scope -- no cars, vans, trucks or trains would be permitted. But what about skateboards? Bicycles? Are these covered within the definition of vehicles? There is no way of knowing from the text exactly what is intended by the law, so to positivism in this strict sense is flawed. Rather, a more sophisticated approach is required, which allows the law to be read in the light of pragmatic and policy considerations. This makes positivism more palatable as a concept, and strengthens its validity at the heart of legal philosophy. Positivism is only one in a series of mainstream legal theories which satisfy the rational and logical requirements of academics and practitioners alike. Its intellectual sophistication sets it apart from the more basic natural law theory, although it is by no means an utterly definitive set of beliefs. All in all, this is an area of study that is rapidly developing, producing new and more complex arguments with every empirical text. Online Campaigns Where in the world can a person check their mail, pay bills, check bank balances, book a vacation, and show support for their favorite political candidate all in the same place? Simple -- online of course. Candidates and politicians are looking to cash in on the most impact for their time and what better way to become a part of that powerful trend than welcoming cyber space into their lives? Who knew that a craze that started a few short years ago with social websites such as MySpace.com would turn into a tool to be used so heavily in campaigns? Barack Obama has enjoyed adding 100,000 friends to his MySpace page, and other campaigns are even adding other MySpace pages as well as joining into the Second Life craze that has struck recently, with many people looking to expand the internet as one of their major sources of advertisement. Each candidate has their own website of course, with a great amount of information on their individual views, their position on the issues, and what they wish to see happen in the country. Never before has the democratic process reached so close to home, now pulling in a new generation of voters to guide the future of the country. Is this a good idea? Should candidates really be losing that personal and physical touch? However, this is actually one of the most prevalent ways to get information out recently, with websites popping up everywhere where political opinions can be viewed, and with sites such as digg.com becoming popular it enables sites with good content that is full of information people find fascinating or helpful to rise to the top, and help spread the word to the masses. Seems almost like a grass roots type campaign. Yet it does not involve any physical interaction from the candidates. This is the ultimate tool that can be used to spread the word quickly about progress and updates in their campaign without ever leaving their house or office and interacting with those they so desperately need votes from. This seems to be a bit of a strange position to be taking, but with the internet reaching so wide and far, it is a tool that many politicians are utilizing, and to great practical effect. Many are even recruiting volunteers to manage their spaces in Second Life as well as MySpace so that their time is better spent and their ability to reach even more people is extended further. Seems almost strange that volunteers are now able to help on campaigns that they never would have been able to work on before, but thanks to the internet, they are able to show support for their favorite candidate in a way never before seen. How much further can this really go, with the possibility of the internet growing into an even larger portion of the campaign, it is very much possible to keep track of all the happenings and events in almost every political campaign and race without ever leaving the comfort of your home. Whether this engages the ordinary citizen on a more direct level will remain to be seen, and the outcome this will have on the voter demographic at the next election will surely be profound. Now if only the election voting could be handled online, securely it would truly be a virtual world. No Child Left Behind What exactly does No Child Left Behind really mean? Does that mean that a school bus driver agrees not to leave my child at school, or does it have a deeper meaning for parents to look into? What it really means, is that schools are forced to link the money they receive from the federal government in direct connection to how well students perform academically. Looking at the sheer facts of life, schools must have money in order to educate students. Yet with the need for money in the schools rising steadily there needed to be a solution to ensure that students were, being taught the skills they needed in order to be successful adults who are capable of securing a job. Many students have graduated from high school in the last several years without the ability to complete many basic tasks such as reading, writing, and elementary level arithmetic. After experiencing this phenomenon for several years, President Bush stepped up to the plate and proposed tying the results of students to the financial assistance that schools received as an incentive for schools to perform better. A grade was also assigned to schools each year based upon the standardized test scores that would tell parents, educators and the country as a whole how well the schools in a district were performing. If a school performs badly, parents and students are given the option to transfer to another school that received a better grade; this directly affects the amount of money each school is capable of receiving. This puts a great pressure on schools to perform better. Schools are forced to start taking note, and answering questions in regard to why students are not performing on an acceptable academic level when the report cards come out. Each school has the ability to improve their grades and scores simply by teaching students the information needed. Many parents are upset by the program; they feel their children are being pushed too hard in classes. Many other parents are very happy with the program; they feel that the schools are just now being forced to be accountable for the education that students are receiving. As the future draws more into the technological era, it becomes clear, that technology is king. In order for students to be able to secure jobs, they must have basic skills and be able to handle the pressures of life. Students must leave school fully prepared to take on a job, make a name for themselves, and improve their lives. Many students upon graduating from school were forced previously to go onto welfare and take jobs only in low paying jobs that were unable to turn into careers. Many students now are able to go onto decent paying jobs that show the possibility to grow into careers, thus avoiding the welfare trap that many recent graduates were forced into. How the schools perform in the next few years will really determine how well our outlook is for the job market. With more jobs moving overseas to cheaper labor, it is very important that students leave school with the knowledge and ability to help keep jobs here for the future generations, for it is only with a graduate-led economy we can remain competitive on an international level. Natural Law vs. Positivism The philosophy of law is a complex and in depth study, which requires an intimate knowledge of the legal process in general as well as a philosophical mind. For centuries, the scope and nature of law has been debated and argued from various view points, and intense intellectual discussion has arisen from the fundamental question of 'what is law'. In response, several major schools of thought have been born, of which the natural law scholars and positivists are two of the most notable. These two camps hold strictly contrasting views over the role and function of law in certain circumstances, and have provided in themselves platforms for criticism and debated which continue to be relevant today. Although the classifications of natural law and positivism are frequently used, it is important to remember that they cover a very wide range of academic opinion. Even within each camp, there are those veering towards more liberal or more conservative understandings, and there is also naturally a grey area. Having said that, academics and philosophers can be enveloped by one of the categories on the basis of certain fundamental principles within their writings and opinions. Natural law has always been linked to ultra-human considerations, that is to say a spiritual or moral influence determinant of their understandings of the way law operates. One of the founding principles is that an immoral law can be no law at all, on the basis that a government needs moral authority to be able to legislate. For this reason, natural law theories have been used to justify anarchy and disorder at ground level. This had lead to widespread criticism of the natural law principles, which have had to be refined and developed to fit with modern thinking. On the flip side, natural law has been used as a definitive method of serving 'justice' to war criminals and former-dictators after their reign. Some of the strongest criticisms of natural law have come from the positivist camp. Positivism holds at its centre the belief that law is not affected by morality, but in essence is the source of moral considerations. Because morality is a subjective concept, positivism suggests that the law is the source of morality, and that no extra-legal considerations should be taken in to account. Positivism has been criticised for allowing extremism and unjust actions through law. It has also been suggested that positivism in its strictest sense is flawed because it ignores the depth and breadth of language in legal enactment, which means the positive law can be read in different lights based on differing meanings of the same word. Despite this, positivism has been seen as one of the fundamental legal theories in the development of modern legal philosophy over the last few decades, and is winning widespread favour through a contemporary academic revival. Natural law and positivism have been the subject of an ongoing academic debate into the nature of law and its role within society. Both respective legal schools have criticised and built on one and others theories and principles to create a more sophisticated philosophical understanding of the legal construct. Although the debate is set to continue with a new generation of promising legal theorists, both natural law and positivism have gained widespread respect for their consistency and close analyses of the structure of law. Natural Law Theory In attempting to garner an understanding of the nature of law, early legal philosophers and academics formulated what has come to be known as the natural law theory, and has become a literal cornerstone of the development of modern legal thinking. Although somewhat limited in modern jurisprudential thinking, natural law has had a tremendous impact on our understanding of what law means in society as a baseline from which to build more complex theories. In this article, we will look at some of the major propositions underpinning the concept of natural law, and the corresponding strengths and weaknesses of this fundamental interpretation of the legal function. Natural law starts with the basic premise that the law is driven by morality, and consequently is affected by it. With a history extending back to Aristotle and other early philosophers, the natural law theory has traditionally linked the law with religion and an innate sense of justice, rather than the more pragmatic approaches of some other theories. Although this might sound rather basic, the principals have been developed and refined through academic debate for centuries ultimately leading to a far more sophisticated theory of the nature of law. The idea that all law is subject to an unwritten code of morality is fundamental to natural law. This also throws up some potential problems in terms of civil regulation. Certain natural law theorists suggest that for a law to be binding on the citizen, it must conform to this sense of natural justice. However, there is clearly no definitive objective concept of morality, which casts doubt over this principle. Additionally, the prospect that a law may be disregarded in favour of some higher sense of morality doesn't conform in reality, considering the potential implications of consistently disregarding law on the grounds of the subjective concept of justice. Furthermore on this primitive understanding of natural law, the citizen in contravention to the laws of his state, could attempt to excuse his actions through a justification of 'immoral' laws. This would also create a state of disorder, given the natural variation of personal opinions, which would ultimately render society unworkable. For this reason, the natural law scheme has failed to garner modern academic acceptance, of course with a few exceptions. Natural law has been proposed as a consideration in trying war criminals, on the basis of the retrospectivity principle, i.e. no man can be tried for a crime that was not a crime when he committed it. Many war criminals are merely cogs in the machine of a legal regime, which ultimately permits their actions, however unjustifiable morally. Natural law theories give a basis for challenge on these grounds, whilst avoiding the awkward question of direct legal contravention, which ultimately works to serve justice. In this sense, it is perhaps useful as a canon of interpretation and in determining just and equitable outcomes in 'difficult' cases. However, as a wider legal concept, natural law and the proposed intersection between law and morality seems too awkward to reconcile with considered academic legal understandings. Having said that, natural law has provided an excellent starting position for further advanced argumentation, and has provided a platform for critique that has been essential to the development of the more sophisticated ideas held in regard in this modern day. Minimising Tax Liability On Death When we die, most of us leave behind a fairly substantial and intricate web of assets and liabilities, including money, our home and our other possessions. In most jurisdictions, there arises a liability to tax on death that must be borne from the totality of the estate, and this can lead to a significant reduction of inheritance for our loved ones. Having said that, there are a number of ways in which liability to tax on death can be vastly reduced whilst still ensuring sufficient legacies and provisions mortis causa. In this article, we will look at some of the most salient ways in which one can seek to minimise his estate's liability to tax on death, and ways in which careful planning can help increase the legacies we leave behind. Tax liability on death usually arises through bad inheritance planning, and a lack of legal consideration. Of course to a certain extent it is unavoidable, but with some care and consideration it is possible to reduce liability overall. There's absolutely no point in making legacies in a will which won't be fulfilled until after death and which haven't been properly considered in light of the relevant legal provisions. If you haven't done so already, it is extremely advisable to consult an attorney on minimising liability on death, and on effective estate planning to avoid these potential problems and to ensure your family are left with more in their pockets. If you intend to leave legacies to family members of a specific quantity or nature, it may be wise to do so at least a decade before you die, which will ultimately divert any potential legal challenges upon death which would give rise to tax liability. Obviously there is seldom any way to tell precisely when you are going to die, but making legacies at least a decade beforehand avoids any liability that might be attached on death. In effect, donating during your lifetime well before you die means you can still provide for your family and friend without having to pay the corresponding tax bill. Another good way to minimise tax liability is to get rid of assets during your lifetime by way of gifts to friends and family. One of the most effective ways to do this is to transfer your house to your children during your lifetime, or to move the house into a trust for which you are a beneficiary. This means you remain functionally the owner, but legally, the asset doesn't feature in your estate on death and therefore doesn't attract tax liability. Again, it is of great importance to ensure that the transfer is made well before death to avoid potential challenges and potential inclusion in the estate which would lead to inheritance tax liability. Death is a particularly important phase in our lives, particularly in legal terms. The change between owning our own property and distributing ownerless property provides a range of challenges, and the controversial tax implications can cause serious problems. Without careful planning and an expert hand, it can be easy to amass a significant tax bill for your loved ones to bear. However, with the right direction, it can be easy to use the relevant mechanisms to minimise the potential liability to tax on your estate upon death. Gun Control Under Debate After the recent massacre at Virginia Tech, once again the mammoth issue of gun control has been brought up at full force. Many are highly upset that even after gun control laws have been enacted that the killer in the massacre was approved for a gun and purchased it in less than 30 minutes. Many have speculated that had there been much harsher guidelines in place, that the sale would not have been completed, and it could have potentially saved all of the lives that were tragically lost in the disaster. The death toll from the massacre has risen to over 30 killed and more than 20 wounded. This is aside from the emotional damage that has been caused to the hundreds who are left grieving in the wake, and those who experienced first hand the trauma of the event. How can such events really be avoided? Is it possible to avoid such tragedy with firmer gun laws? What about the programs that offer rewards in the form of video game systems, computers and even cash in exchange for turning guns into the police? Are these programs effective? In order to truly control guns, there has to be consensus around the country where everyone agrees that it is time for a change and the change occurs quickly, and without opposition. Gun laws are clearly too lax, and our country needs to take action to avoid scenes like those in Virginia from reoccurring. The chances of something such as this happening are almost impossible. Neither side of the political arena can agree with the other side about what appropriate gun control is, and with many residents of the United States being avid hunters whom use riffles and shotguns on an almost daily basis, it makes it very difficult to control all of the actions and movements that occur. Consider that many weapons used in crimes are illegally obtained; it makes it very difficult to determine how effective the stiffer gun laws would really be. With a new Presidential Primary due to start in the near future, it will seem as if there will be much heavy debate over how to control the flow of guns into the hands of those who are dangerous, or potentially dangerous. Facts remain, that while the election is likely to focus on this issue, there is still the issue of preserving the Constitutional right to "bear arms" as long as it is done legally, and those who already have the weapons currently can potentially be just as dangerous as those looking to purchase the guns in the future. We are left with the task of trying to avoid the tragedy as much as possible. Colorado stepped up to the plate with a swift action enacting much stiffer gun laws after the Columbine school massacre in which two teenage boys entered their school donning trench coats and heavy weapons leaving a wake of blood and fallen students in the path. Colorado decided to avoid future incidents and enact the tougher laws. It is suspected that Virginia will follow in this path. The fate of the country rests in the hands of those elected to the public offices to help determine exactly how far gun control should go, and how the changes should occur. Executive Compensation to the People There is a bill in the progress before the House of Representatives that is trying to put the issue of the pay and compensation package that executives of publicly traded companies receive in front of stockholders. This bill is actually expected to pass through the house successfully; however, it is unclear how well the Senate will receive it. Is this bill the right direction for a modern America, or do we need to consider more intimately the economic implications of such a decision? The White House has already formally registered its opposition to such a plan, however the backers are unconcerned. Many feel that the compensation plans of the major officers of the publicly traded companies should be tied to the performance of the company and the officers themselves, and not to the figures that the officers wish to receive. This bill if passed could place an enormous amount of power into the hands of stockholders who are upset with the way several companies have behaved lately, with declining profits and horrible business practices while the officers of the companies have picked up large compensation packages that include their salary, benefits, and stock options. Each officer can end up with hundreds if not thousands in profits even while the company is performing badly, which stockholders believe is an inequitable outcome. Many have wondered if the officers in charge of these companies would tighten the belts on spending if their own pay was tied to their performance rather than their wishes, and with numerous companies falling short of profits with huge pay packages going out, and raises occurring almost yearly many investors have started complaining loudly. While current President Bush has urged the officers of the companies to step up and take responsibility. He has also said that it is not an issue that the government should become involved in. How far should the government extend into a private business? How many people would really feel comfortable with the idea of having the government determine what their pay could be? Most Americans can agree that they would not like the idea of the government interfering with their job and pays. At the same time, while most Americans do not wish to have the government intruding into their jobs and careers, many still want some measures put into place to hold the executives accountable who are responsible for multi-million and multi-billion companies that employ hundreds to thousands of people. Many have argued that the concept is nothing new; it is similar to ideas that are currently in place in countries such as Sweden, Australia and even in Britain. With examples such as those to follow, it makes people wonder if this actually does have the chance to pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate once the voting time has arrived. With time as the key factor, there is scheduled to be a vote on the issue in the House of Representatives in the very near future, which is very much expected to pass without much opposition. It is the next step in the Senate that is where it starts getting sticky with people unsure of the results once the voting in the Senate starts. However, with increasing support from the people, many of whom work for companies affected by this issue, there is scope for a mass political influence, which will certainly make the outcome interesting. The UK Constitution: Does it Exist? The UK is one of the few developed countries in the world without a written constitution. Despite this, its economy is prospering as it strengthens its position as one of the richest nations in the world. On top of that, it is pivotally located within the European federal framework in spite of its comparatively small geographic land mass and population. This raises an obvious question as to the mechanisms of governance: if there isn't a constitution, how has the UK survived in this form, and how can it continue to prosper in a modern era without any distinct definitively specified legal order? The United Kingdom is unlike most other nations in the world in that it has not suffered any major constitutional change since the Middle Ages. Since that time, it has been predominantly governed by a monarch in conjunction with his or her parliament. That said, it has proven to be of continuing success throughout the ages without the strict written form that many countries have adopted. From this has sprung an unprecedented flexibility, and the UK has effectively developed its own (non-binding) constitutional conventions to keep the country running smoothly. Additionally, the bi-cameral (or dual chamber) parliament plus the necessary monarchical ratification serves to provide a comprehensive set of checks and balances which would otherwise be provided through a written constitution. The statement that the UK is lacking a constitution is misleading. Of course there is no written document, but the UK has a rich and diverse legal tapestry that works fluidly and has so for centuries. This fluidity has allowed for adaptation when necessary, and has allowed the UK to flourish and develop where others didn't have the chance. Behind the scenes is an equally strict and wrought-iron code of conduct, which can partially be derived from codes of practices, Acts of Parliament and other 'bits and pieces'. Although there may not be a constitution present in the sense of a single definitive document, the UK most certainly operates on the foundation of a constitution that keeps the country running smoothly on a daily basis. A major aspect of the UK constitution is the thorough legislative process required for legal enactment. Any bill must firstly be proposed to the House of Commons, an elected body of representatives empowered with the power of legislative initiative. The first chamber proposes legislation and debates the provisions in depth, before agreeing on a final draft to pass to the second chamber, known as the House of Lords. The House of Lords are largely un-elected, with 'membership' passed down from generation to generation, or new members proposed by the House of Commons. They then have the right of veto, and an ability to refer back to the first chamber their proposed changes to any bills. This ensures no rushed legislation passes, and in theory should cover all eventualities. After passing both Houses, it is referred to the monarch, who has a personal responsibility to ensure any legislation is in accordance with the will of the people, and is morally justified. Although the monarch hasn't used her power of veto since the 17th century, it is still an important constitutional safeguard in the UK. The UK constitution might not seem obvious initially, but there is most certainly an intricate web of governance and practice lying underneath its blank exterior. It has been described as the most successful constitution in the world, and this is bolstered by its perpetual success and lack of problems since its early evolution.
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