(Anonymous) @ 09:20 pm: Look at history. Read things like the law codes of Ugarit, which makes one realize that the Deuteronomic law of the Old Testament was a model of egalitarianism and enlightenment for its Age.

In theory, law are the rules a society comes up with and enforces for the sake of order and prosperity. In reality, the laws tend to be the rules those in power come up with and enforce for the sake of order and prosperity. At various times in history, those in power have figured out that if those not in power have some legal recourse for grievances, they're less likely to violently overthrow those in power.
You'll see very oppressive laws when the guys in charge are badly outnumbered by the oppressed and feel obliged to use draconian methods to keep them under control. Roman slave laws got a lot more restrictive after Spartacus's rebellion.

Or the protagonist is arrested because of a plainly ridiculous, vague, and obtuse law that doesn’t apply to what she actually did.

This happens in the Real World when you have an obsolete law that is no longer relevant, so no one actually enforces it, but it's still on the books. Then it gets used to persecute someone the guy with the lawbook doesn't like... (c.f. various state laws against Sodomy)


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