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The 5 differences between law and decree and how they regulate society

The 5 differences between law and decree and how they regulate society

June 15, 2024

The legal rules are the set of rules made by the authority assigned to certain institutions by the State to regulate and organize the functioning of society . The most well-known type of legal norm is the law, but besides this it is not strange to hear about other types of norms and regulations such as decrees.

For people outside the legal world, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the two concepts. That is why in this article we present you The main differences between law and decree .

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Analyzing both concepts

Before establishing the differences between law and decree, we will observe a brief definition of each of them in order to understand their concept and as a basic introduction to their differences.


We understand by law a type of mandatory legal norm that aims to regulate the performance of the human being in society. The law establishes the set of obligations and rights of all citizens in general, without exceptions, and failure to comply with them implies sanctions even if it is due to ignorance. It is the type of legal norm of greater rank, being absolute. Laws are advocated and ratified by the legislature, requiring to be approved by Congress to be carried out.

As far as the decree is concerned, it is about another type of legal norm that usually establishes the way in which the law is applied , usually developing a regulation. It is a subtype of legal norm with which it is also mandatory, although it can be modified and in fact must be done in order to follow the current legislation.


The elaboration of the decrees is usually due to the urgent need to regulate a given situation with urgency. The government is responsible for its preparation and implementation. In case a decree wants to become a law it must be ratified by Congress.

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Main differences between law and decree

Law and decree have several similarities, as we can deduce from their definition. However, it is also possible to observe the existence of large differences, which we will now analyze.

1. Organ or power that issues it

One of the points in which law and decree are different is the type of body or power that issues or dictates it, which in turn will cause them to present other differential characteristics. The law will always be elaborated and ratified by the legislative power . However, in the case of the decree, it is proposed and applied by the executive branch (that is, the government).


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2. Content

Although both concepts have as their main objective to govern and manage the behavior and functioning of society, the fact is that the law and the decree tend to differ slightly in terms of their content. While the law states what should be done or not, the decree indicates how it should be carried out.

The decree intends to face an urgent situation and establish how to act and the rules and rules to follow in such situation (can be considered as a regulation).

3. Level of generalization

Laws are decreed with the intention of governing and organizing the actions of society in general, affecting various situations and actions. However, the decree is elaborated in order to deal with a specific situation that must be solved quickly .

4. Hierarchical ordering

Law and decree, as legal norms that are, must be respected and are mandatory. However, they do not maintain an equal relationship: in the hierarchy of legal norms we would first find the law and right after it the decrees (unless it is a decree-law, in which case it would have the same rank as the law).

The decree will never be able to contradict the law, having to be repealed or modified in case it changes or a new law appears that contradicts the decree.

5. Stability or temporality

In the same way, although both laws and decrees can be modified, they have different levels of stability. A decree is usually temporary in order to deal with the situation that generates it. However, a law is made with the intention of lasting in time , requiring for its modification or withdrawal that other laws annul or replace it.


How do executive orders work? - Christina Greer (June 2024).


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