Are questions about the functioning of the state political? They might be either political or legal. For example, would it be on-topic to ask:

Is action X by president Y unconstitutional?


Do increased police powers correlate with a reduction in violent crime?


Do jury-based systems have significantly less/more false convictions than non-jury based systems?

All those questions may be asked in the political process, so they may be policy questions, but maybe they are too far from the core of the site to be considered on-topic?


5 Answers 5


Law.SE is about "What is the law?", Politics.SE is about "Why is this the law?"

Law stackexchange is good for questions about what the legal situation in a specific situation is. Politics stackexchange, on the other hand, is about political processes which result in laws.

So when you want to know "according to law X, is it illegal to do Y?", your question should be posted on law.SE. When you want to know "What were the arguments to enact law X, who backed it and who opposed it?" your question belongs to politics.SE.

"What is the law?" might be on-topic on Politics.SE when the law is specifically about political processes

An exception from the above rule can be questions about laws which specifically apply to politicians and political processes. For example, "Does the Arstotzkan law allow parliament members to accept gifts from lobbyists?" might be a question which would also work on Politics.SE.

But this is a fringe-case. Such question might be on-topic on either website. Use your own judgment about which website will likely give you a more useful answer.

A law is not on-topic just because it's a matter of political discourse

Let's say there is currently a heated political discussion in your country about tighter regulation of chinchilla ownership. You want to form an opinion on the issue. That means you might be interested in which laws already affect chinchilla owners. But that alone does not make the question on-topic on Politics.SE. If it would, any law would be on-topic, because any law can be subject of political discourse. In fact almost any aspect of daily life can be subject of political discourse. But we can not be experts for any aspect of life.

So whenever you want to know more background information about the issues politics meddle with, you will get a better answer on a more specialized site. In this case you would ask Law Stack Exchange about what laws already apply to chinchilla ownership, on Pets Stack Exchange about best practices for chinchilla owners and on Medical Science Stack Exchange how harmful chinchilla bites are for humans.


I think the fact that law and politics are so closely related, combined with that (as far as I know) there is no Law.SE [Update: there is now], we should be quite open with questions venturing into Law.

Without Government, there is no Law. Without Law, there is no purpose for Government.

  • Even if a Law SE did exist, I think law and government are just too entwined to separate. The same can be said for history and politics, even though we have a thriving history community.
    – Tim Post
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 6:43
  • Saying "we don't have a law site yet, so we'll accept them for now" is a very bad policy. It will delay the creation of a genuine law site, and blur the line of this site. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 15:46
  • 1
    "without government there is now law". Not true. If the whole of the legislative bodies took a couple of years off, the law would continue to function - just not be changed. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 15:50
  • The legislative bodies do not comprise the whole of the government.
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 21:09
  • @DJClayworth the legislative branch doesn't encompass all of government, in fact, the legislative branch is defined by law. For them to even exist requires some governing rules or law. Law defines government. Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 21:03

On Christianity.SE, we have a category of off-topic questions called 'Pastoral Advice'. We are very clear that we aren't priests - we don't know an individual's circumstance, and we don't try to "fix" people over the internet. In the same fashion, this is not and should not become a site for legal advice.

That said, we ask questions about theology - the general rule, or significant and common issues - all the time. That is the bread and butter of that site, in the same way that policy is the bread and butter of this one.

So, why bring up the example? Simple - Politics encompasses policy, but does not give legal advice. The same lines apply -

GOOD: Does Copyright Law in the US allow for fair use? BAD: I've just copied a song on my YouTube Video. Is that fair use?

GOOD: Under what circumstances does Irish law allow for an abortion?

BAD: I'm 17, I live in Ireland, and my boyfriend knocked me up and left. Is it ok for me to get an abortion?

GOOD: Is it legal in [country] to coin my own currency?

BAD: I've just xeroxed my paycheck. Is that ok? Notice, the line between 'legal' and 'law' in the above examples is slight but identifiable. Legal is personal advice. We are not lawyers (IANAL, and WE-ANAL) and we should not seek to be such. But, discussing the policy implications of a broad scope is relevant.

The line to me is simple - if you need to include personal details in order to phrase the question, its probably legal and off-topic. If you can ask it about a whole bunch of people, its policy, and fair game.

  • -1 for copy-pasting your answer from one thread below this one. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 19:36

While Law and Politics are intertwined, that doesn't mean they should be one site. Software Development and Operating Systems are closely intertwined, but we don't have one site for both. That's because, while there may be some overlap, there arae plenty of questions that are clearly one and not the other. Likewise, I believe we need a Law and a Politics site.

here are my suggestions for how to separate them.

Questions about the content of the law belong on a Law site

Questions like:

  • Is it legal to...(in some jurisdiction)
  • Is there a law that says...

Some of those may be off-topic on any site, but they are certainly off-topic at Politics

Questions about legal process belong on a law site

Questions like:

  • What powers does a judge have...
  • Can a lawyer argue in court that...
  • How long can you be detained if arrested?
  • Do I need a lawyer to do (some transaction)?

Questions about making of laws belong and procedures of legislative bodies belong on a politics site

Questions like:

  • Can the upper chamber override the lower chamber and pass a bill without them?
  • What happens if the head of state refuses to sign a law that was passed by parliament?
  • Is there a limit on how many bills a legislator may introduce?
  • How many votes does it take to change the constitution?

Questions about elections and electoral process belong on the politics site

  • How much notice has to be given of an election?
  • What documents do you have to present to vote?

Questions about political debate and parties belong on politics

  • Has any party ever voted to ban dogs?
  • Most of the questions currently on this site

Q1: A question about constitutional law, it belongs on Legal.SE

Q2: Empirical question, belongs on Sociology.SE or Lawenforcement.SE

Q3: Empirical question, belongs on Sociology.SE. However, a good case can be made for it belonging on Legal.SE as it is of great interest to anyone interested in criminal law

  • Do we have a legal.se site?
    – user1530
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 21:35
  • 1
    @DA No, not that it matters. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 22:00

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