Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Beyond the letter of the law
HAKAMADA Shigeki / Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University

November 13, 2001
The concepts of law and crisis management differ significantly between nations. I once took my family to a restaurant in the United States for a private celebration and ordered some wine. When the waiter asked to see the IDs of my two daughters, the 19-year-old was disappointed because state law prohibited the restaurant from serving alcoholic beverages to people under 20. I was stunned by the strict observance of the law.

French politician Alexis de Tocqueville, in his 19th century book "The American Democracy," wrote that Americans observed the law, however troublesome it may be, believing it was in their interests. In the U.S., rules and regulations are equivalent to contracts for social stability and crisis management. Strict observance of contracts is essential, and even minor violations are severely punished. The U.S. is what U.S. theorist Francis Fukuyama calls a ``high-trust society'' in the sense that people trust laws and rules. In another sense, it is a police state controlled by the power structure.

In Japan, people do not have to produce IDs in restaurants and bars. The law against under-age drinking serves only as a rough guideline. The fact that the fire-prevention law has no teeth contributed to the deaths of 44 people in a recent fire that gutted a building in Tokyo's tenderloin district of Kabukicho. Japanese prefer to avoid contracts in writing; they favor verbal promises. Fukuzawa Yukichi, the Meiji Era educator-philosopher, wrote in his autobiography that samurai warriors did not need cash deposits or written contracts in transactions. Buyers and sellers simply made a promise between them.

The system still applies today. Author Yukio Mishima wrote that in the U.S. contracts in fine print are needed for all transactions as a guarantee against all conceivable risks and betrayals. Contracts are based on the assumption that humans are inherently evil.

In the Western world, the common view is that humans are born evil and that the law is almighty. In Japan, it is widely believed that humans are inherently good. Both views of society have their merits and demerits.

Law has little or no meaning in Russia and China. People do not trust the law; contracts are often canceled or their terms revised. Russian reformist politician Grigory Yavlinsky wrote in the Moscow News that no trust exists between banks and their customers in Russia: "Companies do not trust their customers or partners. People believe in nothing. Law is observed only when it produces profits or when it does not hurt anybody."

Russia and China are low-trust societies, where the view that humans are inherently evil is even more prevalent than in the West. The popular belief is that people always cheat and that trust exists only between personal friends. Thus, Chinese tend to value personal trust even more than Japanese do.

The question is, will the Japanese adapt to the basically unstable, lawless international society or to the ``humans-are-evil'' approach of the U.S., China and Russia? For that matter, should they accept the principles of such societies to deal with risks and crises?

I do not believe that Japan should become a U.S-style society in which the law is everything, lawyers have the power and litigation is nothing unusual.

French sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote in his "Division of Labor in Society" that in a civilized society, prohibitive law has little meaning. In this sense Japan has been more civilized than the West, with police and military power always in the background. This should be preserved.

However, risks and dangers are everywhere. Basic order is preserved by military force in the international community and in societies that operate on the principle that humans are evil. Not all problems can be settled through negotiations. The lackadaisical Japanese response to the terror attacks in the U.S. and widespread opinion that there should be no retaliatory strikes show that Japanese are naive or have little knowledge of international politics.

Japanese should develop stronger crisis-management systems if they wish to avoid international isolation and share more international responsibility. This is also necessary when Japanese companies enter the Russian and Chinese markets. The biggest challenge for Japan in the 21st century is how to reconcile the traditions of civilized societies with the principle that humans are evil.

The writer is a Professor of School of International Politics, Economics, and Business at Aoyama Gakuin University. He contributed this comment to the Japan Times.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

袴田 茂樹 / 青山学院大学教授

2001年 11月 13日


これに対して日本では、レストランやバーで身分証明書の提示など野暮なことはしない。法律は単なる目安だ。そこで消防法でさえも有名無実となり、そのため先日は歌舞伎町で四四名が亡くなった。わが国では、信頼関係をもとにした約束や契約は、文書にさえしない。福澤諭吉は「武家と武家との間で手金だの証書取換せなどと云ふことのあらう訳がない、唯売りませう、然らば即ち買ひませうと云ふ丈の話で約束が出来……」と述べた。(『福翁自伝』)この精神は今も生きている。三島由紀夫も「米国では細かい活字を連ねた煩瑣な契約書が、起こりうるあらゆる危険、あらゆる裏切り、あらゆる背信行為を予定して書きとめられている。契約書は人を疑い、人間を悪人と想定するところから生まれてくる。」と述べた。(『若きサムライのために』) 欧米が性悪説信奉で法律万能の社会なら、日本は典型的な性善説信奉の社会なのだ。そこには、それぞれ長所も短所もある。

一方、ロシアや中国は、法律さえもまともに機能しない社会だ。人々は法を全く信頼せず、契約もいきなり途中で破棄されたり条件が変更されたりする。ロシアの改革派指導者ヤブリンスキーは、ロシアでは「銀行は顧客を信頼していないし、顧客も銀行を信頼していない。企業は顧客やパートナーを信頼していないし、そして一般の人々は何も信じていない。わが国では法律は、それが有用である範囲において、あるいは誰にも妨げにならない限り、それは守られるのだ」と述べた。(『モスクワ・ニュース』) ロシアや中国は、「低信頼社会」であり欧米以上に徹底した性悪説信奉の社会なのだ。人々は、他人は必ず騙すものと考え、私的な間柄においてしか信頼関係は成立しない。逆説的だが、低信頼社会だからこそ、中国人は私的な信頼関係を日本人よりはるかに大事にするのである。



(筆者は青山学院大学 国際政治経済学部教授。この原稿は産経新聞に掲載されたものです。)
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟