Law & Economics in Japan

17 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011

Date Written: December 1, 2010


Although law & economics scholarship has grown rapidly in recent years, Japanese scholars (with prominent exceptions, to be sure) have embraced the approach less enthusiastically than their U.S. peers. I explore some "reasons" for this reticence -- particularly, the location of legal education in the undergraduate curriculum, and the long-term Marxist domination of economics faculties.

Ultimately, these "explanations" remain unsatisfactory. The undergraduate location of law does not explain law & economics' reception across a broader sample of countries, or why universities keep law in these undergraduate departments in the first place. And Marxist dominance is not the cause of an intellectual outcome. Instead, it is itself an intellectual outcome.

At root, the reason for the difficulty in explaining patterns of intellectual diffusion lies in the paucity of hard-edged incentives in higher education. Although universities compete, they do not compete with anything approaching the intensity of for-profit firms. As a result, the mechanisms behind the equilibrium outcomes we observe in economic markets simply do not apply in education. Lacking those mechanisms, universities might still converge on superior intellectual approaches. Or they might not.

Suggested Citation

Ramseyer, J. Mark, Law & Economics in Japan (December 1, 2010). Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 686, Available at SSRN: or

J. Mark Ramseyer (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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