Nuclear Power and the Mob: Extortion and Social Capital in Japan

36 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2015

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Date Written: March 31, 2015


Nuclear reactors entail massive non-transferrable site-specific investments. The resulting appropriable quasi-rents offer the mob the ideal target. In exchange for large fees, it can either promise to "protect" the utility (and silence the reactor's local opponents) or "extort" from it (and desist from inciting local opponents). Using municipality-level (1742 cities, towns, villages) and prefecture-level (47) Japanese panel data covering the years from 1980 to 2010, I find exactly this phenomenon: when a utility announces plans to build a reactor, the level of extortion climbs.

Reactors have broad-ranging effects on social capital as well. In general, the perceived health costs to nuclear power are highest for young families. As a result, if a utility announces plans for a new reactor, these families disappear. Yet these are the men and women who invest most heavily in the social capital that keeps communities intact. When they disappear, reliance on government subsidies increases, and divorce rates rise. Firms stay away, and unemployment climbs.

Suggested Citation

Ramseyer, J. Mark, Nuclear Power and the Mob: Extortion and Social Capital in Japan (March 31, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

J. Mark Ramseyer (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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