J. Mark Ramseyer, Frances McCall Rosenbluth
When discussing Japanese politics or the Japanese legal system, many scholars point to the peculiarities of the country's culture - its need for consensus, its rejection of individualism, its Confucian fascination with loyalty. Other scholars simply invent new theories ad hoc to explain what they see. But is Japan really so different that general social scientific theories don't apply? Ramseyer and Rosenbluth don't think so, and in this book they show how rational-choice theory can be applied to Japanese politics, with telling results. Contrary to general assumptions, the authors argue that the institutional framework of government - the rules of the game among political players - decisively shapes the character of political competition and incentives in Japan. They show how players in this competition adapt their organizations to the existing framework and at the same time try to manipulate it to their own advantage. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is a case in point. In a detailed analysis, we see the LDP working within Japanese electoral rules to maximize its success with voters, and within constitutional constraints to enforce its policies on bureaucrats and judges.
Surprisingly, the authors find that Liberal Democratic Party backbenchers effectively control factional and party bosses; that the LDP collectively keeps bureaucratic action closely in line with its preferences; and that the Japanese judiciary is also an agent of the legislative majority. Using the concept of principal and agent, Ramseyer and Rosenbluth construct a persuasive account of political relationships in Japan. In doing so, they demonstrate that political considerations and institutional arrangements reign in what, to most of the world, looks like an independently powerful bureaucratic state. Their book aims to influence our understanding of the Japanese political order and legal system. As a rational-choice analysis of an entire national political system, it should also affect the way we approach comparative politics and comparative law more generally.