On Wednesday, Slate's Chris Beam provided several reasons why there have been few reports of looting in Japan in the wake of the triple threat earthquake, tsunami, and radiation from a nuclear power plant. Reasons including:
honesty with incentives -
In a 2003 study on Japan's famous policy for recovering lost property, West argues that the high rates of recovery have less to do with altruism than with the system of carrots and sticks that incentivizes people to return property they find rather than keep it;police presence -
Japan has an active and visible police force of nearly 300,000 officers across the country;
and, organized crime -
Police aren't the only ones on patrol since the earthquake hit. Members of the Yakuza, Japan's organized crime syndicate, have also been enforcing order. All three major crime groups—the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Sumiyoshi-kai, and the Inagawa-kai—have "compiled squads to patrol the streets of their turf and keep an eye out to make sure looting and robbery doesn't occur," writes Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.I don't doubt that there are elements intrinsic to Japanese culture that limit the liklihood of looting, but clearly government plays a role as well. Police presense, familiarity with police, rewarding good citzenship with cash, and punishing petty crime all played a role in the relative civilian calm in Japan. All of those factors are products of government intervention.
After reading the comments attached to Beam's article, many implying that race, racial homogeneity and liberal education (?) were the causes of looting in the U.S. as opposed to Japan [not sure how that lines up with looting in Chile, England, or sports riots, but whatever], I assumed there would be an avalanche of articles citing similarly retarded explanations, but that hasn't really been the case. The bulk of that "reasoning" appears to be contained in reader's comments and white supremacy web sites.
Last point: The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan has compiled several comments noting that there have indeed been sporadic reports of looting in Japan. While it makes sense to examine the full range of explanations for Japanese civility during this disaster, there's no reason to ignore the role of government in promoting civility or the actual incidents of crime that have occurred belying the image of civility the media has fostered. Sphere: Related Content