Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why there is little (no) looting in Japan after the earthquake?

Why is there no looting in Japan after the earth quake?

People all over the world observed, with admiration and envy, how orderly and disciplined the Japanese people behave, after the earthquake of March 2011. Specifically, during the national crisis Japan does not appear to have any crime (looting, robbing) and disorder (cutting in line, water riots) of any sort, with little police presence.

The question is why?

As a criminologist, I think crime is everywhere. Japan is no exception, crisis or no crisis. In essence Japanese are humans, just like Americans. Still, comparatively, it is a fact that US, and by extension (U.K., France) has more crimes than Japan (or Hong Kong, China). If there is any doubt just look at murder rates, the most stable and reliable crime data we have.

For example, murder rate in New York is 778/19.5 million in 2009 (39.9/M) vs. Japan 1097/127 million in 2009 (8.64/M). New York murder rate is going down from 836 to 778, or 58 (6.9%). Japan murder rate is dropping by 200 (18.3%). More importantly, New York has more cold-blooded murders due to disputes over interests by strangers than Japan as a result hot under the collar killing to settle family feuds by related persons. (This is changing: work place killing dropped from 104 to 61, relatives/friends killing dropped from 317 to 254, between 1985 to 2009.)

What are the reasons? There are two:

First, Japan teaches her people to have "self-control", i.e., doing the right thing even when no one is around. In the US we do exactly the opposite. In the US we teach people that we are born free. People should do one wish to do, until they are stopped, or caught in the act. In essence Japanese seek internal control enforced with shame and Americans prefer external control enforced with prisons.

Second, Japan is a collective society. Japanese teach their people to look out for each other, to the point of sacrificing (deferring) ones self-interests to enhance collective welfare. On the other hand Americans teach their people to look out for himself/herself, at the expense of the group. The principle here is individual rights trump collective welfare.

Which society do you want to live in?

No comments: