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It's long been known that fewer lawsuits are filed in Japan per capita than in the United States. Yet explanations for the difference have tended to be partial and unconvincing, ranging from circular arguments about Japanese culture to suggestions that the slow-moving Japanese court system acts as a deterrent.
With Second-Best Justice J. Mark Ramseyer offers a much more compelling, well-grounded explanation: the low rate of lawsuits in Japan is driven not by distrust of a dysfunctional system but by a system that works-that sorts and resolves disputes in such an overwhelmingly predictable pattern that opposing parties only rarely find it worthwhile to push their dispute to the trial stage. Using evidence from tort claims across many domains, Ramseyer reveals a court system that is designed not to find perfect justice, but to "make do"-to adopt strategies that are mostly right and that thereby resolve disputes quickly and economically. An eye-opening study of comparative law, Second-Best Justice will force a wholesale rethinking of the differences between Japanese and American legal systems and their broader consequences for social welfare.