Considering required rules while remaining sensitive to economic and business trends

The research theme of Professor Shigeki Kusunoki of the Faculty of Law is economic law, which regulates the rules for competitive environments within a capitalist society. Here he speaks about the importance of economic laws, and the rules that are required in the modern age of Internet and social media.

A manufacturer suggesting a recommended retail price does not tie retailers to that price. However, were the manufacturer to say “If you do not sell at that fixed price, we will no longer deal with you,” they are forcing retailers to sell at that price, and are in violation of the Antimonopoly Law. Another typical example would be bidders participating in a public tender for public construction work or other governmental projects, who get together and rig the bid beforehand by predetermining both the price and the winning bidder. This is a violation of the Antimonopoly Law, and could be subject to criminal penalties.

The Antimonopoly Law is a set of rules for maintaining a fair competition in a capitalist society, and together with several other laws, is known collectively as “economic laws.” Economic law is my field of specialty, and my research involves checking the rules to ascertain whether or not they are functioning correctly, looking at the interpretation of these rules, and considering what new rules may be required.

I am also interested in the Consumer Protection Act as related to economic laws. In recent years there has been a noticeable rise in investment solicitation via the internet and social media, and recommendations for cryptocurrency funds and investments. Fraudulent methods that outsmart the law run rampant through this form of business, and the number of victims expands as friends solicit other friends. I have heard that a large number of university students have fallen victim to investment solicitation. It is therefore extremely important to speedily enact laws and regulations to prevent this.

The economy is constantly moving, so research is never boring

New laws take time. It is a cat and mouse game where new business models that outsmart the law are up and running by the time the law is enacted. Yet, like any living thing, the economy learns to adapt, and it could be said that this is the fate of a capitalist, free-market economy. For my part, it means that there are always new themes to research, and the variety of this field is what I find so attractive about it.

I have published several books up until now. Because a large proportion of my research is based on the theme of public construction work, I have had many opportunities to share my opinions with not only the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, but also other ministries, agencies and local governments in Japan. I also co-authored a paper with a lawyer on the theme of bid rigging. Interacting with legal practitioners provides me with the perfect opportunity to sense the living law first-hand.

History classes in high school were useful for learning about the law

It is very important to learn about history when researching economic laws. My message to high school students is that the history classes will come in extremely useful when studying at university.

We have experienced the history in which nations with a socialist economy have not flourished economically. History also tells us that a capitalist economy is not omnipotent. Capitalism is an economic system with an extremely bad reputation, but in the end, it continues to operate.

Excessive intervention by the government obstructs the imaginative ingenuity of companies and suffocates the economy. On the other hand, we cannot leave everything up to the markets. Companies that dominate the markets appear, and fraud and other unjust methods spread throughout. It is economic laws that are vital in fixing this imbalance, rejecting unjustness, and allowing us to live happy lives.

And, the history of the development of economic laws has been experienced in the same way throughout most of the world, although the periods concerned may differ. The history of legislation is closely related to the history of the economy. Although some people may deem the history of the economy to be one of the most monotonous history subjects, it provides us with crucial material for understanding the economic issues that modern-day societies are facing.

The book I recommend

“The Road to Serfdom”
by Friedrich Hayek, Japanese translation by Akiko Murai, Nikkei Business Publications

The author, awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, published this book in 1944. I read and was impressed by it when I was a student. It criticizes the socialist economy, popular at the time, while also outlining the risks of a capitalist economy. I realized that freedom over planning is required for the economy, but rules are vital for achieving a free society.

Shigeki Kusunoki

  • Professor
    Department of International Legal Studies
    Faculty of Law

Graduated with a degree in Commerce from the Keio University Faculty of Business and Commerce, and received his Ph.D. in Law from Kyoto University. Was an associate professor at the Sophia University Faculty of Law among other positions before assuming his current position. Also currently serves as a committee member of the Central Council for Construction Business.

Department of International Legal Studies

Interviewed: October 2022

Sophia University

For Others, With Others