Japan: Paradise Lost

For 54 years, Japan has been a drunkard's paradise. Public Law 39, passed in 1907, declared that a man under the influence of alcohol must be considered to be "temporarily unsound of mind," thereby exonerating him of legal responsibility for any crimes committed when drunk. As a result, Japan's tipsy tipplers break store windows, kick dents in car fenders, insult passing women, even commit murder, without fear of lawsuit or punishment. (One jurist estimates that an average of ten murderers a year go scot-free because of P.L. 39.)

The Japanese, who are among the world's politest people when sober,...

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