How one samurai judge handled positive externalities

In old Japan, it is said, the courts of Edo (now Tokyo) were presented with the complaint of a shopkeeper whose upstairs neighbor had enjoyed the delicious smell of his cooking without, as the plaintiff said would be fair, paying a price for it. To find out how the samurai judge cleverly resolved the complaint, read on…. [Dan Lewis, Now I Know]


  • Given some of the equally phantom damages that are claimed in suits today, I suspect this would be an appropriate method of payment for said “damages”.

  • If you go to the bottom of the article linked too, there is a link to the book this story is from (Ooka the wise). This is actually a children’s book that I read as a child. It a series of short stories, more like fables, about court cases Ooka over saw and solved using common sense, so not sure how historically accurate the stories are. Included is a retelling of the story of 2 women fighting over a child ( who was due a large inheritance) and Ooka deciding the solution was to cut the child in two and give half to each. Of course the real mother refused and said she would rather give up the child than see it die, while the false mother was all for it because she would then get half the money.

    Maybe that is what is missing today, children being taught common sense-