Mark A. Chinen


Japan is considering changes to its constitution, including Article 9, which prohibits it from maintaining a military force. If amendments are made, it would mark the first time the Japanese constitution has been amended since its establishment in 1947. Professor Chinen examines the debates on Article 9 using scholarship on constitutions as providing heuristics for decision-making. Constitutions help overcome the problems of emotion and time-inconsistency. They also enable societies of different deliberative groups to avoid the pitfalls of deliberation by requiring groups to interact with one another and by providing opportunities for compromise through what Cass Sunstein refers to as incompletely theorized agreement. Drawing on work from J.M. Balkin, Professor Chinen argues such strategies and concepts share features common to all heuristic devices: they are cumulative, multi-functional, recursive, and lead to unintended results. This theory jibes well with the process and substance of the Japanese debates. The debates on Article 9 are taking place within and among deliberative groups in Japan. The formal constitutional requirements for amendment combine with features in Japanese society to require the various groups to interact with one another. The cumulative, multi-functional, and recursive nature of heuristics emerge in the themes in the debate. These features make agreement hard because the deliberative groups are familiar with the arguments being made for and against amending Article 9. Yet, the same concepts could enable incompletely theorized agreement on key issues. Finally, the net effect of these tools is that possible solutions to the amendment debate will solve some issues now raised by Article 9, but will create others.