A paper by Harvard law Professor Mark Ramseyer has recently been drawing controversy.
Ramseyer, J. M. (2021). Contracting for sex in the Pacific War. International Review of Law and Economics, 65, 105971.
Personally, I always felt that these historical issues should be taken in the light of human rights and universal values standards of today. Otherwise we would not do justice to the human beings that we currently are.
Reports in the New York Times and New Yorker seem to have been mainly concerned with historic facts and interpretations of them. While these are certainly important issues, reading the paper, I was more concerned by the weakness and irrelevance of the game theoretic approach that Prof. Ramseyer applied to this issue in the paper.
Although economic analysis based on game theory has been a powerful tool, when you think of the comfort woman controversy, money is not necessarily the first thing that would come into your mind. Compared to issues of human dignity, freedom, and social and psychological coercion, not to mention the military culture at that time, economic factors seem to be a subsidiary issue at best.
In the above paper, Prof. Ramseyer gives some casual descriptions of credible commitments, reward and income structures, compensation for much higher risks involved, indenture contracts with a large advance with one or two year terms, etc. but fails go extend the theoretically analysis fully, so that non-trivial results are obtained which are not obvious from the assumptions themselves. This insufficient treatment, coupled with the general neglect of social, cultural, and psychological elements described, for example, in Min Jee Lee's novel Pachinko (2018), makes the Ramseyer paper largely irrelevant to the comfort woman controversy.
This is very unfortunate, especially considering the fact that Prof. Ramseyer is an excellent scholar, versed in the interplay between law and economics. It is a pity that Prof. Ramseyer failed to see much beyond that.
A critique of Ramseyer paper