Government Liability and Natural Hazard Mitigation in Japan, The Soviety Union, China, New Zealand and the United States

November 1983 (VOL. 1, NO. 3)

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Earthquake hazard mitigation is an important part of most governmental efforts to mitigate the harm which results from natural disasters. As part of the effort to mitigate harm, governments should consider how the assignment of the external or unintended costs of mitigation impacts on the success of the mitigation effort. Central to the assignment of these costs is the law of government liability. This article reports on the preliminary results of a comparative study of government liability law as it relates to natural hazard mitigation in five countries. A brief survey of the government liability law of Japan, the Soviet Union, China, New Zealand, and the United States is presented. Laws relating specifically to natural hazard mitigation are also examined. The five countries represent very different economic, political, and social systems, yet reveal a concern for a problem which seems common to all of them. A comparative analysis is drawn upon to develop a framework for policy analysis. The analytical framework identifies policy concerns which a government might wish to pursue and an array of legal mechanisms for affecting selected policy goals. The general conclusion is that governments have numerous cost assignment mechanisms in addition to liability in the narrow sense of the law of torts or obligations. The selection of appropriate legal mechanisms will depend upon the goals and circumstances of particular governments.