Thursday, June 10, 2010

Re Mark’s Wish List for Realignment says that the following response to Mark’s comment is too long, so I’m posting it here. Sorry I don’t have time to post on the ongoing chicken race between Kamei and the DPJ. Will Kan call Kamei’s bluff? Stay tuned.


As a typical floater voter, I have my own set of wishes, but my aunts stubbornly refuse to turn into teacarts. So you’ll have to content yourself with what I think is likely/unlikely as per my current line of work, and I’m not going in the policy implications:

Now that it seems likely Japan will realign its political parties, I thought I’d weigh in with some suggestions.

I’d like to see the SDP and the JCP merge. This new party would focus on providing social security, child care, health care, and education. It would support government spending in those areas, but not necessarily in public works. It would try and raise taxes on the rich (particularly the capital gains tax). It would oppose raising the sales tax. It would try to reduce defense spending and it would do its best to uphold Article 9. It would call for a reduction in U.S. forces in Japan. It would also call for strong regulations for industry.

Policy-wise, a merger makes sense. It won’t happen. There’s too much history behind them. Besides, the remainder of the old Socialists that form the SDP are too unruly a group—reminds you a bit of the US Democratic Party—to be able to submerge themselves in the orderly, disciplined world of the JCP.

I’d like to see the Ozawa faction split off from Minshuto and form a new party called the Rural Revival Party. This party would be a sort of pork barrel politics party, focused on spending money in rural areas to win votes. It would, of course, oppose redistricting. I think Kokumin Shinto should get merged into this new party, as the new party would try to boost Japan Post and its affiliates, particularly in rural areas. This party would also oppose raising the sales tax. It would support infrastructure projects.

Makes a lot of sense. And don’t rule out the possibility of likeminded friends in the LDP joining them. Think big, Mark.

I’d like to see Your Party merged into what’s left of Minshuto. Yoshimi Watanabe, Yukio Edano, Seiji Maehara, Katsuya Okada, and Renho would be in this party. This party would focus on transparency, accountability, and the control of the bureaucracy by the politicians. This party would focus on reducing wasteful government spending, particularly public works spending.

What do you mean, “what’s left of Minshuto”? I’m willing to take under 100 in the over/under on the number of Diet members that Ozawa will be able to take with him if he decides to split. That said, your “New Party” does make sense—in the mid- to long-term. I don’t think that will happen before the next lower house election though; The post-boomers in Your Party has to see how far they can take its current configuration before they decide to submerge its identity in a bigger whole.

I’d like to see Shinzo Abe, Shigeru Ishiba, and Yuriko Koike move over to Tachiagare Nippon. This party would focus on international affairs. It might call for revising Article 9. It might call for increasing the ODA budget. It would call for reducing social welfare spending and public works spending. It would try to balance the budget.

Did you say Tachigare Nippon? Kidding. No. they are not a good fit.

What’s left of the LDP can form a new party called Kanryoto. This party would include Shinjiro Koizumi, Tadamori Oshima, and Taro Aso. This party would let the bureaucrats do what they want while the politicians did their political theater.

Doesn’t make sense, and that’s not what they are about, individually.

I don’t think it’s necessary for Japanese parties to have different trade policies. Japan already has low tariffs, which means making trade deals makes sense for Japan. The only thing Japan has to protect is its agriculture sector. Given that Japan only produces 40% of the food it consumes, I don’t think it makes sense for Japan to reduce protection in that industry.

But we could have a more rational agricultural policy, which would call for a different trade policy.

I don’t think immigration should be a focus of the new parties. I don’t think Japanese voters want a substantial increase in immigration and I don’t think it makes sense for Japan to do that. There aren’t many politicians who want that anyways. Hopefully, in the next election, Hidenao Nakagawa will lose and go away.

Don’t worry, it won’t be. Not yet.

As for the other parties, I’d break them up and have their members join the remaining parties.

That’s possible only when (if?) Daisaku Ikeda passes away.


Janne Morén said...

The one major issue facing Japanese agricultural policy is deciding whether it's part of Japanese culture or industry. Either viewpoint is valid, but results in vastly different policies down the road.

Jun Okumura said...


This is by no means the first time that I’ve seen the question about subsidies and other government interventions in agriculture stated in those terms, mostly—possibly always—in Japan by the people who defend subsidized smallholders. I don’t see that as a useful way to look at the question, though it is certainly useful to look at how that question is used as a political and literary device.

PaxAmericana said...

Wouldn't it make more sense to have a Chiho-to? Despite the waste in rural infrastructure projects, there hasn't really been a party oriented towards reviving the chiho, or has there?

Jun Okumura said...


I see three issues here.

First, should the government make an extra effort to revive chiho? (I assume by that you mean the areas beyond daily commuting distance from major metropolitan centers. That definition excludes the Osaka environs, which looks like it needs some serious shaking-up itself, but let’s not complicate this issue so much that I can’t respond to it in a single comment. My personal answer is no. If I were the head of the eight million gods, I would enforce a civil minimum in public services that any resident of the archipelago is entitled to but nothing more, then let the people—including permanent residents—vote with feet, to decide whether they want to wallow in the earthly pleasures of Kabukicho, ride the ethereal snowflakes of Niseko, or till the organic garlic fields of Aomori. ( I prefer the cheaper, inorganic variety, which actually looks and tastes quite organic. But maybe I just have strong teeth.) And the local administrations should play their strong suit: poverty. Accept nuclear power plants, US troops, whatever the major metropolitan centers don’t want, and watch the money roll in. (Nuclear power plants are much safer neighbors than, say, a busy intersection. The crime rate of the US military and dependents in Japan is, for obvious reasons, disproportionately low.) I think that this course of action should be self-evident to any supporter of a liberal democracy. However, I belong to a very small minority, that is, people who actually give voice to such views, so I’ve basically given up trying to convince people.

Now, for the second, more value-neutral question: Would the chiho benefit by ganging up on the major metropolitan centers to exercise power over policy development and execution? If a larger share of total national revenues is the objective, then it would be a good idea, assuming that a chiho party could ever find a workable definition of chiho. But that is likely to drag down the Japanese economy so badly that the pleasure of seeing your metropolitan neighbors as poor as you are will be offset by the pain of seeing how better off than you are your regional neighbors have become.

There is, of course, a third question of sorts: devolution of power. I don’t see any reason to believe that more devolution will mean more efficiency and less corruption when it comes to spending large sums of money. And where the civil minimum is involved (BTW why don’t we hear that term, which I think is very useful, anymore?), do you really want public health insurance rates to vary widely depending on where you live? But this is not a matter of chiho as I defined it, since it involves by definition all the chiho, including the major metropolitan areas. A political party dedicated to one cause—devolution—does not come across as a useful vehicle to deal with the matter.

Janne Morén said...


The question may well have been framed in those terms by subsidy defenders. But if they have, they haven't actually considered what the answers will be.

Seeing it as culture or industry is basically incompatible; you either do one or the other, or you end up with an unworkable hybrid that doesn't work as either.

And if you decide agriculture is culture, the end result will be most to all foods imported while the few farmers will become outdoor museum exhibits, paid to play their traditional role rather than actually producing a viable product. Freed from having to actually produce they can indulge in period farming, organic, macrobiotic or whatever without economic fear. Meanwhile, as imports no longer compete with local products tariffs can come down, giving us cheaper, better foods.

Me, I'd prefer regulatory change allowing a viable modern large-scale farming industry. After all, it's not as if small-scale farming has disappeared in those places that have large-scale production. And as for keeping traditional methods - well, which eras traditional methods would that be? It's not as if farming technology was completely static for two millennia until the combine harvester suddenly appeared.

PaxAmericana said...


My experience in Japan has been that the Japanese way of running things makes it very hard to avoid moving to Tokyo. No amount of cheap land or acceptance of pollution can overcome this. On my more optimistic days, I see some kind of devolution as a part of the log-awaited post-Meiji, post-Yamagata political system that is just around the corner, and has been for decades.

Jun Okumura said...


I think that you must be back-defining culture from a “most to all food imported” result. Even then, I doubt that you can take your definition of culture and use it to determine that “most to all food imported” would be the only possible outcome. A more useful debate would revolve around how the agriculture-as-culture claim is being used to justify Japanese policies regarding agriculture.


The Japanese way of running things”—by whom? The same thing goes on everywhere from Mumbai to Moscow to New York, so it can’t be government policy. What the provinces want is devolution—and a check in the mail. It’s a choice. But which nations can afford it?

PaxAmericana said...


I disagree that the same way of running things goes on everywhere, and most definitely not Mumbai and NY. I've seen a situation in the US require no trips to DC or NY that requires many trips to Tokyo to deal with the government. Perhaps the relevant workers just wanted to take trips to Tokyo; I don't know, but they weren't happy about it. And I have heard from several company executives that they regretted setting up outside of Kanto.

Jun Okumura said...


India is more of a confederation of 1 billion people with disparate cultures with often incompatible languages, so I would not be surprised to hear that a businessman would require fewer trips to New Delhi than his Japanese counterpart with regard to Tokyo. The pull of the state capital must be strong, no? So what is the proper comparison here?

I put the United States somewhere in the middle, with its population and a diminishing but still relevant federal system of government. But I need more than a flatout claims that things are more convenient for businessmen in New York seeking a permit or license or whatever to accept that the causes of the deterioration of the Japanese provinces are any different from the decline of the US rustbelt.