Debate Magazine

More Donations to Japanese Policymaking Infrastructure!

Posted on the 16 June 2011 by Shahalexander
The coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Clean Government Party (Komeito) has been critical to Prime Minister Naoto Kan with regard to his response to the great earthquake and his foreign and domestic policies. This led them to pose a no confidence motion to the Kan cabinet, in expectation of uprisings within the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) by the Ozawa-Hatoyama group, despite huge gaps in fundamental policy values between the LDP-Komeito coalition and Democrat dissidents. LDP places the foremost priority on the US-Japanese alliance as shown in their agreement with the United States over Futemma Air Base. On the other hand, the Ozawa-Hatoyama group explores close ties with China and the United Nations. As shown in the joint plot of no confidence motion by such an incompatible alliance, Japanese people are fed up with messy conflicts in Nagatacho which is more oriented toward political fraction rivalries rather than policy measures. But it is no use just to blame the diet. Above all, ability of winning votes and ability of thinking of the vision of the world or the state are not necessarily congruent. Rather, we should try to make democracy sound through policymaking initiatives outside the legislative and the executive sectors of the government. For this purpose, it is necessary to develop policymaking infrastructures which enable organizations and individuals pursuing policy ideals to exert influences on parliamentary politicians and bureaucrats.


While Japan has fallen into a political turmoil this year, in the United States, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commemorates the centennial anniversary. The background of think tank development in the United States is a “political vacuum”. America was growing rapidly since the latter half of the 19th century, and it was called a “Hercules in the cradle” by Europeans. However, this Hercules was so inward-looking that he went back to the cradle after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Even though British hegemony was in decline during the interwar period, Hercules was reluctant to go out to defeat monsters such as the Nemean Lion. Business societies and citizens thought that such an inward looking America exercise political leadership in accordance with its national power, and it was a think tank of long history such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Brookings Institution, and the Council on Foreign Relations that was founded through donations by them. A long tradition of civic voluntarism donation culture since the era of British colonial rule helped policymaking infrastructures grow out of established governmental frameworks. Even present days, new think tanks, NGOs, and individuals of policy visions stand up one after another in the United States. It is supported by donations from corporations, philanthropy foundations, and citizens.


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Essentially, democracy is not just the rule by the majority. It is a political regime to control excessive abuse of power under absolute monarchy. It is utterly wrong to believe that a judgment by the people is always right. If things were simply left to decisions by the majority, politics would fall into the idiocracy that permitted Barabbas and executed Jesus. In order to stop such idiocracy, minority rights are protected through systems like checks and balances, freedom of speech, and the rule of law. However, they are not enough, and intellectuals out of official positions need to take leadership in shaping the public opinion to correct misjudgments by the people. As it were, think tanks, NGOs, and individuals of visions advocate policy ideals beyond short term partisan tug wars, play alternative roles of Plato’s “philosopher king”. In order to make policymaking infrastructures that enable them to work actively, donations from people of the willing are necessary. Donation culture in Japan is expected to develop in view of the 3-11 earthquake, but real social contribution is beyond simply supporting charity activities.
Expanding donations to policy infrastructures is not only for right democracy. These days, Japan loses self confidence in face of the rise of emerging economies in the neighborhood such as China, South Korea, and ASEAN countries. However, no matter how their industrial output grows, it is Japan along with America and Europe that plays a leading role to show fundamental values and solutions of the system in the global political economy. It is important to strengthen the leadership in knowledge so that Japan can win political and economic competitions among states.
Consequently, close ties of civic voluntarism and intellectuals of the willing are necessary so that Japan can get out of “political vacuums”. It is useless just to talk when Prime Minister Kan resigns, or whether to vote for DPJ or LDP. For this purpose, more donations for policymaking infrastructures are anticipated, beyond for charity activities grown since 3-11.

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