Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Hope for a Wide Open Policy Debate

"In politics nothing is contemptible." These words from Benjamin Disraeli are troubling. Watching the actions of today's politicians, I get the suspicion that they have an "anything goes" attitude. Party leaders engage in far too much negative campaigning. The parties' upper echelon keeps making mountains out of molehills. The range of topics discussed is far too narrow.

The people of Japan want a wide-ranging policy debate right now. What sort of economic policy should we put in place? Are we happy with our current direction in foreign policy and national security? Are we content to continue following the US? What sort of society and economy does Japan want? The people are asking for a debate about the principles that will guide Japan from hereon out. Our political leaders should heed this request and begin the debate.

The nation is becoming more impoverished. The government delivers carefree pronouncements about how the economy has already hit bottom, and yet economic conditions for the average Japanese are deteriorating rapidly. The unemployment rate is skyrocketing. Bankruptcies are on the rise. A lot of people are at a vital crossroads, unsure of which way to turn.

But the government and the individual leaders of our political parties are not conscious of this reality. Politicians in both the Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan lack this consciousness. These individuals should look at the economic realities and the worsening livelihoods of their constituents and propose breakthrough proposals to help them. We need to weed out politicians without an economic policy and then begin a serious discussion about the reasons for this economic collapse.

Lately, something has really surprised me when I listen to party leaders talk. They have almost no strategic vision for the future. Should we continue with a capitalist society centered on the largest sources of capital? Or should we base our capitalism on an economy that actually makes things? Should we continue down the path of neoliberalism? Or should we pursue some sort of modified capitalism or socialism? Is a profit-oriented society with widening wealth gaps what we want? Or perhaps we should move to a middle-class society that values full employment, social welfare and the environment? It surprises me that none of our political leaders are discussing these vital issues. Our politics have become impoverished. Our political leaders need to develop a general vision for Japan's future.