Thursday, May 13, 2010

Time to End Politics that Ignores the Provinces

"A nation's power resides in its provinces." — Roka Tokutomi (late 19th, early 20th Century novelist)
If the provinces are abandoned, the nation will decline. What's important to a country is the ability to strike a balance between the central government and the provinces, the metropolises and the outlying regions, urban and rural areas, industry and agriculture. If the balance is lost, society, the economy and the government start to destabilize. The important role of politics is to strike a social and economic balance. However, Japan is not in balance. Neoliberal and free-market policies have the nation teetering. The population is concentrated in our largest cities, especially in Tokyo. The wealth is also concentrated there, as are the corporations. Politicians show little concern for the provinces.

We hear lots of noise about decentralization and regional sovereignty, but the reality is that while the provinces decline at a rapid pace, they get only unsubstantial decentralization measures from the government. The gap between the center (Tokyo) and the outlying areas
widens. If this trend continues unabated, Japan will be weakened. The world is sensitive to this danger. Japan is threatened by politics that ignores the provinces, but even after we ushered in a new administration, nothing has changed.

"A person who brightens one corner is a treasure to the nation." — Saicho (Buddhist monk, 767-822)

These words encourage a life dedicated to helping people in the dark corners of our society. This is the starting point for a life in politics. To live by these words, politicians must put priority on the provinces, the small businesses and employment. But the political will to carry through on this has been anemic lately. The spirit needed for this work seems to be seeping out of today's journalists, economists and career bureaucrats. This is a serious situation. In the days of the medium-size constituency system, politicians took better care of the provinces than they do today. Once the small-size constituency system was ushered in, the focus turned to the parties, and the politicians lost the will to fight for the provinces.

"Creating one advantage is more powerful than eliminating one harm." — Yelu Chucai, retainer to Genghis Khan

The provinces are sensitive to the movements of our nation's politicians. Politicians who disregard the provinces are drawing more criticism. As the summer upper-house election approaches, voters are beginning to single out these politicians. Policies affecting the provinces will be the hot issue. While many leading politicians are unaware of this movement, a noticeable minority is starting to pay more attention to the outlying areas. Voters are beginning to show signs that they'll support this group of politicians.

The big issue for Japan on the political front is going to be the removal of politicians who disregard the provinces, small businesses and employment. The rumblings of a larger movement have already begun.