Japanese Democracy

Brad De Long delong at econ.Berkeley.EDU
Wed Jul 15 06:54:40 PDT 1998

>The prewar Japanese corporations were zaibatsu, family-run holdings, not
>keiretsu, which are bank-centered conglomerates. The US occupation was
>crucial in breaking up the former and permitting the latter to form; the
>same thing happened to IG Farben, which spawned Bayer, Hoechst and BASF,
>and the old Deutsche Bank, which was split up into Commerzbank,
>Dresdnerbank, and the present-day Deutsch Bank (a tremendous boon to
>Japanese and German industry). The US occupation was hardly disinterested,
>but did provide things like a limited right to organize, to free speech
>and assembly, expropriation of the rural landlords (just like Ho Chi
>Minh!) and of course emancipation for many Japanese women, who could vote
>and had limited citizenship rights for the first time in Japanese history.

But don't you feel that there was something... very wrong in the way the post-WWII Japanese political system worked out? Two generations of LDP hegemony (perhaps in a manner similar to CD hegemony in Italy) do not seem to me to have done much to advance those habits of heart and mind necessary if political democracy is to be much more than a hollow shell...

The _Wall Street Journal's_ Jake Schlesinger wrote a good book about Japanese politics in the Tanaka era, _Shadow Shoguns_, which I recommend to all and sundry...

Brad DeLong

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