Parallel Politics: Economic Policymaking in the United States and Japan

By Samuel Kernell | Go to book overview

The Japanese Politico-Economic System and the Public Sector

Eisuke Sakakibara

RECENT DISCUSSIONS of the politics of Japanese economic decisionmaking have revolved around two main issues. One is whether the government bureaucracy or the Liberal Democratic party (LDP) dominates decisionmaking. The other is how much power the government actually has over the private sector, particularly the manufacturing-service segment, which is dominated by large corporations. Opinion is divided on both questions.

In the case of decisionmaking, some analysts argue that leadership resides in the bureaucracy.1 Others, in both professional and journalistic circles, say the party is playing an increasingly important role in the symbiotic relationship between the two.2 Chalmers Johnson takes the extreme view that "Japan's elite bureaucrats make almost all the major decisions, effectively draw up all legislation, oversee the national budget and are also the source of all major policies."3 In contrast, Seizaburo Sato and Tetsuhisa Matsuzaki summarize the system as "compartmentalized pluralism administered by party-bureaucracy coalition" and suggest that the well-established party apparatus plays the crucial role.4

The other issue concerns "targeting," "industrial policies," or, more generally, the role of the government in planning and implementing economic policies. Although the argument for a monolithic Japan, Inc., has waned somewhat, many still think of the public sector as the central

____________________
1
Takashi Inoguchi calls the system "bureaucracy-led mass-inclusionary pluralism." Takashi Inoguchi, Gendai Nihon Seiji Keizai no Kōzu: Seifu to Shijō (The structure of contemporary Japanese politics and economics) ( Tokyo: Toyo Keizai Shinpōsha, 1983).
2
See, for example, Seizaburo Sato and Tetsuhisa Matsuzaki, Jimintō Seiken (The Liberal Democratic party) ( Tokyo: Chuo Koronsha, 1986).
3
Chalmers Johnson, MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925-1975 ( Stanford University Press, 1982), p. 20.
4
Sato and Matsuzaki, Jimintō Seiken, p. 170.

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