Two years ago I marched in protest against the Japan National ID. Last year, after we failed, a few cities and prefectures resisted. Yokohama took the position that the bill was illegal because it required privacy protection and the privacy bill had not passed. They allowed citizens to opt out and an whopping 24% of their citizens opted out. Now that the privacy bill of the central government is in place, Yokohama is being forced to "normalize" with the central government. Last year, I accepted an appoint to the Yokoyama personal information protection committee which would oversee their integration of the national ID system with the hope that I could help them in their resistance. Today, almost a year after the first meeting, I spent the afternoon in what was basically a rubber stamp session. We voiced our opinions, but at this point there really wasn't much choice. These inquiry committee are constitutionally defined organs for people to interact with the law making process, but I felt more like a cog with a rubber stamp than a participant in a democracy.

9 Comments

I would not be surprised if the committee meeting was the only 2nd time since the last year's. The problematic thing of these Japan's committee mechanism is that it is defined for the people to interact but there's often no interaction.

I think that here is no "brainstorming" type of meetings of committees in mind of bureaucrats. They set up railroad track on the subject and keep things which make theme derailed out. then these committees are acting just like "democracy theatre". it's everywhere in Japan from central gov to local gov.

I see that there may be still some chance to get things through but it requires a lot of set ups in behind the scene or under the table.

Japan is a place that although it has my curiosity and admiration, I have no direct experience on how life works, respectively does not work there. On the other side, I do have some experience with the process of direct democracy as practised in Switzerland. Your experience is nothing out of what happens in the democratic process. What I suspect is getting you somewhat upset, to say nothing of feeling unheard and powerless, is that the position or values which you defend and stand for were a minority.

In a democratic society how do you deal with a minority position?

Cairo: If 24% of the people are opting out, I don't think Joi has a minority position. 24% is a huge number when you consider how often people in Japan openly oppose the government's policy. He doesn't call it a "whopping" number for nothing. If word of this gets around enough, Joi will definitely be in the majority.

Joe: 24% is indeed a whopping number, still it is not a majority in any democratic system.
Technicalities aside, you got the point: get the word out!

Communicate, how would you otherwise get the people to do anything?

"24% is indeed a whopping number, still it is not a majority in any democratic system."

Depends on what level of participation you have. I don't see Japan as a very participatory democracy. It's more along the lines of the U.S., where you participate only if your personal interests are clearly at risk. So if less than half the population cares (I'm guessing this is the case), the 24% wins.

Bush would call that "fuzzy math" ...

Japan is NOT a democracy, "emerging" democracy, pink/purple/red/blue democracy or anything of the sort at all. The government does whatever it damn well pleases and big companies are allowed to ride roughshod over the law as long as they bribe the right officials. What we have here now is just as bad as the worst days of the Tokugawa shokunate if not worse.

Almost forgot about the rubber stamping. I was asked on numerous occasions to speak about a subject and offer suggestions on how to change things while living in Japan. After my second time I always declined. What good is it for me to prepare and to present if your decision is already made?

Thanks for the flashback. Almost forgot that part of daily life.

yokoyama?

anyhoo, this is how democracy operates everywhere I know, certainly here in California. The bureaucracy's job is government, the citizen's duty is obediance.

I'm no raving libertarian now, but I suspect I'll end up one in my bitter old age...

I wonder why this feels like it is getting me by the balls? My life is about change, creating, managing, handling change is what I do. I have become involved in politics because I felt it was time to put my actions where my typing fingers are: live by the sword, die by the sword sort of thing. Democracy is for me an issue. I happen to think that in lack of a better system we somehow plod along with democracy until something new and more sustainable, less destructive comes along. There have been a few experiments, communism is the last failed one. So why loud we have to scream until we get it that democracy does not work all the time. Sometimes it works, other times it does not, it is slow, cumbersome and masses or majorities have often been proven to be wrong, plain wrong.

The thing about innovation is that it is new some time when it emerges, then it becomes established, people think it is traditional and unchangeable, like it was some unmovable truth that had been there from the beginning of time. It ain't!

Let me tell you two things that are facts: both time and democracy are human inventions. Time serves its purpose well, we are not bitching much about that one, other than there is not enough time to do everything. Democracy is broken, fix it or invent something that works.

Joi's venting of his frustration is not just about national ID's in Japan. It goes a bit deeper than that.

Does this sound like the call for revolution?

Perhaps it is.

Leave a comment

6 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Feeling like a cog with a rubber stamp.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://joi.ito.com/MT-4.35-en/mt-tb.cgi/2807

"Yokohama took the position that the bill was illegal because it required privacy protection and the privacy bill had not passed. They allowed citizens to opt out and an whopping 24% of their citizens opted out. Now that the privacy bill of the central... Read More

As seen on Instapundit... Hong Kong, Taiwan and China There's a fundraiser next Tuesday in HK for Beslan victims. Will AIDS lead China to democracy? Tom looks more deeply into the winners and losers in HK's recent election. There's now a HK politician ... Read More

As seen on Instapundit... Hong Kong, Taiwan and China There's a fundraiser next Tuesday in HK for Beslan victims. Will AIDS lead China to democracy? Tom looks more deeply into the winners and losers in HK's recent election. There's now a HK politician ... Read More

This is cross-posted at Winds of Change. Asia by Blog is a twice weekly feature, posted on Mondays and Thursdays (the latest edition is here). You can be notified by email when it is updated, just drop me an email at simon-[at]-simonworld-[dot]-mu-[dot... Read More

This is cross-posted at Winds of Change. Asia by Blog is a twice weekly feature, posted on Mondays and Thursdays (the latest edition is here). You can be notified by email when it is updated, just drop me an email at simon-[at]-simonworld-[dot]-mu-[dot... Read More

It's time to have a look at East Asia and what's been making the news in Asian blogs over the past month. We cover China (in depth), as well as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore et. al). Read More

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Business and the Economy category.

Books is the previous category.

Computer and Network Risks is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index.

Monthly Archives