As I struggle to prepare my thoughts for the Davos Blueprint for Japan 2020 panel, I keep ending up at the conclusion that Japan is not a functioning democracy. Although it is a loop, the lack of transparency, the lack of an open function market, the lack of a free and independent media, the lack of a functioning judiciary... All of these things point to the fact that we don't have a democracy. I'm not blaming anyone for this and I think that many people are sincerely trying to reform Japan, but I do believe that it is much deeper than just some stimulation packages and lip service to transparency.
Larry talks about the "Framers" in "The Future of Ideas" and what he says about them sounds pretty good. It sounds like the "Framers" really tried very hard to structure a democracy that is robust against corruption and able to self-correct. So, I decided to ask Professor Lessig about democracy. (It sure is nice having a comparative constitutional law professor in the neighborhood. ;-) )
Professor Lessig gave me some great things to think about which I thought I would share. (This may not be very new to people who don't live in a totalitarian state... if there is such a think these days...)
The first thing he said that made a lot of sense is that a democracy requires multiple points of authority to criticize and check power. This may seem obvious and is the spirit behind the separation of the three branches of government, but it goes beyond that. It's giving power to the states. (In Japan's case, the governors.) It's a free media. It's a bunch of different points of authority which structurally allow a competition of ideas and well-regulated criticism. For this, authorities with a strong sense of the ethics of independence are necessary.
Professor Lessig defined democracy as a competition of ideas. I think he is right on.
So this is where blogging comes in. We both agreed that there is a sense of well-regulated critical discussion about politics and other important topics on blogs. Blogging has been around for awhile now, but is still in its infancy. If we can develop the Internet into a method that enables a competition of ideas and a well-regulated critical dialog, we may be able enable one of the key factors missing from many non-democracies. A public dialog which engages the people. (By the way, the "press" when the Framers were writing the Constitution were individuals with printing presses, not the massive media companies.)
Sorry about this sloppy entry. I just wanted to get this out before I forgot. I'll post more over the holidays as I prepare my presentation, but the key lesson of today's lunch was: Focus on the "competition of ideas" and MAYBE everything will follow. Maybe it's a blog-enabled public and a league of powerful governors that will lead Japan into the next stage...