Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Here is a draft of my opinion piece for Keizai Doyukai the Association of Corporate Executives. I wanted to focus on identifying the dysfunctional democracy as the core problem and to encourage public debate and a global dialog without fear of "revisionists" bashing Japan as a result.

Version 1.0 Feb. 10, 2002
A democracy built after a revolution will be required to save Japan

The root of Japan's economic and structural problems is the weakness of Japan democracy. In a democracy, there should be multiple points of authority, the ability to criticize power without fear of retribution, critical debate and a competition of ideas. This may well be inefficient when there is a consensus on the direction of the country, but democracy is essential when a nation needs to change. Post-war Japan consolidated power in the ruling party. People were educated to be obedient. Harmony was maintained by co-opting or disabling people or organizations that could threaten the system. Diversity in the media, a strong judiciary, diversity in education and political diversity were stifled for the purpose of maintaining harmony. This harmony and consensus oriented process that once protected the happiness of the citizens of Japan is now the primary barrier to change. The system is self-perpetuating and is extremely resistant to change. It hides behind the powerful and complex bureaucracy and the monolithic media that does not represent a diversity of opinions.

Because the system is not able to change itself, a revolution is required. Japan must build a modern democracy and empower the people to participate. Revolutions to install democracies do not occur through negotiation with bureaucrats or academic debate. Revolutions involve people becoming upset and forcing change. Revolutions in the 18th century involved bloody wars and uprisings. 21st century revolutions will involve a public uprising triggered by bypassing the forces which suppress information. The revolution will be a revolution in the ethics of the people. Japan has a constitution and almost all of the laws required to be a functioning democracy. What it lacks is the consolidated will of the people.

At one time Japan was viewed as a competitive threat to the United States. "Revisionists" in the United States tried to force policy changes in Japan. Many Japanese have very bad memories from this period. In addition, Japanese generally do not enjoy discussing domestic issues with the outside world, feeling that the issues are either too complicated for non-Japanese to understand or fearing external pressure on internal issues. Japan is no longer a competitive threat to the world. Japan's inability to recover from the economic crisis is a threat to the global economy. Japan would benefit greatly from exposing the domestic core problems to the Japanese public as well as the rest of the world.

The combination of increasing public debate on the Internet and a global dialog will help the Japanese people become aware of the domestic problems as well as the context and responsibility of Japan globally. A new sense of global responsibility to achieve a higher ethical standard will help the Japanese people create a modern democracy capable of solving the domestic problems and allowing Japan to participate in the global geo-political arena as a true global entity. The revolution in Japan will be an ethical revolution about people become aware that they are actually in charge.