Why are Japanese politicians so useless?

Not that I can point to any country which would set a particularly good model, but here goes being specific about Japan anyway…

“No major country has such a capacity to produce nonentities as prime ministers as Japan, but the problem is not so much the individuals as the political structure. Traditionally in postwar Japan, economic affairs were run by bureaucrats in the government ministries, and foreign and security policies were determined by Washington, so there was not much for politicians to do except to take bribes from construction companies and build bullet train lines in their home districts”

Thunder from the East page 87

I’m not convinced that is the biggest factor. Most of the Japanese elite are not attracted to politics because it is not a high status job (due to scandals etc), and also doesn’t have the much sought after job security and peace of mind (anzen-anshin). Then it got stuck in a vicious circle of worse people reducing the status of the job even more.

The public sector did attract the elite because it was a well-paid job for life and had high status due to, amongst other things, getting most of the kudos for the postwar expansion of the Japanese economy. As scandals hit bureaucrats too, pay lagged far behind the private sector, and the bureaucrats seemed more of the problem in the economy etc than the solution, the elite job became a well-paid job in a big Japanese company instead. And as the ability of the mandarins decreased, so did the pull for others to work in the same jobs, etc.

I’m not saying these factors are exclusive to Japan, just that they push in different directions at different times in other countries. If you were a computer whizzkid moving to a startup in the 1990s, you’d probably swear that it was just due to improved job satisfaction. So the fact that everyone thinks it is really cool and the wave of the future, and that people stuck in middle management in IBM are being teased stupid by their friends is just coincidence, is it?? Who knows, more scandals and downsizing reducing Toyota etc in the public esteem and the same thing could happen in Japan. Perhaps…


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