Why doesn’t real reform happen in Japan?

Historically, there are two main ways reform happens in Japan – reform that is forced from the top or outside, or reform that is copying a foreign model to try to catch up. The third possible way would be pressure from the public to reform that politicians and public servants had to respond to, but this is unlikely as the Japanese do not seem willing to go through any pain to get any possible benefits of reform.

The country that Japan has been trying to catch up with for about 100 years has been America. Even though there is little chance of the economy catching up in the way that some thought inevitable in the 80s, the Japanese looking at the present US and present Japan don’t really see a country that they want to be more like over there. The same thing is true looking across the shorter seas at the apparently more successful South Korea and China. If more Japanese knew about Scandinavia and Singapore, or weren’t so focused on the overall size of the economy, perhaps they’d have a model that they would think worth following??

So, the only real hope is an even more charismatic Koizumi-like politician to fool them into reform that they don’t really want, or outside pressure allowing the reformers in Japan to get their own way. If it did mean Japan copying the Anglo-Saxon model, though, perhaps this slow decline is better…

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