28 – A Tale of Two Countries (26 Nov 09)
A Tale of Two Countries – Obama’s Failure and Minshuto’s Success
(I gave this talk yesterday before the Ozaki Foundation in Tokyo)
You perhaps think the subtitle of this talk – Obama’s Failure, Minshuto’s Success – to be a mischievous and overly hasty conclusion. But I think it is already a reality staring us in the face. Summing it up right away: Obama has missed the one rare opportunity for initiating the momentous reform policies he was expected to deliver, and such opportunity will not come again. The Minshuto, on the other hand, has moved fast to change Japan’s political reality beyond a point where it can revert to where things were until September, and where they had been for decades of indecision.
Both the United States and Japan are in the middle of developments that are bound to have a great effect on the wider world, quite aside from them changing their domestic circumstances. I can imagine that you have greater trouble believing that about Japan than about the United States, but that may be because of an ingrained habit, widespread in the world, of identifying the United States with leadership and vigor and Japan as a place where the politics never change.
What the two countries have had in common are serious problems connected with a lack of effective political control. This out-of-control situation has in the United States led to regression; to things moving in very much the wrong way, especially with regards to its financial system and its waging unprovoked and unnecessary wars. And in Japan the out-of-control situation has led to stagnation, to things not moving at all, except, very gradually downhill, socially and economically. No wonder therefore that expectations before the American and Japanese elections were considerably greater than they tend to be with run-of-the-mill elections among the world’s democracies.