Koichi MERA (Professor, University of Southern California, USA)
Comment on Mr. Kobayashi's essay:
Mr. Kobayashi describes accurately the background from which the Koizumi Administration emerged. In a sense it is a continuation of the Hosokawa Administration. A majority of Japanese voters are looking forward to reforms. The decline of the LDP was clearly observable for some time, but it was a slow process. The sense of desperation by LDP leaders led this time to a change in the election system for the party leader. They found out after the fact that a great majority of local party members were for Koizumi, and not for Hashimoto.
As a person who supported and helped the Hosokawa campaign since 1992, I am very pleased to know that the Japanese people at last started to voice their views openly and vigorously. It has been 56 years since the start of post-war democracy. That length of time was needed for the people to realize that they can change the fate of the nation. This is a memorable event.
Although Mr. Kobayashi cautions that the policy decisions that the Koizumi Administration adopts may determine the length of this administration and the degree of success it will have, these are in my view trivial issues. The main point of this development is that finally voters have realized that they can determine the leaders of the nation, and that they have the power to influence their leaders' decisions. Once they have realized their power, it cannot be removed from them. If Koizumi fails for some reason, there will be another "Koizumi" who will be "elected" by the people. The year 2001 is a memorable year for Japan.
Comment on Professor Seike's essay:
I agree with the gist of Professor Seike's argument, but would like to add that there must be much more stress placed on the increased sense of employment security through the market. This includes more emphasis on on-the-job training in temporary employment, increased sense of security through the social security system, and greater stress on the feeling that someone is willing to help those who must bear the burden of deregulation through the marketplace.
This can be seen in light of increasing psychological problems being felt throughout Japan, as witnessed by the recent rage in terrible murders such as the Ikeda Primary School killings in Osaka and other such crimes. If people with such problems felt the security promised during the labor system through lifetime employment, family love and a general sense of well being, they would not resort to such drastic measures.
Although I stated in a working paper published by IUJ in 1986 that the venture capital market should replace the former system of lifetime employment, I now am of the opinion that the marketplace does not have all the answers, and that a functional equivalence for the venture capital markets leads to insecurity that will take much time to fix. Structural reform is something that leads to increased crime, as witnessed in the US in the past and in the present. It takes much time to change a secure system such as lifetime employment to one that leads to developed country diseases such as increased psychological stress.