Japan's Sea Of Change

On Sunday August 30 voters in Japan did something that most thought would never take place a change of government. Unlike previous times one Liberal Democratic Party leader wasn't replacing another. In a complete about face voters took a huge leap of faith and voted in the opposition Democratic Party of Japan led by Yukio Hatayama.

In what Americans call party platforms (manifestos in Japan) the Democrats laid out what they hoped to achieve if elected. One plank of the platform stood out: Bureaucratic reform.

Unlike America, lawmakers don't have large staffs which include experts in several fields of the members interest. Because of this elected officials have become overly dependent upon career bureaucrats for any research or relevant information needed when crafting legislation.

Given this the final bill will mirror not the original ideas put forth by its sponsor but those of the bureaucrat providing the information because its their job to promote policies of the ministry which employees them rather than those of the government in power.
Additionally there are few independent think tanks in Tokyo able to provide a further layer of expertise unlike Washington which has hundreds of them reflecting the ideas of the political landscape.

The Democratic Party of Japan could achieve the changes in the current system if they choose to be bold.

First they could have civil service reform enacted through legislation which would if done right keep the ministries independent but allow for parliamentary oversight which doesn't really exist at this time. Once a person joins the civil service they should no longer be allowed promotions based on seniority rather than merit.

Second they should increase the size of the members staffs so that one: They will have access to their own experts and two they can lose their reliance upon the bureaucracy.

While these are simple ideas the fact remains that this is still Japan and change here usually comes at a glacial pace no matter which party controls the Diet.

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Because it sounded, to me, like a fundamental type and level of change in government that could produce a very substantial difference in the 'way things work' in Japanese government.

Since -- Democrat or Republican -- we need comparable changes here, I'm very interested to learn more about this process and the prospects.

Thanks for singling this out, I hoped you might touch on it when I first heard the National Public Radio segment on the story.

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"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

So in essence, the people of Japan really have taken a giant leap of faith into the unknown. What was the catalyst for such a big change?