去る9月28日、安倍総理は突然、衆議院を解散してそれを「国難突破解散」と呼んだ。安倍の言う国難とは、端的に言えば、少子高齢化（及び人口減少）と北朝鮮の脅威の二つ。それと解散がどう結びつくのかは誰にもわからず、解散の大義としては実に安倍らしい牽強付会ぶりであった。しかし、少子高齢化・人口減少と北朝鮮の脅威（そして中長期的には対中関係）が我が国の直面する二大テーマだという指摘は至極まっとうな主張だ。特に、少子高齢化・人口減少を「国難」とまで位置づけたことは「瓢箪から駒」になるかもしれない。ただし、本気で取り組めば、の話である。 続きを読む 本気で人口減少問題に取り組んだらどうだ？
Mr. Donald Trump will take office as the 45th President of the United States later today. As I ceased to update my blog from personal reasons after he won the election on November 9, I should publish at this timing what I think about Japan and the United States under President Trump.
In the field of international commerce, Trump’s intension to withdraw from already signed Tran-Pacific Partnership agreement is certainly a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Japan just ratified it only a month ago. On national security front, however, Abe must be thinking, or will soon start thinking, to take advantage of the advent of President Trump for realizing his dream of “departure from the postwar regime.” In other words, Abe potentially has an incentive to “deal” with the new president of the United States.
In the economic (and social) field, so called the Casino Law, or the Promotion Act of Integrated Resort, passed the Diet on December 15. What a stupid decision! Economic success of Japan since the Meiji Restoration owed a lot to an increase in population and productivity, an expansion of the market to overseas, and overall diligence of the Japanese people. At a time when these elements are being lost, the majority of Japanese politicians are choosing the way to facilitate the deterioration of the morale, and thus the loss of diligence by making the Casino Law.
First of all, casino is immoral. Even today, pachinko business are legally absorbing money from ordinary people and creating persons of gambling addicted. Far from strengthening regulation on it, this country seems to be facilitating the production of lazy people. To my disappointment, the Diet debate was lukewarm at best. While the proponents, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have been bribed by way of political contribution, the opponents have failed to carry strong arguments. They should have made a simple argument: casino or gambling is bad for the society and should be banned. Instead, the skeptics have criticized that the number of gambling addicts would increase. The proponents have easily responded that the casino addicts would receive more hospitable care by using tax revenue from new casino business. Some have even argued that we should lift a ban on casino in order to treat gambling addicts carefully. Maybe they think we should legalize and nationalize the narcotic business in order to enhance the drug addicts?
The Casino Law is economically meaningless, too. The sales of casino industry amount to be approximately three trillion JPY or twenty five billion dollars in Macao, one of the most successful areas in casino business. Let us suppose casino business make a success in Japan. The sales would be one trillion JPY or eight billion dollars, and the profit would be a hundred billion JPY or eight hundred thirty million dollars. That means we will create an enterprise ranking at the 150th place in sales. Well, you may argue that it is better than nothing. If I were the government, I would rather reform the regulatory system and/or creating new areas of business by investing in education and child care, which will more effectively help Japanese economy and employment. I am also concerned with the economic side effect of the spread of casino business, or the facilitation of the deterioration of business morale. Recall the recent and successive scandals related to Japanese prestigious companies such as Toshiba Corporation (fraudulent accounting) and Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (fuel mileage falsification). The collapse of morale and corporate governance lies at the core of business crisis of these companies. Lifting the ban on casino is likely to deteriorate the overall morale in Japanese society and facilitate the weakening of morale in Japanese companies in the long run.
Aside from fundamental judgment on the Casino Law, it will be politically interesting if Abe and the LDP have decided to do what they want even by skipping careful procedures and enough debates in the Diet. The LDP passed the Casino Bill in the House of Representatives after only six hours debate. The Komeito was forced to allow its members whether to support or oppose the bill, and Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the party voted against it.
In the election, the LDP cannot win without the cooperation from the Soka-Gakkai, religious body which supports the Komeito. For their part, however, the Komeito and the Soka-Gakkai cannot cease to support the LDP because they want to stay in power as a part of the government and the ruling coalition. Abe understands it very well. Furthermore, the opposition parties are all unpopular and the media and internet space are well controlled by House of Prime Minister and the LDP. There is a good chance of Abe’s trying to manage the Diet more autocratically, especially after the general election. The next question is what Abe wants to do. It should not be necessarily the passage of specific laws. My guess is any challenges that help the dissolution of the post-war regime of Japan, even if he will continue to stress “Economy First.”
Another big event in the foreign policy field was Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor together with President Barak Obama on December 27. I know it is politically incorrect to criticize it. But I don’t think I should follow others blindly to praise no war pledge made by Abe.
They say that one U.S. media reported the speech of the two leaders were both poetic and impressive. However, I found a clear difference between the two. On the one hand, Obama touched the negative aspects of the U.S. history by remembering the internment of Japanese Americans during the war. The world saw at least some sense of self-reflection on its history there. On the other hand, Abe only glorified the soldiers of the two countries and emphasized that the American soldiers pay respects on the brave Japanese soldiers. I am not insisting that Abe should have apologized. But I regret that the speech would have given really positive message to the American people and the world if he had mentioned even a word on the responsibility of then political and military leaders. Although I don’t like manipulative argument by Chinese, I do not think that the power of reconciliation is fully displayed without the insight into the past.
In reality, it is impossible to expect Abe to think in that way. A man who advocates the dissolution of the post-war regime of Japan does not believe that the World War II was really wrong. In fact, Abe has been refusing to call it a war of invasion. While Prime Minister Abe might have gone with President Obama’s making his legacy at Pearl Harbor, President Obama also seemed to go with Abe’s hypocritical performance.
Happy New Year 2017.
Many things occurred while I suspended the blog since November 11 2016. Let me briefly look back the major movements related to Japan.
On foreign policy, the biggest event was the Japan-Russo summit on December 15 and 16. The result was what I had expected in this blog. The festival is over, after all. The best Japan can do from now on is to slow down as much as possible the implementation of the twelve documents signed between the two governments. There should be no problem as the documents are not positioned as the international agreements that bind the parties concerned.
According to the poll, it has become clear that more and more Japanese people accepts flexible approach rather than sticking to “the immediate return of all of the four islands.” But it seems that the minimum results they can compromise would be “the return of the two islands,” to which the Russians will never agree. As a consequence, the realistic strategies for the future Japanese government would be trying to settle with “the return of less than the two islands,” or accepting the abandonment of the four islands in exchange for the compensation from Russia. However, I cannot conceive of any collateral Moscow can offer, big enough for Tokyo to make a domestically unpopular decision. Neither Japan suffers from the present Japan-Russo relationship or the lack of a peace treaty. My recommendation for the Northern Territories settlement: Leave it alone.