The Golden Rule of Politics


Recently there has been a spate of events that have given me food for thought. A good example was the House of Councillors election, which resulted in a crushing defeat for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the emergence of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) as the number-one party in the upper house. The debate about having two main political parties has been going on for some time, and now we have a situation in which the ruling parties control the House of Representatives and the opposition controls the House of Councillors. It is not a situation in which two main parties compete in a single chamber, but nevertheless I think it is a significant development.

While supporting the reforms carried out by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, I also raised some objections. That is to say, I think the golden rule of politics should be to benefit the people, and that should be the one and only goal. If the people are not happy, in the end you cannot have a good country or a beautiful country.

At the time of the Koizumi administration, then State Minister Heizo Takenaka stated that Japan consists of both a maritime country that is buffeted by international competition and a mountainous country that has no connection with competition and preserves inefficiency. The government continued its attempts to inject the principles of competition and self-responsibility into the mountainous country in particular, cutting public works projects, subsidies, and local allocation tax grants, as a result of which the mountainous country became impoverished. Since the mountainous country means not simply remote villages and regions but also agriculture, construction, civil engineering, and so on, it was only natural that impoverishment would occur.

The problem is that the Koizumi administration and the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have turned the suffering of the people into real hardship. Extreme inequalities have emerged, such as between the strong and the weak and the provinces and the center, and the weak are being pushed to the extremes of hardship. As a result, more than 30,000 honest people are committing suicide every year. The cause in almost all of these cases is economic hardship.

Former Prime Minister Koizumi spoke about life being varied. But it is politics that makes life varied, and the foundation must be the happiness of the people. If politics followed the right road, then, while boldly carrying out reforms, the government would properly protect the weak as well. Standing up in the Diet and, with a grin on his face, talking about life being varied is imprudent and raises doubts about whether our country’s leadership has any strict philosophy at all. And the use of those “assassins” was quite disgraceful. Likening the political base to corporate branches and sales outposts, the Koizumi administration parachuted candidates from the center to the regions and, making full use of the media to fan Koizumi’s personal popularity, got them elected and thereby boosted its numerical majority in the Diet.

Furthermore, the Abe administration used this numerical advantage to steamroll bills through the legislature. The resulting rise in employees’ pension contributions and taxes exerted a direct blow on salaried households, and eventually the people’s anger exploded. Together with the pension problem, this situation led directly to the outcome of the recent House of Councillors election. Ironically, because former Prime Minister Koizumi so completely destroyed the regional political bases, the vote-gathering machine failed to function there as well.

It was just then that I also heard the news about a happy family’s suicide. If I remember correctly, the children were aged two and five, and the wife was pregnant with a third child. Because the husband had been unable to find reemployment, they had been plunged into extreme poverty. The couple discussed the matter and decided on family suicide. How tragic. I couldn’t stop crying. The government is discussing measures to counter the low birthrate, but why was it unable to save the precious lives of those three children? I wonder how much sorrow the people felt about that family suicide. It made voters realize that the cause of the incident lay in politics and, I think, led to the election turnabout.

Nevertheless, the DPJ cannot be described as perfect, either. When are we going to get a real two-party system? How much time will be needed? Is it going to end as a pipe dream? Whatever the case, unless politicians stick to the golden rule of politics, nothing can be done about this country’s misery.