Roughly speaking, a legislature has two important functions: checking government activities and making proposals to government. Sadly enough, however, most of the legislatures in Japan — both national and local — usually play only the former role.
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If we stand in the shoes of the politicians, this phenomenon may be obvious and even reasonable from their viewpoint. All the politician would like to do, basically, is try to pass the legislation as quickly as possible.
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No creativity would be required of the politician in such a case. Even when a politician belongs to a different party or a faction than the top government leader, what he or she tends to do in the legislature is still not creative — just being aggressive toward the government or its leader. Members of a party opposing the government may toughly criticize the government when checking its plans, but most of the time they will not create counterproposals, budget, laws or treaties.
Since politicians in opposition parties usually cannot use government staff or afford to retain their own policymaking staff, it seems almost impossible for them to make counter-plans. The Diet and local assemblies may be arenas for a battle between the government and those politicians, but not a place for creative work. A typical politician dedicated to worrying about how to win the next election, rather than worrying about the future of subsequent generations, tends to be quiet in the legislature if he or she is from the governing party or focusing on attacking the government by trying to reveal its scandals if the politician is from the opposition camp.
It does indeed seem like uncreative work either way.
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One solution could be to create more think tanks that support politicians and political parties in their policy-making functions, but that may not be practical at least in the short run. I established my own think tank Aoyama Shachu Corp. Another solution would be to drastically reform the Diet and local assemblies to turn them into more creative workplaces. Our think tank held a conference in February and invited several young Diet members not only from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party but also from two opposition parties.
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I served as a facilitator during the panel discussion on future reform of the Diet and had expected heated debate between panelists from the different parties. In fact, the three panelists easily reached a consensus that the Diet should have basically three frameworks; question time intensive debate between the heads of two big parties, a special committee dedicated to examining scandals and regular committees focused on policy discussions.
Under this three-track scheme, the last one, regular committees, would be more creative places for policy discussions and would draw the attention of future candidates who would like to become excellent politicians, including many women. Click to enlarge.
The Japanese Way of Politics | Columbia University Press
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