Open Thread: Election Results

Lots of folks are pretty sure that the success of Koizumi’s rejuvenated LDP in yesterday’s elections [here’s a good summary] means something. What? It seems to me impossible to know what it means in a policy sense, but it clearly marks a step in the evolution of party politics and campaigning… a step away from past verities, but not necessarily towards anything easily recognizable or categorizable.

For myself, the privatization of the Postal Savings and Insurance system would mark the end of something historically interesting. The Postal Savings system was a fundamental institution in the Meiji modernization, enabling reliable low-cost long-distance transactions (including remittances from overseas, which is where my research comes in) and accumulating small deposits into a pool of capital that was agressively used for investment in railroads and other heavy industrial development. The great success of what is now the largest financial institution in the world is part of what forced me to recognize that the “rational actor” theory of economics which I had disdained for so long did in fact have its moments: the speed with which Japanese peasants adopted newer and more reliable banking institutions (and avoided less reliable ones) was a remarkable demonstration of fiscal sophistication and self-interest at work.


  1. Thanks for that summary of the benefits of the old postal savings system. I know I’ve been relying on the post office ATMs while I’ve been in Japan these past six weeks, since a lot of combini don’t give equal access to accounts overseas. (Self-interest at work!)

    My first comment on the recent election is that it provided me a great opportunity for language-learning that kept listening and reading skills in synch. The constant repetition of restricted sets of visual and oral clues with each new set of results (enough to keep me watching) gave me time to look stuff up in my handy-dandy new Canon WordTank: 当選の当、確実の確、圧勝、plus a lot of surnames and placenames that I’m always a little shaky on.

    Two more points: (1) Koizumi seems to be creating the equivalent of Blair’s New Labor or Clinton’s DLC (which is where I feel most comfortable on the political spectrum). Can we call the current LDP the New Tories? (Please, not Neocons!) (2) The DJP really got wiped out in Greater Kanto. I’m right now in Ashikaga, on the border of Tochigi and Gunma, where all but one out of maybe 18 wards went for the LDP. You can see the economic growth (industrial parks, tract housing, strip malls, big box retailers, lots of cars and parking) all around the edges of the Kanto plain.

  2. I really just have some questions about this as I’m rather ignorant about Japanese politics. The principal one is: what are Koizumi’s reasons for wanting to privatise the Postal Savings system? My initial guesses would be:
    a) He’s a fully paid-up neo-liberal ideologue and believes that the private sector is better no matter what
    b) This is some way of gaining the upper hand in some sort of intra-ruling class conflict, ie the postal savings system represents a vested interest that Koizumi wants to crush
    c) He (or rather his economic advisors) really believe that privatisation is the best option for the Japanese economy
    Or perhaps some combination of the above.
    Sorry to pre-empt any answers like this, but I just wanted to throw out a few ideas.
    My other question would be, if postal privatisation is quite unpopular (which I believe is the case), why did the Japanese people vote Koizumi back in?

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