A New Path for Japan

Yukio Hatoyama – The New York Times

Copyright The New York Times
TOKYO — In the post-Cold War period, Japan has been continually buffeted by the winds of market fundamentalism in a U.S.-led movement that is more usually called globalization. In the fundamentalist pursuit of capitalism people are treated not as an end but as a means. Consequently, human dignity is lost.
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How can we put an end to unrestrained market fundamentalism and financial capitalism, that are void of morals or moderation, in order to protect the finances and livelihoods of our citizens? That is the issue we are now facing.
In these times, we must return to the idea of fraternity — as in the French slogan “liberté, égalité, fraternité” — as a force for moderating the danger inherent within freedom.
Fraternity as I mean it can be described as a principle that aims to adjust to the excesses of the current globalized brand of capitalism and accommodate the local economic practices that have been fostered through our traditions.
The recent economic crisis resulted from a way of thinking based on the idea that American-style free-market economics represents a universal and ideal economic order, and that all countries should modify the traditions and regulations governing their economies in line with global (or rather American) standards.
In Japan, opinion was divided on how far the trend toward globalization should go. Some advocated the active embrace of globalism and leaving everything up to the dictates of the market. Others favored a more reticent approach, believing that efforts should be made to expand the social safety net and protect our traditional economic activities. Since the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (2001-2006), the Liberal Democratic Party has stressed the former, while we in the Democratic Party of Japan have tended toward the latter position.
The economic order in any country is built up over long years and reflects the influence of traditions, habits and national lifestyles. But globalism has progressed without any regard for non-economic values, or for environmental issues or problems of resource restriction.
If we look back on the changes in Japanese society since the end of the Cold War, I believe it is no exaggeration to say that the global economy has damaged traditional economic activities and destroyed local communities.
In terms of market theory, people are simply personnel expenses. But in the real world people support the fabric of the local community and are the physical embodiment of its lifestyle, traditions and culture. An individual gains respect as a person by acquiring a job and a role within the local community and being able to maintain his family’s livelihood.
Under the principle of fraternity, we would not implement policies that leave areas relating to human lives and safety — such as agriculture, the environment and medicine — to the mercy of globalism.
Our responsibility as politicians is to refocus our attention on those non-economic values that have been thrown aside by the march of globalism. We must work on policies that regenerate the ties that bring people together, that take greater account of nature and the environment, that rebuild welfare and medical systems, that provide better education and child-rearing support, and that address wealth disparities.
Another national goal that emerges from the concept of fraternity is the creation of an East Asian community. Of course, the Japan-U.S. security pact will continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy.
But at the same time, we must not forget our identity as a nation located in Asia. I believe that the East Asian region, which is showing increasing vitality, must be recognized as Japan’s basic sphere of being. So we must continue to build frameworks for stable economic cooperation and security across the region.
The financial crisis has suggested to many that the era of U.S. unilateralism may come to an end. It has also raised doubts about the permanence of the dollar as the key global currency.
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Yukio Hatoyama heads the Democratic Party of Japan, and would become prime minister should the party win in Sunday’s elections. A longer version of this article appears in the September issue of the monthly Japanese journal Voice.
Global Viewpoint/Tribune Media Services

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