Japan Finally Follows
The recent election in Japan is extremely significant. It indicates that the country is beginning to catch up to the rest of the world. In my book “The Shift Age” and my speech with the same title I speak about the “Threshold Decades”, a 20 year period from 1985-2005 when the developed countries of the world moved from the Industrial Age into and through the Information Age. Japan at least geopolitically has finally moved into this time, long after it should have done so.
Future historians will look back at the Threshold Decades as the threshold between the room of the past and the room of the future. The threshold between the room of what was and the room of what will be. Think about all that happened during this 20 year period: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the entrance of China onto the world economic stage, the conversion of analog to digital, the growth of number of cell phones from 700,000 to 2 billion and of course the beginning and completion of the first stage of the truly global economy.
Japan didn’t really participate in this transition except as a rigidly structured nation state fully grounded in the Industrial Age. Except for a one year hiccup in the early 1990’s, the same political party has ruled the country since WWII. That party, the LDP, has basically ruled since the 1940s. It built a triangulated partnership of party, big business and an ever increasing number of bureaucrats that became entrenched and corrupt. The inability to change, innovate and reinvent the fundamentals of the economic culture and to remain an inward looking nation during the first wave of true globalism caused an extended recession from which the country has yet to fully recover. This decade long slump has been called the “lost decade” and is now a case study on how a country can completely mismanage its economy.
The Japanese people have finally had enough. Even though the leaders of the new party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) are unknown and untested, the Japanese electorate voted for change, pure and simple. They did so with dramatic effect. The old party, the LDP used to have 300 of the 480 seats in the lower house of the Diet; now they have 119 and are in complete disarray. The DPJ now has 300 seats and can govern without any need for a coalition with another party. That is a staggeringly large numerical example of “throw the rascals out” and “anything will be better than what we have now”.
The problems the DPJ faces are many. They have never governed with a majority. They are not part of the entrenched bureaucracy, and they do not have deep relationships with the old guard in big business. They will make many mistakes, but they do have a truly historic support of the Japanese electorate for change and will use that as a force for breaking up the calcified structure of the old economic culture. Sure they will stumble, sure Japan will go through some upheaval, but at least they are joining the world and dispensing with a centralized Industrial Age structure and ideology that was no longer operative and in sync with what the rest of the world has gone through during the Threshold Decades.
Japan, welcome to the Shift Age!