Japan must shake off US-style globalization

The likely next prime minister outlines his hopes for a more Asia-focused Japan.

By Yukio Hatoyama

Tokyo – In the post-cold war period, Japan has been continually buffeted by the winds of market fundamentalism in a US-led movement that is more usually called globalization. Freedom is supposed to be the highest of all values, but in the fundamentalist pursuit of capitalism people are treated not as an end but as a means. Consequently, human dignity has been lost.

The recent financial crisis and its aftermath have once again forced us to take note of this reality. 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. It must be the compass that determines our political direction, a yardstick for deciding our policies. The idea of fraternity is also the spirit behind our idea of achieving “an era of independence and coexistence” in today’s world.

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 worldwide economic crisis resulted from a way of thinking based on the principle 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 own economy in order to reform the structure of their economic society in line with global standards (or rather American standards).
In Japan, opinion was divided on how far the trend toward globalization should go. Some people advocated the active embrace of globalism and supported leaving everything up to the dictates of the market. Others favored a more reticent approach, believing that effort should be made instead 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.

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