Japan from the inside out

Dime-a-dozen punditry

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, March 6, 2007

It’s now common practice for the media to use university professors and other pundits as mouthpieces to say what they’d like to say themselves, but can’t because it would compromise their impartiality.

One drawback to outsourcing their soapbox to pundits, however, is that some of the experts they consult aren’t up to speed in their area of expertise, regardless of their title or position. A case in point is a recent article by Shingo Ito of AFP-Jiji on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s struggles to assert his political authority.

Ito quotes Tetsuro Kato, a political science professor at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, as saying that Abe’s concerns are not those of the people:

“People are interested in something directly linked to their daily lives, such as welfare and pension funds, rather than a ‘beautiful country,'” Kato said. “There is a certain gap between what Abe stresses and what people are really concerned about.”

The “beautiful country” comment is a reference to Abe’s book “Toward a Beautiful Country”, in which the prime minister explains his political philosophy. It has sold more than 500,000 copies in Japan and has had at least seven printings.

Abe devoted an entire chapter of “Toward a Beautiful Country” to the topic of welfare and pension funds, explaining in detail his vision of the government’s role in social welfare and how Japanese welfare and pension funds work. That chapter accounts for 40 of the book’s 230 pages.

If Kato wants to be a pundit, much less a poli-sci prof, perhaps he should actually read the man’s book before he pontificates, and not just glance at the cover in the bookstore racks.

5 Responses to “Dime-a-dozen punditry”

  1. tomojiro said

    Typical, just Typical of the todays TV commentators. I must confess, that I was one who hated and feared Abe when he came to power. But honestly said(I am still against his hawkish and somewhat rightwinger policiy, or at least it was said so), I feel that the media regardless whether it is domestical or not, are unfair against him(at least until now).

  2. Durf said

    In defense of the professor, “what Abe stresses” in his premiership has not exactly meshed with “what he put in his ghostwritten book.” Yes there was discussion of welfare issues in his book, but in the public eye–which is not the same as perceptions of a book read by a handful of politically minded people–the “beautiful country” has been all about national pride and related education issues.

    Have you talked to many Japanese folks about what they think “beautiful country” signifies? None of the people I speak with have any concrete idea of what Abe actually means. That sure sounds to me like a gap between his slogan and the interests of the man on the street.

  3. ampontan said

    Durf: He put a full chapter about the education system in there, and already passed one education bill. He’s apparently got more to come. He talked about SDF issues in there, and he’s already upgraded the Defense Ministry.

    Are you suggesting that he’s being selective about what he chooses to work on from his book?

    What would the professor suggest he do specifically with the pension system? The professor has written quite a lot about “Marxism and the state”, according to his website. I’m not so sure that most of us would like the professor’s solutions.

    In the book, Abe says that all government pensions are guaranteed. Are you saying he doesn’t mean it? Then what is the professor so concerned about?

    500,000 sales in Japan qualifies as a best-seller. That’s hardly a handful of politically-minded people.

  4. Durf said

    I don’t think he’s being selective; I think the system in place forces him to pick and choose, because there aren’t enough hours in the Dietman’s day to get to everything he promised in his book. Especially not when your entire cabinet consists of bumblers and miscreants. Lots of damage control eating into his “let’s create beautiful Japan” time.

    Prof. Kato does indeed appear to be a Marxist nutball of sorts, but I don’t see how that undermines his point that what Abe pursues with the greatest vigor isn’t what Japanese people want to see from their government right now.

  5. Aceface said

    Ahh.Prof.Kato…He was a nakoudo of one of my colleagues wedding.Indeed he is a marxist(specialist on Antonio Gramsci or something)He has been interested in investigation of missing Japanese Communist Party member in USSR during the Stalin’s great purge in the 30’s.Kind of out of touch with current events,but not a hardliner quoting every bit of his statement from Das Kapital.But I agree with Durf.Prof.Kato’s accusation is quite true.We ask more from Abe to make this country”beautiful”.

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