On Sunday August 30 voters in Japan did something that most thought would never take place a change of government. Unlike previous times one Liberal Democratic Party leader wasn’t replacing another. In a complete about face voters took a huge leap of faith and voted in the opposition Democratic Party of Japan led by Yukio Hatayama.
In what Americans call party platforms (manifestos in Japan) the Democrats laid out what they hoped to achieve if elected. One plank of the platform stood out: Bureaucratic reform. Unlike America lawmakers don’t have large staffs which include experts in several fields of the members interest. Because of this elected officials have become overly dependent upon carrier bureaucrats for any research or relevant information needed when crafting legislation. Given this the final bill will mirror not the original ideas put forth by its sponsor but those of the bureaucrat providing the information because its their job to promote policies of the ministry which employees them rather than those of the government in power.
Additionally there are few independent think tanks in Tokyo able to provide a further layer of expertise unlike Washington which has hundreds of them reflecting the ideas of the political landscape.
The Democratic Party of Japan could achieve the changes in the current system if the choose to be bold.
First they could have civil service reform enacted through legislation which would if done right keep the ministries independent but allow for parliamentary oversight which doesn’t really exist at this time. Once a person joins the civil service they should no longer be allowed promotions based on seniority rather than merit.
Second they should increase the size of the members staffs so that one: They will have access to their own experts and two they can lose their reliance upon the bureaucracy.
While these are simple ideas the fact remains that this is still Japan and change here usually comes at a glacial pace no matter which party controls the Diet.