Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Japan Urged to Embrace US-Style Think Tanks

Here is what is being reported by the Japan Times:
The lack of strong, independent think tanks that offer alternative policies to those of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and actually accomplish them also explains why the [Japan] has not been able to achieve a stable two-party system, experts said.
“American-style independent think tanks are key to changing the way the government operates,” said [Yoichi] Funabashi [former editor-in-chief of the Asahi Shimbun], who was formerly affiliated with U.S. think tanks, including the Brookings Institute.
There have been efforts to emulate American-style think tanks with the aim of connecting the intellectual community and the government in Japan. But critics said they have not been successful, partly because the government still wields strong power to limit private-sector bodies from taking part in policymaking.
The bureaucrat-led government system worked especially well after World War II, when the goal to rebuild was clear and Japan had a role model — namely America. As Japan ascended to become the world’s second-largest economy, numerous think tanks emerged to recommend policies starting in the mid-1960s. But the strong bureaucracy often prevented the fresh flow of ideas from the private sector from reaching the public realm.
In the case of individuals, analysts at American think-tanks often work as political appointees and later return to academia or think tanks to educate the next generation. Japan has few such appointees from the private sector, although they are increasing.
There are also problems with existing Japanese think tanks, as their main function has been to compliment government policies via consultations rather than offering ideas to change the system. They also lack the people capable of compiling and effecting policies, or a system to raise people’s level of expertise.
Suzuki noted that independent think tanks also struggle due to a lack of funds. While American think tanks are mostly independent and cash-rich, thanks to tax deductions for donations, Japan lacks such a system.
Suzuki, who helped set up a think tank within the LDP in 2006, also said lawmakers do not see any point in paying think tank workers to make policy recommendations when they can get what they need from bureaucrats for free.

According to the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank survey, Japan has 108 think tanks, making it the country with the 9th largest amount of think tanks, after the US (1,823), China (429), United Kingdom (288), India (269), Germany (194), France (177), Argentina (137), and Russia (122).  Italy, which is number 10 on the list, has 107 think tanks.

And for more reading pleasure about Japanese think tanks:

Here is a report from The Tokyo Foundation on the evolving role of think tanks in Japan.

Here is a report on how to "enliven" Japanese think tanks.

Here is a Japanese think tank fellow on American think tanks thinking about Japan.

Here is a report on foreign policy think tanks in Japan.

Why have no American-style think tanks been developed in Japan?

Trends and issues of think tanks in japan.