"What do you expect from young, private-sector entrepreneurs?"
This was the question I posed about a month ago to a politician over a meal. A man believed by some to be the next prime minister had made time to have lunch with me. I was most grateful. He is someone who is nearly impossible to meet usually, and so I seized this opportunity to exchange opinions in a lot of areas. I finally asked the question mentioned above.
I had thought he would expect election support, participation in the planning policy group for the party, or financial donations, things like that, but unexpectedly, he answered:
"I want people to speak up more. I want them to openly and publicly say what they are thinking. People in the business world tend to hold back too much when it comes to politics."
Ever since hearing this reply, I have made it my business to be much more active in speaking up regarding politics. My opinion may be wrong, exposing my ignorance or arousing the antagonism of many others. Yet, I have simply decided as a Japanese person to speak my mind without being afraid of embarrassing myself or of angering anyone.
Readers may have noticed that as of late, I have increasingly been more focused on politics on this blog "Views from an Entrepreneur" Yes, that is because I have decided to start speaking up.
Coinciding with this, the rejection of the postal system bill as well as the dissolution of the lower house of parliament occurred. I am viewing these events with the expectation that, finally, there will be a move in politics. Until now, the strength of the opposition has prevented reforms from going forward, but I have started to feel that they are at last moving ahead. To achieve these reforms, I intend to actively speak out and take action as appropriate. I think this is simply my duty as a citizen of this country.
I am essentially for the privatization of Japan Post. If structural reform does not take place, Japan will falter. If the status quo is allowed to continue for Japan Post, the world's largest bank and life insurance company, will continue to be run by government officials, and I just do not think this will work. Furthermore, if the tidal wave of its funds, directed into fiscal investment and loan programs without any accountability, is not halted, the restructuring of Japan can never take place.
As the citizens of Japan toil away and make imaginative, creative efforts to revive Japan, they can only be frustrated with the reality of government officials enjoying high salaries, their jobs secure, while tax money is just used inefficiently. There will be no tomorrow for Japan unless we cut deeply into the public sector and undertake civil-service reform.
I endorse the concept of small government and agree with the shift from the public sector to the private sector.
After reforming the postal service, the next items on the list for reform are the civil service, government-related financial institutions, fiscal reform, tax reform and the pension and welfare systems. Right now, the absolutely best scenario would be for the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) to squeeze out the pus that is the "might of resistance," and for the election to be contested solely among diet members who endorse reform.
I think most of the population wants a new LDP—whose members all support reform—to be victorious and for Prime Minister Koizumi to push forward with additional reforms. I hope and pray that the main body of the new LDP system will be comprised of young reformers. I also want them to push ahead with eliminating the irrational and deteriorating tax system that is oriented toward foreign investors, among other reforms. *Refer to my column; My Despair at Davos- The Capital Gains of Foreign Investors.
I also have a lot of friends in the Democratic Party. They are all aware of the need for reform. If this is the case, then, I hope they start to walk the talk. If they really intend to pursue reform, then let's see it. Without worrying about the support base, say what you think is right, put it into action, and suggest reform as the responsible political party. This is what I hope for.
One hears a lot of noise from journalists about the LDP being in crisis, and the break-up of the LDP. I think the choice for voters is simple. In other words, do you or do you not want reform.
I intend to cultivate a political movement with my young entrepreneur associates. This does not mean, however, that we will be involved in any political party, nor will we support specific politicians.
We advocate the following three points:
(1) Let's vote.
(2) Let's promote reform.
(3) Let's speak up.
I intend to approach my young entrepreneur associates. Perhaps I could name this group the Young Entrepreneurs' Society (YES).
Today, a great many young entrepreneurs are blogging. They are starting to mobilize the genuine power of speech, and the people who read their blogs are the same generation that allegedly does not vote. We want to appeal to these people with the following three points.
This is the "YES Movement," and these are its three tenets:
Are you going to vote? YES!
Do you want reform? YES!
Do you want to speak out more? YES!
If people who have never voted before now began to participate in politics, surely the world would become a different place. I believe it's necessary to create opportunities for people like this to come into contact with lots of opinions and to present materials as well, which they can judge for themselves.
We young entrepreneurs intend to continue sharing our opinions. I get the feeling that things could change if we take action right now. Actually, Japan must be changed by our own hands.
I hope and pray that I can reach out to many, many people.
With an awareness that if we do not take up the burden of Japan on our own backs, who will?
August 17, 2005
At my lodge in Karuizawa