What’s wrong with Japan? Many have wondered in recent years what has happened to the vaunted economic superpower of the 1980s and early 1990s? Mired in a decade or more recession, faced with the largest public debt in the world, and a rapidly aging population, many believe it is the economics and demographics that have doomed Japan.
Professor Ellis S. Krauss (School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego) argues instead that these problems are possibly manageable were it not for the politics and political institutions in Japan today. Fundamental reforms in the 1990s to the electoral system and the bureaucracy that held the potential to make Japan into a more effective and "normal" democracy have instead, with one exception, produced poor political leadership, the inability to reform, and stalemate. Krauss explores why and how this has occurred and the structural and political obstacles to meeting those challenges better.