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Kato: Politicians, bureaucrats, and interest groups in Japan

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Kato. 2002. Politicians, bureaucrats, and interest groups in Japan: Transformation from one-party predominance . In Legislatures: Comparative Prespectives on Representative Assemblies, eds. Loewenberg, Squire, and Kiewiet..

A very confusing and poorly written argument.

MAIN POINT:

Two points: (1) As long as legislators have only small staffs to advise them, bureaucrats will remain influential due to their expertise. (2) The bureaucracy responds more effectively to interest group demands than the legislature does. Thus, the bureaucracy is indeed autonomous of the legislature, despite Ramseyer and Rosenbluth (1993) (else why would interest groups lobby the legislature, and why would bureaucrats have so much policy influence?).

Lots of description, not much theory.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

It's hard for me to evaluate this argument. Ramseyer and Rosenbluth made a persuasive argument in 1993, but I'm curious whether the LDP's loss of power supported or refuted their arguments. Apparently, post-1993 events worked against their arguments. As Kato points out, the bureaucracy worked just as closely with the non-LDP leadership as it had with the LDP. But was it really being neutral, or were the LDP-appointed bureaucrats simply trying to influence the non-LDP legislators in ways that would please their LDP patrons?

CONVOLUTED ARGUMENT #1: MORE EXPERIENCED LEGISLATORS ARE MORE RECEPTIVE TO BUREAUCRATIC INFLUENCE

As long as legislators have only small staffs to advise them, bureaucrats will remain influential due to their policy expertise. Younger legislators will need this advice more than older legislators (due to lack of experience), but they will ignore it more; instead, younger legislators will heed interest groups (over bureaucrats) since they still need to build up a strong political base. More experienced legislators, on the other hand, can safely ignore interest groups (since they already have a secure base), so they will listen to bureaucrats more--even though their legislative experience has endowed them with considerable expertise.

CONVOLUTED ARGUMENT #2: YOUNGER LEGISLATORS HEED INTEREST GROUPS MORE

See previous. Why can we assume that older legislators don't need interest groups' support, though?

CONTEXT

After decades of dominance, the LDP lost control in 1993. This article examines the effects of that loss.

EXAMPLES OF VERY POOR EVIDENCE

  • Concludes that the bureaucracy is more important than the legislature because after the LDP lost power, interest groups started lobbying the bureaucracy rather than the LDP (pg 325). But how is that relevant? Shouldn't we instead consider whether interest groups lobby the bureaucracy or the non-LDP legislators? Why would we expect interest groups to lobby an out-of-power party?