Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Mad Proposal

On Reversing the Depopulation of the Inaka

One of Abe Shinzō's most difficult tasks in this double election year will be to resist the demands of the 41 prefectures not named Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, Chiba, Aichi or Fukuoka for greater public spending.

A big loss in the April local elections will place excrutiating pressures on the Cabinet and the LDP leadership to promise to open up the public purse, especially as the ousted LDP rebels are playing sweet footsie with a suddenly pro-inaka Democratic Party.

So how if the LDP chooses about a really, really radical response--one that proposes to shift private-sector economic activity into the smaller citites and less populated prefectures?

How about proposing a law charging huge tax penalty for any of the 40 largest companies in Japan (in terms of revenues) having their headquarters in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba or Saitama Prefectures--and furthermore setting a legal maximum of five Top 40 companies headquarters in any one todōfuken?

Think of the benefits:

Security - a wider geographic distribution of Japan's economic assets and corporate centers will prevent a natural or man-made disaster from wiping out Japan's economy. (It will also diminish Tokyo's value as a target)

Reversal of local population loss - companies will either bring their employees and their families with them or will hire locally, giving young people a reason to stay in their native districts or move to unfamiliar surroundings

Regional identity - companies will by necessity support the educational , social and cultural organizations of the home of their new headquarters. In doing so, they will keep regional identies alive through people and financial support

Breaking the cycle of stupid - the truly big companies would finally be at a far remove from the ministries and each other, making collusion and intimidation more difficult. The greater remove will also make it much harder for society's leading lights to arrange meetings in bars or on golf courses--the two places where the really, really stupid ideas first come bubbling up out of the mental murk.

The tax penalty would only apply to the top 40 companies...but because a possible shift in the revenues ranking could put them in jeopardy, the companies in spots 40 through 60 would likely have move out the central prefectures as well, as a precaution.

It would be like the end of the sankin kōtai.

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