Friday, August 08, 2008

In An Unrepresentative Democracy

In the hullabaloo over the new Cabinet last Friday, new demographic and population data released by the various ministries on July 31 received somewhat less attention than usual.

Average life expectency figures showed that for Japanese women at least Japan is a pretty good place to grow up in, with a world best average life expectancy at birth of 85.99 years.

For men the picture is not so great, with Japanese men dropping to third in the world in life expectancy behind Iceland and Hong Kong. A male child born today can expect, on average, 79.19 years of years of life.

That men are living longer on Iceland and Hong Kong, two places reknowned for their mild and temperate climates, varied and healthy dietary practices and generous government social welfare programs, should put to rest any doubts that the consumption of the products of the partly state-owned JT has had any "cough" effects on the average "hack" life expectency of Japanese men "wheeze."

It is all genetics, all natural.

But that's the Health, Welfare and Labour population report. Over at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the "We Know Where You Are" ministry, July 31 saw the release of the Basic Household Registry survey of the distribution of Japanese citizens across the Japanese archipelago, in two parts -- the second of which has to be the one of the saddest-looking official pdfs of a central government document in the OECD.

The newspapers set to work on the new data to see how shifts in residency have affected what is known as "the other shakai kakusa" ("inequality of society") -- the deviations from the principle of one citizen = one vote resulting from the demarcation of House of Representatives district boundaries.

The winner of this year's contest for the district with the seemingly most superempowered voter is Kochi District #3. A mere 256,545 persons reside within its limits, which embrace Tosa City and its environs. Kochi Prefecture as whole seems far and away the champion of concentrated voting strength, with its three House of Representatives districts ranking first, second and fourth on the list of most representation per citizen.

The loser is Chiba District #4 (Funabashi City) with 584,152 sadly deluded yūkensha and their children crammed within its borders. Oh, clustering together in large numbers might have knock-off positive urbanization effects -- but politically, the Chiba #4 people are...well, not quite people.

Taking a Japanese citizen living in Kochi District #3 as the definition of a fully cognizant and plenipotent human being -- i.e., as 100% of a Human Being, here below are the 10 districts with the residents who are comparatively the least human.

The residents of

1) Chiba District #4 are 43.91% of a human being
2) Hyōgo District #6 -- 44.26%
3) Shizuoka District #5 -- 45.24%
4) Kanagawa District #10 -- 45.28%
5) Aichi District #12 -- 45.724%
6) Hokkaidō District #1 -- 45.745%
7) Hokkaidō District #5 -- 45.91%
8) Hyōgo District #7 -- 45.93%
9) Tokyo District #6 -- 46.01%
10) Tokyo District #23 -- 46.04%

The percentages start to bunch up, so here are the next ten districts without the red figures. All are inhabited by persons who are no more than 47.1% human.

11) Tokyo District #19
12) Tokyo District #16
13) Kyoto District #6
14) Kanagawa District #15
15) Saitama District #3
16) Kanagawa District #13
17) Kanagawa District #5
18) Saitama District #2
19) Tokyo District #3
20) Shizuoka District #6

A little heavy on the "Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area" districts, would you say?

According to the newspapers, there are now 53 House of Representatives districts where the votes of residents are worth less than half of a Kochi District #3 voter's vote. Incredibly this represents an increase of 16 districts over last year's total.

The next round of reapportionment (Be joyful citizens of voting age in the loser districts, at least there is one!) is not for another three years.

Just for fun: who are the Representatives of the top 20 loser districts? Anyone we know?

The tribune of the woefully sub-human voters of Chiba #4 is Noda Yoshinori...and yes that is "Democratic Party of Japan Spokesman and former Parliamentary Affairs Chairman Noda Yoshinori."

Any other familiar names in the list of the most populous/least empowered individual voter districts?

Let us take a look:

1) Noda Yoshinori - DPJ
2) Kobiki Tsukasa - LDP
3) Hosono Kōji - DPJ
4) Tanaka Kazunori - LDP
5) Sugiura Seiken - LDP
6) Yokomichi Takahiro - DPJ
7) Machimura Nobutaka - LDP
8) Ōmae Shigeo - LDP
9) Ochi Takao - LDP
10) Itō Kosuke -LDP
11) Matsumoto Yōhei - LDP
12) Shimamura Yoshinobu - LDP
13) Yamai Kazunori - LDP
14) Kōno Tarō - LDP
15) Imai Hiroshi - LDP
16) Amari Akira - LDP
17) Sakai Manabu - LDP
18) Shindō Yoshitaka - LDP
19) Ishihara Hirotaka - LDP
20) Watanabe Shū - DPJ


Note Bene: Fukumoto Kentarō, professor of political science at Gakushūin University recently posted a claim on the Social Science Japan Forum that in an unpublished paper he demonstrates the effects of malapportionment are small in Japan, on the order of a 2% shift - a remarkable, counterintuitive result.

Is this the paper Professor Fukumoto is talking about? If it is am not sure we need to toss our prejudices and intuitions out just yet.


Later - a review of the original articles reveals that the ippyō no kakusa seems to be based on number of citizens, not eligible voters, residing in a House of Representatives district. This makes the comparison somewhat stupid -- for how can one talk of the "difference in the worth of one vote" if your divisor includes residents who, because they are minors, cannot vote?

I have modified the post to reflect this new understanding.


Janne Morén said...

My very first reaction: how sad is it, in this day and age, to publish pdf's that are just a series of scanned images? Oh well, at least they do give the data in spreadsheet form as well.

About the voting strength disparity, you can see it positively: the reason the disparity is growing is because Japan is steadily becoming more urban. The reason is not some nefarious plot, but only the lag between the demographic shifts and the apportionment of seats. And short of forcing people back out to the rural areas by gunpoint there is little anybody can do to halt it.

Jun Okumura said...

I’m sure that your skepticism is fed by the fact that Professor Fukumoto, in making a general statement, fails to mention that the data for his study end with the 1990 election and do not cover the more recent elections from the current single-seat/regional-proportional combo system. I suspect that the first-past-the-stile element has injected a large measure of volatility to the hypothetical outcomes under the various assumptions that Mr. Fukumoto makes. However, my guess is that the differences between the hypothetical outcomes will even out over the long-run as the political parties—the major ones in particular—try to appeal across the board to all their constituencies. That still means that unequal representation should matter, since political parties must mould their policy priorities to reflect the relative voting power of each constituency, inversely related to the number of voters per seat. It is this dynamic relationship between the electoral system, policy priorities, and voting behavior that goes unmentioned in Mr. Fukumoto’s work.

Incidentally, by one important electoral measure, a Wyomingite is worth 70 Californians.

MTC said...


The correlate measure in Japan is a single Tottorian is worth 4.868 Kanagawans.

MTC said...

Herr Morén:

The problem is not a mere time lag. In order for 53 districts to be so out of whack as to have twice as many voters in them as the smallest district, commissioners have to be dragging their feet, invoking weird rules, actively crafting electoral maps that ignore demographic and immigration changes that took place over 30 years ago.

Take the Kochi example. The prefecture has 685,400 eligible voters (PDF document #2, page 13). Splitting this number into three parts, creating the smallest, second smallest and fourth smallest districts in the country is not a matter of falling behind the times. It is malfeasance.

Martin J Frid said...

I think you need to make maps if you want to get your point across. I tend to agree with Janne that pdf's are not helpful for this type of analysis.

Show us a map of the regions you are talking about, please.

Or try an argument along the lines of what Mother Jones did in the US:

Never try to blog in a vaccuum...

MTC said...

Mr. Frid -

Thank you for the suggestion to map the least represented districts. It would be a sound idea, particularly if I were a journalist or an academic.

I am not quite sure, though, what you mean by "Never try to blog in a vaccuum..."

Jun Okumura said...

Immortalized in the award-winning anime Tonari no Tottorian.

...and if you really, really have to blog in a vacuum, make it brief. Two minutes max, I'd say, before your eyes pop out.

OperationNorthwoods said...

Some more cynical types would argue that the number of CEOs is more important than seats in parliament, in which case, Tokyo must be overrepresented at least 10 to 1. I don't know if it's the case in Japan, but it certainly seems that American politicians have to spend the vast majority of their time fundraising, and end up representing moneyed interests far more than their theoretical home regions, who get stuck with the crumbs of pork.

MTC said...

operationnorthwoods -

An important caveat, but only if:

1) financing of campaigns could be done by direct transaction between candidate and corporation

2) access to funding were a limiting factor on campaigning

Unfortunately, under existing party rules and under the electoral laws, the individual candidate's ability to attract funds does not translate into votes at election time. You cannot buy air time; you cannot pummel your opponent into submission with negative ads; you cannot keep donations without giving some fraction to the party...and a million other "cannots"...all dilute the ability of the Tokyo-headquartered multinationals from buying individual legislators with political donations.

Anonymous said...

>>Incidentally, by one important electoral measure, a Wyomingite is worth 70 Californians.

I assume this is due to each state having two senators no matter what the population.

In ways this is a good thing as it helps avoid the tyranny of the majority.