INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
Until its fall from power in the summer of 1993, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) carried a near record among popularly elected one-party governments for longevity. The feat is all the more remarkable because its reign extended through a period of profound change: recovery from a devastating war, reintegration into the world economy, and rapid urbanization. Throughout the postwar decades, despite mounting international pressures and domestic demographic shifts, the LDP presided over a sort of time warp, representing the same protectionist coalition of industry and agriculture.
At first cut, Japan's case is not a prize empirical specimen for the argument that international economic forces bear importantly on domestic politics. Given Japan's spectacular postwar success in the world economy, one would have expected a free-trade coalition to triumph, or at least to gain influence, long ago. Instead, Japan's markets, with the government's help, have been notoriously hard to crack. Round after round of multilateral and bilateral trade talks managed to reduce tariff barriers, only to expose higher and thicker nontariff walls of cartel regulation and “customary business practices.” Despite the high fashion in Tokyo of just about anything associated with foreign cultures, the internationalization of the Japanese economy appears to have been a rather one-way affair.
In this paper, I evaluate the domestic effects of internationalization in the Japanese case. If, as the essays in this volume collectively suggest, globally competitive sectors should favor free trade, we need to be able to answer three questions.