Democracy is supposed to be the antithesis of hereditary rule by family dynasties. And yet, looking around the world, one sees that “democratic dynasties” continue to persist. They have been conspicuously prevalent in Japan, where more than a third of all legislators and two-thirds of all cabinet ministers in recent years have come from families with a history in parliament. Such a high proportion of dynasties is comparatively unusual and has sparked serious concerns over whether democracy in Japan is functioning properly.
In this book, I introduce a comparative theory based on a framework of supply and demand to explain the causes and consequences of dynasties in democracies like Japan. I argue that members of dynasties enjoy an “inherited incumbency advantage” in all three stages of a typical political career: selection, election, and promotion. However, I argue that the nature and extent of this advantage, as well as its consequences for elections and representation, varies by the institutional context of electoral rules and candidate selection methods within parties. In the late 1980s, roughly half of all new candidates in Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) were political legacies. However, electoral system reform in 1994 and subsequent party reforms have changed the incentives for party leaders to rely on dynastic politics in candidate selection. A new pattern of party-based competition is slowly replacing the old pattern of competition based on localized family fiefdoms. Nevertheless, path dependence and a continue supply of legacy hopefuls impedes more dramatic change.
This book is the end product of several years of feedback from countless individuals. I owe a debt of gratitude to the many mentors and friends who helped me develop the project and see it through to completion. My first introduction to Japanese politics was at the University of California, Los Angeles, where an undergraduate course taught by Michael Thies and Linda Hasunuma set me on a path of inquiry that has become the main focus of my research. My undergraduate thesis adviser, Miriam Golden, deserves credit for pushing me to pursue graduate study at the University of California, San Diego, after first going to Tokyo to study Japanese politics with Steve Reed at Chuo University on a Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) research fellowship. Over the course of nearly two years, Steve patiently imparted his vast knowledge of Japanese politics and prepared me for graduate school better than anyone else possibly could have. The idea to study the causes and consequences of Japan’s political dynasties from a comparative perspective sprang forth in 2006 during one of our many conversations.
At UCSD, I was fortunate to be trained and mentored by many others, including the members of my dissertation committee: Kaare Strøm (chair), Matt Shugart, Ellis Krauss, Gary Cox, Gary Jacobson, and Krislert Samphantharak. Kaare Strøm thoughtfully guided me through graduate school and has created more opportunities for me than I can ever repay. Matt Shugart, Ellis Krauss, and Gary Cox also played integral roles in shaping my ideas, improving the direction of my research, and helping me to learn and grow as a scholar. Countless other faculty mentors and peers at UCSD aided me to slowly, but purposefully, build this project, including Yasu-hiko Tohsaku, Eiko Ushida, Takeo Hoshi, Ulrike Schaede, and Megumi Naoi.
Later, my ideas benefited from the feedback and support of colleagues at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) at Stanford University and in the Department of Government at Harvard University. At Stanford, I thank Phillip Lipscy, Kenji Kushida, Takeo Hoshi, Dan Sneider, Gi-Wook Shin, and the administrative staff at APARC. At Stanford University Press, I thank especially Geoffrey Burn, Kate Wahl, Marcela Maxfield, Anne Fuzellier, Stephanie Adams, and Olivia Bartz. At Harvard, I am grateful to my friends and colleagues in the Department of Government, the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and its Program on US-Japan Relations, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science for their support and encouragement. I especially want to thank Susan Pharr and Torben Iversen, who have served as invaluable faculty mentors, and Mark Ramseyer, Ezra Vogel, Stephen Ansolabehere, Jeff Frieden, Kenneth Shepsle, Jim Snyder, Peter Hall, Daniel Ziblatt, Dustin Tingley, Arthur Spirling, Eric Beerbohm, Ryan Enos, Horacio Larreguy, Gwyneth McClendon, Josh Kertzer, Jon Rogowski, Matt Blackwell, Yuhua Wang, and Shin Fujihira for feedback and conversations that helped sharpen my ideas and improve my analysis.
Several scholars in Japan have provided helpful comments, support, or insight, including Steve Reed, Masataka Harada, Yukio Maeda, Michio Muramatsu, Naoto Nonaka, John Campbell, Kenneth McElwain, Kuniaki Nemoto, Hiroshi Ishida, Kaori Shoji, Kentaro Fukumoto, Hidenori Tsutsumi, Naofumi Fujimura, Greg Noble, and participants in workshops at the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo. Outside of Japan, I thank Shane Martin, Jon Fiva, Benny Geys, Olle Folke, Johanna Rickne, Pablo Querubín, Kanchan Chandra, Brenda van Coppenolle, Carlos Velasco Rivera, Amy Catalinac, Len Schoppa, Frances Rosenbluth, Mike Tomz, Juan Pablo Micozzi, Kiyoteru Tsutsui and countless others in audiences at conferences and workshops at Harvard, Yale, the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), Princeton, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the Norwegian Business School (BI), for conversations and critiques that have moved this project along. Steve Reed, Susan Pharr, Mark Ramseyer, Robert Pekkanen, Jon Fiva, Masataka Harada, Gary Cox, Torben Iversen, Max Goplerud, Shiro Kuriwaki, José Ramón Enríquez, Brandon Martinez, Griffin Gonzalez, graduate students in my seminar on political institutions in fall 2016, and anonymous reviewers read and commented on all or large parts of the manuscript. Their feedback was crucial in the final stretch.
This project has been supported financially by several generous programs. Field research in Tokyo in 2010–2011 was made possible by the generous support of the Japan-US Educational Commission (JUSEC, Fulbright Program Japan). I thank JUSEC director David Satterwhite, and especially Jinko Brinkman and Mizuho Iwata, for facilitating my research in Tokyo and helping to arrange interviews with politicians. Thanks are also owed to Yukio Maeda and the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo for hosting me during this year of field research. Additional field research in Ireland was made possible with the help of Shane Martin, and financial assistance from the UCSD Friends of the International Center. Other aspects of the project, including follow-up interviews in Japan, were financially supported by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs generously supported a workshop for an earlier draft of the book. I thank the participants of that workshop for sharing their time and expertise with me in Cambridge: Ethan Scheiner, Frances Rosenbluth, Yusaku Horiuchi, Susan Pharr, Torben Iversen, Jim Snyder, Shane Martin, Naofumi Fujimura, and Shin Fujihira.
This book could not have been possible without the dedicated work of a team of student research assistants and their efforts in data collection. Special thanks are owed to graduate students Colleen Driscoll, José Ramón Enríquez, Max Goplerud, Shiro Kuriwaki, and Mafalda Pratas Fernandes, as well as undergraduates Mark Daley, Ross Friedman, Anna Gomez, Griffin Gonzalez, Brandon Martinez, Anna Menzel, Megan Mers, Andrew Miner, Darragh Nolan, Anthony Ramicone, Aaron Roper, Carlos Schmidt-Padilla, Isabel Vasquez, Anthony Volk, and Eric Xiao. Joan Cho and Danny Crichton helped me to locate and code data on South Korean dynasties, and Naoko Taniguchi, Nathan Batto, Pablo Querubín, Brenda van Coppenolle, and Kanchan Chandra kindly shared their own data or statistics on dynasties. Koji Sonoda helped me locate the data on Japanese politicians’ assets. Harvard librarians Kazuko Sakaguchi and Kuniko McVey also pointed me in various helpful directions. Alex Storer, Ista Zahn, and Kareem Carr at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science helped immensely with data collection issues. Additional methodological feedback from Simo Goshev, Ista Zahn, Matt Blackwell, Jon Fiva, Horacio Larreguy, Masataka Harada, and Gary Cox helped move the project along. Shiro Kuriwaki helped to create the map featured in Chapter 2. Teppei Yamamoto created the original figure for the conjoint analysis results that appear in Chapter 5. Amy Catalinac provided the Hellinger distance measure used in Chapter 7. I am also grateful to the many politicians and party staff members in Japan who shared their experiences and viewpoints with me in personal interviews.
Collaborations and conversations with my coauthors have shaped this project in numerous ways. I thank Robert Pekkanen, Ellis Krauss, Hidenori Tsutsumi, Steve Reed, Yusaku Horiuchi, Teppei Yamamoto, Shane Martin, Olle Folke, Johanna Rickne, Ethan Scheiner, Justin Reeves, Amy Catalinac, Gary Cox, Mike Thies, Jon Fiva, Benny Geys, and Masataka Harada for their contributions to related research projects.
This list is exhaustive, but undoubtedly I have left some people out who have made a positive impact on me or this research. Thank you, too. Last, and most important, I thank my family for their continuous and patient support, especially John and Annie, who put up with me in the final push to finish this book.
A final note is warranted in light of recent events. In late September 2017, as this book was already in production, Prime Minister Abe Shinzō decided to call a snap election for the House of Representatives. Continuing the trend set in motion after Japan’s 1994 electoral reform and accelerated since the LDP’s 2005 party reforms, the new legacy candidates who emerged in 2017 were mostly the offspring of longtime incumbents from existing dynasties who were first elected under the pre-1994 electoral system, or of those who had died suddenly in office. These include the sons, grandsons, or brothers of former prime ministers and other cabinet ministers: Hatoyama Tarō, Nakasone Yasutaka, Hiranuma Shōjirō, Kōmura Masahiro, Yasuoka Hirotake, Yosano Makoto, Kimura Jirō, Wakabayashi Kenta, and Kaneko Shunpei.
But it was not smooth sailing for many of these new legacies. Hatoyama and Hiranuma did not get the LDP’s nomination and had to run with the label of the newly formed Party of Hope and as an independent, respectively. Nakasone was forced to run on the Kita Kanto proportional representation (PR) list rather than in his grandfather’s old district in Gunma prefecture (where the party’s nomination had already been granted to another legacy incumbent from the PR tier, Omi Asako). He, along with Kōmura, Kimura, and Kaneko, managed to win seats, but Yasuoka, Hiranuma, and Hatoyama were all rejected by the voters. Yosano was ranked near the bottom of the LDP’s Tokyo PR list and narrowly lost out on a seat. Wakabayashi, who previously served in the House of Councillors, narrowly missed winning a seat through the Hokuriku Shinetsu PR list. Another new LDP legacy candidate, Shiraishi Hiroki, whose father, Tōru, had served only two terms before dying suddenly in office, was also defeated. Hokkaido 11th District featured a contest between Nakagawa Yūko (LDP), the incumbent widow of former finance minister Nakagawa Shōichi, and Ishikawa Kaori, a former television announcer and wife of disgraced former Democratic Party of Japan MP Ishikawa Tomohiro. Ishikawa ran with the nomination of the newly formed Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and defeated the LDP incumbent.
Thus, although many new legacy candidates ran in 2017, the pattern continues to reflect changes in supply and demand in dynastic candidate selection, as described in the chapters of this book. Legacy candidates are still emerging, and often getting the nomination of the LDP, but these legacies tend to be descendants of powerful existing dynasties with strong supply-side incentives to run. Those who try to succeed weaker incumbents, or who offer less to the party leadership in terms of their other qualities, have a harder time getting nominated and elected. Over time, the changes set in motion by Japan’s institutional reforms will continue to reduce the prevalence of dynastic politics in the LDP.
Daniel M. Smith