Why Do the Voices of the People Go Unheard in Government?
- Aligning Public Sentiment with Government Action Through Policy Co-Creation -

On February 4, 2023, the Nippon Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) held the NIRA Forum 2023 on the topic of “Why Do the Voices of the People Go Unheard in Government? Aligning Public Sentiment with Government Action Through Policy Co-Creation.”

As Japan’s population decline accelerates along with the prospects for meaningful growth of the economic pie of its society, Japanese politics must transform into a venue for making difficult decisions around burden sharing. Politicians must exercise leadership by presenting realistic policies that are able to convince Japan’s citizens that even if the choices to be made are unpleasant in the short term, that they are necessary for maximizing the happiness and wellbeing of the people, including themselves, in the foreseeable future. This goes beyond merely being responsive to the interests and sentiments voters express in the moment, but coming together with them to collaborate on the development of practical policies that are responsible in securing the long-term welfare of the people, society, future generations, and ultimately themselves.

To achieve this, the government must establish a flexible agile policymaking mechanism that enables Japan to change direction as circumstances dictate and undergirds the unity necessary to pursue reform. In service of this goal, the government must further promote the opening of administrative data and build logical arguments for its policy positions from a large array of diverse data.

Moreover, it is crucial to create a space for policy co-creation where people and politicians can engage in informal and open discussions to jointly identify socially responsible policies. This will require establishing a truly “deliberative democracy” centered on dialogue, by revising the existing democratic discussion process to ensure that people feel their opinions are reflected in policy. It will also require that politicians increase transparency and accountability in decision-making, in part by competing to offer voters real choice between multiple potential policy options based on clear public deliberation. The continued sustainability of Japan’s democracy hinges on the development and deployment of the mechanisms for both agile policymaking and a more deliberative democracy.

Nippon Institute for Research Advancement