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MAY 24, 2010

Responsibilities of a Generation; Determination as a Leader

By Yoshito Hori

Regarding my “Academic Wisdom and Practical Wisdom“, which I wrote recently, a reader called Fujita-san offered the following comment.

“Don’t you want to make so-called policy suggestions, which offer specific ideas about how to change politics and social systems? For example, a discussion of an income-disparity society would include many issues such as income tax, inheritance and gift taxes and the Child Allowance that require discussion of the details. I would think that policy suggestions would lead to more constructive opinions.”

Let me give a simple answer.

I have had no interest in policy suggestions. Because no matter how much effort you put into your suggestions, there is no meaning if they would not be enforced. Further, I don’t have the political power to push them forward. Therefore, the return on time and effort invested (return on investment) by me is thought to be low.

That’s why, instead of making suggestions, I’ve tried to act as a roll model in enforcing social change. Specifically, if I felt that education was a problem, I would create a graduate school on my own; if I assumed that there is not enough innovation in the society, I would support business creation through venture capital; if I thought that society needed management wisdom, I would go into publishing. On a personal level, if the declining childbirth was a problem, I would try to increase the population myself. If there were enough voice heard, I would write about social issues in “Views from an Entrepreneur” or try to get myself in newspapers or magazine media and play my role in advocacy.

I have believed that this small initiative will influence others gradually and create a great wave in the future.. Since GLOBIS established its business school, other universities have entered the market. And our venture capital investments have led to the establishment of companies such as Works Applications and GREE, changing society as role models.

Back when I started writing my blog in September 1998, I indicated my initial intentions in “ Regarding the Blog: Views from an Entrepreneur“. I hope you would read it when you have the chance. I stated clearly, “I am not trying to tell society what to do; my fundamental intent is to comprehend what I should do based on what is happening around me.” And I wrote the following:

“‘The government should reduce taxes!’ ‘The LDP should work to maintain the financial system rather than focusing on financial reconstruction!’—I want to completely avoid the tone of advocating a particular policy likes critics and politicians. This sounds very arrogant, and nothing is worse than people who don’t practice what they preach. In ‘Views from an Entrepreneur,’ I want to send out a message based on what happens around me, and how things look from where I stand, within my range of influence. “

I have written “Views from an Entrepreneur” on this principle for twelve years. And this year, I’ve started writing opinions. How I’ve come to be writing opinion is explained in the opening of ” The Words and Behaviors of Each Individual Change Japan”.

Frankly, there’s been a continuous string of strong debates since I started writing opinions on Twitter as well. I’ve made enemies; some people despise me now. I’ve hurt some people, and some may even bear a grudge against me. But I can no longer be worrying about such things.

I’m now at an age where I need to take responsibility for the direction in which Japan is heading. I need to be fully aware of the fact that I’m one of the people who must lead Japan. These days, I often use the phrase, “Responsibility of a generation.” With our strengths, we need to make this gradually declining, problematic Japan into a more vital country.

When one major business figure in his 70s said, “This country’s politics is terrible,” the comment enraged me.

That’s because I wanted to say, “It’s your generation that was responsible.” I strongly felt, “If you didn’t like it, you could have engaged in politics more and changed it.” I believe that the generation in power has the obligation to leave subsequent generations with a good nation. I didn’t feel this spirit of responsibility from the business person’s words.

I feel similar anger on elder people who criticize younger people. That’s because the young are the product of the society that the elder people had created. Such behavior, I’d say, is what they can do only after they criticize themselves. (Incidentally, I have high hopes for young Japanese. And of course, I consider myself one of them.) But my generation is now about to enter that realm of “elders.” In other words, the time has come for us to take responsibility and lead Japan in a better direction.

To answer Fujita-san’s comment above – and excuse me for attempting a simple answer and making it long – the bottom line is that I’m obviously thinking of making suggestions as well. But letting them go in vain would be a waste of time and energy. They’d be useless if they can’t point Japan in a proper direction.

The purpose of suggesting policies is to make Japan better. Actions are, in fact, already underway. This weekend, friends of my generation will gather at a single location and begin talking about a vision and strategy to make Japan better. I can’t give out the details yet. But what I can say is that we are firmly determined to fulfill our responsibilities.

March 18, 2010
Yoshito Hori