Meiji Strategy for Economic Growth


The Meiji government during the 1880's created both an 
institutional and constitution structure that allowed Japan in the
coming decades to be a stabile and industrializing country. Two major 
policies and strategies that reinforced stability and economic 
modernization in Japan were the creation of a national public 
education system and the ratification of the Meiji constitution. Both 
these aided in stability and thus economic growth. 
 The creation of a national education system aided in creating 
stability because it indoctrinated youth in the ideas of loyalty, 
patriotism, and obedience. Japan's education system at first stressed 
free thought and the ideas of individual's exploration of knowledge 
but by 1890 the education system of Japan became a tool for 
indoctrination into what Peter Duus calls "a kind of civil religion" 
with the Imperial Rescript on Education. This Rescript stressed two 
things. First, it stressed loyalty to the emperor and to a lesser 
extant to the state. In every classroom a picture of the emperor was 
placed. Second, the education system stressed self sacrifice to the 
state and family. Filial piety was taught in schools and applied not 
only to the family but also to the national family which included 
father, teacher, official and employer. The Japanese education system 
also created a system of technical schools and universities both 
public and private that educated a growing class of Japanese on
how to use new western machinery, administrate government and run 
private industries. The Japanese education system following the 
Rescript on Education served primarily to teach people what to think 
and not how to think; and as Edwin Reischauer stated, "Japan pioneered 
in the modern totalitarian technique of using the educational system 
for indoctrination and was in fact decades ahead of countries like 
Germany in perfecting these techniques." Japan's education system was 
a tool in creating for Japan a reliable citizenry who respected the 
government and had the knowledge to act as "technically efficient
clogs" in the new industries and administration that an 
industrializing state created. 
 The ratification of the Meiji constitution drafted in the 
summer of 1887 and signed into law in 1889 helped create a stable
constitutional order in Japan. The constitution was a gift of the 
emperor to the people and was made up of a complicated set of checks 
and balances between the emperor, his cabinet, and the Diet. The 
constitution although it granted voting rights to only one percent of 
the population in Japan was well received by the people and played a 
critical role in lending legitimacy to the oligarchy (Genro) who ran 
the government. Before the constitution the Genro had little basis in 
theory for their continued rule other then they spoke for the emperor. 
But the constitution with its elections and bicameral diet lender 
legitimacy to the rule of the oligarchy. The constitution also brought 
Japan at least in the minds of the oligarchy to parity with western 
political institutions. Indeed, the ruling group in Japan passed the 
constitution through not because of popular pressure but because they
thought a constitution and parliamentary government was a necessary 
part of the political machinery that helped make western powers 
strong. In the long term the parliamentary government of Japan and its 
constitution provided a stable government with its mix of oligarchy, 
monarchy, and a little democracy for the wealthy. It ensured investors 
and the Zaibutsu a say in government and promoted growth by creating a 
stabile government that was critical to ensuring investors will put 
capital in businesses. Both the new education and governmental 
structure of Japan passed in the 1880's and 1890's was essential to
Japanese stability and economic and industrial growth. 


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