Constitutional analysis of present crises
November 24, 2008
Yasuo Sugihara (Emeritus Professor at Hitotsubashi
1. Global crisis of the economy and the finance after September
The U.S. subprime mortgage crisis has triggered the economic
and financial crisis which is swiftly gulping many nations.
This global panic is causing bankruptcies of financing, manufacturing
and distributing companies. Stocks and currencies are falling.
Governments are funding financial businesses, and lowering
official interest rates. Some governments are on the verge
of becoming insolvent. Media call it "the worst crises
since 1929" or "the worst possible in a hundred
years." We are curious to know why it started in the
USA, why other countries including Japan, EU and developing
nations have been involved, and how we should cope with it.
2. Constitutional viewpoint necessary to analyze the crises
The core of this serious problem is economic and financial
issues which can be analyzed in economic and financial ways.
However, constitutional viewpoint is also indispensable to
Since the beginning of the modern period, most nations have
provided basic rules in the constitution or the supreme law,
on how the society and the politics should be. Details are
usually written in other laws in line with the vision expressed
in the constitution. That is what we call constitutional regime,
which started in the U.S.A. and France in the 18th century,
spread around the world and reached Japan in the Far East
by the end of the 19th century. In the modern period, each
time nations went through painful periods, they have moved
forward into new eras by revising constitutions: obsolete
principles about the society and the politics were replaced
with new principles.
3. Modern civil constitutions, contemporary civil constitutions
and present state of affairs
Civil revolutions gave birth to modern civil constitutions
which were designed for annihilating status system and feudalism
and for fully developing modern capitalism. They prescribed
human rights and government system in conformity with these
purposes. Freedom and equality were superficially granted,
while property rights were regarded sacred and inviolable.
Contracts were made freely without regulations. Representative
system was not necessarily linked to free universal suffrage.
And war was recognized as inevitable. Such ideas and rules
opened the door to the modern period of human liberation.
However, the modern period was tainted by capitalist system
with evils such as: gender discrimination, uncontrolled long
working hours at low wages and shorter life span. Therefore,
fierce class struggles took place between the workers and
their employers. Modern capitalist system remained instable,
dotted with periodic depressions. It was a time of imperialistic
invasions and wars, a new era of alienation of human beings.
After the World War I, contemporary civil constitutions came
into existence. Their objectives were to overcome defects
of modern constitutions and capitalist system. Constitutions
in the USSR and other East-European socialist nations had
the same goals. New constitutions in most of the developed
capitalist nations articulate: (1)ban on gender discrimination,
(2)idea of national welfare which aims to guarantee the right
to maintain a human way of life, (3)disarmament and illegalization
of war (peaceful settlement of international disputes and
ban on war of aggression and invasion), and (4)further reinforcement
of democracy. However, the present Constitution of the USA
does not have the above (2) welfare and (3) ban on wars. Japanese
Constitution is one of contemporary civil constitutions which
clearly expresses all those 5 principles. Yet, Japanese government
is not serious about carrying out any of those, because it
always follows American policy.
Once the fundamental missions of contemporary rejimu are overthrown
or neglected, the government system loses its reason for existence
and becomes unsustainable. That is what we can learn from
the history of the socialist governments of the USSR and eastern
European nations which collapsed by the end of the 20th century,
after the exhausting armament competition against the USA.
Constitutional analysis is necessary to grasp and cope with
the present crisis which is said to be the most serious one
after the depression in 1929.
4. Why has the USA become the hypocenter?
The following points may help us to answer this question.
(1)The US constitution lacks the principle of national welfare,
ban on wars and the pursuit of disarmament. Such a constitution
allows the USA to devote itself to promoting the globalization
of the market economy system, and to fighting the Cold War,
hot wars and arms race.
(2)Soon after the World War II, as of 1948, the USA established
the Pax Americana, and became the worldfs leader, in
the economy as well, sharing 53.9% of the industrial output
of the global capitalist economy and 53.7% of the total of
gold and foreign exchange reserve of the world,
(3)The USA has been absorbed in building up its arsenal and
fighting hot and cold wars since the World War II. The Cold
War (1946-91) against the USSR was an all-out competition
for its military hegemony and for the capitalist systemfs
victory over the socialism. Hot wars include the Korean War
(1950-53), Vietnamese War (1960-75) and the Iraqi War which
continues from 2001. The increase of the military budget has
been outstanding since Reagan administration. In 2008, under
Bush Jr. Administration, the Defense Ministryfs budget
reached 481.4 billion dollars excluding the expense for fighting
wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is generally estimated
that the US military expense actually exceeds 1.1 trillion
dollars. Military expenses are basically non-reproductive
waste. Military expenses are destined to damage the economy
and the finance. The US current account deficit was 804.9
billion dollars and the federal budget deficit was 495.3 billion
dollars in 2005. They are referred to as twin deficits.
(4) Along with its military expansion, the USA ardently propagated
principles of market economy to the world, proclaiming "liberalization
without exceptions." This campaign fueled speculative
investment, which naturally damaged production, consumption
and lives of most people. Thus, "laisser-faire"
principle of modern capitalism thrived throughout the world,
which is closely related to the environmental destruction
of various forms in global scale.
(5) As a result, the USA became the hypocenter of the devastating
5. Why has Japan got involved? What should we do?
Japan, unlike the USA, has a constitution which states the
principles of peaceful nation and of national welfare. Japan
should never have been involved in this "most serious
crisis after 1929" if it had faithfully carried out these
principles. It is indeed regrettable that Japan neglected
the contemporary significance of its constitution, followed
the USA, and got involved in the trouble. We must cope with
it in a right manner, by understanding its cause. The remedies
should be based on principles stated in the articles 9 and
25 of the Constitution; peaceful nation and national welfare.
The trouble drags on and more people suffer if we mismanage
the problem by ignoring the factors and causes. We should
learn a lesson from this crisis and realize the importance
of the above principles in our constitution.
Only "the government by the people and for the people"
can remove the pain of the majority of the people. We have
learned through our experience that a person in power often
forgets the reality of everyday life of the people. We desire
a fair election system which allows us to convey our voices
to the national and local assemblies, and local governments
with broader authority.
6. Kempo to Shihonshugi, Constitution and Capitalism: the
book I published (in Japanese) in August 2008
In this book I studied present constitutional situation in
relation to the capitalist system, with reference to the history
of modern and contemporary constitutions. In the light of
various results in social scientific studies, I was able to
analyze failures of the two superpowers in the 20th century
from constitutional viewpoint. I was surprised that the global
crisis broke out soon after the publication, in the next month.
I strongly believe that we should try harder to see the real
significance of the Constitution of Japan. I would appreciate
your looking over the table of contents and preface of my