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.