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The Use and Abuse of Experts

SNA (Tokyo) — While hardly a revelation, a recent series of comments from senior Liberal Democratic Party officials has provided an usually clear example of the ruling party’s cynicism in terms of its approach to academic specialists.

It began with what might be called the “Own Goal Incident” that occurred on June 8 in the House of Representatives. Three scholars were brought in to testify about whether or not the “Legislation for Peace and Security” (which opponents call the “War Bill”) was constitutional. The scholars were recommended by both opposition parties and the ruling coalition.

Famously, the event did not go according to script: All three scholars, including LDP-recommended Professor Yasuo Hasebe, testified that in no uncertain terms that the national security bill is unconstitutional, and they went on to say that their view was shared by all but a handful of the nation’s constitutional scholars.

LDP lawmakers were clearly stunned, with one faction leader declaring that whichever party official had selected Professor Hasebe should be punished for their incompetence.

Hasebe Grin

Yasuo Hasebe

The most aggressive counterattack came from LDP Vice-President Masahiko Komura, who argued both that decisions on constitutionality must lie with politicians and not constitutional scholars, and that if the nation followed the advice of its academic specialists, the result would surely be ruination of peace and security.

Perhaps the best response to Mr. Komura came from Professor Hasebe himself, who suggested to a press conference on June 15 that he was probably selected by the LDP because he had offered Diet testimony in late 2013 supporting the secrecy legislation that was then under deliberation. The ruling party greatly appreciated his testimony and that time and he was highly praised as an expert offering valuable insights to the Diet. Professor Hasebe continued:

“You now see the point. If I say what is congruent with the interests of the government, they say that I am an expert. And if I say something which is against the interests of the government, they allege that I am [not an] expert.”

One will rarely find a clearer statement of the LDP’s use and abuse of expertise. The overriding issue is loyalty to the ruling party’s agenda. The only experts who need apply are those who begin with the conclusions desired by the political establishment and then work backwards to assemble the supporting facts and arguments.

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