Last wednesday, I met Mr. Libertarianism @ Japan, one of the happy few japanese libertarians. Quite a nice fellow.
Looking for libertarians to meet in Japan, I had found his site through these links as suggested to me by jcl. I then contacted him by email, and we arranged for a meeting around a nice dinner in Yebisu Garden Place.
Kyuuri (his handle means
cucumber, but he doesn't wear a
discovered libertarian ideas in 1995-1996,
through texts by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman published on the Internet.
He then opened the first japanese website on libertarian ideas ever,
and sad to say, still one among very few.
(The only other japanese libertarian site I could find is
Freedom Antenna, but then again,
I don't know enough japanese to search and filter the net either.)
At first, he wasn't aware of libertarianism existing as a larger movement,
and only discussed books such as Hayek's
The Constitution of Liberty or
Law, Legislation and Liberty.
But soon enough, he was contacted by our very own
who sent him libertarian books
and made hum discover that there were not just a few lone authors,
but a living tradition, full-fledged with self-aware activists.
Kyuuri's site then became Libertarianism @ Japan, and after a few relocations (I've tracked these: 1 2 3 4 5) is now a blog. Kyuuri was the very first to translate some major libertarian texts to japanese; in particular he was the first to translate Ayn Rand, with such texts as Philosophy, Who Needs It? (original) or this Interview to Playboy (original). His site also includes reviews, pointers and comments -- and nice pictures, too, for he's also a good photographer.
The site is rather low-profile, with twenty-odd visitors a day. Libertarianism certainly has a lot of potential for progress in Japan. On the other hand, authors such as Pierre Lemieux or David Boaz have been published in japanese, so there must exist other libertarians somewhere, though there is no national organization. Also, Kyuuri considers that Kenichi Ohmae, a well-known high-profile consultant, was a libertarian of sorts, although one who seems unaware of the tradition.
We discussed many thing:
Japan having a very statist tradition,
strongly anchored in the educational system,
with all university positions (or almost?) being occupied by
legal positivists, socialist economists, communist historians,
post-modernist literators, etc.
Whoever goes to the best universities and becomes a top bureaucrat
is sure to have been bathed in socialism and other vicious forms of statism.
The trade unions are also strongly dominated by communists.
(I am independently told that the important Korean minority
is strongly influenced by North Korean agitprop.)
Difficult to say which is worse of Japan and France in these regard,
but seeing how Japan evolved from feudalism to totalitarian militarism
to a social democracy, there's a lot of progress,
whereas I feel like France has regressed during the last century and a half.
Kyuuri complains about the tax level in Japan,
but my feeling from the price structure there is that
overall taxation is much lower than in France.
Forbes's tax misery index seems to agree.
As for internet privacy and censorship, japanese legislators seem to have
the same tendency as their french counterparts
of writing oppressive laws just to fill a
We also discussed topics such as war in Iraq (on this topic see my articles in French), the utmost evil that is North Korean communism (compare the official site), and Intellectual Property. Kyuuri knows about the patent policy making of the MITI and can see legal positivism going hand in hand with rent-seeking there, so as to build false justifications to false rights that are really governmental privileges (Kyuuri would have me discuss Larry Lessig and Richard Posner at this point, but I don't know enough about them to make more than general comments).
Beyond our concerns for libertarianism and intellectual property,
I found that I share a lot of thinking patterns with Kyuuri:
I love his translation of the Tao as the
natural emerging order;
and I too am attracted to beautiful entrepreneurial women
(congratulations to you, Kyuuri).
All the while, we shredded real wasabi on shark teeth. Nice.
And we drank japanese beer. Nice, too,
though Kyuuri says the best beer he ever drank was in Prague;
one more reason to go to this magnificent town someday
(other reasons being the fine Linux hackers from Charles University,
or the beautiful women).
All in all, I had a great time with Kyuuri, and I look forward to meeting him again, if and when I come back to Japan. Let's drink a Sapporo Beer in his honor!