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.