Two failed attempts to replace Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party raise the question of why opposition parties are so unsuccessful in Japan. The Japan Socialist Party and the Democratic Party of Japan have collapsed in the polls and become almost irrelevant after failed attempts to govern. The recent publication of a comparative global study of public policy research organizations, better known as think tanks, may provide some answers.

Think tanks are important for democracies because they help bring expert opinion to policy issues and help develop academic research into policy alternatives that can help solve problems. They are part of civil society, a necessary part of the infrastructure of democracy. They are an interface between experts and policy-makers. Their importance has grown in the last decades as policymakers and the general public have increased need for useful and reliable information for formulating policies that can meet the increasingly difficult demands of a complex world that has problems more difficult to understand than problems faced before.

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