What would happen if we didn't have the Aikikai?
The way I see it, the Aikikai represents the iemoto system, as well as being the practical headquarters of Aikido. If the Aikikai wasn't there, or was not supported, then we would be represented by the different leaders of our individual groups. That might work for the first generation, but then who would take over the representation after that?
The Aikikai works as an umbrella organization, and generally doesn't lay down too strict guidelines regarding the technical aspects of our Aikido. The Hombu instructors receive salaries, and there are quite many of them on the payroll. They don't receive high salaries, but even if it is a standard level salary, this will still be quite a large amount to be paid every month. I believe that the Hombu Dojo is not making a financial killing at the moment regarding the various payments that are coming in. If you look at the once -a -year Kagami Biraki list, then of course it seems like a large sum, but this is just once a year. Try to think of Tokyo real-estate prices, and take a look at the size and the location of Hombu Dojo, and factor this in to what their annual expenses are.
I know it must be hard for the Aikikai, because many people must be thinking along the same lines as what Chris Li has stated. His statements are quite spot-on, when thinking pragmatically about the situation.
But I do think one needs to ask the question - what if Aikikai wasn't there? To me, it seems obvious: Chaos, power struggles all over the place - and most of all, a lack of awareness of, and respect for the lineage of O-Sensei. I think it is our responsibility to try to imbue our students with an understanding and feeling of respect towards the creator of Aikido and the family that represents him. They are able to be there because of the Aikikai. I think we need to accept the fact that it is necessary for the Aikikai / Hombu Dojo to try to run things as a business, to the extent that they can keep themselves afloat, and thereby enable the core of the Founder's aikido to continue.
Hmm...thread return after a year...
I think that there is plenty of chaos and power struggles with the Aikikai just as there would be without - it's the human condition. I don't particularly see what an organization has to do with respect, and respecting a genetic lineage went out with Kings and thrones (except on HBO).
Respect ought to be earned on one's own, not based on some distant ancestral connection.
There's nothing wrong with running things as a business of course - but remember that businesses serve customers and provide value or they don't stay in business long.
That being said, I'm not anti-Aikikai, but I think that it will have to make some significant changes in order to survive.