Abiola_Lapite's photos More of Abiola_Lapite's photos

« The Goldberg Variations | Main | Man the Runner, turned Couch Potato »

November 21, 2011



Kel Kelly at the Mises Institute seems to mirror your own position most perfectly:

E. Fingleton from the Atlantic however, gets closer to what I am particularly interested in: a certain kind of economic reporting about Japan that insinuates that the Japanese deliberately lie about their economic health, as part of trade policy, and in order to mislead the rest of the world. This type of talk was very common among East Asia area studies types in the 1980s - that the Japanese had woven some sort of cultural imperative into their economic policy that necessitated deception, oriental inscrutability and good old corporate samurai sword-work (complete with harakiri and all). Talk such as this is still very much around, as the underlying tone in The Atlantic article suggests.

Check out the excerpts:

[...Preposterous though it may seem to an unacclimatized Western observer, it appears that Japanese officials have been deliberately understating the nation's growth. But why would they do such a thing? For those who know Japanese history, a clue lies in trade policy. The fact is that, constantly since the 1870s (with the exception of a brief interlude in the late 1930s and early 1940s), Japan's pre-eminent policy objective has been to keep ramping up exports. That policy came very close to derailment in the late 1980s as a groundswell of opposition built up in the West. By the early 1990s, however, the opposition had largely evaporated as news of the crash led Western policymakers to pity rather than fear the "humbled juggernaut." It is a short jump from this to the conclusion that Japanese officials have decided to put a negative spin on much of the economic news ever since...]

[...Anyone who knows East Asia knows that what is not said is often far more informative than what is said. It is interesting, therefore, to note that when Japanese leaders -- and their many semi-official spokesmen in places like Washington and London -- discuss Japan's seemingly endless litany of woe, they never mention the continuing spectacularly strong long-term trend in the trade numbers. Yet trade was the one issue that earned Japan the "juggernaut" soubriquet in the 1980s. Think about it: when did you last hear a Tokyo talking head mention, for instance, that the current account surplus is up five-fold in two decades? Or that Japan is unique among major First World nations in that it runs a balanced trade account (actually on some calculations a bilateral surplus) with China? Or that, on a net basis, its holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds and other foreign assets have multiplied probably ten-fold since the 1980s?...]

The comments to this entry are closed.

Notes for Readers