February 22, 2011

Japan

For 20 years, you've always heard about how horrible Japan's economy is. In 2008 you heard over and over about how the worst thing that could happen to America is a Japanese-style Lost Decade. It always sounds like Godzilla, or maybe the B-29s, have come back. 

And yet, Japan doesn't actually seem to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland. A friend of mine who has lived in Japan since about 1980 said a couple of years ago that although he's always reading in the English-language press about how badly off Japan is, it doesn't see so bad when he steps outside. When he first arrived in Japan, the country was full of badly-dressed people and ugly buildings. Now it's full of well-dressed people and attractive buildings.

I guess I'm just obtuse. It finally dawned on me that the reason you hear about how horrible Japan is all the time is that it has been horrible for financiers since 1990. The Nikkei index is now only one-third what it was in 1990 at the end of a ridiculous real estate bubble in which the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo were theoretically worth more than all the real estate in California.

The New York Times runs a contrarian article about how you can make a lot of money investing in Japan because all investors hate Japan:
Japan’s government finances are on the verge of collapse, and its economy has floundered for two decades.  ...

“Japan is by far one of the cheapest markets in the world,“ said Charles de Vaulx of International Value Advisers, a New York-based investment firm. “It’s so universally hated, yet it might be one of the world’s best-performing markets over the next five years.” 

 Or, then, again, it might not. But the point is that all investors hate Japan.
“So many Japanese companies are well managed from an industrial standpoint,“ he said. 

Yeah, but who cares about that?
... An attraction for the bulls is the fire-sale prices. Although the benchmark Nikkei recently hit a nearly 10-month high, it is still more than two-thirds off its peak before Japan’s real estate and stock market bubble burst in 1990.

Shares in Tokyo are also about 20 percent off their levels before the financial crisis hit in 2008 — one of the few major markets that have yet to rebound. ...

Certainly Japan can still give investors reasons for doubt — like the long-term effects of the government’s high debt and aging population. There is also the paltry profitability of companies like Sony, which has averaged a 3 percent return on equity over the last five years while its Korean rival, Samsung Electronics, has surpassed 13 percent by the same measure....
More Japanese companies have also tried to counter investors’ longstanding complaints that companies here hoard too much cash, instead of investing it or returning it to shareholders. 
...Some activist investors, meanwhile, are trying to coax Japanese companies into creating more value for shareholders, rekindling an issue that ignited contentious battles between foreign investors and Japanese management in the mid-2000s.

140 comments:

occultrick said...

Japan continues to inspire industrialists and small businessmen throughout the Asian region, particularly in Taiwan. If it could increase its native demographic growth, it would be a model nation.

Anonymous said...

The japanese will continue to decline because they don't replenish their populatin wiht Japanese babies.

you see, in the west, material success does not mean birth failure because Westerns have "soul." it's not all about the money. we have babies because we love babies and we have religion.

the japanese are a materialistic and decadent people.

Chris said...

Plus,
-no ghettos or barrios
-no public schools like your average LAUSD daycare center
-far fewer big box chains, and far more local businesses
-fantastic mass transportation
-fantastic non-mass immigration policies
-excellent infrastructure
-lots of social cohesion

One worries that they are in for some attempted tikkun olam.

TH said...

One of the craziest reaches of bubble-era Japan was Huis Ten Bosch, a huge Netherlands-themed amusement park. There are lots of pics and descriptions of it at the Spike Japan blog.

The Wobbly Guy said...

Part of the reason for their low fertility rates is simply their high costs of living - which in turn stems from crowding.

Give Japan a generation or two. When their population decreases, rents and housing prices should decline, and we'll see the Japanese start having more babies again.

As for their supposed anaemic economy, it's probably due to their Keynesian economic model. If the Japanese government would just give up the idea of boosting the economy by borrowing heavily and spending it all, they could lower their tax rates and allow their companies more room for risks.

And they should embrace deflation. I see nothing wrong with deflation. Hell, what's wrong with falling prices if you're a consumer?!?

Another Anon said...

"The japanese will continue to decline because they don't replenish their populatin wiht Japanese babies."

That probably seems ridiculous from a Japanese perspective. Despite their declining population, they still live in an incredibly densely populated country, and with living memory struggled with feeding their population. They can afford to decline to 100 million or so people. At that point, when when there is more space and rent is cheaper, Japanese may start having more kids.

Anonymous said...

(Michael Farris)

Nothing is so bothersome to true believers as a happy heretic.

Japan continually flouts any number of articles of faith of western post-national, post-democratic, post-economic and post-legal elites.

Therefore it either doesn't exist or must fail.

jack strocchi said...

Steve S. said:

It finally dawned on me that the reason you hear about how horrible Japan is all the time is that it has been horrible for financiers since 1990.

The crazy Japanese, like the equally crazy Germans, still make money by making useful things. And then wind up with astronomical trade surpluses.

What kind of nonsense is that when we all know that the way to make money is by making money off turning over other peoples money. To hell with the ball-busting business of engineering, lets all become lawyers and bankers, and get rich by selling each other the titles to financial instruments!

Anonymous said...

I'd definitely would want to be a baby born in Japan than almost any other East Asian country. And obviously I'd rather be born there than in a "dynamic" country like Brazil, India or China.

Ron said...

"It finally dawned on me that the reason you hear about how horrible Japan is all the time is that it has been horrible for financiers since 1990."

- From what I've read, its bad on the youth as well, many of whom get degrees and can't find a good job like their parents, and sit around their parent's home with their electronic soma (video games, internet surfing, etc) instead of hanging out with friends and dating. There seems to be a problem with that going on in the US already; God help us if it increases for the US if we go further into a Lost Decade of our own.

“Japan is by far one of the cheapest markets in the world“

-This is debatable. Yes, it is still down from historical highs, but those highs were fantastically high 20 years ago, compared to the underlying earnings of the company. A good general rule of thumb from Warren Buffett is that over time, the underlying value is what is important; the actual price can vary wildly from investors playing musical chairs and engaging in tulip bulb-style bubbles, but eventually, it will come back again and again to the underlying value. The Japanese stock market has had alot of excessive stock price to shake off.

Another point is that I've read they focus more on taking care of their workers than on building shareholder value. Employee benefits and well being are an important consideration for an employer, but focusing on it ahead of profit will not necessarily make the most money for you as an investor.

rob said...

The japanese will continue to decline because they don't replenish their populatin wiht Japanese babies.

you see, in the west, material success does not mean birth failure because Westerns have "soul." it's not all about the money. we have babies because we love babies and we have religion.


That would be true, except for, uh, it's not. If by Westerners you mean whites and not others who just happen to live in western countries. No white population has replacement level reproduction at the national level. Arguably the white birthrate would be higher without de facto and de jure anti-white policies.

Over half of US preschoolers are non-white. In 2007, over half of children born in Paris, and nearly 30% of 'French' children born that year were blacks and mulattoes. God knows how many of the rest were Arabs.

The population of Japan may decline, but the country will still be Japan. If the French don't have many children, but the blacks and Arabs living in France do, then that spot on the map will no longer be France. The same applies applies to the US.

One worries that they are in for some attempted tikkun olam.

Chris, I'm not familiar with that phrase. Is it an old WASP term, brought over by those status-seeking pilgrims?

Perhaps Whiskey will be so helpful as to expand upon origin and meaning the term.

eh said...

Look into Japan's debt, deficit, current takeup of issued debt by domestic buyers (vs having to attract foreign capital, e.g. with higher rates), how long that might be able to continue, etc etc.

Perhaps Japan's economy isn't growing nearly fast enough to make all of that sustainable. If so they have a LOT of company.

Peter A said...

My wife actually once taught English in an Osaka middle school in the "tough" neighborhood, i.e. the Korean neighborhood. When your downtrodden minority is Koreans, your country is probably doing OK.

Bostonian said...

Economists talk about who has the biggest economy, which favors countries with growing populations. Japan's population has not been growing, so although its growth rate of GDP has been lower for last two decades than many other countries, its per-capita GDP growth has not been much worse.

Ordinary people care about income per person, which of course is correlated with per-capita GDP, not total GDP.

stari_momak said...

I don't know if it is still the case, but the Japanese used to insist on being self-sufficient in rice. So you'd go up intothe mountains and see guys cultivating acre-sized plots/padddies with what for all the world looked like a rototiller. Seems they didn't get the memo about the wonders of comparative advantage.

Anonymous said...

What I've been reading suggests that Japan is having increasing problems with unemployment, underemployment, and job insecurity. Does your friend have anything to say about that?

Allison said...

Japan is a disaster, make no mistake.

Men work 60+ hour weeks, never eat meals home with their wives, go out drinking every night with coworkers in order to be allowed to let down their guard (if you're drunk, you are allowed to "speak freely", accidentally on purpose, that is) and as a result, have miserable marriages. Their wives, in turn, have no status unless they hire help or use services to pay for everything that a housewife used to do for herself. Her only remaining outlet is shopping. There are no children to raise. A 1600 sq ft apartment is a million dollar palace, totally unreachable for average couples.

And that's for the ones that did form couples. Most have given up on dating and mating. Abortion is destroying the fabric of the culture.

Financially, stagnation really is terrible, but what it does to a society is more corrosive than just financially.

Mr. Anon said...

Steve,

Thanks for bringing to light a pet peeve of mine. Anybody who has spent some time in Japan knows that it's doing quite well materially. The image promulgated by the financial press is a concerted campaign of lies. The problem that Wall Street has with Japan is that it is a nation managed for the benefit of the japanese, rather than for the benefit of Wall Street.

The Ben Bernake said...

China, Japan and other countries will be a real problem for Western financiers.

They have effectively resisted financial colonization and provide a sound economic basis that exposes by contrast the value-free shell games run in London and NYC.

The future will be interesting. FDR outlawed the private holding of gold and today several alternative gold-based currency ventures have been shutdown in the US. Western finance shams require a monopoly to keep the proles on the farm and witless.

Western financiers need to keep up the illusion that they are creating value instead of just skimming it off on a massive scale. If sounder alternatives exist, free player will opt out of the fleecing.

We could invade Iraq when Saddam declares that he would switch his oil trade away from dollars. We don't have that option when China and Russia decide to abandon the dollar.

josh said...

Can someone please explain why it is necessary for a small island nation to have continuing population growth?

Douglas Knight said...

Yes, the Japanese are better dressed and generally spend more now than in 1990; and they are a lot richer in 1990 than in 1980. But there are a lot of unemployed youth who seem to a lot less happy than the unemployed youth in Europe.

But, yes, news coverage is biased by financiers.

Evil Sandmich said...

Japan is a rosier version of the future. If their present is bad, then our future will be much worse, plan on it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, free money to be had in Japan. Of course!

Then you can buy a free lunch with that free money.

Has to be said...

"It finally dawned on me that the reason you hear about how horrible Japan is all the time is that it has been horrible for financiers since 1990."

And who cares about financiers, right?

"And yet, Japan doesn't actually seem to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland."

Neither does America, and yet I am told American economy is bad.

Anonymous said...

They may have nicer buildings and be more sharply dressed than 1980, but they've also got a government debt of 220% of GDP, and the bond ratings agencies have been knocking down their debt ratings lately. Stein's Law-- "Things that can't continue forever won't"--would seem to apply

Anonymous said...

Japan has done just fine. If you look at real GDP per capita growth - and really, for your average person, this is what counts - Japan's per capita income grew at .9% annually from 1990 to 2010. In essence, the country got a 1% raise above inflation every year.

Granted, the US, UK and Canada grew their real annual GDP per capita by ~1.4% annually, which is definitely better. (As Einstein said, compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.) But it's not like Japan was crushed during those "Lost Decades." They just grew a little slower - from a very wealthy starting point, I might add.

By the way, the vaunted Germany, with it's brainy, hard-working labor force and enlightened management, only managed to grow it's reall GDP per capita by 1.12% annually. Granted, they didn't indebt themselves to the world, but at some point, you need to live life. (Also, great they accumulated debt from Greece, Ireland and American homeowners; how'd that work out for you. Hans would have been better off just taking yet another vacation to Greece and buying a Dell computer.)

Mexico grew at 1.13% annually.

I don't seem to recall any stories about Lost Decades for Germany or Mexico.

No, Japan was fine. Heck, their real GDP per capita growth had to slow somewhat. The previous 20 years saw annual growth of 3.4%.

Looks to me like their slightly slower growth was a combination of the drag of indebted banks - something that we'll learn about as well - and not bowing to the God of money. Yes, their shops aren't as efficient. Yes, they could outsource some more of the jobs. But - and I know that I'll sound crazy here - isn't it better sometimes to pay a little more or have a little slower growth so we can retain the culture and community that makes us who we are?

Nah. (And yes, I'm thinking of the Steve Martin SNL skit when he's talking about medicine in the Middle Ages.)

Anonymous said...

"...Some activist investors, meanwhile, are trying to coax Japanese companies into creating more value for shareholders, rekindling an issue that ignited contentious battles between foreign investors and Japanese management in the mid-2000s."


.....Translation: allow in hordes of third world immigrants and gut the wages in Japan, shift the cost to the Japanese taxpayer for the "externalities", and let the "investment class" enjoy the massive profits of paying employees half of what they used to make.

----------------------------------



About the Japanese population decline: In Japan's and South Korea's case, the nations really do have an awful lot of people for the amount of land they have. A Japan with merely 100 million people and a South Korea with merely 30 million people might be happier places with more available real estate. Russia is the country that needs to desperately make more indigenous Russian babies the most. Russia has plenty of land, but a low birthrate.

Basil said...

Industrialization has pretty much ruined Japanese manhood. But you can't see this because you have some misguided views on industrialization. What's the merit in a process that leads the people who adopt it to cease breeding?

Anonymous said...

With Steve's indulgence:

I guarantee you our elite will behind the scenes attempt to get the Asians to accept massive non-east-Asian diversity through corportations behind the scenes. I had no idea just how devoted to a multicultural world this bunch was until recently.

Our French Ambassador, Charles Rivkin, has urged France to implement Affirmitave Action in France, and has had the State Department fund some diversity-efforts there. I googled Rivkin and found out that he owns some television cartoons that are on Nickelodian. Those cartoons are foursquare diversity propaganda, replete with many different colored characters: They are called Yo Yo Gabba, and Higgleytown Heroes.
Here is Rivkin's wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Rivkin

I seen the information about Rivkin pushing Affirmative Action in France at one of Steve's links, John Rosenberg's excellent Discriminations blog.


I think we will see our elite pushing similar stuff in Asia through the media, to the kiddies and tweens. I understand that in China black NBA players are revered. Why do I get the feeling that this is all the Chinese see about blacks in America? That they are all like Will Smith, but none are like Tookie Williams. China practically has African colonies now. How easy will it be for our corporate elite to badger for those colonial populations to get to immigrate to China as its population ages to do "jobs Chinese wont do" in the the coming three decades, getting diversity's foot in the door there? They ought to resist. I hope they do.

Chicago said...

Although this is primarily a HBD blog the last number of postings show how inescapable the class warfare issue really is, how it casts it's shadow over everything else. And it's a good thing, too, to acknowledge that it's intertwined with everything else.

Anonymous said...

@Chris

I doubt very much the 'usual suspects' will succeed if they attempt to 'diversify-divide-and-let's-make-money' Japan.

Japan is not really malleable when it comes to try to made them feel guilty about sins of the past. As far as being PC, they consider third-generation Korean immigrants as foreigners

Jerry said...

Japan is Tokyo and Osaka and their environs (about half the population and most of the economic output). The rest of the country is dying. Take it from someone who has spent several months in Japan, and not just in Tokyo--this is a dying gerontocracy. Not only that, its mentality is seriously wrong. In Tokyo, in the daytime, in a coffee shop, I was approached by the manager when I plugged my laptop into a power outlet. As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange." I told him off about Hiroshima and Nagasaki... to his blank face. And he was a fellow in his early thirties!

Japan has not only the oldest population in the world, it is declining in absolute terms! There are towns in the provinces where you see no children, and few middle aged people! And Japanese women will not turn this around. They are materialistic, like Western women, and they hate the soft and boring yet chauvinistic Japanese men with a passion.

Yes, they have great public transportation. It is so expensive that often I walked instead. A half hour subway ride with a transfer or two could set you back ten dollars. And remember, car ownership is beyond the reach of the middle class in the cities. The gas taxes (they pay ten dollars a gallon), the car taxes, the parking fees, the highway tolls...

Japan's economic situation is indeed dire. See John Maudlin's recent writings on this. 200% of GNP in government debt, low rates because most of the debt is domestically held by brainwashed docile citizens, who are now beginning to move from savers to retirees and therefore consumers of savings because of demographics.

If your only understanding of Japan is from "Lost in Translation" and "Spirited Away", please do not comment. Read "Lost Japan" and "Dogs and Demons" by Alex Kerr, for starters.

Anonymous said...

I get the same feeling every time someone (like Spengler) claims "Japan is doomed" due to its low birth rate. I thought Japan was overcrowded!

Anonymous said...

you see, in the west, material success does not mean birth failure because Westerns have "soul." it's not all about the money. we have babies because we love babies and we have religion.

We don't have babies, and we don't have religion.

We have Mexicans and others coming in to replace us.

Anonymous said...

One worries that they are in for some attempted tikkun olam.

"Japan's dangerous deglobalised dream" by a certain "Guy Sorman."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/09/japan-dangerous-deglobalised-dream

Anonymous said...

we have babies because we love babies and we have religion.

Actually, they have true religion via Shinto and their other folk traditions that are still alive today.

We have the various "Western" religions which amount to submission to "authorities" claiming to speak on behalf of an invisible force.

spandrell said...

Well the Japanese government has just decided to take immigrants to use their cheap labor to jump start the economy.
So yes they will became just like us. So much for the east asian wisdom.

kurt9 said...

Japan's government has SERIOUS debt problems. The accumulated debt is nearly twice their GDP and taxes account for only half of the government expenditures in a given year. Financially, they are worse off than any of the European countries, including Greece.

The huge run-up in government debt was due to the "keynesian" fiscal spending they did in the 1990's in a futile effort to get Japan's economy out of the post-bubble recession. Naturally, it did not work and now Japan's government has a huge debt to deal with.

The Japanese government has been able to get away with this because they have not had to sell their government bonds to foreign investors. Japanese purchasers of those bonds have been willing to accept the near zero rate of return on them because they do not trust the stock market (many individual investors got burned by unscrupulous securities firms during the bubble and the subsequent collapse). However, Japan's domestic market for government bonds is approaching saturation, at which point they have to sell to foreign investors (who will want a decent rate of return) or cut government spending by 50%.

Japanese industrial companies, in contrast, are fairly well-run. They had serious debt problems when the bubble collapsed in the early 90's. The industrial companies have largely paid down (or written off) that debt since that time. The banks, which were also in dire straights at the time, have also written off their bad loans as well.

The one thing that Japan has done well is that they never bought into this "post-industrial" economic BS that the U.S. has. They believe in manufacturing, period. They have outsourced some production to China. But they still do all of their high-end manufacturing (semiconductors, nuclear powerplants, etc.) in Japan. They do lots of basic industrial manufacturing (steel, aluminum, chemicals, etc.) domestically as well.

Instead of outsourcing, Japanese companies prefer to pursue advanced automation and robotics in order to increase the productive output per employee such as to compete with low-wage countries such as China and India.

David said...

>"So many Japanese companies are well managed from an industrial standpoint," he said.

Yeah, but who cares about that?<

Heh. Precisely.

Valuations depend on whose ox is being gored.

As to the baby issue, why does the earth's population have to be equally distributed? If you've got a small island, all you need is a small population. And robots.

Harry Baldwin said...

My brother has lived in Japan since he took his junior-year abroad there in 1969. When I speak to him on the phone, I often ask him about Japan's terrible stagnation we read about here. He claims he hasn't noticed any decline in the quality of life over the past 20 years.

we hear about the Japanese government debt, but unlike ours, it's held mainly by Japanese citizens. FDR used to say "We owe it to ourselves" about our national debt, but of course that's no longer true.

Bob said...

Read more Paul Krugman, who noted last year that adjusted for its decline in working age population, the Japanese economy hasn't done that bad during its "lost decades"

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/japanese-demography/

Simon in London said...

anon:
"you see, in the west, material success does not mean birth failure because Westerns have "soul." "

Eh? There's not a country in the Western world where whites have above-replacement fertility.

Jimbo said...

"Japan’s government finances are on the verge of collapse"

This alone is enough to discount the article. How can a currency issuers finances be "on the verge of collapse"? Is it going to run out of bits to credit bank accounts?

OhioStater said...

The whole point of rising markets is attracting capital. Capital goes to Silicon Valley to finance Facebook clones when investors realize a Facebook clone is valuable. The signal capital is scarce is a rising market.

Japan is fine as-is and doesn't need capital. They can make enough Toyotas and Playstations for everyone on the planet with the capital they have. If it doesn't need capital, then it doesn't need rising markets.

Anonymous said...

It's not like Japan needs more people. Hopefully after a generation or two, fertility rates will go back to replacement rate, and they'll be one of the few remaining civilized countries +100 years from now.

Whoo said...

It will be interesting to see how Japan turns out in the long run.

Their birth rate is so low that their total population will start to drop like a rock soon.

It will become a nation of old people.

jimbo said...

Kurt9 -

You don't know what you're talking about. The low rate on Japanese Govt. debt has nothing to do with who is holding it - it has to do with the fact that it is a currency issuer, and thus can set any rate on it's debt it wishes to, since there is no other place for holders of Yen to go.

For an outline of the mechanics, go here:

http://moslereconomics.com/wp-content/graphs/2009/07/natural-rate-is-zero.PDF

Sam said...

I've been to Japan on vacation.

Women walk freely on the streets at night - well past midnight. They don't have "take back the night" marches. They're not needed.

People leave their bicyles at bike racks all over the place (train stations, apartment buildings) without locking them.

Guns and drugs are extremely rare.

They have a full employment policy- companies actually have to pay a living wage. There are no poor people.




Importing Third World immigrants there would be like the Europeans bringing smallpox to the Americans. The Japanese wouldn't know what hit them.

Anonymous said...

They may have nicer buildings and be more sharply dressed than 1980, but they've also got a government debt of 220% of GDP, and the bond ratings agencies have been knocking down their debt ratings lately.

Their debt is in their own currency.
There is no sovereign debt risk in Japan:

http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=13320

Bond ratings agencies are a joke. I thought everybody understood this following the financial crisis.

"On May 31, 2002, they cut Japan’s long-term credit rating by a further two grades to A2, or below that given to Botswana, Chile and Hungary.

In a statement at the time, Moody’s said that its decision “reflects the conclusion that the Japanese government’s current and anticipated economic policies will be insufficient to prevent continued deterioration in Japan’s domestic debt position … Japan’s general government indebtedness, however measured, will approach levels unprecedented in the postwar era in the developed world, and as such Japan will be entering ‘uncharted territory’.”

The Japanese government (Finance Minister) responded very sensibly: ”They’re doing it for business. Just because they do such things we won’t change our policies … The market doesn’t seem to be paying attention.”

Indeed, the Government continued to have no problems finding buyers for their debt, which is all yen-denominated and sold mainly to domestic investors. It also definitely helped Japan that they had such a strong domestic market for bonds."

"How … could a country that receives foreign aid from Japan have a better rating than Japan itself? Japan, with an economy almost 1,000 times the size of Botswana’s, has the world’s largest foreign reserves, $446 billion; the world’s largest domestic savings, $11.4 trillion; and about $1 trillion in overseas investments. And 95 percent of the debt is held by Japanese people."

"Bizarrely, securities backed by mortgages sold to people without the income to service the debt they were taking on were being judged a better credit risk than the sovereign government of Japan, with the ability in extremis both to raise taxes and print money to avoid a default."

Eric said...

The reason the decline isn't obvious is Japan has been borrowing money to hold it all together. They went from a creditor nation in 1989 to having the world's largest debt/GDP ratio today.

Because of a steep demographic decline they haven't needed to put a lot of money into raising the next generation. Of course, this is going to be a big problem when that generation isn't there to pay taxes.

My guess is the people you talk to who don't see any decline are in places like Tokyo or Osaka, which remain growing and dynamic cities because young people are moving there from all over in search of other young people. But check out(pdf) the other prefectures.

Spike Japan is a great site for this kind of thing, as long as you realize the author is traveling the countryside specifically to photograph signs of decline.

Round-Eyed Devil said...

Having lived in Japan, Tokyo specifically, I can tell you the people will not suffer from a decrease in population. This is especially true due to efficiencies and technology advances that Japan eagerly adopts sooner than most any other country.

Now for the globalist financiers, that leaves them less to play with in aggregate.

Fred said...

"As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange." I told him off about Hiroshima and Nagasaki... to his blank face."

Stay classy. Hard to believe there's an "ugly American" stereotype out there.

"You don't know what you're talking about. The low rate on Japanese Govt. debt has nothing to do with who is holding it - it has to do with the fact that it is a currency issuer, and thus can set any rate on it's debt it wishes to, since there is no other place for holders of Yen to go."

If that were true, then every country with its own currency would have low bond rates. But that's not true. You are forgetting a glaringly obvious variable: perceptions of the future value of the country's currency. If bond investors think that inflation is going to eat away at the value of a country's currency, they will demand higher interest rates to compensate them for that inflation risk.

Severn said...

In Tokyo, in the daytime, in a coffee shop, I was approached by the manager when I plugged my laptop into a power outlet. As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange." I told him off about Hiroshima and Nagasaki... to his blank face. And he was a fellow in his early thirties!

You told him off about Hiroshima and Nagasaki when he objected to your laptop? He was right - your behavior was very strange.

Whiskey said...

Great points made above about the downsides of being a nation of old people -- eventually paying the piper on debt and a lack of innovation. Steve's correct about innovation being mostly driven by young people. A nation of the elderly does not take risks.

And thats another thing. China, the Philippines, Indonesia, are all filled with much younger people who would like the nice things that the Japanese have. The easiest thing is to take them. The US is beginning its very rapid withdrawal from the Pacific. Japan cannot defend itself from North Korea, let alone China, should they decide to invade. It takes more than just GDP and high-tech to buy planes and tanks and ships. It takes young men willing to run them, and willing and able to fight.

History has not changed utterly just because we've had a nice long run of about 69 years or so since the end of the Korean War. Nations with lots of wealth, land, and other good things need a proper pool of young men willing and able to fight to defend them, from covetous neighbors. Yes I know, end of history, nobody fights anymore, subprime is rock solid, the US housing market has not declined all at once for over 75 years.

Anonymous said...

Japanese are living on debt, which is why Japan seems less troubled than it is. But even with economic decline, Japan has two things going for it:

1. Long tradition with making do with less. Even those who've fallen by the wayside tend to be economic in how they do things.
Minimalist economism has even been built into the Japanese aesthetic.

2. Social shame and controls. Even the underclass is less likely to get out of hand, at least by American underclass standards.

In some societies, the controls are maintained from above. Cuba is one such nation. Though poor, it's rather orderly for a nation with lots of blacks. But it is a police state at every level, and people are not allowed to get out of line.
Japan is freer but institutions like schools, workplace, and police have greater leeway in handling people who get out of line.
Unlike Cuba, Japanese, like Germans, also have an internal brake on out-of-control behavior instilled into Japanese souls over hundreds of yrs. It also be genetic to some degree.

Similarly, some depressed Northern white communities are still orderly, sane, and seemingly stable despite the decline of their economies. Even with much less, people in small towns in Minnesota know how to take care of themselves, are conscientious of good behavior, etc. But some white trash and black communities totally lose it when the economy goes south--sometimes the economy goes south because they've lost it to begin with. Lost what? Self-control, responsibility, sense of limits, etc.

I knew some Polish cleaning ladies who just scraped by and lived in rather depressed communities, but when I visited their homes, they were clean, orderly, and respectable, so unlike the homes maintained nearby by blacks, white trash, and Puerto Ricans. They told me that Poland, when it was poor under communism, maintained cleaner streets and better communities than the underclass in America who materially have much more.

I would say the biggest problem facing Japan is social pride. Though TOKYO SONATA isn't a good movie, it illustrated the paralyzing form this pride can take.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/jun/11/escape-in-japan/

In some ways, social pride/respect was a great incentive for Japanese to work after WWII to rebuild their nation. Japanese wanted solid decent jobs and to be respected. This made them study and work harder to climb higher. But, Japanese sense of self-worth is so wedded to social status that Japanese don't know how to deal with the fall. A lowly Japanese knows how to work his butt off to rise higher, but a higher-up Japanese cannot face the shame of falling lower; the prospect often leads to mental and behavioral paralysis as a kind of collective pathology. After WWII, the vast majority of impoverished Japanese made it into the middle class with 'clean jobs' in modern factories or office buildings. It became their focus of identity and pride. In the West, 'pride' has many more meanings. Even if you're a failure you can have pride in that you tried, that you're a good person, that you did it your way. In Japan, pride means belonging to a social class.
For Japan to restructure and change, the Japanese must think back to the immediate postwar era and remember how they'd climbed from the bottom. They must learn to feel no shame in loss of social status that was not their fault. Otherwise, there will be too many Japanese clinging to lost status--as in TOKYO SONATA--or looking for cushy government jobs that only leech on the economy.
When an American loses his job, he goes to wife and says he lost it, and the family looks for new ways to make it. In Japan, you have men who don't tell their wives anything since they feel shame. The biggest threat to Japan is this psychology. It has to be overcome. Similarly, the pathological fixation on respectability radicalized the German middle class that had fallen on hard times to embrace National Socialism.

Anonymous said...

OTOH, maybe Japanese will be better able to cope with social 'shame' as more and more people face the same problems. When times were good and economy was a booming, a person who lost a good job may have felt like a lone-loser. But more and more people have undergone the same problem since the early 90s. A fallen Japanese may no longer feel he's a lone case but part of a crowd. He may not wanna be a member of a club that would have him as a member, but reality is reality. Since Japanese are more collective-minded, maybe the spread of social-loserdom will make Japanese loosen up a bit more and accept reality with less paralyzing shame.

Another danger facing Japan is its misguided understanding of Western freedom(indeed, something the West has forgotten too). Traditionally, Western idea of freedom meant that an individual should be free but also be responsible for his free choices/actions. In other words, a free person should be EVEN MORE responsible since he has the freedom to make his own decisions. He cannot simply say 'higher-ups made me do it'. But if one reads John Nathan's JAPAN UNBOUND, one gets the impression that many Japanese youths understand western freedom as just being wild, crazy, and insipid. But then, the concept of freedom has been degraded in the West too. Young people want the freedom to do whatever but also feel entitled to every 'right' under the sun and expect the state to clean up the mess that they create with crazy freedom. Same thing happened with blacks. In the 50s, blacks were marching for more freedom and equality on the basis for building up their economy and becoming a respectable 'man'. Nowadays, black freedom is about boys remaining boyz, banging everything in sight with guns or sexual organs, and then expecting the white man to clean everything up. This is poison for both US and EU. But, I suppose it's easier for politicians and entertainers to offer freedom without responsibility than freedom that demands responsibility.

One positive sign, at least in terms of cinema, was the movie DEPARTURES, winner of best foreign film prize. Hardly a great movie and barely a good one BUT it grappled with some of the PSYCHO-social problems of Japan and offered some means of solution.

1. Loss of Middle Class status and sense of shame, which leads to both self-deception and of others, and what this means to onself and family life.

2. The theme of death, as the vast aging population of Japan means a new whole new social/political paradigm in yrs to come.

3. Renewal of family ties. Though we associate Japan with 'family values', many Japanese men became kinda like strangers to their own families as their jobs came first in the post-war era.

Given most Japanese movie are mindless crap about nothing, DEPARTURES was refreshing at least in looking social problems in the face.

Whoo said...

Japan also will be an interesting test case for an academic theory that has been floated around: that once birth rates reach a very low rate, they can not bounce back.

We now live in an era where women will not have multiple children, regardless of how cheap land is or how high wages are. So, recovering from a very low bith rate is nearly impossible.

Japan may very well end up with a senario similar to the movie "Children of Men."

Anonymous said...

Japan is a good place to live, even if it's not as dynamic as it was back in the 1980s. Everyone I knew that visited Japan seems to come back with a very positive impression of the country. Even quite a few reporters seem impressed when they visit.

Japan isn't where the new money is being made. It's stagnant, not growing.... but life is pretty damn good for the average citizen.

Anonymous said...

More on Japanese knowing how to rise but not knowing how to fall:

Though Japanese culture puts great emphasis on responsibility and obligation, its too-great-an-emphasis-on-shame has created a false sense of honor that has prevented the development of true maturity. A mature person strives for higher things but also has the grace and honesty to admit when he's reached his limit, lost, or fallen. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, but when you're beat, you're beat. You have to learn to accept defeat.

Now, just look at Japan's handling of WWII. They couldn't handle defeat though the writing was on the wall. It took two nukes to finally make them surrender. Defeat was so anathema and shameful to Japan that there was the serious likelihood that all-Japanese would commit mass-suicide with the emperor than admit defeat. No wonder McCarthur called Japan 'a boy of 13'. (Ironically, McCarthur acted like a silly child when Chinese turned the tide in the Korean War, refusing to take any responsibility for a fiasco which was largely his own making).

Now, fast forward to Tokyo Olympics of 1964 which was supposed to celebrate the revival of Japan as a democratic nation. Yet, when the Japanese judo wrestler lost the all-around title to some a bigger Dutch guy, the whole nation was crying and babbling like babies. Worse, the judo dude committed suicide. And the Japanese marathoner who came in third place--hardly disgraceful--committed suicide too. Many Japanese regarded these suicides as acts of honor or self-atonement, but they are really acts of immaturity inculcated by a culture that has little tolerance or understanding for the human condition.

Win some, lose some, and take things in stride; that is the mature way. Over-emphasis on win-win and obey-obey leads to the kind of collective immaturity that not only led to the suicides of those athletes but collective appreciation of them as something half-decent. No wonder so many Japanese salarymen cannot face the fall from status. Same anti-humanist pathology.

kurt9 said...

You don't know what you're talking about. The low rate on Japanese Govt. debt has nothing to do with who is holding it - it has to do with the fact that it is a currency issuer, and thus can set any rate on it's debt it wishes to, since there is no other place for holders of Yen to go.

Yes I do. If you actually read what I said, you'll realize that I said the same thing. The Japanese government can get away with setting a low interest rate on their bonds because Japanese people will not buy anything else. They cannot do this if they want to sell bonds to foreign investors. Foreign investors will want a reasonable rate of return (3-4%) in order to buy these bonds.

The ability of the Japanese government to sell these bonds domestically is reaching a limit because a large percentage of the Japanese population is retiring and are now selling the bonds in order to support their retirement. As a result, the famed Japanese saving rate of 20%, 20 years ago, has now declined to around 3%. At some point, the Japanese government has to seriously cut spending, sell bonds to foreign investors, and/or raise taxes.

Anonymous said...

You can take a virtual tour of Tokyo here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcAZESRR4R4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjC72RIDt_A

There are other Japan virtual tour videos at that YouTube channel.

Anonymous said...

Another key Japanese movie suggesting a change in the mindset is HANA...

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464038/

...maybe the most atypical samurai film I've seen. The main character is not a badass killer, nor does he resolve issues and conflict with unreal but satisfying swordplay. He just learns to be human.

ben tillman said...

As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange." I told him off about Hiroshima and Nagasaki... to his blank face.

I don't understand. You did what?

Anonymous said...

"Eh? There's not a country in the Western world where whites have above-replacement fertility."

It's not a country but Utah is reproducing quite well.

ERM said...

Japan's government has SERIOUS debt problems. The accumulated debt is nearly twice their GDP and taxes account for only half of the government expenditures in a given year. Financially, they are worse off than any of the European countries, including Greece.

Oh, well. If your biggest problems in life are financial, you're not doing too badly -- especially if you are a sovereign state.

Anonymous said...

Actually, they have true religion via Shinto and their other folk traditions that are still alive today.

Oh, c'mon. Most Japanese worship a completely apathetic melange of Buddhist talismen (the meanings of which are largely forgotten), leftover chauvinism from Shinto, the commercialized Santa-and-reindeer Christmas, and New Age "energy drinks". The vast majority of them wouldn't know a genuinely pious sentiment or spiritual urge if it came up and bit them in the ass.

Mark said...

"In 2007, over half of children born in Paris, and nearly 30% of 'French' children born that year were blacks and mulattoes. God knows how many of the rest were Arabs."

Um, do you have a citation for that? Or are you just misquoting this study:

"According to a recent genetic study in 2008, 28.45% of all newborns in mainland France in 2007 had at least one parent of immigrant origin."

Note that "immigrant origin" in that study explicitly includes other Europeans. Also from wik:

"Most of the population from immigrant stock is of European descent (mainly from Italy, Spain, and Portugal as well as Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and the former Yugoslavia) although France has a sizeable population of Arabs, Berbers and Sub-Saharan Africans from its former colonies"

Less than 2 percent of people in France are black. They aren't having 30% of the babies, unless they're having 15 babies apiece, and everyone in France is having one.

Sheesh.

Mark said...

I apologize: all Europeans were not included in that study, just Greeks, Portuguese, and southern Italians. Regardless, Italians are the largest non-French ethnic group in France (8% of the population), and the Portuguese and Greek populations are among the largest. So 30% of kids eligible for sickle cell screening does not equal 30% black or mulatto, nor does it equal 30% black, mulatto, Arab or half-Arab.

Chicago said...

"I told him off about Hiroshima..". Yeah, that's what we need, another goodwill ambassador to embarrass us all. Just stay out of other people's countries if you can't comport yourself properly, we don't need to be seen as a nation of boors.

Eugene said...

Japan has the lowest productivity rates in the OECD--reflecting the strong tendency to favor underemployment over unemployment. This policy has slowly been unraveling in the last two decades, producing a hypergamy trap, with the average yuppie man not earning enough to meet the minimal marriage requirements of the average yuppie woman (a news program on NHK recently described the problem in terms that stark).

But this also means that Japan could improve its economic outlook considerably with some relatively minor tweaks to workforce and workplace management (though easier to say than do, as corporate culture in Japan often seems frozen in institutional amber).

Nevertheless, the "birth dearthers" should keep in mind that Japan is a country the size of California with a population of 127 million. The Japanese have a lot of nostalgia for the Edo Period (1603-1868), when the population remained at 30-40 million for 250 years (the product of delayed marriage, infanticide, and the occasional famine), or about the current population of California.

BTW, Google Street View is a great way to tour Japan without leaving home.

Anonymous said...

"I get the same feeling every time someone (like Spengler) claims 'Japan is doomed' due to its low birth rate. I thought Japan was overcrowded!"

Even with population decline, Japan isn't doomed cuz there is no growing minority community as in France or Spain which are teeming with Africans and Muslims. And Israel has a timebomb problem with Arabs.

In fact, the problem is less population decline than aging. Suppose every Japanese died at the age of 60. The population would decline but no big problem. But Japanese have a long lifespan, so the smaller pool of younger people have to pay for the care of old people who may live up to 85 or higher as yrs pass. That is a huge burden. Maybe Zapan needs a Logan's Run policy where people are zapped when they reach 60.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Japan will create robots that will take care of the old.
Robots could be the new boomer generation, and in this regard, the boomer androids in Bubblegum Crisis seem to be good prophecy.

Anonymous said...

Utah is barely above replacement. And the 2 million or so folks who live in Utah are going to have a hard time making enough kids for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

The elite US business press has always had a love/hate relationship with Japan, and used the country to project its desires for how the US should be run.

During the first decades of the cold war Japan was touted as the perfect example of free market capitalism, in contrast to the failed central planning of the USSR.

When Japanese exports started wiping out US industries the same elite decided they weren't so interested in free markets, and Reagan slapped tariffs on Japanese goods and negotiated a lower value of dollar relative to the yen in the Plaza Accord. You see Japan had been successful because of its protectionism.

Then when the Japanese stock and real estate bubbles burst US economists decried it as an example of Asian "state capitalism" that couldn't possibly work. Japanese conglomerates needed to stop offering lifetime job security and make their system more American.

Now Japan is supposed to have a fiscal crisis since it's debt to GDP ratio is through the roof, even compared to Greece, but it can still borrow at essentially zero interest. Inflation hawks on Wall Street don't want anyone to draw the obvious lessen that a central bank can buy and hold government debt when there's a severe shortage of demand.

We're also often told in the Times and Post that Japan has a demographic crisis and needs to let in more immigrants. Apparently these writers have never heard of an obscure concept called "productivity growth," through which the Japanese can maintain their standards of living while paying for retirees. The "crisis" is that wages will rise and the Japanese will live in a less crowded and polluted island while getting to keep their culture.

Finally, what's never mentioned about Japan is also interesting. We're told that US CEO pay is astronomically high because it's needed for companies to retain the best talent and stay competitive. Yet Japanese companies make products that are at least as good and pay their leaders an order of magnitude less than we do here.

Wandrin said...

"It finally dawned on me that the reason you hear about how horrible Japan is all the time is that it has been horrible for financiers since 1990."

The Japanese don't want to be part of the nation-destroying aspects of globalization. It makes sense for them to create bad official numbers while they wait out the globalizers destroying American power.

"The japanese will continue to decline because they don't replenish their populatin wiht Japanese babies."

They're not declining as a nation and if they hold out long enough their population will drop down to a level where people feel they have enough living space to have more kids and the numbers will stabilise.

Technology means less people are needed to do the same amount of work.

Anonymous said...

@anooymous Germans and Japanese have internal brakes on out of control behavior? Shouldn't it have kicked in at Treblinka and Nanking?

Anonymous said...

"And that's for the ones that did form couples. Most have given up on dating and mating. Abortion is destroying the fabric of the culture."

Sounds like the US.


"But there are a lot of unemployed youth who seem to a lot less happy than the unemployed youth in Europe."

There are also a lot of unhappy people in the US. It seems like the whole world is getting worse and worse.

Anonymous said...

The vast majority of them wouldn't know a genuinely pious sentiment or spiritual urge if it came up and bit them in the ass.

Ah yes, the sentiment or urge to submit to the will and proclamation of "authorities" claiming to speak on behalf of an invisible alien force.

Native European religion was a lot closer to this true religion before the foreign religious imposition that began 2,000 years ago.

Eric said...

Japan also will be an interesting test case for an academic theory that has been floated around: that once birth rates reach a very low rate, they can not bounce back.

I don't see how that can be true. There will still be people with comparatively large families - over time they're going to out-breed their countrymen and become the norm.

Wandrin said...

"And yet, Japan doesn't actually seem to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland."

"Neither does America, and yet I am told American economy is bad."

Large parts of America look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

"Japan is not really malleable when it comes to try to made them feel guilty about sins of the past."

Then they'll have to corrupt the elites. It'll be harder than it has been for them in the west but there's always a way unless there's a conscious defence being made.

Once the globalists have destroyed American power they'll have less leverage and this should the Japanese out.

"We don't have babies, and we don't have religion."


"We now live in an era where women will not have multiple children, regardless of how cheap land is or how high wages are. So, recovering from a very low bith rate is nearly impossible."

American mid-west. Lots of land. Decent wages. Cheap housing. Replacement fertility.

Despite everything the culture of critique could throw at it for 60 years. If the culture of critque was overthrown those low density places would be producing the surplus kids for the below replacement big cities.

Mass immigration cause a reduction in the native birth rate.

Prosperity leads people to want more living space per kid.

An aging population (caused by prosperity leading to a desire for more living space) is a temporary problem. Creating a permanent problem to solve a temporary problem i.e mass immigration is nuts.

Tino said...

"Read more Paul Krugman, who noted last year that adjusted for its decline in working age population, the Japanese economy hasn't done that bad during its "lost decades""

Why don't you instead read my article making this exact same argument a few months prior to Krugman.

http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/05/paul-krugman-wrote-in-nyt-that-we-are.html

The main advantage is you read less Krugman.

Eric said...

But there are a lot of unemployed youth who seem to a lot less happy than the unemployed youth in Europe.

Unemployed life in Europe is pretty soft compared to Japan. They don't have the same social safety net the Europeans take for granted.

I met a guy from Norway who'd been unemployed for a few years after college. Between taxes and the extra expense (clothes and transportation) involved in employment he wasn't going to come out ahead by going to work.

I asked him why anyone would get a job. He laughed and said nobody does.

I'm pretty sure the Norwegians have tightened things up since then, but there's still a big gulf between the two countries.

Anonymous said...

Jerry wrote:
"Japan is Tokyo and Osaka and their environs (about half the population and most of the economic output). The rest of the country is dying. Take it from someone who has spent several months in Japan, and not just in Tokyo--this is a dying gerontocracy. Not only that, its mentality is seriously wrong. In Tokyo, in the daytime, in a coffee shop, I was approached by the manager when I plugged my laptop into a power outlet. As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange." I told him off about Hiroshima and Nagasaki... to his blank face. And he was a fellow in his early thirties!"

Classic. I can well imagine his expression, or that of any sane individual. as he realized he was confronted with a fruit loop with an entitlement mentality.

(to those who have not encountered this type of Westerner in Japan, yes they really are that loopy, and do seem to feel that a power outlet has something to do with Hiroshima, or overcooked rice in a restaurant has something to do with treatment of ethnic minorities, or not having enough change for the bus has something to do with feeling humiliated by registering their address at the ward office).

Good comments on some of the problems in rural Japan, though. Although I think Japan will deal with it better than we might imagine.

The Wobbly Guy said...

Sheesh, almost everything said here applies to Singapore too. Well, except for the fact that we did open our doors wide, wide open to immigration.

I used to think to think of it as a tradeoff - slower economic growth against social tension. Which factor is more important? The Japanese clearly chose a slower rate of growth. As noted, they aren't doing too badly. And their situation is, to use a popular current cliche, sustainable.

My country chose social tension, and while our GDP growth is awesome, the per capita income growth of native citizens has been stagnant for quite a while now - all the growth is coming from the immigrants. Our situation is not sustainable in the long run.

Anonymous said...

"@anooymous Germans and Japanese have internal brakes on out of control behavior? Shouldn't it have kicked in at Treblinka and Nanking?"

Internal brakes work within a functioning social order. People are mindful of how others see them, careful to avoid shame, etc. But wartime produces a kind of dream-reality. In lucid dreams, we may do stuff we would not in the real world because there are no consequences. You can kill, destroy, and rape all you want. In the dream sequences in movie INCEPTION, the fellas shoot everyone left and right. It's okay cuz the shooting targets are projections. In a normally functioning society, we know there are consequences for our trangressions. If you rob, you go to jail. If you kill, you go to jail. If you rape, you go to jail.
If you act stupid, people shun you or ostracize you, and you feel ashamed or stupid.

But one could do anything in a lucid dream. While war, a stark matter of life or death, is the very opposite of a dream, wars produce a kind of dream-mentality. Japanese soldiers in Nanking could get away with anything, as if they were in a dream. They could rape, murder, rob, loot, plunder, etc. and walk away as free men.

I never said Japanese were more CONSCIENTIOUS or of higher morality. I said they had stronger internal brakes--of shame and fear of ostracization. Fear of shame is sufficient to keep most people law-abiding. But once chaos takes over, even Japanese will be tempted to act like they did in Nanking--or like Iraqis after the US invasion. They knew they could get away with anything.

As for Treblinka, this was a case of internal-brakes working in the service of immorality. Treblinka was not a free-for-all like Nanking. It was a well-ordered mass-murder operation. Germans, in their commitment to social cohesion and cooperation, went along with what the government ordered. Since Nazism made it shameful to sympathize with Jews, Germans came to believe that working to oppress and kill Jews was the normal thing to do.

Shame is an internal brake of SOCIAL morality where right and wrong are determined by the powers-that-be. Conscience requires INDIVIDUAL morality and it's a much rarer thing as the film HUMAN CONDITION makes clear.

Anonymous said...

Native European religion was a lot closer to this true religion before the foreign religious imposition that began 2,000 years ago.

Wait...you mean modern Japanese are prone to dancing naked around special trees, exposing their children (wait, just checked the Nipponese abortion rate, skip that one), reading sheep entrails, and building wicker men? I never see those stories on the NHK satellite feed!

Seriously dude, I figured there'd be some eejit from Alternative Right come to these parts to decry pale Galileans as the reason things are so messed up. Whatever. The point is that your hypothetical Western pantheon worshipper circa AD 1 was somewhat serious about his religion, observing the rituals and believing in the taboos. The modern Japanese isn't even a scoffer...he just doesn't care and is ignorant of any of the mythology. He's post-Shinto (and post-Buddhist) in the same way that dressed-up ex-chav in Manchester is post-Anglican.

And this "native" religion you hold up is weak as a reed, whether it is in Gaul circa AD 350 or East Asia today. It can't possibly withstand the repeated assault of religions of the book, with historically-based scripture and coherent theologies. Already there are more Christians in Korea than Buddhists--and that took less than 60 years to accomplish.

The only outlier to this historical trend is Hinduism in India--and that took a lot of theological revamping in the past 100 or so years to keep it competitive, to the point that Hindus of say, 1800, would hardly recognize the religion anymore...much like what Meiji Japan had to do to completely reconceptualize Shinto in the late 19th c. to serve as a state ideology (later dismantled under Shogun MacArthur).

Anonymous said...

"The only outlier to this historical trend is Hinduism in India--and that took a lot of theological revamping in the past 100 or so years to keep it competitive..."

What sort of revamping? I'm curious. Do you have any URLs about it? Book recommendations?

Anonymous said...

What sort of revamping? I'm curious. Do you have any URLs about it? Book recommendations?

I'll dig up some references, but there are several outside sources (Hindus themselves would never admit it) showing how Hinduism, always a rather syncretic and amorphous faith, has been retrofitting itself for more effective competition in the last century.

By evolving a clearer and more comprehensible theology, de-emphasizing caste, developing a rudimentary internal organization (see "RSS"), and by making cautious steps in the direction of monotheism (there's one God, but He wears a lot of masks), or at least henotheism (there are lots of gods, but God runs the big picture). The Hindus are slightly held back in this by the fact that their holy writings make very little sense, but that's not really a big handicap--lots more room for mystical interpretation!

The rise of the BJP in Indian politics has been paralleled by a fairly methodical attempt to organize Hindu religious thought; they're holding regular conventions of priests and scholars (maybe "Diets" would be a better word). Taken together with the increasingly strident and aggressive tone of Hinduism's political wing, the whole thing is starting to feel like the lead-up to the Council of Nicaea, or possibly the Counter-Reformation.

Anonymous said...

Wait...you mean modern Japanese are prone to dancing naked around special trees, exposing their children (wait, just checked the Nipponese abortion rate, skip that one), reading sheep entrails, and building wicker men?

They don't pretend wafers and wine magically turn into the flesh and blood of some stranger and eat them.

Seriously dude, I figured there'd be some eejit from Alternative Right come to these parts to decry pale Galileans as the reason things are so messed up.

Not sure where I blamed swarthy Galileans for anything.

And this "native" religion you hold up is weak as a reed, whether it is in Gaul circa AD 350 or East Asia today. It can't possibly withstand the repeated assault of religions of the book, with historically-based scripture and coherent theologies.

No doubt they're more sophisticated and more adept at mass manipulation, domination, and control. Doesn't mean they're good or should be followed. And you're right about the repeated assaults. Force will be required to resist and then destroy the religions of the book.

Truth said...

The general problem with the posts on this site is the relative inexperience with life of many of the posters; To someone who has traveled, just a bit, like I have, it's painfully obvious.

Many of you are short on life experience and long on reading websites, and maybe, in a good year, a couple of books.

I am not trying to tell you that I am a James Bondian Renaissance man; I'm not, but there are some very basic human concepts that cannot be learned by reading Heidegger, Keynes, or Ayn Rand.

There is a strong defining line between the past centers of commerce in the history of the world, from Cairo, to Athens, to Rome to London to New York...and the countries that produced them: The all had healthy immigration.

All of this ridiculous whining, "well at least Japan hasn't let in a bunch of NAMs, it isn't that bad there" is silly. No it isn't that bad there, yet.

The declining Japanese birthrate has been a problem for only, roughly 30 years. As another posters said, the population in Japan divides in half, at this rate, roughly every 40.

Japan has brought in millions of immigrants recently from the Philippines, Korea, and especially (full-blooded) ethnic Japanese from Brazil (they have a higher crime-rate, lower educational achievement, etc., HBD-Phooey!).

Certainly they would LIKE to keep Japan ethnically pure, but they are smart enough to realize it is simply not a logical possibility, as labor and a healthy economy go together like water and a healthy garden.

People here say "they'll just build robots," Great, who will build the robots? That leads to either cheap labor or outsourcing which are two of the scourges you are trying to avoid in the first place.

Once the robots are built you will have to design certain features into them in order to replicate a young labor force; the robots will have to:

Produce children (to keep the schools open)

consume food and alcohol (to keep those business and their auxiliaries open)

Commit crimes (to keep all of the prison guards, etc. working)

Collect paychecks (in order to pay taxes)

...you can keep going from here.

And about the "well the Japs will just start having kids again when they are ready" point; probably not.

The men in Japan are addicted to porn and groping women on Subways, they do not have any great interest in sex. The women, from all that I know, are simply not interested in the messy, difficult and distracting work of raising families. The modern world with all of the options we have has made having families unrewarding and inconvenient. The modern world will not slow down, and with a shrinking number of young couples patting themselves on the back for having ONE child, being unable to afford a nanny, babysitter, or any related services (remember, there are no immigrants) why would this change?

rob said...

Japan cannot defend itself from North Korea, let alone China, should they decide to invade. It takes more than just GDP and high-tech to buy planes and tanks and ships. It takes young men willing to run them, and willing and able to fight.

Unless the US military crashes overnight (and how would that work out for Israel) Japan can take care care of itself. China has been right across that strip of ocean for, as far as practical purposes go, forever. Yet China has still not conquered Japan. Sure, Japan is under the US nuclear umbrella. But after a Chinese nuclear strike on Japan was a fait accompli, would we risk MAD with China? Nah, Japan knows it too. They lost a war, not their minds. Within a few months of deciding they want ballistic missiles with fission-fusion-fission warheads, they will have some. Assuming they don't have some already. That's just crazy talk. Who could imagine a country building and keeping an unofficial nuclear arsenal?

As for the Philippines and Indonesia invading Japan for an excitable little warmonger, you know nothing about war. Here's a stumper for ya. How are they going to get to Japan? Unlike the Arabs, they don't even have flying carpets.

Conquering third world hellholes for the Scotch-Irish takes lots of young men to kick down doors and scare widows. Keeping the Filipinos from conquering your country merely requires some aero-planes. Possibly a board with a nail through it, but let's not too carried away.

Mr. Anon said...

"Jerry said...

In Tokyo, in the daytime, in a coffee shop, I was approached by the manager when I plugged my laptop into a power outlet. As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange.""

You must not understand the japanese very well. What he said was "it would be strange". What he meant was "I don't want to pay for your electricity, gaijin".

"Yes, they have great public transportation. It is so expensive that often I walked instead."

And yet the japanese manage to afford it just fine.

"And remember, car ownership is beyond the reach of the middle class in the cities."

This is not true. Many middle-class people own cars. Students own cars. Yes, it's expensive, but obviously it's an expense that they are willing to pay.

"Japan's economic situation is indeed dire."

When the "lost decade" (now going on 20 years long) began, Toyota was the largest car manufacturer in Japan. After 20 years of "economic decline" Toyota is now the largest car manufacturer in the world, with a market capitalization something like 10 times that of GM. Some decline.

"If your only understanding of Japan is from "Lost in Translation" and "Spirited Away", please do not comment. Read "Lost Japan" and "Dogs and Demons" by Alex Kerr, for starters."

If your only understanding of Japan is from western authors, you don't know everything. The fact is many westerners in Japan (any number of english teachers come to mind) behave like absolute jerks (much like you did in that coffee shop), don't even like the place, and feel compelled to talk it down at every opportunity. Consider the Lonely Planet guide, for example. The author sums up Himeji with the phrase "Don't waste your time" - a city with the oldest authentic medieval castle in Japan, and the most beautiful Bhuddist temple. Hey, why would you want to see that, when you could go clubbing?

I think alot of foreigners view Japan as an isolated place away from "the real world" wherever the real world is for them. So it doesn't matter how they behave, and they can indulge their inner-creep. They view it like Vegas - what happens there, stays there.

Mr. Anon said...

"stari_momak said...

I don't know if it is still the case, but the Japanese used to insist on being self-sufficient in rice. So you'd go up intothe mountains and see guys cultivating acre-sized plots/padddies with what for all the world looked like a rototiller. Seems they didn't get the memo about the wonders of comparative advantage."

This was true as recently as about ten years ago.

Traditionally (since WWII that is) the almost-always-in-power liberal democratic party heavily subsidized the rural areas of Japan, which had more per-capita electoral power than the cities. The deal was: the LDP built the farmers roads and other infrastructure and protected the domestic rice market, and the farmers kept the LDP in power. It worked pretty well for many years, and had a distinctly conservative effect on the nation's politics.

Anonymous said...

"Japan cannot defend itself from North Korea, let alone China, should they decide to invade."

OMG!! North Korea invade Japan?? ROTFL. Japanese military may be rather minor for such a major nation, but it can squash North Korea in a day.

TGGP said...

Has this NYT writer heard of the EMH?

Someone going by the name "Myles" lambastes Japanese corporate governance as proof of the idiocy of communism to a bunch of lefties here. The gerontocracy aspect plays a bigger role in a critique here.

Anonymous said...

"@anooymous Germans and Japanese have internal brakes on out of control behavior? Shouldn't it have kicked in at Treblinka and Nanking?"

Dream reality of war zone continued:
When I was a kid, my family used to live in a mixed neighborhood in NY. There were all kinds: whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, even some Jews. It was as diverse as a neighborhood could be, but it was increasingly turning black and Puerto Rican. One time in the summer, electricity went out in entire blocks, and there was a riot. Mostly blacks and some Puerto Ricans were smashing stores and taking stuff and there was a festive melee all over the street. I wandered out of my house and walked around seeing all this and wasn't horrified. It was surreal. I'd never seen anything like it. It was almost exhilarating. Some black kids I knew in school were waving at me while carrying away the stolen merchandise, and I waved back. I knew it was 'bad', but it was so unreal that I remember it as if a dream or fantasy. It was like all norms, rules, and restrictions were suspended. Anything went. I felt like the kids in HOPE AND GLORY, for whom war is like a great big playground.
When I returned home and told my mother about it, she was angry at me for wandering about and expressing a kind of excitment. I was pulled back into the world of moral reality with shame and all that.
I think I understand the term 'gangsta paradise'. The world of the gangsta may be murderous and ugly, but it's kinda liberating too in a way. No rules means you can act as if in a dream.

I was reading some article about many Chinese who feel nostalgia for the Cultural Revolution, which sounds crazy since it was a murderous and psychotic period in Chinese history. Chinese of that generation rationalize this nostalgia on the basis of lost idealism, but I think it was because China was like a war zone in the mid 60s. Young people could do stuff they never dreamt of. They could travel all over, beat up teachers, officials, and elders. Smash stuff, loot, fight, kill, shoot guns, etc. It was like a long extended Woodstock or Redstock. In a society that had been so restrictive, regulated, and regimented, it was almost like an unbelievable time. So, for many Chinese who grew up in that era, it is like a lost dream--despite all its nighmarish side.

So, maybe this partly explains why perfectly normal people do some of the most horrendous things during wartime. Their id is unleashed from restraint. Though war is hell, many soldiers feel empty when they come back home to the same old rules and routine. You could get killed or maimed in war, but you can also do tons of stuff you couldn't even think of doing in a normal society.
It's like what Crazy Lee says in the opening fight scene in THE WILD BUNCH. 'They're blowing this town all to hell!!!' Deadly but fantastic too.

Anonymous said...

There is a strong defining line between the past centers of commerce in the history of the world, from Cairo, to Athens, to Rome to London to New York...and the countries that produced them: The all had healthy immigration.

There is another strong defining line between civilizations that have a lot of immigration and those that don't. The ones with lotsa immigration don't endure.

Sure, they may continue to be population centers like Cairo, but they don't maintain the continuity of civilization/society that places in east asia have.

As for London/New York, well, we are only a century or a bit more into this immigration experiment. Sure, it is good for a quick buck, but do you really think New York is going to be some continuously maintained/administered culturally coherent entity for the next thousand years or so like, say Kyoto has been.

Anonymous said...

especially (full-blooded) ethnic Japanese from Brazil (they have a higher crime-rate, lower educational achievement, etc., HBD-Phooey!).

The Japanese-Brazilians generally aren't full or pure Japanese. They have significant non-Japanese admixture.

You can see pictures of them in this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/business/global/23immigrant.html

They just look like Latin American mestizos with Japanese names.

Anonymous said...

Certainly they would LIKE to keep Japan ethnically pure, but they are smart enough to realize it is simply not a logical possibility, as labor and a healthy economy go together like water and a healthy garden.

You're treating the economy in Japan as an abstract entity or machine that must be served and kept going, rather than as what it's supposed to be - a means to sustain the Japanese people or more specifically Japanese genes into the future. If the Japanese population is falling, it doesn't then follow that the Japanese should use the economy to start serving non-Japanese genes.

Anonymous said...

There is a strong defining line between the past centers of commerce in the history of the world, from Cairo, to Athens, to Rome to London to New York...and the countries that produced them: The all had healthy immigration.

Cairo and Athens haven't produced anything noteworthy in thousands of years. It's easy to imagine Rome, London, NYC not producing much in the future either.

Those "centers of commerce" i.e. cities consume population. Cities are dysgenic population sinks. You're treating the "centers of commerce," cities, economies, etc. as entities to be served by people rather than as means or tools to serve the population groups that found them.

occultrick said...

'I understand that in China black NBA players are revered.'

I think you might be mistaken. Most Chinese have less than perfect respect for blacks. Most Chinese who have not encountered blacks usually become disenchanted with blacks after they have actually met some blacks.


'There's not a country in the Western world where whites have above-replacement fertility.'
'It's not a country but Utah is reproducing quite well.'

Wait, you mean Utah isn't a country yet? Give it time. When the Mexicans slaughter all the white and black lawmen, Deseret will have to proclaim a state of emergency and impose its own brand of law on borders of its own choosing.


'Japan cannot defend itself from North Korea, let alone China, should they decide to invade. It takes more than just GDP and high-tech to buy planes and tanks and ships. It takes young men willing to run them, and willing and able to fight.'

It also takes robots, which Japan has, and whoopass, which Japan has demonstrated in the past and might demonstrate again.

'women will not have multiple children, regardless of how cheap land is or how high wages are'

Looks like we're going to need an underground lab full of Rei Ayanami clones...

'Most Japanese worship a completely apathetic melange ... The vast majority of them wouldn't know a genuinely pious sentiment or spiritual urge if it came up and bit them in the ass.'

Thanks be to Cthulhu that spiritual ubermenschen like yourself can sort out the sheep from the goats.

'The Hindus are slightly held back in this by the fact that their holy writings make very little sense'

I think Advaita Vedanta makes just as much sense as the writings of Isaac Newton or George Berkeley. Certainly Vedanta makes more sense than Spinoza.

Anonymous said...

"What sort of revamping? I'm curious. Do you have any URLs about it? Book recommendations?"

"I'll dig up some references, but there are several outside sources (Hindus themselves would never admit it) showing how Hinduism, always a rather syncretic and amorphous faith, has been retrofitting itself for more effective competition in the last century."

I read somewhere that 'Hinduism' is a misnomer since it is not really a single religion but a system of polygot spiritualism drawing from, fusing, and interweaving various traditions, some with very little relation to others.
All religions are fusions of different sources and ideas but once the final product has been achieved, the stuff on the editing floor were thrown out. Hinduism, even as it remolded various ideas and influences, didn't dispose of the edited material but kept them around as part of tradition. It's a rich mess.

I took some classes on Indian history in college back in the days, and our professor told us that Hindu reform began under the British. Some historians think that without British imperialism, all of India would eventually have been Islamized since Muslims were better organized, had a simpler and more easily comprehensible faith, and even a more just ideology for most people(with its tenets of universalism and egalitarianism, at least before God). Also, Muslims tended to be united across communities whereas Hindus were divided according to localities and traditions. Each Hindu village had its own emphasis on certain gods, rituals, etc. Hinduism as a 'national reigion' was the product of the British concept of 'India'. Hindu intellectuals began to forge and conceive of a simpler Hinduism to unite Hindus of all regions and castes into one people. Gandhi obviously reshaped Hinduism into a mass movement,and he drew universalist ideas from Christianity and Islam. It was also this time when a popular Hinduism took shape that had the look and feel of Old Time Religion(of Christianity). People got together in prayer services to sing and dance and celebrate Hinduism. The traditional practice of Hinduism had been reserved for Brahmin priests, but popular Hinduism was more demotic in feeling, like Baptist churches are more spontaneous and populist than Cathlic church or Orthodox churches. I guess Mao did something similar with the Chinese language. He simplified it so that more people could learn and understand it.

One problem of Hinduism's impact on society owed to its thinking in cosmic time. Hinduism says the cosmos is more than a million yrs old, an idea difficult to conceive of in human terms. And much of the story is not even human-centric. I think the Mahabharata goes on for 25 volumes. It's like an epic within an epic within a epic. There's also Ramayana. In the Hindu view of things, there's a lot of cosmic time before and after man.

Anonymous said...

In the West, man is at the center of everything. It's not long before man-like gods appear and then man appear, and most of the Greek mythology is about man. In the Bible, God creates the world in a few days and the very next thing he does is create man. Bible is almost the story of man from day one. So, the Bible unfolds in historic time than in cosmic time. According to Biblical-historical time, the cosmos is only as old as man: 6,000 to 10,000 yrs old.
As such, Jews and Christians tended to be far more worldly and attuned to stuff like politics, business, social morality, pragmatism, etc. Also, there was a sense that what man did mattered to God since man was there from the beginning of Creation. It's as though God created the world for man, and the redemption of man is what God cares and waits for.
But, in the Hindu religion, things are more much more confused. Man is not the center of the universe, but almost an accident, a byproduct of the cosmic order. But OTOH, brahmins are supposed to hold the knowledge of the universe, so on that score, could be considered even more powerful than the gods. But then even the gods pale against the vast backdrop of the cosmos. But then the cosmos is really just a dream of a god,and that god that dreams/creates the universe is a dream of himself, or dream within a dream. Headache.

Maybe this is really profound stuff but the more you think about it, the more confused you get. In the Bible, man is Adam. In Hinduism, man is atom. This atom, in the form of the Brahmin, may hold the secret to the universe, but it is still a mere atom in the infinite vastness of time and space. This view is unlikely to fill people with a sense of urgency, activism, and dynamism. Jewish prophets were historic/moral and called on man to fix their evil ways. Hindu yogis sat around and meditated to touch the stars with the tendrils of their hair. It may explain why the Christian West and even the Islamic Near East was so much more active and dynamic than Hindu India. It kinda reminds me of how the dreams work in the movie INCEPTION. Every deeper layer of dream compounds time by a factor of 30. The wife of the main character went into that deep zone and wanted to remain in that feeling of infinity. She lost sense of reality, which became too mundane for her. It's possible that Hinduism put too many Indians into a deep dream-spiritual-zone, a cosmic daze which shut them off to historic time.

OTOH, how ironic that the science that grew out of the activist Christian west came to reveal that Hindu religion is closer to the truth of the cosmos than the Bible is. The cosmos is indeed a lot older, bigger, and stranger than the world of man.

Joseph Campbell's EASTERN WAY audio-recording is the best stuff on Hinduism I've heard.

stari_momak said...

Truth, I suggest you break out your copy of Plato's 'Republic' if you think that Athens had 'healthy immigration. It had traders from other lands, of course, but they were kept at the Piraeus, and certainly weren't admitted as citizens of the Athenian polity.

Likewise London -- of course there was some immigration, a few thousand Huguenots here, some Jews there, a few African sailors at the ports. Overall, however, London became an economic powerhouse in the 18th century without significant numbers of immigrants, even from Ireland.

Then in the 19th century Germany overtook England -- again, without significant numbers of non-German speaking immigrants.

Anonymous said...

"In Tokyo, in the daytime, in a coffee shop, I was approached by the manager when I plugged my laptop into a power outlet. As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange." I told him off about Hiroshima and Nagasaki... to his blank face. And he was a fellow in his early thirties!"

Were you trying to tell him that you own a nuclear-powered laptop?

Anonymous said...

WTF? Where did the judo poster get his info.

"Judo became an Olympic sport for the first time in the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, and Kaminaga entered the competition bearing great expectations as the Japanese representative for the open weight category. However, he suffered a knee ligament injury shortly before the competition, and participated in the tournament hiding this injury[2]. He reached the Olympic finals on October 23, but was defeated by Dutch judoka Anton Geesink, who pinned Kaminaga with a Kesa-Gatame to become the first non-Japanese judoka to win an Olympic medal in judo. Japan won all of the gold medals in the judo competition that year excluding Kaminaga's participation in the open weight competition, and the Japanese media criticized Kaminaga for failing to follow suit[2]. Kaminaga retired from competitive judo in 1965 after suffering a detached retina.

Kaminaga become the head coach of the Meiji University judo team in 1968 at the advice of Koji Sone[2], where he taught future Olympic gold medalist Haruki Uemura. He also served as a coach of the Japanese judo team for the 1972 Summer Olympics, but resigned from his post at Meiji University after one of his pupils, Masatoshi Shinomaki, lost in the preliminary round of the tournament. He lived as a salaryman afterwards, while continuing his affiliation with judo officials[2]. He became the head coach for the Japanese Olympic judo team for the 1992 Summer Olympics, but died a year later in 1993 from colon cancer at age 56[2]."

Wandrin said...

"Likewise London"

London was still 98% made up of people from the collected islands as recently as the 60s.

The only large outside influx there'd been for centuries were the jews in the 20s and 30s.

Although within a few decades of their arrival everything started to change.

Anonymous said...

I took some classes on Indian history in college back in the days, and our professor told us that Hindu reform began under the British.

It's probably more blunt than that: There is a recent and growing school of thought which argues that "Hinduism" as a coherent, structured, religion with broadly accepted doctrines, is nothing less than an artifact of British rule.

Basically, what happened is that when the British set up shop in the subcontinent, they wanted to learn about the "religion of India". So, naturally, they asked their "Brahmin" interpreters about it (The Brahmins were the elite, and the Brits like any other colonial power wanted to deal with their possession through elites rather than the hoi polloi).

"Glad you asked!" replied the Brahmins. "We're the specialists in the study and interpretation of the Sanskrit religious texts, so you British should know that these texts are the equivalent of the Bible for the whole subcontinent".

Thus one group appointed themselves as the supreme doctrinal authority in India. Neat trick!

They formulated a structure which could include all the local cults and deities, defining them as representations of the Supreme Godhead, and assigning each major 'god' a place in a larger system. Regional variations that in the past had led to violent clashes between devotees of, say, Shiva and Vishnu, were rationalized and diminished.

All this was driven by the expectations of the British overlords.

This view is very controversial in India, to put it mildly, but the evidence for it is non-trivial.

Anonymous said...

"As for London/New York, well, we are only a century or a bit more into this immigration experiment."

Perhaps London. New York though was a veritable Babel ever since its founding nearly 400 years ago.

Laban said...

I went to hospital a while back to have my lower digestive tract video'd / biopsy'd (all OK since you ask). The (very) hi-tech kit was made by a German subsidiary of a Japanese company (Canon).

Japan is a fascinating experiment - handling am ageing and shrinking demographic without mass immigration. In the UK there's a different kind of experiment, which doesn't always work as planned.

rob said...

Mark, you are partly right. France considers Italians, Arabs, Turks, North Africans, etc. 'at risk' for sickle cell. They also test children with one at risk parent, even though that's pretty silly.

As for the % of immigrants from the rest of Europe, Though "One or more immigrant parents" is not what the study reported. Poles, Russians, Germans, etc. rarely have a sickle cell allele. Blacks born in France would not be immigrants, but would be 'at risk' because moving doesn't change ones genes.

Two percent seems small for % black in France. Time magazine says ~
4.5-7.8% black
6.5-11% Arab
2.3% Asian
0.9% Jewish
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1887106,00.html

Anonymous said...

I told him off about Hiroshima and Nagasaki... to his blank face. And he was a fellow in his early thirties!


___

Wow, it shows the amazing restraint of the Japanese that he didnt smash your face wide open.

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

A decreasing birthrate and population would be a godsend for all of Asia....and the rest of the world for that matter.

JSM said...

"People here say "they'll just build robots," Great, who will build the robots?"

Uh...engineers will design robots to build the robots, the same way car manufacturers use robots to build cars.
You'll, of course, need a FEW people to design and build it all in the first place and fix it when something breaks, but you can pay a few smart people a whole lotta money. No cheap workers needed.

Your lack of imagination is...disturbing.

Anonymous said...

"WTF? Where did the judo poster get his info."

Okay, maybe it was not that guy but some judo guy committed suicide. I recall reading it in Ian Buruma's book

Inventing Japan: From Empire to Economic Miracle 1853–1964

Truth said...

"Likewise London -- of course there was some immigration, a few thousand Huguenots here, some Jews there, a few African sailors at the ports. Overall, however, London became an economic powerhouse in the 18th century without significant numbers of immigrants,"

London WAS significant numbers of immigrants, as it was created by the Romans (there was not one permanent structure on the British Isles when they arrived), encultured by the Normand French, and lorded over by the Dutch, whith contributions from Russians, and the colonies all along.

Truth said...

"Uh...engineers will design robots to build the robots, the same way car manufacturers use robots to build cars."

And who will build those robots? Robots, OK, and who will build those robots...

Eric said...

Japan cannot defend itself from North Korea, let alone China, should they decide to invade. It takes more than just GDP and high-tech to buy planes and tanks and ships. It takes young men willing to run them, and willing and able to fight.

That's less true than it's been in centuries. Destroying ships and aircraft is a highly automated affair, and nobody is invading an island nation without some way to get there. Militarily, Japan is just fine and will be even more fine as UAVs come into their own over the next two decades or so. That's assuming they don't decide to build nukes, something even the Japanese will do if they feel sufficiently threatened.

China has only recently gained the capability of invading Taiwan - It will be twenty more years and trillions of dollars before the can threaten the Japanese home islands with invasion, even if we don't get involved. China, I might add, is going to have serious demographic problems of its own.

And... North Korea? Please. Japan may be aging, but Japan's population is five times the size of the Norks. There are more men of fighting age in Japan than there are North Koreans either sex and all ages, and the Japanese get enough to eat, so they won't be burdened with the IQ problems related to decades of food insecurity.

Japan could crush North Korea in a week.

Laban said...

On British immigration figures - Churchill's cabinet minutes, 1951 :

"David Maxwell-Fyfe, the home secretary, reported that the total of "coloured people" in Britain had risen from 7,000 before the second world war to 40,000 at the time of writing, with 3,666 of those unemployed, and 1,870 on national assistance, or benefits."

Current total more than six million and rising fast (23% of primary school kids are classified as 'minority'). By strange coincidence, there have been about six million UK abortions since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed.

Anonymous said...

And who will build those robots? Robots, OK, and who will build those robots...

You can't possibly be this dense.

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...

ondon WAS significant numbers of immigrants, as it was created by the Romans (there was not one permanent structure on the British Isles when they arrived),...."

Yeah, Stonehenge is made out of wattle and daub.

"....encultured by the Normand French, and lorded over by the Dutch, whith contributions from Russians, and the colonies all along."

The dutch? You mean William and Mary? Or are you referring to gin distillers?

Truth said...

"Yeah, Stonehenge is made out of wattle and daub"

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/structure

Truth said...

"The dutch? You mean William and Mary?"

William huh, otherwise known as Willem Van Orange, in Holland, his country of birth, or William of Orange. Is that the William and Mary to whom you are referring?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_III_of_England

Grasshopper, please.

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...

""Yeah, Stonehenge is made out of wattle and daub""

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/structure"

So? First of all, I know what the word means. Secondly, the link you provided - as usual - does not support whatever stupid point your making. Are you claiming that Stonehenge is NOT a structure?

Mr. Anon said...

"Truth said...
"Truth said...

""The dutch? You mean William and Mary?"

William huh, otherwise known as Willem Van Orange, in Holland, his country of birth, or William of Orange. Is that the William and Mary to whom you are referring?

http://en.wikipedia.org
/wiki/William_III_of_England"

Yeah - that's what I was getting at. And as the original point you were making was about immigration - large flows of people - talking about two dutch royals didn't make any sense. They hardly changed the ethnic balance of England. But then, nothing you do say makes sense. And you don't make points to win arguments, but simply as an exercise in snark. One might as well argue with a talking eight ball.

Idiot.

Truth said...

If a stone balancing on two others qualifies as a "structure" then I was an engineer at 2 years old playing in my backyard.

Truth said...

"immigration - large flows of people - talking about two dutch royals didn't make any sense."

They were immigrants, weren't they?

Wandrin said...

"They were immigrants, weren't they?"

Between the time of the refugees from the religious wars in Europe and 1948 immigration to Britain has obviously been significant in terms of impact but not so much because of huge numbers but because of certain individuals.

Up until the 1960s 98% of the population of London was made up of people from the collected islands with jews who came as refugees in the 20s and 30s as the main exception. Mass immigration started in 1948 but it hadn't really got into full swing yet.

One of the reasons for this (apparently) is for most of history the big cities were disease hotspots. No doubt lots of immigrants came to London over the centuries, especially sailors, but the high death rate in the cities meant constant replenishment from the countryside which swamped the immigrants.

Lucille said...

Yes, I'm sure that you could manipulate a several-ton stone at age of two.

Anonymous said...

"Jerry said...

In Tokyo, in the daytime, in a coffee shop, I was approached by the manager when I plugged my laptop into a power outlet. As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange.""

You must not understand the japanese very well. What he said was "it would be strange". What he meant was "I don't want to pay for your electricity, gaijin".


Power must be REALLY expensive over there since a laptop draws a few hundredths of a cent an hour at US rates.

Truth said...

Yes, I'm sure that you could manipulate a several-ton stone at age of two."

So it's the size of an object that determines whether it is a structure or not?

Mr. Anon said...

"Wandrin said...

""They were immigrants, weren't they?""

Between the time......"

Don't bother. It's a waste of time and words (which mean nothing to him) arguing with "Truth". He thinks that Stonehenge is not a structure. He thinks the world is manipulated by vast conspiracies, which he alone can perceive. He thinks that cars can run on water. He is an idiot.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

""Jerry said...

In Tokyo, in the daytime, in a coffee shop, I was approached by the manager when I plugged my laptop into a power outlet. As my companion translated, he objected that the other customers (the place was empty) would find my behaviour "strange.""

""You must not understand the japanese very well. What he said was "it would be strange". What he meant was "I don't want to pay for your electricity, gaijin".""

Power must be REALLY expensive over there since a laptop draws a few hundredths of a cent an hour at US rates."

A laptop draws about 15 - 60 Watts, comparable roughly to a compact fluorescent bulb up to a lower power incandesant bulb. If he lets you plug in your computer, he has to let every other patron plug in their computer. If he has 5-10 patrons using computers, it's like leaving on an extra 5-10 light bulbs. And yes, japanese can be very cheap, so he might not want to do it.

Then again, maybe he just wanted Jerry to get out of his cafe, so he told him he couldn't use his computer so he'd leave.

Anonymous said...

Permanent structure is a bit of a malleable term. They certainly didn't build large purely stone buildings of course (in the ways there were beginning to be in Southern Europe in the early 1000 BC) and patterns of settlement were rather fluid. I don't think the pre-Roman Britons were nomads though, or lived in skin tents, exactly. They lived in roundhouses and had hillforts. I would class roundhouses as permanent personally. From google, the impression I get is that they were not big on temples or specialised religious structures but did have some shrines for that purpose (http://www.romansinsussex.co.uk/level3/themes/life_in_late_iron_age_sussex_reli.asp). I don't know what the Romans said about the Britons re: permanent structures, but I think the archaeology is probably more trustworthy than they were in this sense.

...

I think Truth is doing the old ploy here of reducing the success and power of any state which exhibits anything less than complete autarchy to immigration. Comparing to London, you may as well say that because of frequent contacts with continental East Asia (where most of its culture was picked up from during the Tang Dynasty before diverging ) where , "Dutch studies" and the American occupation, Japan is very much a country built on immigration. You'll find as many folks arguing that curry is the national dish in Japan as England, for example. But I would say that this lens is quite misleading.

I mean, there's no reason for states to choose between autarchy and open borders globalisation, but it would certainly suit certain people to foist this choice upon others.

Anonymous said...

And who will build those robots? Robots, OK, and who will build those robots...

The unemployed and overeducated youth of Japan? You're just asserting that Japan doesn't have enough spare labor capacity to rachet up to labor substitution, but I'm not sure why you're so confident in this assertion.

Truth said...

"The unemployed and overeducated youth of Japan?"

Overeducated people don't want to work in factories.

They don't want blue collar jobs at all, it just isn't sexy.

If you could hire them you'd have to pay them exorbitant rates. And if you could find plenty of educated factory workers to work cheaply...why would you need robots?

Anonymous said...

Overeducated people don't want to work in factories.

Unemployed people will work if they want to eat.

If you could hire them you'd have to pay them exorbitant rates. And if you could find plenty of educated factory workers to work cheaply...why would you need robots?

Do you really not grasp that producers would be willing to eat high wages as a startup cost for massively cheap robot labor (if it's actually feasible)? Do you really think its beyond Japan's capital organisation to arrange this?

I don't think there's going to be any persuading you short of you seeing Japan actually doing the damn thing and I'm, uh, not going to go in circles with you any more.

tsotha said...

Then again, maybe he just wanted Jerry to get out of his cafe, so he told him he couldn't use his computer so he'd leave.

That wouldn't surprise me. I used to work with a lot of ex-navy guys. They said there were times when a small group of sailors went to a restaurant, sat down, and watched all the Japanese people get up and leave immediately. I'm assuming this was Okinawa, too, so the locals would have been used to foreigners.

He may have figured having a gaijin in his place was a losing proposition because it would keep his Japanese customers away.

Kyo said...

"And remember, car ownership is beyond the reach of the middle class in the cities."

Car ownership is expensive because society wasn't built around the car. A society built around trains and subways is preferable to one that requires an automobile; thanks to trains, the elderly, visually-impaired people, and teenagers are still capable of living normal lives rather than having to be second-class human beings because they can't drive cars.

Japan has its problems, but refusal to favor automobiles isn't one of them.

Silver said...



And who will build those robots? Robots, OK, and who will build those robots...


In all likelihood, not Black Africans. Any attempt at clear thinking about immigration could do a lot worse than starting here and extrapolating out.