February 22, 2011

More on Japan

A reader writes:
I'm spending about 50% of my time in Japan these days.  I've been traveling there for years both for personal and business reasons.

In the mid-90's, I started noting the dissonance between the reality of Japan and the portrayal in the press.  By my observation, Japan is one of the most advanced societies in the world - longest life expectancy, universal literacy, unbelievably safe streets, and so forth.  Great place to live, which is why they have to be such hawks on immigration enforcement.

But to read the WSJ, the country is a basket case and due to this propaganda, most Americans tend to think the same - it is incredible the kinds of comments and questions I get from Americans along the lines of how rotten things are in Japan.

Ultimately, the reason that Japan gets such bad press here is that the Japanese don't do any of the Chicago School/Washington Consensus stuff - they are still essentially mercantilist, strictly limit immigration, are paternalistically concerned about equitable distributions of wealth, and are not about to let their country to become a turnip squeezed for blood by Wall Street.  And despite rejecting the whole package, they have some of the best outcomes in the world in terms, again, of life expectancy, economy/wealth, education, crime, and so forth.

Basically, they are such an embarrassingly successful refutation of the whole neo-liberal package that the establishment press has to either ignore or deprecate them.

It surprised me that I don't hear more along this vein.  And, again, as for Japan not being good for foreign financiers, well, Japan still remains very Confucian, very little there happens by accident, certainly not something this large.

As a final thought, since Japan opened up in the mid-1800's, other than a brief time in the 1980's, it has always been underestimated by foreigners.  Things may seem a little quiescent there now, but the next big leap forward (and that is how Japan typically progresses, incidentally) is going to be this robotics stuff.

Well, robots have been the Next Big Thing for a long time. But, who knows?

One thing to keep in mind is that Japan's overall productivity isn't that good because while they are extremely efficient at making, say, Lexuses, they also keep a lot of Japanese people employed in very low productivity jobs like elevator operator and door-to-door mop salesman. It's sort of like a welfare system for border collies. 

The Japanese have a whole lot of ways readily at hand to make their economy more efficient as the population shrinks.

111 comments:

Whiskey said...

Your reader is correct, except that many/most Japanese manufacturing jobs have left ... for China. I think they have not had a new factory open there since 1987, after the one that just opened this past week by Toyota. Who remain committed to ... not slashing much more production in Japan.

Example: in the Toyota pedal scandal (much of it manufactured by GM and Government Motors owners Obama/LaHood) there was a problem in creating the shim for the brake pedal assembly -- because the whole pedal assembly was manufactured in China. Honda does most of its manufacturing in China. Even venerable Seiko whose watches I love manufactures a great deal of them in Singapore and Malaysia and China (which is where most of those Seikos sold on Amazon come from btw).

Japanese manufacturing employment has been devastated, by cheap Chinese competition (and costly Yen pricing). Sony makes nearly all its TVs in China, along with almost all its computers.

RK said...

If they're paternalistically concerned with income inequality, they're not very good at solving it. Their Geni coefficient is way higher than most of the OECD countries, surpassed only by the famously uncaring Anglophone countries and a few other usual suspects (Mexico, Turkey, Poland, Greece, etc.).

Wes said...

When I use google maps to surf around Japan and look at homes and street scenes, it doesn't look all that impressive. The homes look small and dumpy. A lot things look rather drab. Am I missing something? My little search is hardly scientific, so I am curious if the average American would be impressed with the level of material wealth the Japanese have.

Anonymous said...

"Basically, they are such an embarrassingly successful refutation of the whole neo-liberal package"

Yep, no other reason an island nation in Asia would be successful. No sir.

Neoliberalism refuted!

Now to move California schoolkids to the Canadian border, where something magic in the water makes kids smarter!

Tino said...

1. Japan's high quality of life refutes the perversion of free-market ideas that the Wall Street Journal and the Economist currently represent.

But Japan has very low taxes, strong property rights, pro-business policies and weak unions. Japan does not refute free market liberalism.

Also, now that we know how important human capital is for GDP, isn't it time to stop the silly "details in mercantile Japanese industrial policy caused their growth"? Free trade versus directed export led growth are just details.

Do you really believe that Japan and South Korea and Taiwan and Hong-Kong and Singapore would have had not have experiences high post WWII growth with alternative trade policies?

2. There is little open border dogma in the Chicago School of Milton Friedman ("You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state."), Friedrich von Hayek (who comes out explicitly against free borders), Gary Becker (who wants to auction the right to migrate to the U.S) or George Borjas (who is doing all the heavy lifting).

The open border fanatics on the right are non-Chicago libertarians, such as Reason, George Mason, Cato institute etc.

This is not coincidental, and not without significance. The Chicago school traditionally demands some analytical rigor and empirical evidence. Non-Chicago libertarians instead emphasizes ideology derived deductively from moral principles.

Anonymous said...

Plus, their women can levitate!

See http://www.yowayowacamera.com

Chris said...

Meanwhile, back in paradise on earth.

John Derbyshire said...

Yo Steve:

You might at least have put in a plug for We Are Doomed. Last paragraph on page 219.

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more about the next advance in robotics. I bought a Japanese manufactured Roomba 3 years ago. It was just supposed to vacuum a single room but I paid extra for the AI chip. Now it makes me breakfast every morning and sends Christmas cards to my family!!! Thank you Roomba and thank you Japan.

Anonymous said...

The Japanese actually have a much smaller social welfare net than the United States and are less redistributionist. The reason for the relatively egalitarian wealth distribution is that immigration restriction keeps the labor market tight. The protectionist trade policies also have allowed Japan to retain a lot of good, high-paying manufacturing jobs. There's a strong tradition of corporate paternalism too, but much of that paternalism is a product of the homogenous and tight knit nature of the Japanese society.

Japan's only major issue is the low birthrate. If they can get it back up, they'll be fine. Fortunately for Japan, they're not bringing in tons of immigrants that drive up the cost of housing and make affording a family more difficult.

A lot of the Wall Street Journal editorials are written by business/financial elites and Israel boosters (the two groups overlap a lot). I actually read the paper, as it provides good coverage of the global financial markets and general economic trends, but I usually skip the editorial section.

Anonymous said...

Get off your knees Steve.... Read about the Bataan death march before you prostrate yourself to these nips.

Dan in DC

Anonymous said...

Japan has small houses because of high population density.

Anonymous said...

A better question is, who cares about Japan except for investors? Japan is a constant topic in finance/economics, especially since 2008 when comparisons to the U.S. became popular. Whereas, a lot of other people seem to view Japan as weird and an outlier, most stories tend to be about some strange facet of their culture.

Certainly, immigration is a big reason not to talk about positive economic factors. In fact, this could be a major driving factor, since this refutes the West's immigration policies. Japan's nominal GDP is where it was in the early 1990s, but as workers become more productive, the individual standard of living can improve and the economy can see real GDP increase even though the nominal number declines.

However, this does make their debt problem worse. Japan may have one final crisis coming to clear the decks of this debt burden.

Anonymous said...

When a nation's people are near near the bottom at reproducing themselves and near the top when it comes to killing themselves, something is NOT working.

Chief Seattle said...

My impression fits those comments well. A friend works for Sony and goes to Tokyo regularly for business. He describes them as almost complacent, and certainly not lacking in anything materially.

As far as Japan being hammered by China - well, they're not exactly stupid like U.S. companies. They take advantage of some Chinese slave labor for assembly, but only for their older, lower-end products. Higher end stuff using the latest technology (where labor is a small part of the price compared to brand and R&D) stays in Japan. Canon doesn't build their SLRs in China and Toyota doesn't build the Prius there.

Japan doesn't officially have nukes but they have plenty of nuclear power. It would probably take them a few months to put something together if they needed to. I assume the plans are already on the books deep in some ministry.

When you think about it, replacing people with Robots is a sci-fi kid's dream. The U.S. keeps 20 food prep/janitorial units to a house in South L.A. The Chinese keep theirs in a dormitory on two bowls of rice a day. The Japanese just turn theirs off at the end of the day. Who's likely to have a more prosperous, stable society?

For those reasons I agree that Japan embarrasses the WSJ and the quarterly profit HBS crowd and the multi-cultural Kennedy schools of thought very much. Japan has decided not to play ball with Wall Street and their punishment is to suffer constant denigration at the hands of the media arm of the bankers.

Wandrin said...

"they also keep a lot of Japanese people employed in very low productivity jobs like elevator operator and door-to-door mop salesman. It's sort of like a welfare system for border collies."

Japanese workfare - a welfare system without an underclass rotted by inactivity.


"Their Geni coefficient is way higher than most of the OECD countries, surpassed only by the famously uncaring Anglophone countries"

I recall reading that before WWII the Anglophone countries were better for that than the central European countries but they gradually swapped places after WWII.

"The homes look small and dumpy. A lot things look rather drab."

They're over-crowded. If they let their population decline a bit to a lower stable figure Japan will look like a futuristic version of 50s America.

Anonymous said...

The Japanese have a whole lot of ways readily at hand to make their economy more efficient as the population shrinks.

The problem isn't that the population is shrinking - the problem [really the catastrophe] is that the population is COLLAPSING.

At current fertility rates, the population of Japan is effectively HALVING every 35 to 40 years.

Half of a half is a quarter.

Half of that is an eighth.

Half of which is a sixteenth...

I mean, come on - this is supposed to be a geek board.

Good grief.

Anonymous said...

The truth is that Japan is a success because its full of Japanese. Its a homogeneous society that plans to stay that way. The same is true of almost all the "East Asian Tigers" - they dislike of immigration and support for economic nationalism (aka protectionism).

Take out the Southern Boys and put 5,000,000 Japanese in Mississippi and in 10 years you'd have a high income, low crime society full of culture. Put a couple a million Southern white boys in Mississippi and you end up with, well, Mississippi.

But damn it, they're for "Free Trade".

Cinco Jotas said...

And, for a completely different take, check out Spike Japan.

Be sure to go through the archives. Lots of pictures of abandoned buildings, lots of talk of what the economic downturn has meant for ordinary working-class Japanese.

Anonymous said...

IT but the NYT reports, "handgun owners with permits tend to live in parts of the city with low crime rates. " (p. a26 2/20/2011)

Anonymous said...

Mercantilsism is a debased or misunderstood capitalism. Just as capitalism makes each participant richer as value enhancing arrangements (trades) are made, mercantilism is a perversion that looks at one metric and deems it the only value to be produced. A Mercantilistic country can watch its actual standard of livinh go down while its coffers of (gold, currency, Tbonds) gets larger and larger. It isn;t the money you get in capitalism that makes you richer it is the ordering of commerce caused by the free exchange of money that makes your money valuable. Hard to follow that unless you have a lot of intellectual support in concepts.

Anonymous said...

The Wall Street Journal has a blog that covers Japan called "Japan Real Time." It has a general pro-globalism for Japan tone as would be expected at the WSJ.

There was a post last year about how most white-collar workers there don't want to ever work abroad:

http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2010/09/16/japans-workers-please-dont-send-me-abroad-ever/

"The Galapagosization of Japan continues. According to a survey released today, a shocking two-thirds of the country’s white-collar workers said they didn’t want to work abroad…ever.

The results are downright depressing, given that Japan has recently suffered the ignominy of ceding its position to China as the world’s second-largest economy. The younger and more junior the employee, the greater the resistance to the expat life: 70.7% of “regular employees,” or those who aren’t managers, said they didn’t want to go abroad, according to a survey of 400 people conducted by the Sanno Institute of Management, a graduate school in Japan."

"Companies like Rakuten and Fast Retailing are mandating that English is spoken at meetings as part of their push to globalize. But their efforts will be meaningless if Japanese refuse to step foot outside their shores."

The writer of the post apparently doesn't see the irony of viewing this as some sort of major problem rather than a fundamental sign of economic development or progress where ordinary workers aren't compelled to go abroad for their livelihoods.

Anonymous said...

And its really amusing to hear that Japan is doomed - doomed I tell YA! - By their failure to have open borders and 'Free trade'. Of sure, they're doing well NOW, but just wait until those Chinese get going...

But amazingly, they don't want to change. Stupid people those "Japs".

Of course, disaster is just right around the corner for Japan, just as it has been around the corner for 20 years. Meanwhile, the USA is flourishing under "free trade", open borders, rapid population growth, and financial wizardry.

We're a model for the world. And all those who don't follow us are suckers.

Or maybe not.

Anonymous said...

Great threads (i.e. this one and the one following the previous post on Japan).

I live in Hong Kong, but I’ve visited Japan several times, and have read up on it a bit as it’s a truly fascinating society.

One problem that was only referenced briefly in the previous thread is the ‘herbivore’ phenomenon in which young Japanese men turn themselves into extreme metrosexuals with little to no ambition and sex drive.
And even more disturbing are the ‘hikikomori’, (again usually) young men who just hole up in their bedrooms in their parents’ homes, and cut themselves off from actual life.

These do not sound like manifestations of a healthy society to me.

The commenter above who mentioned looking around in street view and seeing lots of drab: yes, exactly. I find Japanese cities shockingly plain for the most part, but with oases of exquisite minimalist beauty. The Japanese aesthetic is remarkable (as is the food). It just doesn't extend to degree you'd think from watching a travelogue.

BTW, I’ve been to Haus Ten Bosch, with my Chinese wife and her parents, and the experience was surreal beyond my wildest imaginings. That SpikeJapan essay on it is outstanding; thanks much to whoever posted the link.

dynkin said...

Take out the Southern Boys and put 5,000,000 Japanese in Mississippi and in 10 years you'd have a high income, low crime society full of culture. Put a couple a million Southern white boys in Mississippi and you end up with, well, Mississippi.

Mississippi is nearly 40% black. If there were just "Southern white boys", it might not be all that bad.

Anonymous said...

"The homes look small and dumpy."

Like my house in California does when I go online and look at real estate in the Midwest and the South.

Anonymous said...

Japan's only major issue is the low birthrate. If they can get it back up, they'll be fine.

I think there may be an unintentional joke in there somewhere. ;-)

Baloo said...

It looks like a great place to me, but I get all my info from "Detective Conan."

Anonymous said...

You really want to give typical Americans the sputtering fits, point out the equivalent things about Germany.

Anonymous said...

In many ways, large, stupid public works projects in Japan (airports in the boondocks, buildings with no long-term purpose, quasi-governmental resorts that haven't got a prayer of profitability) are a form of workfare for rural areas. It beats welfare because the recipients are actually working.

OTOH, just because some of these projects are stupid, does not mean they all are. There were two fast, clean, safe train lines to Narita airport. They just opened a new line that is almost twice as fast (actually private, but it is symptomatic of how the infrastructure is constantly improving, while other parts are being abandoned).

I used to pass thru Ueno station every six months. It was getting quite shabby. Then, one day I walked into the station, and it had suddenly become quite clean and fashionable. Totally face-lifted.

I used to live in Nagoya. I drove around the city for years. Then I went away for ten years. When I came back the roads had completely changed and I was totally disoriented. It had changed that much. I suppose it's comparable to the Big Dig in Boston, but this happens constantly in japan.

Matt G. said...

Based on my own experience the WSJ is full of it. I visited Osaka a few years back and was thoroughly impressed by it. Traveling around the city I didn't see anybody who looked impoverished, people were well dressed and physically fit. The streets and subway were always busy but always orderly and very clean. I didn't see any empty storefronts and the customer service was always first rate. People lived in large apartment buildings or small houses but this is to be expected given the large population density. I was struck by the homogenity, foreigners stuck out very clearly. People seem to ride bikes alot and I can't remember ever seeing a bike that was locked up. Returning to the U.S. was a let down as everything seemed shabby and 2nd rate compared to Japan.

Wandrin said...

"When a nation's people are near near the bottom at reproducing themselves and near the top when it comes to killing themselves, something is NOT working."

They're over-crowded. The more prosperous people get the more space per kid they want. Mass immigration is the worst possible response.

Anonymous said...

> I mean, come on - this is supposed to be a geek board

Breathe deeply. The TFR is probably not gonna stay that low for four generations. Especially if they don't import an underclass to take up all their time. For one thing the price of real estate will go down.

I'm not saying there isn't a problem at all, though, or a risk of worse problems.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
As you probably know, a certain percentage of the Japanese young adults each year decide that they don't like Japan and permanently move to the USA.

Steve you can drive a relatively short distance from your home to Torrance and visit neighborhoods made up almost entirely of Japanese expatriates. One of the shopping centers with a dozen stores and restaurants consists entirely of people speaking Japanese.

Certainly there is no evidence that the majority of young adults in Japan would like to permanently move to the USA, but there is certainly a minority.

I have never heard of American citizens of Japanese ancestry deciding to give up on America and move to Japan, but of course you can see plenty of Japanese citizens giving up on Japan in order to permanently settle in the USA

Do any of the readers of Isteve have insight in to what drives young Japanese to want to live in Southern California?

Is it mostly the weather? We do have weather that is exceptional compared to Japan. Is it the relatively low cost of living? A house in Los Angeles is a spectacular bargain compared to the same sized house in Tokyo.

Or is it the desire to escape from rigid social controls, to escape form the rules and regulations of Japan?

Help me understand what it is that motivates these folks

Truth said...

"Mississippi is nearly 40% black. If there were just "Southern white boys", it might not be all that bad."

West Virginia is 98% "Southern White Boys."

Abraham Fauxman said...

Japan is such a bigoted society: just consider how it haughtily rebuked our benevolent efforts to bring much-needed vibrancy.

Wandrin said...

"I have never heard of American citizens of Japanese ancestry deciding to give up on America and move to Japan"

If you gave them a choice of Japan or Detroit they would.

"Do any of the readers of Isteve have insight in to what drives young Japanese to want to live in Southern California?"

Space and Freedom. Both of which they'd have more of in Japan if they let their population decline a little.

"Or is it the desire to escape from rigid social controls, to escape form the rules and regulations of Japan?"

Over-crowding combined with an intelligent population will lead inevitably to rigid social controls.

Anonymous said...

Japan's economy is geared almost entirely toward exports. Its domestic economy consists mostly of bullshit government-funded makework construction projects--lots of "bridges to nowhere". Plus, purchasing power for the average sarariman is rather poor. Those dudes and dudettes you see in the Ginza wearing all those sharp clothes are only a small fraction of the population. Most Japanese are just getting by.

beowulf said...

If you want to understand Japan, East Asian capitalism or how free trade is hollowing out our real economy. you must read Eamonn Fingleton.
http://www.fingleton.net/
http://www.scribd.com/doc/16682681/Fingleton-In-the-Jaws-of-the-Dragon-2008-Synopsis

As Fingleton points out, Japan encourages Western journalists in low-balling its economic prospects as a deliberate tactic to keep Americans protectionism at bay. That's the root cause of the dissonance between the reality of Japan and its portrayal in the press.

Severn said...

The problem isn't that the population is shrinking - the problem [really the catastrophe] is that the population is COLLAPSING.

At current fertility rates, the population of Japan is effectively HALVING every 35 to 40 years.


Or to put that in plain English, if present trends continue the population of Japan will be half what it is now in 35 to 40 years.

So? If current trends continue the population of the US will exceed 500 million in 35 to 40 years. I find the Japanese trends to be preferable.

The Wobbly Guy said...

"They're over-crowded. The more prosperous people get the more space per kid they want. Mass immigration is the worst possible response."

Woah! That's the first time I've seen this. Any articles to back it up? It would be extremely relevant to my own country.

Anonymous said...

"Mississippi is nearly 40% black. If there were just "Southern white boys", it might not be all that bad."

Right. And why is it 40% black? Oh yeah, its because a lot of Southern "Free trade" and "open Borders" white boys wanted all that cheap labor.

The Japanese don't want "Cheap Labor" - and sadly they'll never be as rich as people in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

"Their Geni coefficient is way higher than most of the OECD countries, surpassed only by the famously uncaring Anglophone countries and a few other usual suspects"

This is not hard to explain. Japan is the oldest country. There are more retirees in proportion to workers than anywhere else. That's the effect you see on the Gini. It is a very equal society without resorting to a Scandinavian welfare state.

Anonymous said...

"Or to put that in plain English, if present trends continue the population of Japan will be half what it is now in 35 to 40 years."

And of course "present trends will continue" just like the population growth in Japan in the 40s and 50s continued. Oh wait, it DIDN'T. People actually adjusted their behavior to changing circumstances.

Of course, the "Japs" aren't as smart as white boys from Mississippi or even Mike Huckabee but I think they *will* adjust their behavior in the future and not just disappear as a nation.

BTW, am I the only old fart who remembers ZPG?

Christopher Paul said...

Anonymous said...

Steve you can drive a relatively short distance from your home to Torrance and visit neighborhoods made up almost entirely of Japanese expatriates. One of the shopping centers with a dozen stores and restaurants consists entirely of people speaking Japanese.


Here's a location closer to Steve if he wants to check it out:

www.mitsuwa.com/tenpo/sant/eindex.html

Anonymous said...

"Help me understand what it is that motivates these folks"

Might just be weather and different lifestyle attracting a minority that is more willing to leave. Similar crowds in other countries.

Think of all the Brits who have packed up and left for Spain for mainly lifestyle reasons. Or the numerous American (non-retiree) expats living across Latin America.

Anonymous said...

The airports and such are a product of Japanese stimulus spending--they've been shoveling money into infrastructure projects controlled by politically connected contractors for a couple decades in an effort to get the economy going.

If you really think the debut accumulated at that level doesn't matter, we'd have the ultimate economic model. In exchange for printing small multicolored pieces of paper we can have unlimited wealth, bullet trains, and fancy airports.

Ultimately the debt will have to be repaid, or the bond holders will take a bath in the default and resulting vaporization of wealth. Maybe that's the plan; the Japanese holders of Japanese government debt take one for the team.

Anonymous said...

"When I use google maps to surf around Japan and look at homes and street scenes, it doesn't look all that impressive. The homes look small and dumpy. A lot things look rather drab. Am I missing something? My little search is hardly scientific, so I am curious if the average American would be impressed with the level of material wealth the Japanese have."

This is true. By American standards, many houses in Japan are substandard. What is neat is how Japanese make efficient use of space and limitations. They are very rodentish.

Greg said...

Everything is relative. Of course Japan is not third world dysfunctional, but no one says it is. But Japan is both much worse off than it was and much worse off than Europe and America. Of course it is still a pleasant place where it is good to live, but no one is denying that. It's just not as pleasant as it once was, as it could have been, and as Europe and America are.

Economically, that is. Everything that is pleasant about Japan is related to the fact that it is culturally and ethnically homogenous. Economically, however, the place sucks - things are way more expensive than America and even Europe, people earn much less, and material life, at least, isn't so very good. The average person has it way worse than the average American - it has to be seen to be believed.

Of course, perhaps the ability to afford things isn't so important, maybe, but when Japan could have had the pleasant aspects it now has and that come from being one culture/one ethnicity plus the ability to afford things like Americans, then relative to that, yeah, Japan kind of sucks, and Japan kind of blew it.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet 50% of Japanese robotics will be porny. Hobots be what they want.

Ortu Kan said...

With respect to Japanese demographic trends, the real concern isn't population decline per se but what the transition means for age composition (hint: it hasn't been, and won't be, a tractably proportional resizing). A half-geriatric Japan, a glass-frail Japan of dementia-riddled gray-heads, lying limply in their own stains atop their threadbare posterity -- what a prospect! Age without honor, youth without hope: self-obliteration in a Masada of nerve gas would be cleaner!

But, oh, what about the robots? (Cue pop-ethnological clich├ęs about Shintoism and Astroboy or whatever.) I won't claim to have already seen the bounds of possibility, but No, robot: Japan's elderly fail to welcome their robot overlords is worth a read for the optimists. The usual sidelong looks of pity, of course:

The kind of cheap, often well-educated labour, that has filled London homes with nannies and Barcelona's with Latin American carers for the elderly, is not an option.

As though consigning your old parents to a kennel weren't sin enough. It's denying them the tender ministrations of Haitian and Salvadoran 'care-giving professionals', you see, that's the real tragedy here.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, the only economic statistic that actually matters is the trade balance.
- A large and persistent deficit will eventually result in the nation being mired in stagnation and poverty, a big surplus will result continued growth in wealth and living standards.
Of course, by daring to state these facts I will court an enormous amount of flak from 'clever' economists who will scream blue murder that I am 'stupid' or believe in theology or some other such nonsense.
Now, Japan has a massive and persistent trade surplus and this surplus is comprised of hi-tech, high value added goods that are indispensable to the modern world and command high prices.
This fact alone will ensure Japan's continued prosperity.
Alas, the same cannot be said for the USA.

Wandrin said...

"It's just not as pleasant as it once was, as it could have been,
and as Europe and America are."

Are?

Like the banlieues of Paris and their equivalents elsewhere?

"With respect to Japanese demographic trends, the real concern isn't population decline per se but what the transition means"

That is an actual as opposed to a made-up problem - how to deal with the *temporary* transition from an elderly bulge.

Whatever the solution is it should be as temporary as the problem e.g only importing post menopausal female guest workers or building retirement homes in the Phillipines and employing people locally.

eh said...

Basically, they are such an embarrassingly successful refutation of the whole neo-liberal package that the establishment press has to either ignore or deprecate them.

Well, Japan -- its national government anyway -- is piling up debt at a fairly rapid pace. I'm not so sure I'd call that evidence of an "embarrassingly successful refutation of the whole neo-liberal package".

Japan downgraded over debt

As I suggested before: When Japan exhausts internal demand for its debt, i.e. the Japanese tire of loaning their government money at extremely low rates, then the fiscal picture in Japan will become a good deal darker.

But every other country seems to be doing the same thing. And Japan does have a powerful export-driven economy.

E. REX said...

Some guy said: "Mississippi is nearly 40% black. If there were just "Southern white boys", it might not be all that bad."

Truth said: "West Virginia is 98% "Southern White Boys."

The much-maligned Southern White Untouchables have a similar racial background to those who created modern Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Ne'er-do-wells.

Carl said...

""Mississippi is nearly 40% black. If there were just "Southern white boys", it might not be all that bad."

West Virginia is 98% "Southern White Boys.""

- Its interesting that people now refer to WVA as southern, when in fact it split off from Virginia to become its own state to join the Northern Union against the Southern states of the Confederacy. Only after it became impoverished as its economy focused around the national need for coal, to the exclusion of other industries did the north decide to backstab it and go," hell, we don't want it, tag it as southern".

Ryan said...

""Mississippi is nearly 40% black. If there were just "Southern white boys", it might not be all that bad."

Right. And why is it 40% black? Oh yeah, its because a lot of Southern "Free trade" and "open Borders" white boys wanted all that cheap labor.

The Japanese don't want "Cheap Labor" - and sadly they'll never be as rich as people in Mississippi."


That post is a bit nutty, the state is 40% black because of its history of slavery in the past. Massive numbers of black people didn't just up and decide into Mississippi one day.

Pat Shuff said...

Japan is a bug looking for a windshield. Tax revenues provide but half of government expenditures, the other half is printed and borrowed until debt has grown to a multiple of gdp. That goes swimmingly until free money drowns in rising interest rates, the magic of something for nothing magically compounds. In terms of demographic trainwreck Japan is the furthest down the tracks of an aging population and their unfunded obligations.

"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."

Richard Feynman

That quip was made quite some time ago. It now takes fourteen galaxies to describe the US deficit in economical numbers.
A cursory examination of Japan's structural not cyclical finances are even more economical, seen only through a telescope in the kiloparsec range.

Of course the only persuasive case to be made is in the fullness of time for all who can to see. There were lone voices crying in the wilderness about a credit bubble and shadow banking and securitizations and CDOs squared and cubed by the cubicles of the cubicled. And nothing was done by anybody until it was made plain by all who can to see. In the case of a Chrysler things were done in the waning hours and minutes before the water was shut off and lights turned off. That is the current timeline being pursued by the Japanese concerning the fate of Japan and not only the Japanese and Japan. They are just the first among equals in things 'economical' per Feynman.

Greece then Ireland lost access to other people's money and now rely upon other other people's money. Japan yet has access, why is unclear by any rational accounting, and the decision regarding that access is not in Japan's hands nor in any other sovereign's.

Private debt, one can repossess the car, the home, the aircraft, the manufacturing facilities, even the brand name. One has claims. One can't take possession of roads, bridges, statehouses, parks. That's the difference between sovereign and private debt,
the difference between something and say-so. And why sovereign funding, credit from the latin 'credere' (to believe)...
why sovereign a la Greece, Ireland evaporates literally overnite, with the belief and a la Zimbabwe the attempt to conjure payment with currency from thin air is 'refudiated.'

Rohan Swee said...

The writer of the post apparently doesn't see the irony of viewing this as some sort of major problem rather than a fundamental sign of economic development or progress where ordinary workers aren't compelled to go abroad for their livelihoods.

But, but, how can we reach the Efficient Markets nirvana if we don't have coerced, er, free movement of labor, aka "reduction of human beings to widget status, without those pesky, profit-reducing attachments to hearth, home, and culture". (Oddly, the same people who believe this seem also to believe that any Third Worlder who manages to squat in a Western country for a few years has forged such deep and sacred ties to his new land, "community", and social-services office, that it would be a violation of human rights to ever expect him to up sticks and move on again. Go figure.)

Anonymous said...

Take out the Southern Boys and put 5,000,000 Japanese in Mississippi and in 10 years you'd have a high income, low crime society full of culture.

You IQ-worshipping betas have no understanding of cool.

stari_momak said...

"That is an actual as opposed to a made-up problem - how to deal with the *temporary* transition from an elderly bulge."

Here's a solution

Anonymous said...

Ultimately the debt will have to be repaid, or the bond holders will take a bath in the default and resulting vaporization of wealth. Maybe that's the plan; the Japanese holders of Japanese government debt take one for the team.

That is what happened, essentially, with the initial construction of Shinkansen (bullet trains). JNR, the nationalized railway system, had huge cost overruns building all the main lines - shinkansen run on separate railways.

JNR went hugely into debt.

Eventually, JNR was broken up into several private companies and sold off for far less than JNR's massive debt.

I'm not sure exactly who took the haircut on this, but it was likely effectively spread out across the economy, Japan as a country taking the hit for the team. But they ended up with a superb train system.

So yeah, maybe that is the plan, it certainly isn't without precedent.

Anonymous said...

""The homes look small and dumpy."

Like my house in California does when I go online and look at real estate in the Midwest and the South."

Where in the Midwest? Most of the new houses that are built are here are called McMansions for a reason!

Dahinda said...

Japan's Achilles heel is the fact that it imports most of its food, oil, and other natural resources.

Anonymous said...

West Virginia is 98% "Southern White Boys."


Nope.

West Virginia broke off from Virginia to stay with the Union.

No southerners in WV.

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

Anonymous said...

Japan's massive debt is funded by Japan, that's a much bigger plus than what America's situation.

Anonymous said...

If you watch any of those "How It's Made" reality shows on The Discovery Channel, it's clear that a lot of manufacturing in the US is already being done by robots. They just aren't anthropometric robots - they don't look like people.

When you think about it the human frame and structure is not a very good model for a general purpose free standing robot. We descend from quadrupeds. In the general mammalian body plan you have four legs designated for standing and walking and the face/head for eating, biting, and manipulation.

Our erect ape scheme gives us the front legs for manipulation but makes standing and walking much more difficult and technically challenging.

A better robot body plan would be some kind of centaur - four good legs on the ground AND a pair of arms/hands for manipulation.

Personally I would prefer myself to be a centaur, although it would make using a ladder tricky. That would be worth it for the elimination of slipping and tripping. Balancing on your two back legs, as we do, is a kludge. Evolution has stuck us with this bizarre and inconvenient body plan.

So what do the Japanese do when they make a robot? They make them with the compromised human body plan. They spend a lot of development effort just making sure the damn thing can balance on two feet. To me this indicates that these robots are designed for how they look rather than what they do. That means they are not serious. These Japanese domestic robots are not really intended to be a practical replacement for an illegal Mexican to clean your toilet. They are just a fashion accessory.

Albertosaurus

RK said...

Anonymous writes, apropos of Japanese inequality: "This is not hard to explain. Japan is the oldest country. There are more retirees in proportion to workers than anywhere else. That's the effect you see on the Gini. It is a very equal society without resorting to a Scandinavian welfare state."

I don't think that explains it. Japan's population is the most elderly in the world, but it's not that much more elderly than some Western European countries like Germany: http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=466

Moreover, Japanese inequality was way higher than Western Europe's even in the 80's, when Japan wasn't particularly old. (In fact, its Gini coefficient in the mid-80's was higher than most Western European countries' today, despite the fact that only 11.6% of the Japanese population was 65 or older in 1989: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=alwWIHsCf9g4&refer=economy)

Japan is simply a very unequal country (especially given its homogeneity), and has been for a long time.

Anonymous said...

The reason that Japan is getting bad press is that their aggregate GDP growth figures have been bad for a long while now.

This was initially due to the bubble and the crisis that followed, and then due to the ongoing demographic collapse (I.e. lots of retired people who do not produce much)

Not surprisingly, when Japan had good GDP figures they got great press.

Richard A. said...

The suicide problem in Japan is with its elderly. Here in the US, the suicide problem is with male youths.
http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_sui_rat_you_mal-health-suicide-rate-young-males

Richard A. said...

Japan's average tariff rate is actually no worse than ours. Japanese protectionism has been exaggerated much like their economic problems. The MSM is not to be trusted when it comes to Japan.

Evil Sandmich said...

I pass along the following:

- Unless things have changed, good employment opportunities in Japan are hard to come by (witness the rather high percentage of temp labor that makes up their employment pool). I recall my buddy saying that elevator 'minders' and other low level jobs are filled with people who have college degrees, but have been unable to find a better job.

- Their homogeneous population serves them well most of the time, but leads to imbread thinking, and an unwillingness to change. Social peace at all cost, ya know.

- When I stayed briefly in Japan, I had no problem finding homeless people.

- They have a high level of government debt and an economy run by a criminal class of oligarchs.

- Lastly, all those points are now even more applicable to the United States, but we don't have the benefit of living someplace cool like Japan.

Anonymous said...

why sovereign a la Greece, Ireland evaporates literally overnite

Greece and Ireland aren't sovereign in their currency since they use the Euro.

Anonymous said...

Well, Japan -- its national government anyway -- is piling up debt at a fairly rapid pace. I'm not so sure I'd call that evidence of an "embarrassingly successful refutation of the whole neo-liberal package".

Japan downgraded over debt


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

"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."

Anonymous said...

The changing perception of Japan is a good example of why it is so difficult to live in a PC state because the definitions of what is and is not acceptable are subjective and change over time.

At one time Japan was held up as an an exception to the myth that only Europeans could be technical. Japan's defeat of Russia in 1905, was the first time in the industrial age where a non Euro nation defeated a Euro nation with modern arms. Japan's rapid industrial rise helped to shatter the white supremacy myth.

But that was then and this is now. Now you must adhere to the new multi-culti order. And Japan does not do that. So she is in the dog house.

Mike Courtman said...

The media hates introverts. The Japanese quietly get on with things and don't make a fuss, so the media assumes there must be something wrong with them.

Also they don't base their economy on selling lots of real estate to foreigners, which is a very insecure, introverted thing to do. This is extremly disappointing considering they have such a cool fashion sense. Maybe they need to take more Prozac.

The Middle East is very important because even though its a complete waste of space in an economic sense, its people are very loud and shouty, wear mysterious veils and have dramatic and colourful revolutions.

Mike Courtman said...

On the point of population decline. Urbanisation is the most consistent reason for declining fertility. East Asia is the most urbanised region in the world and has the world's lowest fertility. Eastern Europe has the second lowest fertility rate because it didn't produce enough housing during the communist era. Rural parts of France, Australia, US etc have the highest white fertility rates.

The way to increase fertility is to provide cheaper housing not, as another poster has already pointed out, by bringing in more immigrants.

Anonymous said...

West Virginia never had many slaves and had less of a reason to feel emotional over the slavery issue. Southern states with large black populations felt that northerners were intruding on their sovreignty by wanting abolishment. This is the main reason for West Virginia not seceding.

I don't know how anyone could say that Appalachians in WV are not southern. Many aspects of their culture (food, music, fiddling, hospitality and neighborliness, insularity, guns) are what you'd expect of the South.

WV voted for McCain over Obama - and voted for Hillary over Obama in the primaries. Joe Manchin ran as a conservative Democratic. Robert Byrd, in his young days, was apart of the KKK. How exactly is this a northern state?

Truth said...

" How exactly is this a northern state?"

You must be new here. Word of advice; if you want to keep your sanity, don't try to make sense of it...just respond.

Anonymous said...

"At one time Japan was held up as an an exception to the myth that only Europeans could be technical."

Japan - the other white people.

"But that was then and this is now. Now you must adhere to the new multi-culti order. And Japan does not do that. So she is in the dog house."

Only child-like peoples can engage in nationalism, preserving their culture as a people, etc. I suppose the PC commissariat feels especially ticked at the Japanese, since they previously had been deemed full-fledged adults.

jody said...

in the meantime, the US media does not say much at all about germany. not really sure why, and i don't mean that in a sarcastic way. like mexico, they don't take much interest in a rather important nation.

for instance, germans are in the process of buying the new york stock exchange. no, they're not buy a few stocks. they're literally trying to purchase the whole entire exchange itself. seems a rather significant event for the US media to mostly ignore. while it may or may not portend important changes for the future of the US, it would certainly be a hugely symbolic change of hands.

if the japanese were doing this, it would have brought back all the hysteria of the 80s. "Japan is going to own everything!" i guess the difference is that the germans do this stuff slowly and methodically and quietly. since re-unification in 1990, they have been quietly buying tons of stuff all around the world. for instance, they already control most of the trucking industry in the US, which most people don't know. they don't do as much engineering and manufacturing of consumer products as japan does, so the average person isn't seeing what they're doing or directly encountering germany's output. their model is more like, medium size specialized companies making critical OEM stuff.

now the germans are close to owning the NYSE, an american icon. once they own it, they'll replace most of the americans in charge with their own guys. some of them will be americans too. but a lot of jewish guys are close to losing their jobs running the NYSE.

Carol said...

"That post is a bit nutty, the state is 40% black because of its history of slavery in the past. "

Hoo boy, someone forgot to take his irony supplement today.

Anonymous said...

Japan's divorce rate is about half that the US.

Anonymous said...

Your reader is correct, except that many/most Japanese manufacturing jobs have left ... for China.


And America. All the Japanese car makers opened plants in this country to get around US tariffs.

Anonymous said...

With respect to Japanese demographic trends, the real concern isn't population decline per se but what the transition means for age composition (hint: it hasn't been, and won't be, a tractably proportional resizing). A half-geriatric Japan, a glass-frail Japan of dementia-riddled gray-heads, lying limply in their own stains atop their threadbare posterity -- what a prospect! Age without honor, youth without hope: self-obliteration in a Masada of nerve gas would be cleaner!


Somebody hates old people. What, you planning on offing yourself with nerve gas before you become a gray-head?

Severn said...

In terms of demographic trainwreck Japan is the furthest down the tracks of an aging population and their unfunded obligations.


That's what all this wailing about a "demographic trainwreck" really comes down to, isn't it? Propping up the ponzi-scheme retirement systems implemented in all the Western world (including Japan) by trying to turn entire countries into ponzi schemes.

But those systems must be scrapped at some point. They are mathematically unsustainable in the long term, and even in the short term. The time to figure out what to do about those so-called "obligations" is now. Hint - they're not actually obligations at all.

Lewis said...

"" How exactly is this a northern state?"

You must be new here. Word of advice; if you want to keep your sanity, don't try to make sense of it...just respond."

It all depends on how you define North and South. One common convention is based on culture. However,there are plenty of rednecks across the north, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc. (not to mention in the West as well). In both cases you don't hesitate to label those states not as southern.

Another is based on sides in the civil war; this is probably one of the most common because it allows Northerners and Westerners to feel morally superior, but West Va (the state that they seem to feel most superior to) fails to fall in the south because of its allegiance to the North. This is what the posters refer to.

Florida is particularly interesting. Some don't seem to feel this state is "southern" because they immediately conjure up images of coeds on beaches, Tony Montana, and old codgers playing golf, not of southern culture, but its chock full of rednecks (lets not forget that Lynyrd Skynyrd is from here) and was one of the first Southern states to join the Confederacy. Also, it is definitely southern by geography.

But where do you draw the line? Aren't West Va and Va technically mid-Atlantic?

It seems that the one that makes the most sense, given the above,is to use the historic Mason Dixon Line. By that measure the states seem to fit fairly well with most people's ideas of geography, culture and mostly fits the states that seceded from the union (but not all).

Anonymous said...

Troofie, that's 93% white (latest Census).

"...(food, music, fiddling, hospitality and neighborliness, insularity, guns) are what you'd expect of the South".

Dunno, sounds like Vermont, Maine or especially the hill country of New Hampshire to this New Englander. Go to any county fair in those areas and you'll find that a lot of the crowd, particularly when sporting their NASCAR drag, will be indistinguishable in appearance and demeanor from any Mississippi cracker.

According to an old college history teacher of mine, one of the largest KKK chapters in America during the late 19th century was headquartered in Middleboro Massachusetts.

Re: debt rating. Let's see, would these be the same ratings crooks who said all those worthless subprime tranches were AAA?

Brutus

Wandrin said...

"The way to increase fertility is to provide cheaper housing not, as another poster has already pointed out, by bringing in more immigrants."

Exactly.

Or as some guy put it on some website somewhere sometime ago: Affordable Family Formation.

Truth said...

"Go to any county fair in those areas and you'll find that a lot of the crowd, particularly when sporting their NASCAR drag, will be indistinguishable in appearance and demeanor from any Mississippi cracker."

My sister lives in Vermont, I was there for Thanksgiving, that is most ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

An interesting time can be had by trying to buy just about anything directly from Japan, particularly electronics and car parts, particularly "hot rod" parts.

You can run up a four figure phone bill and never get anyone who speaks intelligible English. Mail will be ignored. Unless you, gaijin, get on a plane and go there with yen in hand you will get nothing but a colossal runaround.

It's interesting too that almost all Japanese home market equipment is 100 volt only. They build one thing for export and a whole different thing for themselves. Often nothing interchanges.

I have a rare 1968 Toyota limousine. It's in flawless original shape, no rust, because it was a Japanese consular car. It is one of three left hand drive ones ever made. Toyota officially claims they never made it. It does not exist, except it does. It has a six cylinder engine officially only used in buses. I have to go to Japan for parts about every four years. No one will ship them. Even the dealership I go to whose clerk speaks perfect Englisn suddenly disappears if I call long distance.

Amazingly though most parts are available in Japan. There are no old cars to speak of over there so this is incredible.

Jerry said...

RK said...

If they're paternalistically concerned with income inequality, they're not very good at solving it. Their Geni coefficient is way higher than most of the OECD countries, surpassed only by the famously uncaring Anglophone countries and a few other usual suspects (Mexico, Turkey, Poland, Greece, etc.).

--The higher the Gini Coefficient, the more equality. On the UN measure of Gini, Japan is the second most equal after Denmark. And what is with this nasty dig about "usual suspects"? Poland's Gini is much higher than a lot of other "usual suspects" that you could mention.

Steve, what is the point of moderating when everything gets waved through, including inane and obviously wrong comments like this one? All that moderation does is make real-time exchanges between participants impossible. In the previous Japan thread, my comment provoked a lot of replies--to which I could not reply. We're all throwing rocks into a well, basically, with this setup. How about at least have real-time commenting by people who register?

Jerry said...

Anonymous said...

Japan has small houses because of high population density.

2/22/2011

This is not a sufficient explanation. The average Korean has a much larger house, despite higher population density (Korea is even more mountainous than Japan). There are two reasons for this: for a long time, building high-rise residential buildings was cost-prohibitive in Japan because of earthquake protection; they've only solved the engineering problem here (the tall buildings now more or less float on their foundations) in the last 20 years. And the other big reason is small land plots, and prohibitive land costs (until recently), making it difficult to assemble enough land for the floor plates necessary to build high-rises. Most Koreans live in Commieblock estates, which you will not find in Japan.

Pat Shuff said...

Severn said...

The time to figure out what to do about those so-called "obligations" is now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Imo the time was then, stitch in time/ounce of prevention...a decade or two ago draconian measures that were politically upopular and unfeasible. Today there are no answers. Everyone has known what's wrong. The study commissions are commissioned, the recommendations are released after the elections, the chattering heads chatter a bit and that's it. Same studies, same recomendations, rinse lather repeat. Everyone knows, no one has ever done anything, no one is doing anything, no one will ever do anything. So the thing done will be from outside the process, reactionary, poste haste in crisis. Greece, Ireland, Iceland is the template. They ran out of money. Real, imagined, borrowed or stolen another check could not be cut or accepted. So now the socialized private losses bankrupting sovereign states are being hoovered up into super-sovereign levels..ECB, EU, IMF etc where complexity favors the sinister, the financially illerate policy makers do not understand themselves who is wriggling off the hook and how and where and how deep the hook is planted in whom in what ways. And what the risks are. 1. Unthinkable 2. Unimaginable

Whatever one calls this system that outlasted the autocratic dictatorial variety is failing the world over for the same reason, bankruptcy in all but recognition.

Amongst the herd of unmentionable elephants crowding up the room the elder statesmen pachyderm is the workability of the very concept of self government. The gods having sent down the alloted generations of success to ensure what they mean to destroy is fait accompli.

Dr. Bernanke conjured $3,300,000 this past minute, $2,200,000,000 yesterday, today and tomorrow.
It is used to buy Treasury issuance. It is an example of extend and pretend and not the only example in this country and not only this country. To paraphrase Ms. Tomlin, no matter how big number innumerate you get you just can't keep up with it.

The Greeks, the Irish, British students, Icelanders, Wisconsites have taken to the barricades in a struggle to avoid confronting the reality of being poorer than one cares to think or even can. It's called relinquishment. It matters not where repayment is imposed, through pricing chains the collection site remains the same.
Don't dun me or thee but the man behind the tree. He's an elusive character.

Dr. Bernanke has conjured more since 2008 than the accumulated conjurance of any and all FedHeads that went before. It is not commonly understood that every debt is eventually repaid to the very pence if not by the debtor then by the creditor. There are hard defaults the old fashioned way, soft defaults through restructuring, stealth defaults through debasement.

It is very expensive being poor in America, in Japan, in many places.
As a result of ungraspable conjurance expect an increase in both expensive and poor. Indeed, look around, despite the sales and marketing _campaigns_ to the contrary. As to what to do about it don't be caught behind the tree. It is extortion of the sensible by its opposite.

Abdullah Ibrahim Yamaguchi-O'Leary said...

"On the point of population decline. Urbanisation is the most consistent reason for declining fertility. East Asia is the most urbanised region in the world and has the world's lowest fertility. Eastern Europe has the second lowest fertility rate because it didn't produce enough housing during the communist era. Rural parts of France, Australia, US etc have the highest white fertility rates."

That hypothesis seems to have some validity to it--lack of housing units appears to be the cause of declining fertility in Iran, for instance. I'd say the other way of increasing fertility is to keep women out of the (industrial) work force. I have no idea how many women work in Iran, this many years after Khomeini, but in the early days of the Revolution their number must have been pretty slim.

Also, on my blog I have a long post about sex ratios in different countries, and the male:female ratios of the Arab world are truly appalling. I know among the Gulf states this is largely due to immigrant labor, but what is Saudi's excuse? Will these lopsided ratios, over time, have any affect on the growth rates of these Arab countries?

Abdullah Ibrahim Yamaguchi-O'Leary said...

"Dunno, sounds like Vermont, Maine or especially the hill country of New Hampshire to this New Englander. Go to any county fair in those areas and you'll find that a lot of the crowd, particularly when sporting their NASCAR drag, will be indistinguishable in appearance and demeanor from any Mississippi cracker."

Well, Anon, it isn't generally appreciated, but the Maine Yankee and Southern cracker are first cousins. Actual "good-old-boys" and even "rednecks" tend to be pretty aloof in my experience, although the South seems to have developed a distinct culture of cordiality (well, one also exists in northern New England, albeit in different form).

Anonymous said...

Troofie, does she live in Burlington or Brattleboro, the two People's Republics, land of white boy dreads and Bob Marley t-shirts?

Or does she live in the Northern Kingdom with the "icenecks", home of outhouses and the highest rate of alcoholism in New England"?

Compare Austin with a small Texas town 3 hours away and tell me if the people are the same.

Ridiculous...

Brutus

Anonymous said...

"This is not a sufficient explanation. The average Korean has a much larger house, despite higher population density (Korea is even more mountainous than Japan)."

Japanese prefer smaller houses and bigger public space. Koreans prefer bigger houses and smaller public space. Japanese are more self-controlled and anal--even somewhat smaller and more delicate--, so they can handle smaller space. Also, Japanese are more communal minded, so they like shared public space.
Koreans are more hot-tempered and egocentric, so they need more private space. And they are less civic minded so they have less use for shared public space.

Anonymous said...

"The higher the Gini Coefficient, the more equality. On the UN measure of Gini, Japan is the second most equal after Denmark. And what is with this nasty dig about "usual suspects"? Poland's Gini is much higher than a lot of other "usual suspects" that you could mention."

I think this has a lot to do with the clunkeriness of the Japanese economy. In the US producers sell to one layer of wholesalers or directly to retailers. In Japan, there's like 7 layers of wholesalers, which makes things cost more, but keeps more people sharing in the economic activity. It's less efficient in rational economic terms but it has a way of spreading the wealth around. It's like communomics. It's not communism as the private sector exists, but the private sector is geared to employ as many people as possible through many layers of transactions.

Anonymous said...

"But those systems must be scrapped at some point. They are mathematically unsustainable in the long term, and even in the short term. The time to figure out what to do about those so-called "obligations" is now. Hint - they're not actually obligations at all."

Maybe some clever Japanese nationalist can convince all the old people to commit mass suicide in the name of the emperor for the sake of Japan. Japanese seem to go for the sacrifice narrative.

Wandrin said...

"Steve, what is the point of moderating when everything gets waved through"

One effect is to stop people getting too angry. If people are in a real-time flame-war they can escalate and escalate.

Eric said...

The average Korean has a much larger house, despite higher population density (Korea is even more mountainous than Japan).

National density statistics don't tell the whole story. Not only is Japan a very dense country, but within Japan everybody who is anybody or wants to be anybody lives in Tokyo. Fully a quarter of the country lives in the metropolitan Tokyo-Yokohama area.

If everyone in the US moved to NYC our average house size would be pretty small too.

RK said...

Jerry wrote: "The higher the Gini Coefficient, the more equality."

Uh, this is _completely_ wrong. The higher the Gini coefficient, the more unequal the income distribution. A Gini coefficient of 0 means everyone has the same income (i.e., the Lorenz curve tracks the line of equality); a coefficient of 1 means a single person has all the income and everyone else has nothing. (Sometimes the values are multiplied by 100.) Check Wikipedia for a basic primer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient

"On the UN measure of Gini, Japan is the second most equal after Denmark."

Yes, it's the second _lowest_. But the figures from the UN Human Development Report aren't collected using a standard methodology, as the report itself notes on page 198: http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2009_EN_Complete.pdf That's why I used OECD figures, which are comparable. (The CIA's figures tell a similar story.)

You're entirely right, though, about how frustrating it is that inane and obviously wrong comments like yours get posted without an opportunity to challenge them in real time.

Truth said...

"Maybe some clever Japanese nationalist can convince all the old people to commit mass suicide..."

They don't need to commit suicide, they're old.

Brutus, my sister lives in Burlington, but I do make the drive north to Montreal(North America's most underrated city)every time I go.

I know all about Whiskey's people migrating to Vermont 300 years ago, but I have seen absolutely nothing in my trips to Vermont that reminded me of southern redneck culture. The fantasies you have of barefoot families of 12 playing ukelelis in buckskin jackets and running moonshine from the police are just that; although I'm sure there are a few theme days where the accountants who's ancestors interbed with WASPS last century, dress up to play rednencks though.

The "rough" folks in that area of the country are the arcadians in NH and Maine, and although they "underachieve" their culture is much different than what you'd find in the deep south.

Ortu Kan said...

Somebody hates old people. What, you planning on offing yourself with nerve gas before you become a gray-head?

You just don't get it. Nations are men, and their worth stems from the vigorous attainments of youth, which are the sole replenishment of patrimony. Not once before this era, except presumably in the kinds of cataclysms that have made historic the names Virginia Choinquitel and Boa Sr., had they ever been subjected the indignity of the real senescence -- an overtaking by old age, wizening-up without commensurate renewal in descendants.

Better that Japan had never been opened, that the loved Egyptian night had never given way to coal-perfumed dawn of living steel, than this! Save that, better that Operation Downfall had obliterated the polity entirely, that the cliffs had been stained red with the pulp of a million willing leaps, that Emperor Hirohito himself had been reduced to sarira! All these possibilities are long past ripe, so only one path remains. Only a fool would let the word regeneration pass his lips, but O, that she could have been a child forever!

charlotte said...

My brother lives near Burlington and his wife is a native born Vermonter. They adopted some kids whose families were deeply dysfunctional and had even been told by the "State" to have no more kids after some were abused. Oh, if only that worked. They were white, but to judge from the appearance of one of them, had some American Indian ancestry. Also Russian. So there was an alcoholoism whammy. As a result of this family exposure, I am aware of the underbelly of New England underclass, but it is still unreminiscent of the South. The higher the auto accident rate, the more third-worldish the area. Just isn't. For one thing, the auto accident rates in New England--despite all the snow and ice--the lowest in the country.

Jerry said...

--Eric said--
National density statistics don't tell the whole story. Not only is Japan a very dense country, but within Japan everybody who is anybody or wants to be anybody lives in Tokyo. Fully a quarter of the country lives in the metropolitan Tokyo-Yokohama area. //

And fully half of Koreans live in metropolitan Seoul. So that does not explain why the Japanese have smaller houses.

Japan is a rich country with poor citizens; America is poorer, but with much richer citizens. Japan and Asia generally values face, impression, the way the country presents itself to the outside. Hence the airports, the spiffy infrastructure. In the West, we are less concerned with that. LAX, that dump, does have more international connections than any other airport in the world...

Kylie said...

"Steve, what is the point of moderating when everything gets waved through, including inane and obviously wrong comments like this one? All that moderation does is make real-time exchanges between participants impossible."

You answered your own question. This is Steve's low-key, SoCal way of running a tight ship. For the most part, it seems to work.

Silver said...


Moreover, Japanese inequality was way higher than Western Europe's even in the 80's, when Japan wasn't particularly old. (In fact, its Gini coefficient in the mid-80's was higher than most Western European countries' today, despite the fact that only 11.6% of the Japanese population was 65 or older in 1989: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=alwWIHsCf9g4&refer=economy)

Japan is simply a very unequal country (especially given its homogeneity), and has been for a long time.


It takes a special class of idiot to link to statistics that directly refute him. (I wouldn't put it this way if you weren't so emphatic.)

Japan is a "very unequal" country in a way similar to how the last place finisher in the Olympic 100m final is a "very slow" sprinter.

The Gini index over time is indicative of certain social structures in a country. Japan has been in the low 30s for many years. Calling it "very unequal" is insane.

The Anglophone countries (low-mid 30s) are less equal than the world-leading Nordics (and close behind them many ex-communist east euros) but also provide more opportunity for go-getters. Nobody would describe them as "very unequal" either.

Disturbing levels of inequality begin at about 40. By 50, you're talking about Latin American standards, which is true "night and day" inequality.

Anonymous said...

At one time Japan was held up as an an exception to the myth that only Europeans could be technical. Japan's defeat of Russia in 1905, was the first time in the industrial age where a non Euro nation defeated a Euro nation with modern arms.

Russia outside of St. Petersburg wasn't very "Euro" in 1905. The Russians were pretty much Mongol hordes that happened to be white and Christian.

RK said...

Japan is a "very unequal" country in a way similar to how the last place finisher in the Olympic 100m final is a "very slow" sprinter.

And what do you know, people do go around using adjectives about professional athletes that only make sense if the comparison is other professional athletes, rather than high school intramural players. From the very beginning of the comment thread, I've made it clear that I was comparing Japan to other highly developed countries, in the context of which Japan is indeed "very unequal."

So I trust that when I call your comment dumb, you'll realize that I'm comparing you to the other commenters on this blog, and not your average second grader.