More reactions to my debate initiative

My call for a debate on Japan’s “lost decades” story continues to make  waves and many well-placed observers have written in support. I have obtained permission to pass on the comments below.

From an investment banker in the United States:

“I greatly enjoyed your piece in the Atlantic on the myth of the Japanese “Lost Decades”. The same issue has flummoxed me for quite some time. The data just don’t add up. The idea that they have been managing the numbers low makes a great deal of sense.”

From a former Tokyo-based think tank executive who has now returned to his home country:

“I am an economist who has worked on Asian issues for many years. I want to let you know that I think you are quite right. The amount of pessimistic material, and downright dismissal of the Japanese economy, is quite remarkable. Global economists need to be much more sensible about the situation in Japan.

“Keep singing your song. It is a very sensible one….. Japan works (in an overall sense) in an excellent way. There are problems, of course, and we can all point to them — the ageing issue, the fact that sooner or later the budget problems and associated debt need to be tackled, the desirability of somewhat more market-oriented policies in some sectors — and so on. But the central point is that, at the end of the day, lots of elements of Japanese society work very well.”

From a European diplomat who has served in Japan:

“I am really sympathetic to your struggle, and also, I am looking forward to the outcome of the debate (assuming anyone dares to challenge you).

“Your article points out, although indirectly, my main problem with many economists of today: they are trapped in a prison of numbers and forget to use simple logic. Or even worse, they select numbers that corroborate their position and disregard the rest.”

From a California-based political author and columnist on the global economy:

“I think this investigation about Japan is important, because it stems from how we measure economic success. And in my view, those measuring tools are both woefully inadequate and out of date, and also ideologically driven. They also affect how Americans, for example, see Germany, and Europe in general – allegedly low growth sclerotic economies that just so happen to take better care of their people than Americans do. So these measuring sticks are also about how Americans see themselves, and their relative place in the global economy. Americans unfortunately have a rather distorted view, precisely because we are paying attention to the wrong measuring sticks.What is the goal of an economy, anyway? That’s the real question here, and so your writings and investigations about Japan can play an extremely important role in rebutting some of the nonsense that is out there. Including by people like Paul Krugman, who is brilliant in so many ways, yet has some real blind spots.”

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