As I have repeatedly documented at this website, the story of Japan’s two lost decades is a myth. But if I am right, how come so many ostensibly reliable observers seem to disagree with me? There are several reasons, none of which reflect particularly well on the reliability of the Western press. Here I explain one of them.
Western views on Japanese economics have long been shaped disproportionately by a few Tokyo-based economic analysts working for “prestigious” Wall Street investment banks such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.
Unfortunately these people are rarely disinterested torchbearers of truth. Not to put too fine a point on it, they profit from pumping misinformation into the Western press.
I am still awaiting news from Ed Lincoln on whether he will join me for a debate. In the meantime my offer has not gone unnoticed elsewhere.
I created quite a splash with my offer last month to pay $10,000 to charity if the two leading proponents of the “lost decades” story of Japan will meet me for a debate. Among other things, I was interviewed by Thom Hartmann for his Big Picture show. You can view the interview here.
The American Conservative has also picked up the story and its commentary can be read here.
As I reported earlier, Robby Feldman has turned my offer citing pressure of work. The good news is that Ed Lincoln is still considering his options.
For thirteen years now I have been trying to organize a public debate on what really happened to the Japanese economy. The effort continues. The facts below have convinced at least one top American economic thinker that a debate is overdue.
Last week I announced I will pay $10,000 to charity if either Robby Feldman or Ed Lincoln will meet me for a debate on the Japanese economy. I contend that Japanese officials have been understating Japan’s economic performance for trade diplomacy purposes. Robby and Ed have been the two most influential American promoters of the conventional wisdom of a failing Japan.
Robby has been in touch today to decline. He is too busy.
Now it is all down to Ed, who was the Clinton administration’s chief expert on the Japanese economy. I emailed him a week ago and again yesterday but have not yet heard back.
Let’s sort out once and for all what has really happened to the Japanese economy in the last two decades.
Some months ago I offered to make a $5,000 donation to charity if any of ten influential Western commentators joined me for a public debate on Japan’s “two lost decades.” These commentators have all been leading proponents of the conventional view of Japan as a dysfunctional has-been.
I take a different view – that, while of course there have been some problems (not least the stock market and real estate crashes of 1990-94, which I, almost alone among Tokyo-based observers, predicted), the overall economy has done well. I point to a mountain of contrary evidence which has somehow escaped the notice of the ten commentators. On my analysis, which I have documented in three books, the lost-decades story is a media myth. It has been conjured up by Japan’s bureaucratic elite to win sympathy abroad and thus to forestall Washington’s efforts to open Japanese markets.
Posted in American decline, Japan, Manufacturing, Press, Trade
Tagged $10, 000 donation, bamboozled, boeing, cars, edward lincoln, iris chang, ivan p. hall, nanking, renault, robbie feldman, robert alan feldman, trade barriers
It took an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster to reveal how little the West understands the land of the rising sun. (This article first appeared in the June 2011 edition of the American Conservative.)
TOKYO. The art of reading between the lines is useful anywhere but particularly in Japan, where so little of what matters is ever entrusted to words. Having lived in the country since 1985, I claim to know. So I reflexively looked for a hidden meaning when, in an unprecedented move, television networks broke away from scheduled programs to broadcast a special message from Emperor Akihito on March 16.
Posted in Japan, Manufacturing, Press
Tagged amakudari, chalmers johnson, chokepoints, david warren, emperor akihito, japanese earthquake, john beddington, kuro, william holstein
For two decades the New York Times has reported almost nothing but gloom about Japan’s manufacturing industries. I challenged a recent report in a letter to the editor.
Your report ( “Japan Confronts Its New Normal,” May 12 in the international edition) presents Japan’s manufacturing sector as “battered by cheaper rivals” and suggests that “fears long held …. of a ‘hollowing out’ of Japanese industry” have been intensified. Talk of this sort has been a constant media theme for more than two decades, yet to say the least there is little evidence of any industrial hollowing out in Japan’s long-term trade trend. Japan’s current account surplus totalled $194 billion in 2010 – up more than five-fold on $36 billion for 1990. By comparison and by a remarkable coincidence, the United States also multiplied its current account balance more than five-fold in the period — its current account deficit, that is! The recent Japanese disasters have taken a truly terrible toll on life and limb but Japan’s manufacturing exporters will soon be back stronger than ever.
Eamonn Fingleton, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Meet the heterodox economists challenging globalism. (This article was first published in the April 2011 issue of the American Conservative.)
“I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws, or crafts its advanced treatises, if I can write its economics textbooks.” So said one of the greatest textbook writers of them all, Paul Samuelson.
But even Samuelson didn’t live forever—he died in 2009 aged 94—and now others decide what the rising generation is reading. It is a fair bet that, on one of the most critical issues of modern economic policy, his successors’ books would not meet with the master’s approval. That issue is trade.