Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Economy (again)

David Pilling in the FT (registration may be required) reports that Japanese are looking back nostalgically to the Golden (and pre-industrial) Age before the arrival of Commodore Perry's squadron in 1852.

On a visit to Tokyo this week, on more than one occasion when I asked how Japan should tackle the economic crisis, my interlocutor turned with ninja-like alacrity to the topic of pre-Meiji Japan. The period before American warships forced the country open in the mid-19th century was regularly invoked as a prelapsarian idyll, a time when Japan did not have to deal with the grubby business of earning its crust in the world.

Eisuke Sakakibara, the former vice-finance minister indelibly branded Mr Yen, describes a country that was peaceful, orderly, unspoilt and friendly. “That was what pre-Meiji Japan was like. We should go back to that,” he says.

His invocation of a more innocent, pre-industrial age could easily be dismissed as idle chatter were it not for the fact that it keeps coming up. Asked about economic policy, one shadow cabinet minister finds himself pondering Edo Japan’s almost non-existent imports. (That is hardly surprising given Japan’s 200-year virtual ban on entering or leaving the country.) Japan started exporting, the politician says, only because it needed to build a military to defend itself. That decision has led inexorably to today’s over-dependence on supplying manufactured products to customers overseas.

Japan is a fascinating place - a country with Western-style demographic collapse which has set its face against mass immigration as a means of replacing those missing Japanese babies. In England the decision has been to replace missing English babies with babies of Third World ancestry, while skipping out on the integration process which (IMHO) alone would prevent problems on what's euphemistically called 'social cohesion'. The current result being that immigration is reported as the #1 issue for voters of all parties.

How it will play out over there (and over here) remains to be seen, but I'm pretty sure the Japanese armed forces will neither be ordering extra tear gas nor considering the practicalities of shooting their own citizens should the forecast 'summer of rage' materialise.

It's true that one of the characteristics of this crisis is that the 'good guys' lose, both internationally and personally. The exporting nations - the Far East, Germany - are hardest hit by the drop in demand, just as all over the world individual savers are being punished for the sins of individual and corporate borrowers.

And, as I've blogged before, NuLab is about to hit savers and pensioners even harder, by printing money to inflate away the debt overhang (citing the IMHO non-existent threat of deflation)- great for the indebted, disaster for those on fixed incomes. There may be an interval before inflation kicks in, and if shares fall far enough fast enough there might be a small window of opportunity for those with savings to get back into equities when the FT100 is below 3000. But for those surviving on a pension alone the future looks bleak.

What did Neil Kinnock say ? "I warn you not to grow old ..."


Anonymous said...

'considering the practicalities of shooting their own citizens'
That dilemma shouldn't arise with the 6000 odd 'green card' soldiers now serving who have been imported by NuLab from commonwealth countries.However if some of these troops are deployed in Peckham I suppose it is quite possible that,say,a Ghanaian recruit could end up shooting a fellow countryman.
Perhaps our elite will then trumpet this as a true victory for globalisation ?

Anonymous said...

Yep, as usual the feckless win and the careful lose. What this means is that hardly anyone (with any sense anyway) will bother to save after this crisis is over. Here's what happens if you save:

1) You get f*ck all interest from the banks
2) Inflation erodes it at a rapid rate
3) If you lose your job you have to live on those savings before you can claim benefits
4) If the bank goes tits up you lose them, regardless of the bollocks the government claims about protecting deposits.

The next bubble and crash will be even worse than this one, because everyone will have seen bad behaviour rewarded this time and will draw their own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

1) Apparently the Dutch and Portugese of the Age of Exploration were agreed on one thing: the most impressive people that they came across in their travels were the Japanese.
2) Were the Japanese living on the edge of starvation when Perry turned up? The Maori were in NZ - it can be hard living on islands where your population has grown to fill, and overfill, the biological niche.

Anonymous said...

About the post below: "Those Martin Kelly dubs the Bought Priesthood" - aka The Poverty Pimps.

Anonymous said...

I don't thing "The exporting nations - the Far East, Germany"
I innocent in this, they are the ones buying US and UK debt enabling us to buy buy buy.

They have profited out of the West spending binge as much as anyone. Now its coming to an end ofcourse they will need to reorganise.

I personally don't accept the levels of British debt, No parliament has the right to bind its successor, therefore when my generation takes over in about 20 years, legally we could quite rightly refuse to pay.
Let all those idiots who voted for Tony and Gordon pay their debts.

Anonymous said...

the governer of the bank of England was just on skynews saying that putting more money into the system would increase asset prices making people feel wealthier and therefore spend more.

There you have it, they are trying to reinflate the house price bubble.
Ofcourse I think they will fail, there is not enough money.

These people are nuts, I accept spending if a sign of genuine economic activity is a good thing, but spending purely for the sake of spending, how can that generate wealth?

paul ilc said...


just as all over the world individual savers are being punished for the sins of individual and corporate borrowers.

Er...they may be in the future, but not yet. With the RPI at 0.1% and mild deflation already here, savers are seeing a real return of about 2.2%, which is more than they were getting in 2006, as I recall.

Anonymous said...

Laban, I like your blog, but I wonder if you will ever move beyond your genteel Peter-Hitchens-esque conservatism and get to grips on what the real deal is with mass immigration. Even if you don’t, there are some who will still lable yours a ‘hate site’.

Mass immigration has not been imposed upon Britain because of the natives’ low birth rates. It has been imposed upon us for the same reason it is being imposed upon all the native people of Europe: it is a means of diluting national identity, and ultimately rendering the nation state obsolete and paving the way for global governance.

Don’t be fooled into arguing for the integration of Third Worlders into “our culture” in the belief that this is the proper conservative response. That will only hasten Britain’s racial transformation and the demise of the indigenous people. Conservatives should understand this: it makes no sense to speak of preserving ‘our culture and way of life’ if we as a people are no more.

Homophobic Horse said...

"Conservatives should understand this: it makes no sense to speak of preserving ‘our culture and way of life’ if we as a people are no more."

Good point on "culture" and shit. You may as well ask "New Englanders - Potential Cherokee?"

Laban said...

Paul - if the RPI is saying 0.1%, the RPI is being fiddled - just like the CPI was. I just don't trust our government any more.

Unknown said...

Dearieme, "Were the Japanese living on the edge of starvation when Perry turned up?"

Not exactly. But you can see in the eclectic nature of their diet today that protein was difficult to come by until relatively recently.

Certainly impressive though. I recommend reading David Landes' book "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations" which also discusses Japan as part of his fascinating and far-ranging treatise. Highly recommended.

paul ilc said...


Paul - if the RPI is saying 0.1%, the RPI is being fiddled - just like the CPI was. I just don't trust our government any more.

I don't trust any government. But we have to make our judgements about our finances on the information available, and the RPI and CPI figures are unfortunately the best information available to us. To dismiss (as opposed to query) the RPI figures just because they don't accord with your experience or prejudices is irrational. You would, rightly, castigate some trendy liberal, secure in a rural village or leafy suburb, who dismissed the immigration figures on similar grounds.

I am sceptical that savers are losing money - at present! But I share your concerns about the possiblity of very high inflation resulting from QE.