It is disappointing, to put it mildly, that in the day and age we live in, some people still readily equate racial homogeneity with a societal harmony. If anything, this is yet another sign that our knowledge of relatively recent history is fading and we badly need a refresher.
We badly need to get back to the harmony we saw during the Civil Rights movement. There are seeds of it in Moral Mondays. We need to carefully plant and lovingly tend to these seeds county by county, state by state, until our nation is united in ending the growing divisions of our day.
TOKYO — For almost two decades, Japan has been held up as a cautionary tale, an object lesson on how not to run an advanced economy. After all, the island nation is the rising superpower that stumbled. One day, it seemed, it was on the road to high-tech domination of the world economy; the next it was suffering from seemingly endless stagnation and deflation. And Western economists were scathing in their criticisms of Japanese policy.
Now, I’m not saying that our economic analysis was wrong. The paper I published in 1998 about Japan’s “liquidity trap,” or the paper Mr. Bernanke published in 2000 urging Japanese policy makers to show “Rooseveltian resolve” in confronting their problems, have aged fairly well. In fact, in some ways they look more relevant than ever now that much of the West has fallen into a prolonged slump very similar to Japan’s experience.
The point, however, is that the West has, in fact, fallen into a slump similar to Japan’s — but worse. And that wasn’t supposed to happen. In the 1990s, we assumed that if the United States or Western Europe found themselves facing anything like Japan’s problems, we would respond much more effectively than the Japanese had. But we didn’t, even though we had Japan’s experience to guide us. On the contrary, Western policies since 2008 have been so inadequate if not actively counterproductive that Japan’s failings seem minor in comparison. And Western workers have experienced a level of suffering that Japan has managed to avoid.
What policy failures am I talking about? Start with government spending. Everyone knows that in the early 1990s Japan tried to boost its economy with a surge in public investment; it’s less well-known that public investment fell rapidly after 1996 even as the government raised taxes, undermining progress toward recovery. This was a big mistake, but it pales by comparison with Europe’s hugely destructive austerity policies, or the collapse in infrastructure spending in the United States after 2010. Japanese fiscal policy didn’t do enough to help growth; Western fiscal policy actively destroyed growth.
My comment on this op-ed follows immediately below:
“As for why the West has done even worse than Japan, I suspect that it’s about the deep divisions within our societies.”
Bingo! The explanation for this need not be a wonkish economic one but, rather, one that appeals to each and every one of us as members of the human race.
One thing the Japanese have always had right is the sense of community that pervades their culture. You see it in their manners. You see it in the way people are expected to relate to each other in just about every walk of life.
With the Great Recession, what has happened in the US and elsewhere is that instead of coming together to get out of troubled times, large portions of our societies have gone the other way, shedding any semblance of empathy and concern. Harshness has replaced common decency and our society now reflects that.
For as long as our economies work the way they do, we will all fare well when we all have jobs that pay a fair wage, a government that ensures industries are regulated and our economy is synchronized to the nation’s needs.
A tiny group of Americans now have out-sized influence on our government and the welfare and well-being of our nation. The election next week may well be the last or next to last time Americans really have a say in politics. Not voting means abdicating our power to the one percent. Not voting means silencing millions of Americans for decades to come.
Other than our livelihoods, this election will decide whether we get to keep our freedom. Vote!
David Bromwich’ excellent piece on American exceptionalism was reprinted in The Nation last week. It provides excellent food for thought about who we are and where we want to be just before we head out to vote:
“The origins of the phrase “American exceptionalism” are not especially obscure. The French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville, observing this country in the 1830s, said that Americans seemed exceptional in valuing practical attainments almost to the exclusion of the arts and sciences. The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, on hearing a report by the American Communist Party that workers in the United States in 1929 were not ready for revolution, denounced “the heresy of American exceptionalism.” In 1996, the political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset took those hints from Tocqueville and Stalin and added some of his own to produce his book American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. The virtues of American society, for Lipset — our individualism, hostility to state action, and propensity for ad hoc problem-solving — themselves stood in the way of a lasting and prudent consensus in the conduct of American politics.”
I agree, having also lived in Japan. But it’s easier to have a harmonious society when everyone is the same. That is one reason Japan is so against immigration. In the US, many people do not want their tax dollars supporting “those people,” so it’s easy to exploit the fear of “big government” supporting the undeserving.
Thanks for the link, Rima. Great column!
A society can thrive without it being at the expense of people it deems as lesser. A society, ours, can go the rest of the way and shed manufactured fears of “other.” While we may look a bit different, we’re really all the same.
We can do this.
Fukushima – brought to you by caste of untouchable, larger than life manager and their corrupt inspectors.
Whale killing in the name of science – need no words.
Triads – they make even the ’Ndrangheta looks like boyscout.
The fall of olympus corporation – so corrupt that even western managers quitted the management early (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Woodford_%28executive%29).
Japan has one of the highest percentage of young people living with their parents (85% ,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasite_single ).
There are a lot of reasons why Japan should be not role model for a society.
No one society is perfect. All have some good things about them. Ours is in great disrepair at the moment, and it isn’t getting much better.
The Great Recession has had big negative impacts as all recessions do, but the long-term implications on social aspects are beginning to show. I was talking to a homeless advocate recently and he remarked that he’s been seeing an uptick in young homeless people. I’ve been noticing it too, and in places I’d never seen them before around here, and barely out of their teens. Our young are living at home more now, and when they don’t, they crowd into apartments together, not in pairs, but in large numbers. I wrote about that on my blog.
I’ll be writing more… It’s very concerning, especially when we talk about secular stagnation and lost generations. How are the older people faring? Those who lost their jobs at the start of the recession? No one talks about them…
The Japanese have a strong sense of community because they’re essentially a racially homogeneous society. Much unlike the USA, where, supposedly, “diversity” is our strength.
Diversity is a strength. This need for sameness some feel is a pathology that America would do well to cure itself of.
Vive la difference!
Curated from www.nytimes.com