Opinion

Ian Bremmer

Why the U.S. is not—and never will be—Japan

By Ian Bremmer
November 18, 2011

By Ian Bremmer
The opinions expressed are his own.

Though I’ve already written about the recent Munk debate in Toronto elsewhere, it’s worth taking some space to expand on my position, and why the U.S. truly is not going to experience a Japan-style lost decade of economic stagnation.

(The debate was on this resolution: Be it resolved North America faces a Japan-style era of economic stagnation. I joined Larry Summers in arguing the Con side against Paul Krugman and David Rosenberg.)

Let’s start with the political realities: Japan experienced 50 years of single-party rule. In the last 22 years, the country has had 17 prime ministers. Recently, the Democratic party there defeated the long-time incumbents, the Liberal Democrats, only to find that they had no idea how to govern the nation. They had no idea how the ministries worked, no relationships with industrialists or financial institutions, no grasp on the levers of power in society, and no strong policy apparatus. If the U.S.’s political situation looks bleak, consider that alternative.

In fact, the political situation in the U.S. may not be pretty or easy to watch, but it’s functioning. The President and Republicans continue to hammer out centrist deals on issues like tax hikes and the debt ceiling, albeit at the last possible minute after much gnashing of teeth. Ignore naysayers who say that budget supercommittee doom is coming; a deal will likely get done. And after the presidential election, things will get even better. That’s because Republicans are almost certain to retain the House and take the Senate. Whether Obama or the likely GOP candidate Romney wins the election, their dealings with a unified legislative branch will become far easier than the current divided government.

Our stable government is why foreign investors continue to flood into the dollar. Paul Krugman may have argued at the Munk debate that a strong dollar is what’s harming the U.S. economy, by making the country less internationally competitive, but I believe the confidence that foreign and sovereign investors continue to show in US debt outweighs that negative. Ask yourself what the better scenario is: a strong dollar that puts us at a slight relative disadvantage, or a pullout of investment dollars in the U.S. altogether? Investors continue to make bets in dollars, and that’s good for us. Yes, gold has risen dramatically in recent years, but “gold” is not a country. When investors need security and stability in currency, only the U.S. can still claim to provide it.

Krugman is also frustrated that the U.S. can’t move on a dime to enact policies needed to slam the country out of its current GDP growth lethargy. Looking around the world, there are only a couple countries of size that I can point to with that ability. One is Russia. Vladimir Putin has positively gutted that Moscow’s fledgling institutions to let his will be done. Their growth rate has been phenomenal, but at what cost? No one can say what will happen to Russia when Putin exits the stage, and that’s not a situation the U.S. will ever be in. Our institutions endure.

Finally, let’s look at the U.S.’s secret weapon when it comes to avoiding a lost decade: its demographics. With healthy immigration and a fertility rate that hovers around replacement levels, our outlook for population and labor force growth beats that of Japan, the EU, and even China. We’re going to have workers that are educated and capable of entrepreneurship in a way that other regions of the world will not. They will continue to follow our lead, but the innovations will come from the U.S. and North America.

Ultimately that’s the most important point of all. Nearly twenty years ago, the rise of the Internet, which was a long-gestating government and university networking project, began to reshape the world. Today, we don’t know what the next Internet-like innovation is going to be. It could be 3-D printing, or laser fusion, or nanotechnology, or something none of us has ever heard of. But we do know that it’s almost certainly going to come from the United States. If that was not the case, 50 percent of Chinese millionaires wouldn’t want to actually live in the U.S. rather than China.

Our biggest economic competitor over the coming decades will be China. But in China, 1.3 billion people are in the process of industrializing. We’ve seen the industrial revolution in England and in the U.S. It’s necessary, but not pretty or simple. Check the air quality in Beijing for proof of that. The decision among the world’s elites as to where they want to locate themselves will always be a relative question. And relative to the rest of the world, the United States continues to stand alone.

This essay is based on a transcribed interview with Bremmer.

Photo: Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (L) talks with China’s President Hu Jintao (2nd R) at the start of their meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Honolulu November 12, 2011. REUTERS/Kyodo

Comments
25 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Wow. I started to response all the points but the post became too long for Reuters. What can I say ? Is the author living on the same planet ? Earth ? The author takes internet 3-D and air quality as the hope for the U.S. Seriously ? Wow.
Look, its very simple: the US has the largest army. That has bought the US time. Now time is up. No hope. Only consequences.

Posted by FBreughel1 | Report as abusive
 

I agree. The future is bright for Chinese millionaires in the US. But what our future holds is something like the reckoning of the EU. Someday we’ll have to pay for all the borrowing to facilitate the growth of consumption that our economy is dependent on.

So for the 1% Bremmer is right. For the rest of us, it’s looking pretty dismal.

This is how both Mr. Bremmer and Mr Krugman can both be right. Bremmer speaks of the 1% and he of the 99.

And that is where the fatal flaw in Bremmer’s optimism is. You see, the 1% got there from employing and then selling to the 99%. But unless the 1% starts hiring back the 99%, eventually the 99% will run dry and the 1% will go onto the next country. But I suppose we’re several decades away from that. So the controversy shall continue unabated.

Posted by LEEDAP | Report as abusive
 

You have no idea what you are talking about other than crunching numbers and writing press release.

Strong dollar is “good” for the US because the alternative is “investor pull out”? Seriously, most of the world function outside wall street and its day to day stock price fluctuation. In the long term if the productivity is right and the cost structure is right, the stock price and investment return will be right.

The problem with the US economy is the huge disconnect between the kind of work force it need and the cost to this work force. We have not been able to produce our own consumer goods not because we are not educated or we do not have enough people, but because the cost of living is too high compare to countries like China. This is a post industrialization problem that every developed nation faces, but we hit it head on because we are in a supposedly free market and the rate of change and impact is of a bigger magnitude.

Innovation saving US economy and solving labor cost problem? The only thing innovation has done so far is to 1) stimulate consumer demand / spending, and 2) reduce labor need (automation) which increase unemployment. It wouldn’t magically drop the 9% unemployment number down to 5%, but it may make the top 5% of the employed more money, and that may trickle down to the 9% unemployed eventually, if you are lucky.

Well, what can I say, a book worm accountant like you wouldn’t understand what it is in the real world anyways.

Posted by KingKongJunior | Report as abusive
 

It’s a rare article that suggests that maybe the US has some positive bases to act upon. It’s much easier for media types to stire the pot with contraversy and further doom and gloom. Thank you Mr. Bremmer for taking the risk of suggesting that perhaps we are not sunk yet.

When I’m out and about, I see people engaged in work, shopping, dining out, going to ball games, driving here and there without hesitation,crowding airports and rail stations-in other words living their lives without undo discomfort. There are few signs on the street that suggest things are as bad as we are led to believe. I’m not saying there are no problems to address, the national debt is pretty serious, but perpetual hand-ringing is worse than doing nothing. At the end of the day, we must build on what IS working and realize that working people will get on with their lives, no matter what the pundits and doom-sayers go on about.

Posted by John-B | Report as abusive
 

No, America will not be another Japan. America has innovations, and a culture of freedom.

But just like a gun that does not kill, innovation in itself is neither good or bad – it is how the user uses it that matters. Also, in a culture of freedom uber alles, more often than not, irresponsibility is mistaken for freedom.

3D printers? What is the total market potential? A couple hundred billion in 10 years? Impressive, but not enough to carry a $14.5 Trillion economy, the largest in the world.

America’s ruling elites (the ones that actually controls, regardless of whether they are actually in government) have for almost two decades “bet the farm” on the next industrial policy. Let the developing nations have the $1 per hour sweat labor. Americans are going to enjoy the high living standards from the affordable goods thus produced, AND enjoy the extremely low interest rates, which until 2008 had meant almost 20 years of continued rise in asset prices in America, subject to regular minor hiccups.

Unfortunately, the policy so far espoused by BOTH of the ruling parties is one that makes the average American WISH that America were Japan. It is the ultimate culmination of irresponsible innovation – much like synthetic narcotics (most innovations of which took place in America – there are actually TV series to celebrate them), except a billion times more potent.

There’s gotta be a book deal in there somewhere.

Title: “DERIVATIVES – OPIUM 2.0″

What is happening today is many times more potent than any military action, and it is self inflicted massive harm that continues.

After the 2008 debacle, both Germany and China banned their banks from derivatives gambling. Their economies are the only ones among the major economies that recovered. In contrast, America did not, and America’s has not recovered. In America today, the derivatives cancer has now grown to over US$700 TRILLION (by June of 2011, according to Bloomberg), which is almost 50 TIMES the American GDP.

On it’s face, derivatives are brilliant. As a post industrial move, derivatives are not constrained by natural resources, not limited by labor, and restricted only by the salesmen’s ability to sell. Upside growth looks unlimited, as “derivatives trading” is based solely on the “ingenuity” of the newfangled breed of financial engineers. The number of “contracts” is not constrained by anything in the real world.

Like opium, it costs very little to “manufacture”, and the profits are humongous. Like Opium, it is hugely destructive. In the 1800s, Anglo Americans forced the drug on China, and in one generation or two, caused China’s economy to drop from the world’s No. 1 or 2, to No. 178. Just like opium, this time around this new “drug” is also going to be pushed as part of “free trade”, in demanding that all nations that want to do business must open their banking industry and relevant markets to the trade.

The difference this time is that it is done backwards. Opium trade is supposed to plague foreigners, and to be banned domestically. But the swashbuckling “traders” this time around, are so greedy they have no qualms about profiting from the pain of their own brothers and even grandmothers, and so they did. The derivatives drug is so potent, it took down the Anglo American societies and economies before they could kill the China economy.

It is also quite clear that the cancer is unstoppable. BOTH parties in Congress support the policy. This month there is serious talk of American mutual funds adopting derivatives on a large scale, and the CPSC is setting rules to make trading derivatives more accessible. The derivatives casino is going to be $1.5 QUADRILLION in no time – another American contribution to the human race.

Posted by zhubajie | Report as abusive
 

No, America will not be another Japan. America has innovations, and a culture of freedom.

But just like a gun that does not kill, innovation in itself is neither good nor bad – it is how the user uses it that matters. Also, in a culture of freedom uber alles, more often than not, irresponsibility is mistaken for freedom.

3D printers? What is the total market potential? A couple hundred billion in 10 years? Impressive, but not enough to carry a $14.5 Trillion economy, the largest in the world.

America’s ruling elites (the ones that actually control, regardless of whether they are actually in government) have for almost two decades “bet the farm” on the next industrial policy. Let the developing nations have the $1 per hour sweat labor. Americans are going to enjoy the high living standards from the affordable goods thus produced, AND enjoy the extremely low interest rates, which until 2008 had meant almost 20 years of continued rise in asset prices in America, subject to regular minor hiccups.

Unfortunately, the policy so far espoused by BOTH of the ruling parties is one that makes the average American WISH that America were Japan. It is the ultimate culmination of irresponsible innovation – much like synthetic narcotics (most innovations of which took place in America – there are actually TV series to celebrate them), except a billion times more potent.

There’s gotta be a book deal in there somewhere.

Title: “DERIVATIVES – OPIUM 2.0″

What is happening today is many times more potent than any military action, and it is self inflicted massive harm that continues.

After the 2008 debacle, both Germany and China banned their banks from derivatives gambling. Their economies are the only ones among the major economies that recovered. In contrast, America did not, and America’s has not recovered. In America today, the derivatives cancer has now grown to over US$700 TRILLION (by June of 2011, according to Bloomberg), which is almost 50 TIMES the American GDP.

Posted by zhubajie | Report as abusive
 

Some further observations in response to the article.

1. Irresponsibility is not freedom.

2. If more mouths to feed is the solution for higher growth, Africa’d be the richest continent on Earth?

3. In operational terms, it is not the system, but the quality of the people that matters. The system determines how the leaders are chosen. Looking at the system of choosing leaders objectively, as an alien first arriving on Earth:

Every few years, perfectly coiffed politicians get into open TV contests to see who can best carry soundbites, and who can best tell lies (campaign promises being such a well recognized oxymoron, NOBODY expects actual delivery of these promises). Based SOLELY on such performance and pageantry, society decides on who gets to assume power and lead.

Why you would expect results that are different, surely puzzles.

Posted by zhubajie | Report as abusive
 

“Japan experienced 50 years of single-party rule”

I suggest we have one-party rule of an oligarchy — the 0.01% of which Brenner is part. The differences between the demopublicans and republicrats is measures in nanoseconds in how fast they hit their knees when the banksters come for their favors.

“Our institutions endure.”

Yes they surely do — like the military-industrial and national security complex that sucks 10% of GDP into a non-productive black hole. When China stops lending money to US which we are now using to encircle them, that game is over.

“U.S.’s secret weapon when it comes to avoiding a lost decade: its demographics”

Geez, read Felix Salmon, would you? With 22% of children in the US growing up in poverty and public education focusing on taking of standardized tests and both trending worse, what do you think is going to happen here?

I thought Felix’s question of which choice one would make, being born today from a randomly selected mother in New York State or Ontario say it all.

Bremmer, get out of your Ivory Tower and slog around in the real world some time. The economy is a gutted shell and minimum wage work at WalMart or McD isn’t going to cut it in the coming decades. We can’t sell hamburgers and financial products to one another and have a functioning economy.

Your kool-aid makes you hallucinate economic nonsense, obviously!

Posted by upstater | Report as abusive
 

I fought this battle back during the Japan Management craze of the late ’80′s. Japan is not nor has it ever been a model that we want to, or will emulate. Japan has never really been a very healthy culture, it has many, many subtle tensions which make the wealth disparity of this country look trivial. It has profound social problems, and though many there would like to see change, they see no path to accomplishing it. Among the results is a rising problem of alcoholism along with other symptoms. Know a mid-level Japanese worker, and you will meet his alcoholic wife. They don’t tell you about that when they talk about Japan. It’s not just about interest rates.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive
 

I know little of Japan but lots about Washington. Our rulers and their big-money backers are more like the old Soviet nomenklatura than they are like any Japanese rulers.
Stupid, doctrinaire, cruel and corrupt are all words which come to mind in discussing the denizens of Congress, the Pentagon, the White House and their financiers on K Street.

Japan would have had to have been pretty bad indeed to have misleadership of this caliber.

Posted by ChrisHerz | Report as abusive
 

japan has alway been a country which has no innovation ability but good at imitating, so they will never become a leader in international stage. in ancient times ,they learn everyting from is neighbor—china, during the 19th century, they turned to the west and become crazy about the idea of becoming a western country .
they don’t have their own matured culture and
their views is narrow, so it’s national psychology is extreme and is easy to be trapped into a state of chaos .
america is a melting pot consisting of a lot ethnics and nationalities , thus it is more dynamic and opening than any other country in the world .
compared with chicks , their old people will become a problem due to the population-restrained policy for about 30 years. so the usa will have an advantage over china in the near future in about 20 years.

Posted by conderer | Report as abusive
 

Why the U.S. is not—and never will be—Japan

(1) Japan is located on a group of islands off the coast of East Asia, while the U.S. is located in North America; furthermore, the U.S. is physically much larger in area and would not fit into the territory occupied by Japan.

(2) Japan has approximately 100 million people, while the U.S. has approximately 300 million people. You can’t just assume away 200 million people.

(3) Most people in Japan speak fluent Japanese, while most people in the U.S. do not speak any Japanese at all.

(4) Shall I continue?

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive
 

Of course Americans want to compare themselves with Japan. Japan has been an economic and industrial superstar for a century. They are down now, but still very formidable. But still very, very homogeneous. The USA most certainly is not.

First, let’s establish that when we are speaking of America we are speaking of the entire country, not the entire country weighted for income. Or wealth. Or education. Or anything else. Generally these discussions ignore both the existence and the interests of the bottom 90% of the country by income. We are treated as livestock, which in general we are.

Second, although from the lofty heights of Mt. Olympus (try New York) groundlings are all the same, as interchangeable as ten penny nails, we most certainly are not. Change us and we will change you, with or without your consent.

America is much closer to the Austro-Hungarian Empire than Japan. We are an increasingly differentiated stew of races and ethnicities, most of which are not proportionately represented in our ruling elite. And, like the Balkans, we are prone to conflict no matter what the desires of our ruling class. And we are more likely to split apart than to come together.

A number of ethnic groups, mostly European in descent, have such low birth rates and such low marriage rates that they will almost certainly be inconsequential by mid-century. The others are alienated from the pretend representative Government we have and are unlikely to continue tolerating it.

In Japan, they may not be having enough children but they are not at each others’ throats. Here, the land will endure, but probably not the people.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive
 

This article does not exactly ring true. BUT it is true that the United States will never embrace certain aspects of Japanese culture, and vice-versa. America is still the octopus, taking in everything from eight different directions at the same time. Indeed, it is the singularity of mind (and politics), the very narrow tunnel-vision, that has become the battle-cry of businessmen and politicians alike, that is constricting and suffocating what was once the “Greatest” Country in the world.

Those ‘Purtians’ were thrown out of every country they lived in before sailing to the New World, because they were so restrictive and demanding of others to follow their beliefs, that no-one in Europe could put up with them. They have continued to prey on the conscience of the American public steadfastly throughout the centuries and now stand in political arenas and prop themselves up as the Moral Majority. Fortunately most of us just politely ignore their ranting, but, unfortunately, they have been able to influence with their money and influence, and their latest re-incarnation as “conservatives”.

Posted by nieldevi | Report as abusive
 

Japan’s population stopped growing… so its economy can only increase fast by exports or by some credit bubble like the housing bubble years ago…
With South Korea and China industry growing, there is no room for Japan to grow with exports…(actually it posted a negative trade balance)
Even japanese corporations already became global long ago and wont promote any big expansion… the tendency is to cut jobs instead…
The problem with de Democratic party (which is the equivalent to the US Republican Party) is that it found a gov system fully occupied by members of the Liberal Democratic party for a generation and one cant just dismiss everyone (which would be the solution for many problems). So it is like if Obama was the only Democrat in the US gov…
But it is not a big problem, because like US, Japan is ruled by corporations, and they will lobby their way no matter who is in “power”…
The problem for Japan is that it try to emulate US and the west in many things (in special the bad things disguised under the japanese culture and tradition appearance) and the biggest problem is that it try to emulate the solutions too…
The biggest problem is gov debt… which will be around 13.5 tri by march (more than 200% GDP)… and a huge deficit…
The talks about reforms stagnated like in US and then stopped using as excuse the quake-tsunami…
Japan has not a military black hole, but has a welfare system black hole bigger than any one in europe (well, the people enjoy health and pensions benefits at least), that is why the liberal democratic party ruled for so long…
Since japanese debt is owned by japanese people (96%), they still have some time… meanwhile for europe and US to stop growing is not an option…
The problem is adjust the finances for a “fix income”… the challenge is to do that with the laziest overburden burocratic system in the world…

Posted by VonHell | Report as abusive
 

How ridiculous Japan had huge cash reserves and could afford to have a lost decade. The US has been losing money for many years and simply refuses to change its profligate ways.
The rest of the qualities the author ascribes to the US also fit Mexico.

Posted by Sinbad1 | Report as abusive
 

Actually for those of us that can do simple math we WILL be Japan in about 9 years… with debt to GDP of 192% and incapable of anything but the inevitable downward spiral ala Greece and Italy…

Posted by sculpin73 | Report as abusive
 

Great article on how Japan’s troubles are significantly overstated by people such as Mr. Bremmer:

http://www.economist.com/node/21538745

Posted by 1985johnconnor | Report as abusive
 

I like to think of myself as a optimist, so I agree with the author that the United States continues to hold the best combination in terms of a stable government, a strong consumer-oriented population, and a leading exporter of services. I am a fan of Asia but no country there can bring the same combination to the table. The Four Asian Tigers are too small to become world powers and fledging China’s aged social policies and rapid urge to grow has yielded a dangerous mixture that equates to a volatile government.

Also, I think many commenters forget that the author is writing up to his intended audience and assumes you have a healthy amount of background information to along with his points. For instance, when he says “demographics” the author isn’t just pointing at population growth, but also suggesting that the environment allows for better overall growth in education and other qualities that make U.S. a haven for innovators. At the present, the United States still holds the largest number of top academic institutions world-wide. The United States is also home to technology and research hubs that individually outshines the total capacity of many countries.

In many cases, the only thing holding us back is our distribution of tax dollars. Sure, illegal immigrants cost us money, but they are a necessary source of labor. Sure, foreign aid is pricy, but it is critical to ensure we maintain ties with countries harboring a wealth of natural resources. What remains is the question on whether our military spending is necessary. It sure doesn’t seem like we need it, but you never know what you will need tomorrow.

Yes, we have problems, but before you say the grass is green on the other side, be sure to take a look at the house and the people that live in it.

Posted by YuseL | Report as abusive
 

I don’t know where this Ian Bremmer went to school but he needs to get his facts straightened out before he goes around posting stupidity on the internet. Talk about airing your dirty laundry for all to see!

Here are the two biggest and most important reasons that the United States will never become another Japan. Note that this Ian Bremmer character failed to mention both of them, and they are really doozies, too! Look:

1) First of all, there already is a country named “Japan”. YOU CAN’T HAVE TWO COUNTRIES WITH THE SAME NAME, DUH! When the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedadonia tried to call itself “Macedonia” it caused a huge diplomatic row, and that name wasn’t even being used by a whole country, just by a tiny corner of a small country! Learn your history, Ian Bremmer! And then there is Mainland China and Taiwan; let’s not even go there!!!!

2) Second of all, this country is not inhabited by mostly Japanese people. If you carefully check the statistics issued by the Japanese government, most of the people in Japan are Japanese, which is why they call it Japan in the first place! For the US to become another Japan, the vast majority of non-Japanese Americans would have to move! And then a bunch more Japanese would have to move in before more Mexicans move in to fill in the empty spots! This would tax the global transportation system and wreak havoc in the mortgage industry!

Really, Ian Bremmer, you need to do more research before you publish articles like this. It sounds like crazy talk!

XOXO,
Vraag

Posted by VraagMeister | Report as abusive
 

The author missed the pact that the USA already wasted a decade.

Posted by mwzl | Report as abusive
 

If you grow a pumpkin inside a mason jar it will grow until it reaches the glass and assumes the shape of the jar. Is “growth” the only measure of success? Because even the American Empire will outgrow it’s jar some day.

Posted by nieldevi | Report as abusive
 

LOL this guy writes a paper like he just discovered something the whole world never knew already. Congratulations guy for showing us the OBVIOUS. Good grief your paper reads like a crappy graduate thesis proposal. Reuters you really hit the bottom of the barrel on this one… You want to know whats wrong with the world guy? We keep wasting our money on columns and jobs like this that add nothing to the productivity of this world.

Posted by Cranberries | Report as abusive
 

I haven’t traveled as much as some but probably more than most. Anyone who thinks any country is about to replace the USA needs to have their head examined. The focus on USA has been all negative yet people forget a massive population is thriving in a civil society that has actual laws and rules that are rarely observed around the world. China can best be described as my Chinese friend described it after returning back from a visit in China. “China is chaos”. I have smelled an overwhelming stench of bowel standing right next to the biggest and most expensive home in the world (India – where some rich fool built a completely absurd building to live in while a short wind away is open sewers where human feces rot in hot sun). They are 20 years away from simply getting toilets for everyone. Europe is Europe…I mean it never has its act together and has literally never taken the lead on anything (including the invasion of their homelands during WW2). Brazil is 40-50 years away from having the same poverty stats as USA. There is no place like USA. People have drunk from the goofy cup and have started labeling USA a stupid/backward place/arrogant. They take one mistake, Iraq War, and suddenly USA is the worst thing to happen to the world. Grow up. It’s jaw dropping what that nation has brought to the earth the past 200 years. Mind boggling. Anyone who wants to give up on America and go with China, Russia, Brazil, India…well you should just move to one of those places and see how that goes for you. America is still a good place. It still remains a place where world brilliance can come together and freely exchange ideas which then can be put out for the world benefit from. No country on this planet can compare with their protection of intellectual property and copyright laws. No country can compare with their civil rights for each individual. Bush was a bad patch. It was a terrible chapter for America. But they’ve already put in it in their rear view mirror. They continue to be a good country for this world.

Posted by hucklefinny | Report as abusive
 

This is a wonderful topic for debate and I’m really glad to see it. I wish we had a whole lot more debates about serious topics.

There is, of course, one major reason why America will not go the route of Japan, and that is that it is not Japanese. Japanese society can weather the kind of situation it’s in much better than the United States ever could. Just to give you an example, consider the response of the Japanese to the recent tsunami and imagine if exactly the same thing had happened in Los Angeles or San Diego.

In Japan there was no rioting, no looting, rescue and relief work began immediately and everybody who could help did so. There were even Japanese who volunteered to work in the nuclear plants, searching for people and shutting down systems, knowing it could have lethal health effects.

Japanese citizens have an aversion to banks and many of them kept their savings in safes at home. After the tsunami a large number of these safes were found and a major project has been underway to reunite the safes with their owners. Not only that, but wads of money have been found and a many of these have been turned into authorities by people who could have easily kept it for themselves.

If the same thing had occurred in Southern California the riots and looting would have began immediately and in all likelihood troops would have been called in within hours. Shops would have been emptied of goods, a thriving black market would have arisen in stolen merchandise and individuals and families would have found their belongings taken. There would have been large numbers of arrests, buildings set on fire and people killed by looters. This would have continued for days, perhaps weeks. Don’t even think about money being turned in. Lawyers would have emerged from the woodwork and a mass whine would have arisen from anyone injured by anything anywhere, including by police who tried to stop them from rioting and looting.

Japanese have a sense of solidarity that America or any multicultural country like it can never have. This has disadvantages in other contexts, but when it comes to survival and making do in down times, I think Japan can do it where many other nations would find the going very difficult. Japan’s major challenge in the future will be keep their business and financial class loyal to their country but that has been a disease that has affected everyone, especially here in the United States. Japan may resist it better.

Posted by lairdwilcox | Report as abusive
 

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