Japan – a slow growth special case?

Years ago I visited Tokyo near the top of boom at the end of the 1980s. One of my Japanese hosts proudly showed me the sweep of the grounds of the Imperial Palace. He stressed the royal and enduring importance of the site, but then let slip the famous jibe at the time, that the land of the Palace and its grounds was worth more than the state of California.

When I got back to the UK Embassy I told them of the remark, and quipped that if that was true it was time to sell the Emperor’s Palace site and to buy California. It would have been the investment switch of the century had it been possible. California was poised to embark on the digital and internet revolution. Tokyo property values were about to plunge from their crazy heights, as the extreme Japanese bubble burst.

In the 23 years since the Japanese economy has struggled to grow. The Tokyo Stock Exchange is still 70% below its peak. Property prices are still well down on bubble levels. Japanese banks still struggle to finance a strong recovery. Property which in the dearest areas reached $20,000 a square foot, fell by as much as 90%.

It’s not all bad news. The Japanese population is ageing and declining. Adjust the National Income and output for this, and the per head performance is of a little progress over the last two decades. Japan started rich at the end of the 1980s, and is still a wealthy society by world standards, ranked now at 25th by the IMF for per capita income. Japan still has a range of successful manufacturing companies making cars, electrical products and other consumer items. For most of the past 23 years Japan has run a balance of payments surplus based on good exports. The Japanese save a lot, so they have been largely able to finance their own government’s large deficits. There has been no inflation.

Japan is very unlike the USA or the UK in three important respects. There is no large inward migration, adding to the workforce. There is little propensity for people to borrow to spend beyond their means. The society is much more self sufficient and inward looking culturally and financially.
Next week  we will  look at some of the similarities with the west- the money printing and high levels of state borrowing.

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65 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Thank you for looking at Japan. It is oddly absent from most other political commentators. Perhaps it has a lot to tell us!

    • outsider
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps, Mike, but I am not sure. Japan has a relatively low (if ill-structured) tax burden, high savings, very little immigration apart from contract workers, still-low unemployment, modest defence commitments, national pride, little low-level crime, a much more equal income distribution (at the cost of/thanks to high prices for services) and a population so cohesive that the vast majority regard themselves as middle class, a term of abuse here.

      Many of us long to have even some of these in the UK. But they clearly do not guarantee economic advance and the country has fallen back into insular stagnation, as you noted in an earlier comment.

      Maybe you are right, however, that we should learn that GDP growth is not an end in itself. The living standards of ordinary people (and a better match between expectations and reality) are far more important.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    They could do with some immigration, by some sensible, hard working but fertile people and in the long game some more babies all round.

    I see the Tobin (BBC lovies tax) tax in France is proving to be a disaster, just as one would have predicted. How is the Heart and Sole ratter, going to deal with this threat to London? In it Ambrose Evans also mentions the “Spot gas prices are already four times higher than in the US. Energy prices as a whole are three times higher. You might as well shut down the European chemical, steel and glass industries.”

    Why on earth is the EU and UK so badly governed by people clearly determined to injure and maim it?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9985673/Tobin-Tax-is-madness-for-Europe-and-economic-war-against-Britain.html

    • uanime5
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Looks like the City has already started its protest against the Tobin tax in the vain hope that it will be exempted.

      The tobin tax in France isn’t a disaster because it’s raising money. The fact that it isn’t raising as much as predicted doesn’t change the fact that it is raising money.

      Finally as long as the chemical, steel, and glass industries will have to pay tariffs if they import their products from the USA they will remain in the EU.

      • Mark
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        That the tax is raising some money is inevitable. The question is whether that will prove worthwhile, in view of the collateral damage to the wider economy. When Sweden tried it, they found the damage was far worse than could be compensated by the tax revenue (which was also far below projections), and so they abandoned it.

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

          Indeed, a new tax will always raise some money for the government and leave the tax payers and businesses with less money. But it will also push business out of the EU or country and destroy jobs. This causes losses to the country and other tax revenues. The net effect for the government may well be negative on tax revenues. It is certainly negative on growth and not in the interest of the population at large.

      • Johnnydub
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        Uanime.. Your comment is ignorant.

        The supposed point of the Tobin Tax is to reduce volatility – however, by reducing transactions it’s increasing volatility… as everyone knew it would because it has been tried before with disastrous results.

        It’s a vindictive tax against Financial Services and by extension the UK.

        Do you really hate your own country so much?

        • Edward2
          Posted April 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          Indeed Johnnydub,
          Those working in financial services in places outside the EU, must be rubbing their hands in anticipation of the effect this latest attempt by the EU to destroy the competitiveness of this very important industry will have for them.

          • uanime5
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

            Given that this tax effects all transitions that occur within the EU it will provide little benefit to those outside the EU.

            Also the part of the financial services industry that’s effected by this tax isn’t important.

          • Edward2
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            Yes Uni thanks again for stating the obvious.
            You assume that the whole trade wont go off to non EU financial centres which will by pass London completely.
            If both trades are done outside the EU then there is no Tobin tax to pay.

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

          Indeed vindictive and a self inflicted, pointless wound. Still New York and the likes will be happy. Another suicidal enterprise for our non elected rulers in Brussels what is the, with all my heart and sole, ratter going to do? Just wrap himself (and distract) with Lady Thatcher’s funeral but then give in, as is his form. Or will he come to his senses for one?

          • uanime5
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

            How will this benefit New York? Any transactions involving the EU will be affected whether they’re made from within or without the EU.

        • uanime5
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

          Got any evidence that the markets in France became more volatile after the Tobin tax was introduced? If not then you have no evidence to back up your claims.

          Also the UK is currently having problems because it’s relying too much on the financial sector and too little on manufacturing. So if this tax weakens the financial sector it will be good for the UK as if frees up capital that can be used in more productive areas.

          • Mark
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

            Here’s one study that shows the tax is unlikely to be beneficial to volatility:

            http://www.banque-france.fr/fondation/gb/telechar/papers_d/estimati.pdf

          • Mark
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

            The paper is in English, so maybe uanime5 will be able to follow it.

          • Edward2
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

            Uni,your last paragraph is breathtakingly stupid.
            To suggest that it could be a good thing to deliberately vandalise a successful industry and that it might somehow help to bring about an increase in manufacturing is a nonsense.
            Presumably you see unemployed bankers and financial traders switching to work in car factories?

      • Mark
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        Here’s what has been happening at Pilkingtons – the glass manufacturer now owned by Japanese interests:

        http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2013/01/25/pilkington-will-shut-aintree-glass-site-100252-32674828/

        The former ICI Wilton complex is a shadow of itself these days. Tariffs are not going to keep these industries in the EU when the costs imposed by regulation and expensive energy are so heavy. Indeed, these industries have been busy exporting themselves lock, stock and barrel.

        • uanime5
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          Actually if the tariffs are so high that the cost of manufacturing these products is the same in developing countries as in the EU then these manufacturers will remain in the EU because it will be more economical than paying the cost of shipping glass from developing countries to the EU.

          • Mark
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

            The facts show that actually that isn’t what is happening. Besides, the EU is supposed to be in favour of free trade, and negotiates agreements to reduce or eliminate tariffs with competing economies such as South Korea.

          • Edward2
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

            Uni,
            You assume these firms only supply a domestic market rather than trade throughout the world where world prices have to be competed with.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        ” It isn’t a disaster because it’s raising money” as mugging and Cyprus bank deposit robbing is not a disaster – I assume that is what you mean?

        • uanime5
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          Well it’s better than having the banks going bankrupt and the depositors losing all their money.

          • william long
            Posted April 14, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

            I wonder if it really is better? Yes, if Northern Rock or HBOS had gone bust there would have been devastation at the time, but we would now have much more clarity as to the strength of the surviving banking industry, removing what still remains a major obstacle to lending flows. I have little doubt it would have been better to let Northern Rock go, but concede the two Scotch Banks doing so might have been a step too far, so long as the chosen alternative was the ‘Good Bank/Bad Bank’ solution favoured by JR and the USA, and not the opaque mess we a left with.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:54 am | Permalink

        unanime–No worries about little matters such as whether it might destroy the whole of Europe then, just so long as you chaps on the sinistro cornu get to steal more of somebody else’s money for your socialistic ends. The rest of the World must rightly think we have gone mad in this as in many other matters

        • uanime5
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          No chance of Europe being destroyed as long as tariffs, quotas, and transportation costs make it uneconomical to import chemical, steel, and glass from outside the EU.

          • Edward2
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            Thus making the final product, uncompetitively priced on world markets.
            Come on Uni, think it through

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted April 13, 2013 at 4:37 am | Permalink

        unanime–So the Poll Tax was just peachy because it raised money? What we need is a Coefficient of Drivel to be published each day. You would get 10 out of 10 every time.

        • uanime5
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          The problem with the poll tax was that it didn’t raise money because people refused to pay it. You really should do basic research.

          • Leslie Singleton
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            unanime–The Poll Tax definitely raised some money (isn’t that what you said?) so according to you was a success. Your comment about basic research was dreadfully limp even for you but most important, having shown us the way on the Poll Tax, we know now that the way to make sure the new tax doesn’t work is not to pay it. If that proves impossible that will make another few million in this country want out which would be a considerable mitigation.

  3. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    The three dissimilarities which you highlight are points where the UK, if we would have had the control and power to do, would have benefited to adopt . I suppose it is EU ruling which has enabled continued inward migration and an ethic of spend spend spend which always assumed that risk taking was good and someone would bale them out. The tendency to borrow money in the UK mushroomed into an expectation that it was a healthy lifestyle and many borrowed small amounts continually to keep their credit rating high.
    Ah well with’ Good morning Tokyo’ ringing in my head I await work which as a public service industry has been likened to Tesco .Apparently people are now commodities and the MT funeral. I don’t like the hate protests today. There is something ghoulish about dancing on someones grave. Perhaps it is all this talk of Zombies.

    We are also an ageing population, but we are being rapidly replaced by too many babies. As for saving ,many can simply not afford to save due to unemployment or smaller take home wages.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      how on earth did my paragraphs get switched around?

  4. Steve Cox
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    You neglect to mention another difference between Japan and the UK. The Japanese leadership, for all their shortcomings, are extremely proud of their nation, their culture and their heritage. Britain has for the last 15 years been governed by a disconnected over-privileged elite that detests its national identity, culture and heritage, and which has done its level best to wreck and ruin it.

    • rick hamilton
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Quite so, Mr Cox.

      That ‘elite’ is fully represented by the BBC which seems to go out of its way to mock, sneer at and decry British historical achievements at every opportunity. I am sick of hearing from BBC World TV how the British are more or less responsible for everything wrong in the large part of the world that we once controlled and probably every other disaster as well.

      As a Tokyo-based expat I regularly ask myself ‘What is wrong with these people?’

      It is unthinkable that NHK (the national broadcaster) should rubbish Japan at every turn despite their less than glittering history. They really do understand that there are enough critics and enemies out there already without them adding fuel to the fire, and that one of the ingredients of success is ‘support the home team’.

    • Barry
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Agree – but only 15 years?

      There are elements within this country, and state education springs to mind, which have been working towards that goal for far longer than 15 years.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Actually, the process of which you write has been going on since the 1950s. Cheap labour was the prize and Tory and Labour governments alike have embraced it.

      If, as I do, you feel like a stranger in your home town and afraid to walk along the High Street at night (I was born in Hayes in Middlesex), you have all the post-war Labour and Conservative politicians to thank.

  5. lifelogic
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Off topic, I see that the BBC lined up a strong anti Thatcher team of 4 to 1 – Ken Clarke, David Blunkett, Ming Campbell MP, Polly Toynbee and just Charles Moore on her side. Even he is rather wet on the issue. This on Question time from coming from her Finchley constituency.

    The BBC also seem very keen to send a certain record to number one, by pushing it at every opportunity.

    Much to criticise her for but they never do from a sensible direction:

    The single European Act, the failure to cut 60% income tax quickly, her failure to sort out the NHS failures, education and grammar school failings, failure to reduce the size of the state much and to sort out the benefit dependency culture. Above all a failure to line up someone, half sensible to replace her.

    • outsider
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Dear Lifelogic, The lead item on BBC radio news is that the it has decided to play the intendedly offensive record in some attenuated form. Hardly important news but very sad for those of us who (unlike you) hoped that the BBC would have more pride under Tony Hall. The record, in its association, would be is offensive to most people in the country, though few will actually hear it.
      If the BBC is reporting correctly, the decision is typically pusillanimous. It reminds me of the prurient glee with which BBC news repeatedly aired the tape of the Australian hoax call to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was staying with morning sickness. We know what happened thereafter and, of course, blame was heaped solely on the nasty Australians.

      This lapse of taste and national respect is unlikely to have any such significance, except to disappoint our hopes of Lord Hall.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        Lord Hall may well be a good chap, I do not really know. My hopes however are not very high – he did Oxford PPE, worked for the BBC for some time and then the state subsidised rather pretentious “Arts” sector.

        I have little confidence the lefty “Arts” fraternity or the BBC, especially the “state funded arts” section. Anyway we shall see. Furthermore he is Lord Patten’s choice and Patten is Cameron’s choice. It does not bode very well.

        I think they should stick to calling themselves “the amusement industry” as “the Arts” fraternity rarely have anything much intelligent or rational to say even if they can say it with a resonant voice, silly long pauses and usually a silly childish over- emphasise and dramatic stress on meaningless emotional drivel.

        As we saw with Glenda Jackson’s absurd bitterness on Lady T recently.

  6. Electro-Kevin
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Depressed property values is an important factor in the Japanese’ ability to save whilst on relatively low wages. There is no need to borrow in order to maintain the standard of living as there is here in the UK.

    I bet the difference has something to do with the welfarism that we have in the UK. It has been a huge draw for mass immigration (directly and indirectly.) It has meant that employers must compete with the welfare state on wages and workers must compete with welfare dependents and migrants for scarce housing which has driven accommodation costs ever higher.

    We are all taxed to buggery my many means to keep it going.

    What kept people satisfied for a while was the Blair era housing boom and loose credit to be spent on cheap Chinese substitute goods – this perpetuated the illusion of national wealth by allowing people to use their over valued houses as cash points to buy bling and lightbulbs which go *pop* every ten minutes. But here we are. Broke. Terrifyingly so.

    Not even Mrs Thatcher tackled welfarism. We substitued one form of subsidy for another when we closed down industry and that subsidy now engulfs our economy in unsustainable debt. The simple fact is that our country needed to get smaller, cleverer and leaner.

    It has done precisely the opposite in the post industrial era – and lost that most British of national characteristics which was called good old ‘common sense’ in the process. Rather than tell someone to stop being greedy we will rip out hospital doors, provide cranes and barriatric ambulances.

    A country that does this does not deserve to survive.

    My guess is that the Japanese will one day thrive again – because they pull in the same direction. Their tectonic fault lines are as nothing compared to the political and cultural ones that our little country has faced and will continue to face.

    • Bazman
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      The largest welfare Thatcher introduced was cooperate welfare which is mainly what this country is based on now. The utility companies now privately owned by foreign state owned companies ripping of their customers and a state subsidised privately run railway with hundreds of different fares to hide their ripping off of the customer as two good examples of Thatchers flawed ideology. This on top of putting millions on the dole and in low paid jobs to be supported by state welfare. Another form of corporate welfare. They were all supposed to become self employed and start their own companies Huh? Like wine and antique shops? Or maybe another Microsoft or Honda?

      • Edward2
        Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Baz If you are complaining about high “ripp off” energy prices your blame should to a large extent be placed at the door of the Climate Change Act and the effect of the Kyoto Treaty which is adding loads onto your energy bills.
        But as you believe in need to reduce global warming you are no doubt happy to pay the price.

        • Bazman
          Posted April 14, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          This much?
          http://www.optimaenergy.net/news-and-events/hmrc-announces-new-climate-change-levy-rates-from-april-2013
          Explain why there are so many smokescreen tariffs by all the energy companies and why after you have finished a ‘special offer’ you get put back onto the standard tariff? Musical chairs no less. Your right wing apologist fantasy got you nowhere as usual.

          • Edward2
            Posted April 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

            As usual you are avoiding the point by posing a red herring Baz.
            The link shows just the latest of many add ons to your bills since the Climate Change Act and subisdies for windmills that dont work came in.
            Yes, there are many choices for your energy custom these days, whereas once there was just the local monopoly provider, just like phones, supermarkets, broadband, cars clothing, holidays etc.
            Isnt the free market wonderful Baz, so much more fun than the socialist North Korean system.
            But if you are so slow that you cant be bothered to switch to another cheaper tariff at the appropriate time when there are websites a plenty to help you do it then more fool you.

          • Bazman
            Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

            Do not justify a smokescreen as choice. In fact one boss was blaming the customer for switching saying it caused confusion. Yeah right. In fact I switch ever time they will play bys some rules. Blaming the climate change act for my bills rising from 23pm to 85 pm since 1999 is wishful apologist thinking. Supermarkets are often the same price as are many of the other services you mention. Explain where the competition is?

  7. frank salmon
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Tony Blair went to India and proclaimed Britain the fourth largest economy in the world, but on a per capita basis though we are 25 or 27th depending on the measure. It is a common mistake to over-egg the pudding, and you do right to use the same measure in regard to Japan.
    Lack of immigration into Japan is almost certainly one of the reasons for slow growth. Not only this, its chronically aging population is an economic time-bomb waiting to explode.
    I am not an apologist for uncontrolled immigration, but whereas in Britain the pendulum has sprung too far in one direction, in Japan, it hasn’t sprung far enough.

  8. Leslie Singleton
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    If only we were as “self sufficient and inward looking culturally and financially”. I don’t detect Japan clamouring about how absolutely essential it is for them to merge just about everything in to the Continent of which they are off shore (and in our case at vast cost when we don’t have any money). And one might have thought with our worldwide friends and heritage that we would have much less (some would say no) need for anything other than friendship – not that Japan has even that – with neighbours just because they are close geographically. Vote UKIP and force the Conservatives in to an accommodation and let’s get out.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Postscript–I used to think that words like “unbelievable” were absolute so that it was impossible for e.g. “unbelievableness” to increase, but after listening to the Cyprus situation on WatO, with everything changed considerably for the worse in a matter of weeks AGAIN, I have changed my mind. What exactly has to happen before the EUphiliacs will admit that they have got it all wrong? Madness!!

    • uanime5
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Your comparison between Japan and the UK ignores two things.

      1) For Japan the vast majority of the continent is part of one country (China), so Japan only needs one trade agreement to trade with them. By contrast for the UK the continent is made up of over 30 countries, so the UK cannot as easily negotiate a trade agreement with all of them. Thus a European trade bloc is more useful than a trade agreement.

      2) Japan is more developed than China so any negotiations on social or industry standards will either be too harsh for China or too lax for Japan. By contrast the level of development is more homogeneous in Europe (especially western Europe), so it’s possible to negotiate standards that apply to all these countries.

      • Edward2
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Uni,
        I suggest you check on a world atlas, Japan is surrounded by many propserous trading nations within a few hours flight time or a few days by ship journey, so they can and do have many trading agreements with many different nations.
        Agreeing them is no more difficult than a PLC agreeing to trade with a new export customer.
        But then I suppose you have little experience in this kind of world of work.

        • uanime5
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          That doesn’t change the fact that the China is the largest country on the continent or that Japan is more developed than most of its neighbours.

          Also who are these other propserous trading nations? They’re certainly not Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, or the Philippines. It can’t be Hong Kong or Singapore as neither are G20 members. So the only possible candidates are the G20 members Indonesia, South Korea, and Russia; of which only South Korea is an OECD member. So it seems that Japan isn’t surrounded by propserous trading nations after all.

          • Edward2
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

            You are having a fantasy if you think Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, South Korea, The Phillipines etc etc are not prosperous.
            You need to get out more and do some travelling

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        unanime–First, I do not know why we should have, as you put it, to have a trade agreement with all of them (individually). Given that on the Continent they are so keen to have a bloc approach, why can we not do the obvious and have a trade agreement with that bloc as a whole (ie with Brussels)? Even if, which I do not particularly accept, that is not yet do-able, the Continent is going to keep on amalgamating, so it will be soon. Secondly, what is “possible” is not much of an argument. Indeed it is imperative that one should distinguish what can be done from what should be done. An example is Henry VIII. It was ever so possible for him to chops heads off but that didn’t make it right. I may have my history wrong but isn’t that why Sir Thomas More had his own head chopped off, trying to dissuade the king?

        • uanime5
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          Firstly a trade agreement with a trade bloc is always on worse conditions than being within this trade bloc.

          Secondly a homogeneous legal system between EU members makes it much easier for someone in one country to set up a business in another country. So if the UK wants to attract businesses from other EU countries a similar legal system will make this much easier.

          • Leslie Singleton
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

            unanime–So we set up a further trade bloc consisting of us (and perhaps others) with the new Continental trade bloc, just like Canada and Mexico with America. It doesn’t need to be perfect–just so we get out of the EU. I did not notice when I was there or since that companies have any difficulties–not legal ones anyway–setting up in America.

          • Edward2
            Posted April 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

            Puzzling then Uni, that the EU’s share of world trade is falling and is predicted to fall even further over the next 10 .
            years.
            With all these advantages you tell us about it should be booming.

  9. Andyvan
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    California might have been a buy in the 1980s or 1990s but it isn’t now. The state is bankrupt, sky high taxes (almost as bad as the UK), very dangerous and violent police force renowned for corruption and racism, drones watching your every move, a larger Federal government almost daily. property market in it’s death throws, retail sales comatose, banks just waiting to steal your money (I admit that’s true everywhere). The list goes on. There are places in the world that are good to invest or live in today, they just aren’t the US, EU, UK or Japan.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    “Japan is ranked now at 25th by the IMF for per capita income. ”
    The EU is ranked 26th and UK 22nd; what does that tell us? How about the continuing eurozone crises in Cyprus, Portugal, Greece, Ireland….? You don’t surely believe the claptrap from Barroso and Monti that the euro crisis is over do you? I suppose you will be happy that your ‘eurosceptic’ leader is spending the weekend with his family at Merkel’s country castle?

    Reply Please give me credit for trying to change the unacceptable position we find ourselves in in the EU. I have regularly warned of more Euro problems ahead. All the time we remain in the EU – thanks to a run of federalist Parliaments, our PM does have to talk to the boss of Germany.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply,
      What do you mean by ” trying to change the unacceptable position we find ourselves in in the EU. “? I don’t think it is what I mean, which is to leave this anti-democratic organisation.

      Reply:Yes, which is why I voted No in 1975

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        Reply to reply,
        Thanks for confirming that you want the UK to leave the EU regardless of any ‘re-negotition’ that Cameron may attempt. I, too voted No in 1975.

  11. uanime5
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    It’s not all bad news. The Japanese population is ageing and declining.

    I thought this was was bad news because it means that each working person will have to pay more towards the upkeep of the elderly.

    There is no large inward migration, adding to the workforce.

    Something the Government could replicate with non-EU immigration but doesn’t because companies need their cheap labour.

    • outsider
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Correction, uanime5. Companies “want” their cheap labour, rather than always needing it. With exceptions, most of the cheap labour is employed in UK sectors that are not exporting or subject to import competition, and serves mainly to widen pretax income inequality. That is the main reason why incomes are less unequal in Japan.

  12. outsider
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, I totally agree with the drift of your analysis so far which, if I have got it right, suggests that Japan’s economic problem is not one that can be solved by macroeconomic policy – which will only make things worse – or even stronger banks. To that extent Japan is the same as the UK.

    My first suggestion, at the behest of Japanese friends, it is that the learning of foreign languages is appalling and needs to be revolutionised. Outside the elite (and sometimes within it) fluency in foreign foreign is no better than the abysmal level in the UK. We get away with it because English is the foremost international language. But Japanese is spoken by few outside that country.

    The language problem might not have mattered when the quality, reliability and value of Japanese cars and consumer electronics spoke for itself. And of course |Japan is a leader in digital images for things like computer games. But in an advanced tertiary economy, language becomes much more important – not least for design and marketing. The lack of it holds the country back and relegates it a backwater. From a very low start, China is already more advanced in widespread language skills.

    The other obvious problem is that the bureaucracies that used to drive the country forward now have no idea what they are meant to be doing. Bewilderment started when the export agencies were ordered to promote imports instead but seems to have spread like a disease. For instance, tourist boards seem keener to keep people away and no serious attempt is made to expand and promote traditional industries in which the country has great sophistication and much to offer. There is a leadership vacuum.

  13. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    GDP per PPP I believe is adjusted so it represents not national but global wealth. When this adjustment takes place ( I have researched a little as I find money matters difficult to understand ) different tables representing lists of economies from wealthiest downwards put Japan at the third wealthiest?

  14. Mark
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    The Japanese did borrow extensively to create their property bubble, with multi generation mortgages.

    One of the features of Japanese business – particularly of the Shosha trading companies – was that respect was earned through large market share – not through profitability. This led to such excesses as the Hamanaka/Sumitomo losses in the copper market. The recent troubles of Olympus the optics/camera manufacturer are perhaps another example.

  15. Mr Immig Runt
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    If it wasn’t for us immigrants, Britain would have suffered lost decades as well.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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