Photo: ~ezs via Flickr
This evening’s must-read comes from Steven Hill at The Guardian (via @Conrad_Easby)who argues that Japan has gotten a bum rap, and that if the US were to experience a Japan-like lost decade, we’d be lucky.Here’s the nut:
How, then, should we regard a country that has 5% unemployment, the lowest income inequality, healthcare for all its people and is one of the world’s leading exporters? This country also scores high on life expectancy, low on infant mortality, is at the top in numeracy and literacy, and is low on crime, incarceration, homicides, mental illness and drug abuse. It also has a low rate of carbon emissions, doing its part to reduce global warming. In all these categories, this particular country beats both the US and China by a country mile.
The bottom line is that the measure of the economy is not statistics like GDP or how its main stock market has performed over some time, but how the economy actually works for real people who live in it, and in the case of Japan, it’s actually quite well.
Ok, but what about the Nikkei? Its many years of misery must mean something, right?
Perhaps, but remember, it’s not the sole measure of the Japanese financial economy. The yen is at a 15-year high. Japanese bonds have surged. And we know that Japanese citizens are famously conservative with their investments, which means that this mix of things (weak stock market, strong bond market) has not been particularly bad for their portfolios.
Bottom line: If the coming Japanese decade looks anything like Japan’s we’ll be all set. The problem is, it won’t.
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