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The monetary institutions are the same – but culture dictates the choices we make

In discussions about the significant differences that we have observed over the last 30 odd years between the conduct of economic policy in Japan and elsewhere, the usual response from mainstream economists, when challenged to explain the outcomes in the former nation, is that it is ‘cultural’ and cannot be applied elsewhere. I always found that rather compromising because mainstream economics attempts to be a one-size-fits-all approach based on universal principles of maximising human behaviour. So, by admitting ‘cultural’ aspects to the discussion, this is tantamount to admitting that the ‘market-based’ micro founded approach to macroeconomics is incapable of explaining situations. That is the first black mark against the veracity of mainstream theory. But when one prods further, it becomes clear that the term ‘culture’ is fairly vacuous and blurred in this defense of the mainstream framework. I respond by pointing out that essentially the monetary system dynamics in Japan are identical to the way the system works elsewhere. The institutions might have subtle variations but essentially the operations are so similar that the ‘culture’ bailout doesn’t help resurrect the appalling lack of predictive accuracy when it comes to examining the macroeconomics of Japan. Cultural aspects, however, are crucial to understanding the differences. The trick is understanding how these monetary and fiscal institutions are managed. This is where the cultural aspects impact. And, while I have learned a lot about Japanese cultural nuances, some of the more important ‘cultural’ drivers are transportable to any nation – if only we cared enough and valued people in the same way.

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Kyoto Report No 8

This Tuesday report will provide some insights into life in Kyoto for a westerner in the age of Covid. I know I said last week’s Report would be the last but I have a couple of more observations in the days that followed. So here we are again for the last report for this year. I will continue the series when I return to Kyoto in 2023.

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Kyoto Report No 7

This Tuesday report will provide some insights into life in Kyoto for a westerner in the age of Covid. This will be my last report as I am returning to Australia at the end of this week. I will return to my work in Japan in 2023 but now have commitments back in Australia. Today, we visit some temples, gardens and textile centres.

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Kyoto Report No 6

This Tuesday report will provide some insights into life in Kyoto for a westerner in the age of Covid. Temples, visitors, grammar and more temples interrupted by a astronomic event. A week in Kyoto.

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Kyoto Report No 4

This Tuesday report will provide some insights into life in Kyoto for a westerner in the age of Covid. Today it is report on an OTT (good way) historical procession in Kyoto to mark 1,100 years since the capital was established in this city. And some more action from the hills to the east of Kyoto, where the most magnificent gardens can be found. As well as some other things.

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Degrowth, deep adaptation, and skills shortages – Part 4

One of the ‘problems’ besetting the world at present, if the commentary in the mainstream press is anything to go by, is the existence of chronic skill shortages. Survey studies of the shifting demographics in Japan, for example, have produced ‘alarming’ results from a mainstream perspective. See for example, this OECD Report from 2021 – Changing skill needs in the Japanese labour market. I was at a meeting recently in Kyoto and it is clear that many firms in Japan are having trouble finding workers and many have even offered wage increases to lure workers to their companies. Further, many small and medium-size businesses are owned by persons who are over 70 years of age and that proportion is rising fast. The skill shortage scenario is tied in with the ageing society debate, where advanced nations are facing so-called demographic ‘time bombs’, with fewer people of working age left to produce for an increasing number of people who no longer work. The mainstream narrative paints these trends as major problems that have to be confronted by governments, and, typically, because of faulty understandings of the fiscal capacities of governments, propose deeply flawed solutions. I see these challenges in a very different light. Rather than construct the difficulties that firms might be facing attracting sufficient labour (the ‘skills shortages’ narrative), I prefer to see the situation as providing an indicator of the limits of economic activity or the space that nations have to implement a fairly immediate degrowth strategy. In the following two blog posts I will explain how this inversion of logic can become a crucial plank in the degrowth debate.

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Kyoto Report No. 2

This Tuesday report will provide some insights into life in Kyoto for a westerner in the age of Covid. Today, I report on stone fords across rivers, bears, monkeys, and more. All the before and after work action from Kyoto.

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British currency gyrations are about weak government not fiscal deficits

The British government has descended into high farce. It is rather embarassing to watch adults behave in the way they have conducted themselves in the last longtime. I also note that the usual suspects are out in force claiming (spuriously) that the economic turmoil that has beset Britain demonstrates categorically that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is deeply flawed and the real world is now teaching us that we should be discarded into the dustbin of history – or rather disgrace. These characters, which include so-called progressives think that hard core fiscal rules, like the British Labour Party took into the last election would have saved the day for Britain. I guess they are now mates with the IMF, who in their latest fiscal monitor – Fiscal Monitor – overnight (published October 12, 2022) – called for fiscal restraint. Also, central bankers who met in Washington over the last few days decided they had become the elected and accountable government making gratuitous threats that if fiscal policy wasn’t turned to austerity, they would punish citizens with further interest rate hikes. It is actually hard to find anything of sense in the current economic debate. It is despairing really.

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