Certainly anyone who visits Japan these days is struck by the obvious affluence even among average citizens. The cars on the roads, for instance, are generally much larger and better equipped than in the 1980s (indeed state of the art navigation devices, for instance, are more or less standard on many models). Overseas vacation travel has more than doubled since the 1980s. The Japanese boast the world's most advanced cell phones, and the biggest and best high-definition television screens. Japan's already long life expectancy has increased by nearly two years. Its Internet connections are some of the world's fastest -- something like ten times faster on average than American speeds.
Eammon Fingleton (via theatlantic.com) tells only the story of how Japanese business and government both have lots of leeway in how they can report their numbers, and he thinks that explains everything. But am I to understand that nobody in the US (or in the rest of the whole fucking world) was smart enough to catch onto this? Me thinks something else may be afoot.
Here's a coupla little tidbits that get tossed off as if they mean nothing - but could mean quite a bit:
True, not all of Japan’s indicators are equally impressive. The Tokyo stock market, for instance, has never recovered from its 1990s slump. Neither has the real estate market. (In the latter case, however, there is a silver lining in a major boost living standards, in that young home buyers now get far more space for their money. In any case the implosion since 1991 has merely restored some sanity to valuations that had previously become—very temporarily—outlandish).
On the negative side, there is also the fact that Japan’s economic growth rate, as least as calculated officially, has averaged little more than 1 percent a year in the last two decades. For those who propound the “stagnation” story, this is their strongest card. But it does not accord with the common observation— undeniable to those who have known the country since the 1980s—that the Japanese people have enjoyed one of the biggest improvements in living standards of any major First World nation in the interim…So Japan has been cookin' along for 20 years, boosting their trade surplus by $194 Billion, and making a 65% gain in Yen vs Dollar; which means the standard of living for the average guy improves, plus life expectancy goes up by 2 years. But somehow, life in Japan must really suck according to everything we hear from our Press Poodles because neither their stock market nor their real estate market is performing at a robust pace. And there it is. "Little Guy makes out OK, Big Guy OK too" just doesn't fit the standard narrative here in the US. We have to have "Ownership heroes defeat evil labor goons, our daughters are safe now".
This is such a crock of shit.