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Japanese recession: A time for panic or change?

31 Comments
By James Soller

Recently, recession rolls off the tongues of politicians and is mentioned in the Japanese news media with such ubiquity that we are becoming programmed to accept this word without actually thinking about what it means. The word recession symbolizes something undesirable, chaotic, and detrimental to the well-being of our accustomed way of life. We try to avoid it like the plague. But what is a recession? Ask any economist and he will quickly tell you that the definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

If GDP growth is shrinking, Japan must be failing as a society, right? Japan and the rest of the global elite need to find a way to regenerate the turbines of consumerism because we must always be committed to continuous economic expansion, regardless of the unintended consequences that may ensue. If the economy does not continue to grow, society cannot progress. At least this is what the economist preaches.

But what an economist won’t reveal is that not only is GDP growth a misleading indicator, but continuous economic growth, at least by contemporary standards, is unsustainable and unrealistic. He will also never admit that the world’s predominant economic system is inherently flawed and in need of some drastic revisions.

The Japanese economy and other members of the privileged few that benefit from its outputs have grown massively in the last half century or so. Why? An abundance of cheap and readily available fossil fuels, excessive exploitation of those fossil fuels, deregulation and negligence of the environment However, now we are beginning to witness the contradictions of a global economic order that is myopic and illogical.

Currently, nearly all material production and transportation are dependent on the availability of cheap and easily available fossil fuels. Unfortunately, fossil fuels are a finite resource and the burgeoning demand of the Chinese and Indian economies are only expediting the dwindling supply of global resources. What does this mean? It means the way of life that the global elite, particularly Japanese and Americans, have grown accustomed to is merely an unsustainable trend. It also means that global GDP cannot possibly grow at the rate in which we have been accustomed to seeing in recent years. In fact, common sense reveals that GDP will continue to shrink in the coming years.

What the economist also won’t tell you is that even when GDP was growing in previous past years, the disparity of wealth between the haves and have-nots also increased dramatically. While Japan, America, Europe and a few others have flourished in recent decades, the widening gap in wealth between the G8 and everyone else continues to grow. This is also a characteristic that exists between the affluent and less well-off within the G-8 as well.

What the economist also won’t reveal is that the norms of consume and waste that are encouraged by the current economic system are not only materially sustainable, but ecologically destructive. We are literally killing the earth for the sake of convenience and economic profit. Climate change is no longer just the talk of tree-huggers or naïve idealists, but a reality that affects us all. The dire threat of global warming can only be addressed by drastically tweaking our lifestyles.

This change entails a significant decrease in consumption and an adherence to conservation. This begins by accepting the idea that GDP cannot continue to grow if we are to get serious about protecting the biosphere. Sure, Japan initiated the Kyoto Protocol and has for years instituted strict fuel efficiency standards, but these measures only make a small dent in protecting the environment. Japanese society is just as materialist, wasteful and consumer oriented as American, Canadian, Australian, or European society. Just paying a visit to a Japanese convenient store will prove this point.

So what is the solution? Are we supposed to reject modernity and revert back to living in caves? Some might consider even questioning the basic assumptions of neo-liberal capitalism as a cause for concern. A dip into the dangerous political territory of socialism or communism. But nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, this sort of rhetoric is often espoused by those who wish to maintain the current order and it is this type of myopic thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.

Markets are not a bad thing. We need markets in the modern world. They enrich our lives in so many ways and provide limitless possibilities. But we have to accept that our current economic practices are unsustainable, ecologically destructive and often unethical. In order for Japanese society, which is part of the “global society,” to progress into the future, we need to find harmony between the markets and protecting our communities and environment.

The solution can be found in smaller, regional markets, sustainable planning and an understanding that consumerism is not an end in itself. We don’t have to live in caves, but spending less time shopping and being content less material possessions will not bring any harm to any of us. In fact, it may make many of us healthier, better educated and more in touch with the community around us. The future may pose a difficult readjustment for many of us, but we can adapt with innovation, creativity and education.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
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Yeah, now is the time for advanced countries to follow "Gandhian Philosophy". What's that? My understanding is that it means learn how to live in poverty but with pride.

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The only change in Japan is more nationalism less tolerance. Econmically imposed change is met by stornger change to improve the lives of...over 70 years.

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"It means the way of life that the global elite, particularly Japanese and Americans, have grown accustomed to is merely an unsustainable trend."

That trend started when the world came off the gold standard and switched to fiat monopoly money. We don't need an inflatable money supply that is controlled by the globalist bankers to enslave us. We don't need the kind of malignant unsustainable petronomic growth that eventually deleverages and destroys wealth creation. We don't need consumerism and massive govt debt that increases the velocity of money for scam artists to exploit. Credit and credit cards should be outlawed and no paper paid out that isn't backed by gold. Economic growth would be at a slower healthier pace as a result. The counterfeit monetary system we have now is illegal. The US constitution mandates the coining of money in only gold and silver. Wisdom is vindicated by time.

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Very nice article! "We are literally killing the earth for the sake of convenience and economic profit."

"We don’t have to live in caves, but spending less time shopping and being content less material possessions will not bring any harm to any of us."

To get deep at the root of the problem... the way that we are on the inside is a reflection of what is happening to us on the outside. We live without meaning and purpose in our lives. We seek instant gratification from smoking, drinking, shopping, eating, etc. Industry is feeding all of these things are we are eating them up because we are pleasure seeking machines. Instead of behaving like animals we need to find meaning and purpose in our lives from inside of us and find pleasure and happiness from there. We need to be patient with ourselves and with others... show some character. Watch "The 11th Hour" for a great analysis of our problem with the environment and how it's source resides within each of us.

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These are not mutually exclusive, especially in Japan.

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If this guy was in China, you would find him on his knees ready to take a bullet in the back of the head. The Chinese are now the worst example of uncontrolled growth & environmental pollution -- only spending their new-found billions to build up their military.

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I'm not a big fan of the gold standard, as it puts an unreasonable value on what is, after all, simply a commodity (and a fairly useless one at that). However 30061015 is correct that a sustainable economy must start with a rethinking of currency.

At the moment, money is created through debt. A bank is empowered to create cash (provided they have about 10% fractional reserve) when someone takes out a loan. But since the loan must be repaid with interest, and money is only created through debt, the end result is that we must have growth equal to or greater than the interest rate to avoid inflation.

When growth stops (or credit is limited, forcing growth to stop), the money supply shortens and there is no money to pay people. So people stop working -- leading to a downward cycle of negative growth. This means we must rethink the definition of money in our society. Either that or we can agree to work without being paid. These are the only ways to have a sustainable economy.

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environmentalism, conservation, alternative energies and recycling do not contradict growth and capitalism, in fact they have nothing to do with it. there is oodles of money to be made in each of them.

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Hey, nothing to worry. The LDP will give us each 12,000 Yen back after having collected our taxes, and the recession is cured. Easy.

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Natural resources are limited & can not sustain for human needs for a long time. If there is no more fossil fuels available, there are some alternative energy. However it will never meet the current consuming capacity. Such as neon lights of the nights at Tokyo, Osaka, Shanghai & Hong kong. Electricity consume too much fuel.

If we used the Japanese lanterns instead of neon lights, it will save a lot of energy. It is also ecologically & environmentally friendly. We do not need to go back to caves. We better change our lifestyle as 18th or 19th century.

Economy is a cycle it will always have boom & burst. Current burst was so abnormal so it will be lasting longer & stronger than others. The world needs new consuming market & competent financial system.

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Money around the world is inflated. The world's economy has gone down the shitter. I agree, We truly need to rethink money in general.

Rethink: what it is, the value, how to control it... that could possibly help.

But, Society could never adjust going back to what the cavemen lived like that is way too unrealistic, and even going back to the 18 century is pushing it.

Materialism has corrupted our society. i think that says it all. well not all of it but it says something.

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My heart goes out to the bottom half of the corporate ladder including homeless, unemployed, freeters, part-timers, blue-collar workers, temps, analysts, and maybe middle-managers.

May god have mercy on corporate decision makers of late, namely executives, expats, directors, vice presidents, and all that aspire to them.

If I haven't learned anything about Financial Services, Insurance, Real Estate, Consulting, Business Development, Marketing, "Adding Value", Professionalism, ie. "Bubbles", is that it might be wiser to stay away from it. There are no heroes in the corporate world, because, by definition, heroes aren't welcome there. I'm out of here. Anyone want any furniture? I also have shares in Lehman Brothers if Bank of America hasn't already claimed it from me, as well as a Lehman Brothers Soccer Jersey, and a Manulife Star of Excellence Trophy.

Oh, and if you truly dig this, and feel that maybe you are a little lost, I highly recommend the following: http://www.harunyahya.com/Quran_translation/Quran_translation_index.php. Mercy Christmas and Mercy New Year, may God be with you.

Otherwise, as they say, "Best of luck!".

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When you have a sun that gives you all the energy you need -you really don't need to worry about much. -Good time to be a farmer I guess (fukuoka style of course).

People these days have little patience it seems. -and in there lies the greed that becomes problematic.

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@mikechar;

on the flip side of making money from debt, a Conservation of Debt if you will, would be to make money from value. That way it has direct meaning to our communities. This is best handled via energy credits; thus those that save energy have more credits and can sell them to those who need more. Poor people have the most credits since they use the least energy and wealthy the fewest credits. As each become more efficient and use energy in their lives a balance occurs so that we're not so poor, and wealth is met with efficiencies. Being wealthy then takes on a different meaning than today. The pressure on the energy credit market is that energy is depleting at a 6.7% rate per year (IEA World Report Nov 2008) therefore more energy credit savings are needed per year, thus increasing efficiencies. I like to call this the Conservation of Value.

All this reduces our pollution which would finally be accounted for. There are a couple of small towns that use local currencies but not energy credits. How does this type of credit system grab you?

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another definition of Conservation of Value; commodifying savings rather than debt.

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I sincerely hope Japan turns protectionist and looks after its own.

The only meaningful indicator of real wealth as far as I'm concerned comes from the manufacture of goods from raw materials. Countries like the US are only rich because of bits of paper being shoved around the place - nothing much is made there any more.

The 'energy-problem' is entirely fabricated. The 'Global-Elite' (Oy vey) have used every ruse to prevent technologies which are competitive with Big-Oil from becoming more common.The source of energy which dwarfs the lot of them is geo-thermal. But there are several which would relegate oil to standby-use without the red-tape.

All this talk of a 'carbon-tax' and other cunning plots to relieve us of our wealth and hand it to the self-appointed Global Elite is so transparent, isn't it! What? Those who actually make a difference in the world have to be taxed to pay those useless-eaters who can't even 'invent' a wheel for the peace of mind of a load of brainwashed bleeding-hearts? That's what charities are for!

But Japan is lucky because it doesn't have any competition to worry about when it comes to state-of-the-art tech. It simply isn't made anywhere else.

Japan can help the rest of the planet become more efficient by being an example of the best there is at ways to do things for less energy input. Japan can help the rest of the world simply by taking care of itself and screw the rest. - I mean let the rest of the so-called "West" continue on its suicidal monetary policies favouring the underdog and know from experience that one who continually sticks-up for the underdog eventually becomes the underdog. And where's the gratitude? Zilch!

I have no idea how many people will be forced out of work or the extent of the hardships this (carefully organised) economic downturn is going to have. But the writing has been on the walls and I am one of those who is not going to be caught out. One would be wise to become more frugal than you ever thought possible and then some.

1 in my book would be to give the TeeVee the old heave-ho over the balcony as a first step. You won't save much money by eliminating the TV's portion of the electricity bills/cable/sat ... charges, but you would have the opportunity to think straight without all that convoluted manipulative garbage posing as 'news' and do what is right for you! - Not some corporations bidding of propping up this self-capitulating laissez-faire capitalism run by Banksters which we continue to suffer under.

Japan will be just fine providing the US stays out and doesn't meddle with her various systems of doing international trade. (Fat chance).

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Badsey > "When you have a sun that gives you all the energy you need -you really don't need to worry about much. -Good time to be a farmer I guess"

Great comment! How true! A slower lifestyle not shaped in the form of Pavlov's consumer is fundamental to slowing the economy down to healthy sustainable growth. The present economic crisis is a good opportunity to think about the human values that are fundamental to health, happiness and satisfaction.

Caves!? Ha! We already live in caves! Take a look around. Doing time in concrete & steel florescent catacombs chasing the material myth isn't a life. That's why people are sick and depressed. Nature itself teaches that God intended us to live in a good environment, work the earth, breath clean air & get the sunshine in our soul. This is value.

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Every country is in a recession! We are all in a state of overconsumption.

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Materialism, globalist bankers, enslavement, consumerism how much of those are part some grand conspiracy to make the "elite" rich and how much of it is a manifestation of human nature. Do the "elite" make neighbors feel envy over what their other neighbors have and therefore become competitive with each other? Did global bankers cause the 10th commandment to be written? Unless there is paradigm shift not in economic theory but in humanity, there will never be a real change. There will always be people that will exploit the system because humans it seems by their nature covet that which they can not have.

fiat monopoly money

There is an actually formula for how they create monopoly money called the "The Money Multiplier".

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Jorb

"Materialism, globalist bankers, enslavement, consumerism how much of those are part some grand conspiracy.."

Because they control they money supply, we don't know. "How much " dependency is is too much? Rat poison is 99% corn meal. That's the point. Conspiracy or no, deficit driven monetary dependency is slavery.

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The people who control money, control society. When the Japanese government have these so-called stimulus packages, the money which is juiced into the market is no more than borrowed money. Japanese government borrows money directly from Japanese banks . What it does is that it only locks countries and governments into vicious debt spiral. The monetary system is dependent on debt to be able to survive.

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USA is already bankrupt. If the US wants to recover, it must listen to countries who US owes money to. Japan should demand the debt back or if not demand the change of ownership of US industries such as the auto mobile industry. Instead of wasting money on the fueling missions in the Indian Ocean which is the same as supporting the meaningless US/Israeli war-mongering which US cannot afford, because US is borrowing money from Japan and China for the war. Japan should demand US to pay back it´s debt to Japan.

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Reading the article and comments, then logicaly analysing them, there is only one way to go "PANIC!"

The article gave some good advice in its conclusion "The solution can be found in smaller, regional markets, sustainable planning and an understanding that consumerism is not an end in itself." but many countries have sacrificed their local economies on the alter of Globalization and will suffer until they can rebuild them. There is no magic fix and the dirty words of globalization "import replacement and protectionism" will replace the dream or nightmare of "free markets" as countries struggle over the next 9-10years trying to "normalise" their accounts.

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Excuse me, but did I sign a pact of some sort with future generations to save some stuff for them? NO!! The party is now! Consume or die! Stop being a party pooper! We all know this stuff, but we don't care. If we did, change would have come long ago, or an environmentally friendly system would have been developed from the beginning. We are human beings! Low life! What do you expect? Anyway, future generations will find their own way to live. Certainly less materialistic because there will be no material! The ultimate eco-friendly system! We are doing them a favor.

Well, as my token environmentally action, I bring my own bag to the supermarket.

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Excuse me, but did I sign a pact of some sort with future generations to save some stuff for them? NO!! The party is now! Consume or die! Stop being a party pooper! We all know this stuff, but we don't care. If we did, change would have come long ago, or an environmentally friendly system would have been developed from the beginning. We are human beings! Low life! What do you expect? Anyway, future generations will find their own way to live. Certainly less materialistic because there will be no material! The ultimate eco-friendly system! We are doing them a favor.

Its people with views like yourself that are causing the world to get worse, im sorry to say. Sooner rather then later we probably will run out of things we use from the planet. The world is already changing dramatically, and as much as i agree that we do only live once (for those who believe that, like myself.) and its best to live life to the fullest, But when something more important then yourself comes along asking for help, you have to listen. because this thing isnt small its the planet we live on, if we abuse it then you wont only lose you way of life, you may lose yourself. and the people you care about. I believe the future is what you make it, the Future is in the next generation.. and so far its not looking to fantastic.

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I think shinukuboy says it nicely. I think it is when opinions like jesssicaaa get started, that more talk happens than work, or any future making. If the future is the next generation-which one would you be talking about there? If you are talking about my generation you could be fine.... I liked this article, it just needs to be able to inspire the people to move, than only facts.

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While Japan, America, Europe and a few others have flourished in recent decades, the widening gap in wealth between the G8 and everyone else continues to grow.

Mr. Soller has apparently never been to India, China, Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia.

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If the future is the next generation-which one would you be talking about there?

The generation younger then you or maybe you, I myself am the next generation. My argument goes further back then this, i have witnessed the change as ive got older, and with my younger brother suffering the most. My main problems is the Education these days in my own counrty. Australia. What shinukuboy said hit a nerve.

I think shinukuboy says it nicely. I think it is when opinions like jesssicaaa get started, that more talk happens than work, or any future making.

If nows generation doesnt look after the planet for the next, they are being seriously selfish. You can still party and have a good time, while looking after the planet. Im not some 'environment freak' or whatever, but i think about it in this way.. Its effecting us now, it will effect the next generation after the next until its irreversable. I hate talking about this stuff because i know what people could do to change it, people know what they could do to change it. but they wont. or they think 'well if they arent, why should i bother.' illsayit i know where your coming from i really do.. its just if people dont start doing something now then it will be to late.. and even though alot just argue on the net like this of what we 'should' and 'shouldnt' be doing, i do both argue on the net and try my best to help change a few things in my own community.. because im not doing this for myself, im doing it for the younger generation.

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Jesssicaaa,

Don't worry. One result of the coming global economic collapse we see happening all around us will be that nobody can buy anything becuase we will all be unemployed. Production and thus polution and consumption of resources will fall dramatically, or maybe come to an end. That will relieve a geat amount of the stress on the environment. So let's thank our parents for putting an end to this destructive system (although they could have been a bit more tidy about it). If Japan returns to life as it was before modernization (like during Tokugawa era), that wouldn't be very bad, I think. In that culture, mainly renewable resources were used.

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If Japan returns to life as it was before modernization (like during Tokugawa era), that wouldn't be very bad, I think. In that culture, mainly renewable resources were used.

Foreigners not being one of them. So I hope you remember you call to return to Tokugawa era Japan when they start kicking foreigners out.

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nobody can buy anything becuase we will all be unemployed. Production and thus polution and consumption of resources will fall dramatically, or maybe come to an end.

lol do you realise what that would cause? if people cant afford, they will find another way to get it, force if needed. The world would be chaotic. Countrys would attack other countrys for resources if they dont share, would be like world war 3 ha but that is the worst case senario. ;]

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