So I picked up a paper on the gangway to my flight back from Oslo; the headline (of the International Herald Tribune, Thursday, May 12, 2011 edition) read: “Japan reimagines the basics.”
I thought it fortuitous, since I had just read a blog post from my friend and fellow blogger Leza Lowitz, who got an article (“A Hard Rain Gonna Fall: 2 Months after 3-11”) published in the Huffington Post. It’s about the birth of Japanese activism in the wake of their earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power disaster, and I was hoping to find an excuse to reference it, so I was looking for what the press is saying about Japan now.
The Herald Tribute article glossed ideas I’ve expressing here before; namely that Japan is possibly on the brink of historical change, similar to what happened there after WWII. “We must make this the starting point for a new economy” (from Hiroko Ota, a former economic minister and vice president at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo) and “Japan is at a crossroads” (this from Takayoshi Igarashi, a politics professor at Hosei University).
There’s lot of gloom and doom numbers to look at (25 trillion yen in damages), but this article focuses on the fact that in the wake of the disaster many companies are moving their manufacturing overseas:
Meiko already makes 80 percent of its parts overseas. With the damage to to two of its five factories—and the uncertainties of Japan’s power supply—it does not make sense to rebuild in Japan, said Hidetaka Maruyama, a company spokesman.
“Without a doubt, there will be a shift toward production overseas,” he said.
In response to this, one suggestion to replace the loss of GDP due to this move in manufacturing would be to replace it with public works or local industry. Japan has tried the first: it resulted in “expensive public work projects that left the nation dotted with little-used dams and bridges and made backwater regions dependent on government spending.”
The other options was described as, “A post-tsunami recovery could encourage rural communities in the quake zone to consolidate farmland, increase productivity and raise incomes… A similar plan floated by the government would consolidate more than 200 small fishing ports in northeast Japan into 11 hubs.”
Okay, so what do you think? I think it’s fine for the government to pump money into public works to create jobs, and it sounds great to consolidate the efforts of fisherman, to get them to work together. But is this really the solution to the problems in Japan?
Of course not; governments the world over have supported public works and consolidating farmers or fisherman will probably help some people and squeeze others out.
The only final solution to the problems in Japan is a change in worldview. To be successful, help others be successful. Rejoice that shifting manufacturing overseas is helping other countries and creating jobs, I’m guessing, for less economically developed countries. The way to figure out how to increase the GDP? Rejoice in the creativity of others. My friend Holger just showed my a 3g device that connects to any 3G network with a data-access sim card and allows you to broadcast wireless to all your friends. Awesome, what a great idea! The seeds from thinking this way would allow Japanese companies to invent the-next-big-thing, replacing any GDP lost to overseas manufacturing.
At least, that’s how I would try to go about it, because any other “solution” is really, if you’re honest, just a shot in the dark.