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The wise have always inveighed against materialism. But most people are not wise, and it remains a material world. The economy dominates the news, an indication of where our strongest interest lies. Our spirits rise or fall with the stock market, the unemployment rate, the value of the yen, the consumer price index, favorable or unfavorable developments among overseas trading partners. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rode to power in December on the strength of promises to revive the economy. His giddy support ratings reflect the apparent success of his first measures.

The hope and enthusiasm he has generated have muted even the mass fear and revulsion toward nuclear power. The public, shell-shocked still two years after the Fukushima meltdowns, seems nonetheless to be forgiving him his inclination to restart idled reactors.

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