• Singapore


There are many things wrong with Guy Sorman’s Sept. 18 article, “Japan’s harmonious drift.” Let me pick some of them apart. First is the notion that “working less” is the main cause of Japan’s economic stagnation. If that were the cause, I’d presume the French economy should have deteriorated even further with the 35-hour workweek. But apparently it hasn’t. Nope, the main cause of the recession was monetary and economic policies — which led to “zombie banks”— in conjunction with population decline.

Second, I find it amusing that a Frenchman would lecture the Japanese about immigration. Let’s not forget that most of the “immigrants” in France are from erstwhile colonies and that many still live in ghettolike places. I agree that Japan needs immigration but it should be a bottom-up approach, and the Japanese people should decide when and how to deal with it.

The third and most egregious problem is the paragraph where the author says innovation is so good in Japan, the Japanese produce so much, etc., but then immediately says, without explanation, that in 10 years this will all wither.

Fourth, the author still argues for free-market capitalism. For this I admire his chutzpah. Maybe he should read Chalmers Johnson’s “Rise of the Developmental State.” Let’s not forget the basic road to prosperity that has been true for any nation: Start with the state upholding the rule of law, giving security and providing or facilitating the provision of basic amenities like water, sanitation, education and health care. Then the state pursues policies that actively enhance its domestic industrial base. Once this base is sound, the state opens up its markets and starts lecturing others on opening up their markets.

arvind sainathan

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