Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Unbearable Smallness of Japan’s Economy (part 3)
KAWATO Akio / Former Ambassador of Japan to Uzbekistan& Former Chief Economist, Development Bank of Japan

May 14, 2024
Part 3: Twilight of the "Modern Era”

In China and India, various domestic factors hinder growth. But in this respect, the United States, the European Union, and Japan are not in a better position, either. The West is now deprived of many attributes of the modern era, which facilitated their economic growth.

In Western European countries, the youth has largely lost their cultural backbone; they read far less Greek and Roman classics in school, and they do not go to church. The healthy sense of independence and individualism that used to be prominent among Western Caucasians has been worn away by the universal PC game culture, Japanese anime, and cosplay.

In the United States, freedom and democracy have practically become the prerogative of the successful class. In corporations, executives covet exorbitant compensation, and labor union leaders justify their positions by demanding exorbitant wage hikes and pensions that force corporations to flinch and flee abroad.

In the US the sky is the limit for political funding (effectively unlimited with anonymity guarded), which allows the rich to control the political process. They use the members of Congress to try to shrink the size of the federal government and reduce the tax burden. And the Neocon forces in the Democratic Party do not hesitate to intervene by force in the politics of developing countries. Unless people learn a little more the value of “moderation based on consideration for the well-being of others”, they may put the United States on a path of decline.

The Industrial Revolution in Reverse
In the 19th century, the rapid industrialization of Western Europe greatly increased the number of people belonging to the "middle class”. The middle class demanded the right to vote, and the political parties responded by establishing democratic systems based on the premise that all adults have the right to vote.

Now, with the exodus of manufacturing industries overseas, the industrialized countries are in the situation of a "reverse industrial revolution". In other words, the manufacturing industries are shrinking and the number of relatively high-wage workers and employees generated by the manufacturing industries is decreasing; only the democratic system of one man, one vote remains.

The middle class, with its declining standard of living, is permanently dissatisfied and supports populist politicians and parties that make empty promises to relieve their grievances, paving the way, beyond populism, to the rise of authoritarian far-right forces. The “modern era of democracy supported by rising economic and living standards", damaged from within, is now in its twilight days.

The Advent of the "New Age of Robotics and AI”
Amid this confusion, the "new age of robotics and AI" is arriving, whether we like it or not. Our society may be divided into a very small number of super elites who design, use, and are used by robots and AI, and a large army of "non-elites”.

In developed countries, the status and role of the "state" is declining, as more and more young men and women avoid working for the government or the military, and most gifted people are absorbed in the search for ways to manage the new civilization with robots and AI.

On the other hand, Russia and developing countries are still thinking and acting with the 19th-century mindsets. They value childish vanity, such as which country is bigger, has a larger GDP, or a stronger military than others.

The Japanese slogan should be the pursuit of "deservedly human life" and "consideration for the well-being of others”

What should we in Japan do in this situation? Let's not rush to talk about hot issues such as strengthening or abrogating the Japan-U.S. alliance, but rather, let's get the basics right. Let us put aside for a moment words like "freedom" and "democracy," which the U.S. and Europe have degraded so much. Developing countries tend to consider these words as tools used by Western powers to interfere in their affairs, they may only provoke their antipathy.

Instead, we prefer to get ordinary people in developing countries on our side and nudge them to demand more rights and income in a natural way. To this end, we would like to propose “the pursuit of deservedly human life” as a goal to be pursued through all countries of the world.

The word "deservedly human" contains the lost attributes of "modernity," such as respect for one's own and others' rights and a high standard of living. On the other hand, for those who seek to satisfy their boundless avarice and care little for others, I would like to emphasize the virtue of “moderation based on consideration for the well-being of others”.

While China and India have become the center of the world's attention, Japan has submerged under the radar. I would like to propose that we keep on working under the banner of the pursuit of "deservedly human life" and "consideration for the well-being of others”. These values are inherently Japanese
and can make a unique contribution to the world.

KAWATO Akio is a Former Ambassador of Japan to Uzbekistan and a Former Chief Economist, Development Bank of Japan
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

不当に縮んで見える日本経済 (その3)
河東 哲夫 / 元日本政策投資銀行設備投資研究所上席主任研究員

2024年 5月 14日














一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Unbearable Smallness of Japan’s Economy (part 3)