January 2, 2013 3 Comments
Two days ago, I had the opportunity of finally meeting Jon Heese.
As some of you may remember, Jon is a city councillor in the city of Tsukuba in Ibaraki prefecture. He was also one of the first people I interviewed when I began this blog two years ago, and along with Mike “In Tokyo” Rogers, a mentor from whom I have learned much about not only Japan, but about life in general. Jon had come by Toronto to visit his siblings residing here and thought that it would be a great opportunity to finally meet up.
Although we talked over Japanese food, beer, and two rounds of coffee for close to four and a half hours, it felt closer to one. Jon had a wealth of experiences to share, and I, like a sponge, internalised what he had to say as much as I could.
One of the main things Jon said that impacted me greatly was his point of finding opportunity where most people found doom and gloom. The point preceding this was my concern of being able to find a job in Japan, as a foreigner, having studied at a foreign university, with intermediate Japanese skills, in a field where most firms are pulling back staff and positions (finance). Certainly a difficult position to be in, but not impossible to succeed in. In other words, akirame ga warui: never give up.
Unfortunately, my initial attitude of scepticism seems to, after twenty years of stagnation, be the dominant attitude in Japan for many individuals. The only way to change the way things areand to change this pessimism is to change the way the system is run. And it seems no one, save the emergence of maverick Toru Hashimoto (who does not have enough popular support), is willing to change the system, preferring short-term comfort at the expense of long-term pain. Nonetheless, one can only take opiates for so long before the underlying disease begins to lay waste to the body and, if left unremedied, may lead to an individual’s death.
Some wonder what changes have to be effected before the body can be cured. The answer is simple: small government. How it works is all described in Peter Schiff’s book “The Real Crash”, which I am currently reading and highly recommend for anyone looking for an alternative solution to problems conventional means simply cannot fix.
Although the book speaks in relation to problems currently faced by the American economy, I find many of his proposals to be particularly applicable to the Japanese economy. It is true that the general consensus view his solutions to be of the “hack and slash” variety, and it certainly doesn’t help that he sometimes fails to articulate his solutions well enough on television. But in full flesh, when he is able to fully explain his proposals, you can see the sense in Schiff’s argument for governments around the world.
Unsurprisingly, the path Schiff and other libertarians support is the path of greatest resistance. Reduction of government will meet opposition from almost every part of society. Opposition parties will hate it because their jobs are at stake. Lobby groups will hate it because of reduction or elimination of funding from certain causes or groups. The general public will oppose it under the perception of reduced government as a reduction of social services.
There is, however, no real alternative. Japan is beginning to recognise that with the growing popularity of Hashimoto (notwithstanding his tie-up with Ishihara) after twenty years of trying everything under the sun. And other governments will begin to realise the same only when all other options have been exhausted.
We can only pray that the changes be implemented sooner rather than later. In the meantime, the challenges continue to grow, and the task at hand becomes more and more daunting.