June 20, 2014

[SSJ: 8588] Re: "Voodoo Abenomics" in Foreign Affairs

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2014/06/20

To Richard Katz:

Has Abe's plan to change the JA's legal status in order to decrease its control of the farm cooperative nationwide been watered down completely by JA's allies in the LDP?

Ehud Harari

Approved by ssjmod at 11:38 AM

May 01, 2014

[SSJ: 8532] *Notice* Golden Week Holiday Shutdown

From: SSJ-Forum Moderator
Date: 2014/05/01

Due to the Golden Week holidays in Japan, SSJ-Forum will shut down from May 3 to May 6.
Messages sent to the Forum during the off-line period will be posted after May 7.

Thank you for your kind understanding and continuing support for the forum.

Many regards,

Moderator, SSJ-Forum

Approved by ssjmod at 11:04 AM

April 24, 2014

[SSJ: 8524] Re: Female Labor Force Participation

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2014/04/24

> You seem to imply that this is voluntary without
offering any polls as evidence.

Indeed. I followed the general pattern in this area - assertion without evidence. If others can do it, I think I should be allowed to do so as well. I am a consumer of research in this area, not a producer.
But, I don't think one needs polls or a PhD in rocket surgery to figure out that not everyone who wants to work wants a full time job. The only real issue is what fraction want full time tenured jobs but cannot get them.

As just one example of women (and men) who deliberately do not take full time jobs when they could have, I would offer recent university graduates who are studying for civil service or other exams. I have had numerous female and some male students who took part time jobs upon graduation so they would have some income but also time for study.

Other cases I know of, beginning with my wife, involve women who were offered full time tenured jobs, but chose to work for the same employer on a part time basis because by their own calculation the increase in pay and benefits was not sufficient reward for a sharply increased time at the work place coupled to an almost complete loss of scheduling flexibility.

Another very general reason many women want part time jobs rather than full time jobs is because their husband loses them as a tax exemption if they earn more than 1030000 yen in a year and if they earn more than
1300000 yen, they have to make their own health insurance and public pension payments rather than being covered as a dependent of their husband.

Further, there is survey data that specifically indicates that some women want part time jobs.

パートを選んだ理由別のパートの割合(複数回答)をみる
と、「自分の都合の良い時間(日)に働きたいから」が
55.8%と最も高い割合となっており、次い で「勤務時間・日
数が短いから」35.2%、「就業調整(年収の調整や労働時間
の調整)ができるから」19.3%の順となっている。

 男女別にみると、女では「家庭の事情(育児・介護等)で
正社員として働けない」が19.3%と男に比べて高い割合と
なっている。

  年齢階級別にみると、いずれの年齢階級においてもおおむ
ね「自分の都合の良い時間(日)に働きたいから」が最も高
い割合となっているが、「勤務時間・日数 が短いから」は40
歳以上が、「就業調整(年収の調整や労働時間の調整)がで
きるから」は45~59歳が、「簡単な仕事で責任も少ないか
ら」は55歳以上 が、「正社員として採用されなかったから」
は25~29歳と55~59歳が、「正社員としての募集が見つから
なかったから」は25~29歳が、「家庭の事 情(育児・介護
等)で正社員として働けないから」は30~44歳がそれぞれ他
の年齢階級に比べて高い割合となっている。

http://www.mhlw.go.jp/toukei/list/132-23e.html
That many women want some work to earn some extra money but do not want a full time job may also be imputed from questions about they are working.

 働いている理由別のパートの割合(複数回答)をみると、
「主たる稼ぎ手ではないが何らかの家計の足しにするため」
が56.0%と最も高い割合となってお り、次いで「生きがい・
社会参加のため」31.3%、「自分の学費や娯楽費を稼ぐた
め」27.7%、「家計の主たる稼ぎ手として、生活を維持する
ため」 26.2%の順となっている。

 「主たる稼ぎ手ではないが何らかの家計の足しにするた
め」と回答したパートの働いている理由(複数回答)をみる
と、「生活を維持するには不可欠のため」が49.2%と最も高
い割合となっており、次いで「子どもの教育費や仕送りの足
しにするため」26.8%、「住宅 ローン等の返済の足しにする
ため」15.7%の順となっている。

 男女別にみると、男では「家計の主たる稼ぎ手として、生
活を維持するため」52.6%が、女では「主たる稼ぎ手ではな
いが何らかの家計の足しにするため」70.9%が最も高い割合
となっている。

 年齢階級別にみると、15歳~24歳では「自分の学費や娯楽
費を稼ぐため」が、25歳~59歳では「主たる稼ぎ手ではない
が、何らかの家計の足しにするため」が、60歳以上では「家
計の主たる稼ぎ手として、生活を維持するため」が、それぞ
れ最も高い割合となっている

The same survey reports that of males working part time, 30% want full time tenured jobs, whereas less than 20% of the females do.
I make no claim that this survey is the be all and end all, but I would be surprised if other surveys produce wildly different results. A large fraction of women are not looking for full time work. Indeed, there is no small number of men not looking for full time work.


> 1) The share of female non-managerial employees
having
irregular jobs virtually doubled from 29% in 1984 to 57% by the end of 2013 because this was what women preferred, as you hypothesized.
2) It's because that's the kind of jobs employers were willing to provide.

> If option 1 were the case, that would mean that
employer demand for full-time women workers was greater than what women were willing to supply. In that case, the price would go up as it always does when demand exceeds supply. In short, real wages would rise.

> If it's option 2, that would mean employer demand for
full-time women workers was less than what women were willing to provide. In that case, the wage would go down.

I profess I cannot follow your logic. In the nearly 30 year span you are citing, there was a sharp decline in decent, predominantly male blue collar factory jobs.
In their place, came a proliferation of relatively low pay service sector jobs. Many of these jobs are inherently part time because they involve tidal flows.
Restaurants are not equally busy every hour of the day.
Department stores are busier on weekends than weekdays and at certain times of the year. Businesses that cater to people with full time jobs need people willing to work short hours outside of regular business hours.
 (This structural change has been dealt with by Noguchi Yukio and many others).

http://www.asyura2.com/11/hasan73/msg/688.html
http://diamond.jp/articles/-/14498
When the service sector was smaller, there were fewer jobs for women. I think it would be more correct to say that structural change has led to a proliferation of short hour service sectors jobs and that these jobs tend to be relatively attractive to women. Even if these jobs were being taken primarily by men, it is likely that the result would be a decline in wages.


> The evidence is clear. Real wages have been going
down
for years.

Indeed. And Noguchi Yukio has explained this, at least to my satisfaction, in terms of structural shift, not gender -- the rapidly decline in well paying industrial jobs and their replacement by low pay service sector jobs.


> The same, by the way, is true of men, where the share
of irregular employees rose from 8% in 1984 to 22% by the end of 2013.

Indeed. And, as your numbers show men have been hit proportionally harder than women. I have even heard a labor economist (a woman) describe the change as "the feminization of male jobs" by which she meant that low pay, short term jobs that had historically been taken by women were now being taken by men because that's all they could get. But, to the extent that this represents a convergence between the employment of men and women, it is a positive step in the direction of gender equality, right? In terms of both logic and arithmetic there are two ways to equalize indicators where one is high and the other is low. Lowering the high indicator is just as good as raising the low indicator in terms of equality, right?
Punch line: there's more going on than gender discrimination. It's a factor but it's far from the whole story.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:58 AM

April 22, 2014

[SSJ: 8521] Re: Female Labor Force Participation

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2014/04/22

Earl Kinmonth wrote:

"Further, the fact that a large number of women in Japan are employed on short(er) hour, term contracts is not necessarily a sign of discrimination. It may be what the women prefer. One of the many failings of contemporary writing, especially foreign writing, on this subject is that the writers make their assertions without asking ordinary women what they want ."

RK reply:

You seem to imply that this is voluntary without offering any polls as evidence.

Beyond that, there is a simple test for your proposition that doesn't even need polling. Basically, it's an issue of supply and demand. There are two
possibilities:

1) The share of female non-managerial employees having irregular jobs virtually doubled from 29% in 1984 to 57% by the end of 2013 because this was what women preferred, as you hypothesized.
2) It's because that's the kind of jobs employers were willing to provide.

If option 1 were the case, that would mean that employer demand for full-time women workers was greater than what women were willing to supply. In that case, the price would go up as it always does when demand exceeds supply. In short, real wages would rise.

If it's option 2, that would mean employer demand for full-time women workers was less than what women were willing to provide. In that case, the wage would go down.

The evidence is clear. Real wages have been going down for years.

The same, by the way, is true of men, where the share of irregular employees rose from 8% in 1984 to 22% by the end of 2013.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist

Approved by ssjmod at 11:56 AM

April 19, 2014

[SSJ: 8520] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2014/04/19

I am afraid that I don't know why earl kinmoth views the discussion about gender equality as "sophomoric".

The argumentation and the advocates use of dubious data is "sophomoric" not the issue itself.

his gratuitous comments at the outset of the email do little to contribute to constructive debate.; rather they demean the seriousness of the persistent problem , which places Japan behind virtually all democratic nation ,except Korea, in a very backward position world wide.

It is precisely a statement like the above that I regard as "sophomoric." For example, take female labor force participation rates. True, Japan is at the low end, but the spread among advanced economies is not all that large. 2012 World Bank data put Japan at 48% vs 56% for the UK and 57% for the US. (Japan is going up; the US and UK are static or declining. Some recent sources put the Japanese rate at 60%.) If anything, I would think an American writer would be more concerned about how far the the US is behind the top European countries on this measure. The same World Bank data puts Iceland at 71%. And, while it is not a European country, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea is even better at 72%. (It's even got "democratic" in the
name.) Rwanda at 87% does even better.

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.CACT.FE.ZS
In case my point is being missed - people who write on this issue typically take an indicator such as female labor force participation rates, note that Japan is at the very low end when there is not actually not that much spread and assert that higher is better without noting (1) where their own country stands and (2) without noting that some of the countries that stand high on these indicator may not be all that great of a place for women (or men). I regard that as "sophomoric."

We have discussed this topic often on the forum.

When? Are you not thinking of the NBR Japan Forum?

There is no evidence of any manipulation on this sad record which is duly recorded annually by the Gender Equality Bureau in Japan and other indices., and the

The Gender Equality Bureau in Japan is an agency, not an index. With the exception of the World Economic Forum, I would probably not accuse agencies of manipulation, but I would accuse a number of writers of trivialization and manipulation. It's easy enough to do.

For example, it's not hard to make a case that the UK is rather backward in terms of gender equality, if you pick the right data. For example, there are only three women heading FTSE 100 companies. In other words, women head only three percent of the public UK blue chips. David Cameron's cabinet has only four women out of twenty-seven members or 15% not all that much better than Abe's cabinet. Then, again, maybe the UK is not all that advanced on gender equality issues. Within the last few days, it was reported that "Rashida Manjoo, a United Nations human rights expert, says Britain's sexist culture is more 'pervasive' and 'in your face' than any other country she has visited."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/107677
84/UN-Britains-sexism-more-pervasive-than-any-other-cou
ntry.html
Perhaps Americans can still take the high ground vis a vis Japan, but it looks like Brits have lost it. Then, again, perhaps Ms. Manjoo has not visited the US.

analogies to traffic or suicide only serve to muddy the already turgid waters further. Trivializing an issue of such seriousness does not speak well. joyce gelb

It is precisely "trivialization" that is the target of my "sophomoric" comment. I find that with very rare exceptions, English language writing on this subject trivializes the issue. (Some might well think that the UN reporter cited above was guilty of trivialization albeit not about Japan, but given that statements by UN reporters on Japan have been taken as 100% accurate, presumably this one about Britain must also be so
taken.)

It totally ignores what Japanese women think or want.
I cannot recall ever seeing an English language media article that was based on data or surveys that addressed what ordinary Japanese women want. The only Japanese women who are ever cited in English language articles are elite professional women. Even within this limitation, the writing is skewed. I have searched for English language coverage of powerful women in Japan.
They certainly exist. Women like the mayor of Yokohama or women like the founder of DeNA. As far as I can tell, they have been almost completely ignored. At most they get mentioned in passing whereas with no serious discussion of why they were able to achieve what they did. And, when someone like Hayashi (mayor of Yokohama) says that the only major problem she faced in becoming first a corporate executive and later popular politician was "lack of precedent," her statement is ignored while the writer plows on giving a litany of the barriers to the advancement of women in Japan.

Moreover, unlike most of those writing on this issue, I am in daily contact with young Japanese women about to enter the job market. I have these contacts at Japanese universities ranging from the very elite to the definitely not elite. For some years I have also been teaching a course on childcare systems and the work environment for women as seen in comparative perspective. (Comparative in this context is essentially northern Europe. The US has no national public childcare so there is nothing to compare. I teach the course in Japanese to Japanese students.) Although not a proper survey, my daily contacts to give me a sense of what a significant cohort of young Japanese women think about gender equality issues and on the basis I can say with some confidence that most English language writing on the subject is to varying degrees out of touch.

I am, moreover, aware that I am in contact only with young college educated women. Half of the college age cohort does not go to college. I have NEVER seen an English language article that addresses these women and what they want out of gender equality. The typical example in English language writing on gender equality issues in Japan is an elite university graduate with a top level qualification. Their personal issues are not necessarily those of women at large.

Finally, English language writing seems to forget that women in Japan have had the franchise since 1947.
Women have a higher electoral participation rate than men. If they are seriously unhappy with the present situation, they can vote for candidates who promise action. They can become candidates themselves.

While it may be heretical in terms of English language writing on Japan, I would assert that the Japanese in general and Japanese women in particular are fully capable of deciding what is best for them without the advice of foreign writers, particularly the foreign writers who play games with the numbers and the foreign writers who think of Japanese women only in terms of stock brokers, investment bankers, corporate lawyers, and the like. From my perspective, the current emphasis on "Women of Japan! Listen up! It is you duty to give birth to more GDP!" is just as much an "objectification" of women as some LDP politician describing women as "baby making machines."

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:55 AM

April 18, 2014

[SSJ: 8519] Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2014/04/18

I put up graphs last summer on female LF participation at the link below; I just updated the graphs with data through CY2013 but did not change the prose.


http://newjapanforum.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/114/

Let me add that as Earl noted, "part-time" is a legal not a functional definition. That can be true elsewhere, too: my son was a part-time contract worker at a local (rural Virginia) factory who in fact worked 10-hour days, and sometimes 6-day weeks. He did get extra pay for the extra hours.

mike smitka, economics
washington and lee university=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:54 AM

April 15, 2014

[SSJ: 8514] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Gelb, Joyce
Date: 2014/04/15

I am afraid that I don't know why earl kinmoth views the discussion about gender equality as "sophomoric".
his gratuitous comments at the outset of the email do little to contribute to constructive debate.; rather they demean the seriousness of the persistent problem , which places Japan behind virtually all democratic nation ,except Korea, in a very backward position world wide. We have discussed this topic often on the forum.
There is no evidence of any manipulation on this sad record which is duly recorded annually by the Gender Equality Bureau in Japan and other indices., and the analogies to traffic or suicide only serve to muddy the already turgid waters further. Trivializing an issue of such seriousness does not speak well. joyce gelb

Approved by ssjmod at 12:51 PM

[SSJ: 8513] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2014/04/15

There is no question that the conventional labor force participation rate is a rather crude measure.
International comparisons using this indicator would have more meaning if the numbers were standardized in some way to reflect types of employment (permanent vs
contract) and hours (standard vs short). What this would do for the comparative standing of Japan is uncertain given that some other countries have significant levels of short hour, contract employment.


The comparison is complicated by structural and legal differences as well as the peculiarities of Japanese terminology. For example, "part time" does not necessarily mean short hours. Fixed term contract employment is not necessarily low pay or short hours.

Further, the fact that a large number of women in Japan are employed on short(er) hour, term contracts is not necessarily a sign of discrimination. It may be what the women prefer. One of the many failings of contemporary writing, especially foreign writing, on this subject is that the writers make their assertions without asking ordinary women what they want.

The common theme that Japan needs women to boost the GDP is just as much a case of making women agents of state policy as are such statements as the one in 2007 in which women were described as baby making machines.
Give birth to GDP! Give birth to babies! Neither line asks women what they want to do.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 12:49 PM

April 12, 2014

[SSJ: 8511] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2014/04/12

If the (female labor force participation rate) / (male labor force participation rate) is a good indicator of whether a country is well placed in terms of gender equality, I have a a proposal for how Japan can make rapid progress in this area. The government should encourage men to stay home, drink beer, and watch sports on TV while their wives go out and work. As the male labor force participation rate declines, the female / male ratio will improve and Japan will move forward in terms of "gender equality."

In teaching sociological methods, I have warned students about using ratios where the one of the variables, typically the divisor, can move for reasons unrelated to what you are trying to measure or which is open to manipulation. This ratio strikes me as a classic example of such an indicator. Another that I have seen is (death by suicide) / ( death by traffic accidents). The ratio can be made to look better (driven lower) by cutting back on enforcing traffic law enforcement or by encouraging people to use private automobiles rather than public transportation such that traffic accident deaths increase. Kill more people in other ways and suicide declines in importance as a cause of death. Progress is made.

While I support gender equality, I find much of the writing on the subject sophomoric.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:55 AM

April 11, 2014

[SSJ: 8510] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Mark Manger
Date: 2014/04/11

Colleagues,

Based on an FT article by usually well-informed David Pilling, the "in the labour force" comparison isn't quite valid because while many Japanese women work, they apparently work much less frequently in full-time, permanent jobs than in Western countries (although, well, few jobs outside of the armed forces or universities are permanent these days.)

>From the FT article accessible here (subscription
required):

"One reason to be pessimistic about the economic impact of more women in the workforce is the sort of jobs they do. About 55 per cent of working women are in non-regular employment, earning half as much on average as full-time male employees. Many women do such jobs not because they are striking a blow for feminism but because they need to supplement their husband's (probably declining) income. Others are heads of one-parent families, the numbers of which have increased."

Regular vs. irregular or part-time jobs is probably hidden in the OECD data manuals somewhere.

Best regards,

Mark S. Manger
Assistant Professor of Political Economy and Global Affairs Munk School of Global Affairs & Department of Political Science | University of Toronto Observatory Site | 315 Bloor Street West | Room 212
Toronto, ON M5S 0A7
Phone: 416-946-8927 | Fax: 416-946-8877
mark.manger@utoronto.ca
www.munkschool.utoronto.ca/mga

JOIN THE GLOBAL CONVERSATION

Approved by ssjmod at 11:54 AM

[SSJ: 8509] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2014/04/11

Earl Kinmonth quoted.

"I did not think even Kathy Matsui could be dumb enough to think that this was a good indicator."

Cut her some slack, Earl. She's building a case for gender equality. HIV and and urban crime and gang activities goose the index in a negative way, but otherwise, this isn't a bad measure for that purpose for industrialized economies.

"The 15-64 cohort is widely used. It is unrealistic for contemporary advanced economies. 25-54 or 25-64 is much more realistic."

Agreed.

...

Seriously, JT should be fined.

Jun

Approved by ssjmod at 11:54 AM

[SSJ: 8507] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2014/04/11

Earl:

As for the 68% that PM Abe cited in his WSJ essay
(http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142405270230
3759604579091680931293404)--not the 73% in the same piece that the JT used to lead us all on a wild goose chase--it covers the 25-54 age group that the OECD used for an international comparison. Click through from here (http://www.gender.go.jp/about_danjo/whitepaper/h25/zen
tai/html/honpen/b1_s02_01.html) to find the relevant cvs files (most conveniently http://www.gender.go.jp/about_danjo/whitepaper/h25/zent
ai/html/zuhyo/zuhyo01-02-02.html).The 15-64 age group is usually used in Japan, for which the correspondent figure in February 2014 was 64.9% according to my arithmetic.

The 73% (likewise the rest of the numbers in the table) in Kathy Matsui's article refers to the ratio of female/male labor force participation, which theoretically could be higher than 100%.

Jun

Approved by ssjmod at 11:53 AM

[SSJ: 8506] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Helmut Kostreba
Date: 2014/04/11

Hi Earl

I would not go so far as to say it is all lies. If you look at the figure for Germany in terms of male participation in the labour market, you would think that there was 33% unemployment. Obviously there is not. So I would imagine, that what we have here are raw figures that would need to be taken apart and then stratified. Hence I would think that those figures regarding Finland's female labour participation are indeed stratified, and you will need to get to the stratification formula. If that appears to be questionable, then your lament will be heeded.

So the work is not over yet, it seems to me.

Good luck.


Helmut Kostreba
Hamburg

Approved by ssjmod at 11:52 AM

April 08, 2014

[SSJ: 8500] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2014/04/08

Thanks to a SSJ reader, I was able to find the report that appears to be the basis of the JT article.

http://www.goldmansachs.com/japan/ideas/demographic-cha
nge/fortnightly-thoughts-womenomics-japanese.pdf

The table on page 5 of this item reproduces a World Economic Forum table. The numbers match with the JT numbers including a reported 96% labor force participation rate for women in Finland. The World Economic Forum report footnotes the numbers as being from the ILO, but ILO labor force participation rates for are actually much lower than those in the WEF
report: (female) Finland 56.0%, Germany 54.1%, Japan 48.2%, US 57.7%; (male) Finland 63.7%, Germany 66.4%, Japan 70.8%, US 70.2%.

http://www.ilo.org/ilostat/faces/home/statisticaldata/d
ata_by_subject/subject-details/indicator-details-by-sub
ject

The only "96%" labor force participation rate in the ILO data appears to be males in Qatar at 95.7%.

As Mark Twain said, "Lie, damned lies, and statistics?"

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:45 AM

[SSJ: 8499] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Annette Schad-Seifert
Date: 2014/04/08

Dear Earl Kinmoth,

there is an opinion article written by Abe Shinzo published in the Wall Street Journal last year, in which he refers to Matsui's Goldman Sachs Report from 2010.
The number 73 percent is there given as an estimation for the year 2020 that Abe's government has set as a target yet to be achieved.

Another possibility is that the numbers refer to the labor force participation of university-educated women only.

With best regards,
Annette Schad-Seifert

Approved by ssjmod at 11:44 AM

[SSJ: 8498] Re: Female Labor Force Participation Rate

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2014/04/08

You can find data at www.stat.go.jp in the various LF stats, for example http://www.stat.go.jp/data/roudou/index.htm. It may however be the end-of-year one that contains detailed data (the Feb issue?).

I have a spreadsheet with "M" graphs and so on, I'll email that to Earl. If anyone else wants it, email me.

I calculated the rate for age 20-64 and got 73%. By age the peak rate in 2013 was 79.0% at age 25-29, and was 73-76% at ages 40-59. In recent years the rate for age
20-24 has been falling as more women pursue education; it used to be the age bracket with the highest participation rate. The "M" has muted bit by bit, there is still a dropoff but participation is 17 percentage points higher for the age 30-34 bracket than in the early 1990s (was 52-53% now 70%).

mike smitka msmitka /@/ wlu.edu

> A just published article on women and work in the
Japan Times contains
> the following paragraph.
>
> Japan's female labor participation rate is 73
percent, according to a
> report last year by Kathy Matsui, Goldman Sachs Group
Inc.'s chief
> Japan strategist and the author of reports on
"Womenomics" that have
> been cited by Abe. That compares with a high of 96
percent in Finland,
> and 85 percent in the United States, according to
Matsui.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:42 AM

April 02, 2014

[SSJ: 8494] CJG announcements--Harald Conrad lecture, April 17

Gregory W. NOBLE
Date: 2014/04/02

The Contemporary Japan Group at the Institute of Social Science (ISS, or Shaken), University of Tokyo, welcomes you to a lecture by Harald Conrad (Sasakawa Lecturer in Japan's Economy and Management, University of
Sheffield)

Managing (Un)Certainties: Economic Sociology Perspectives on the Japanese Antique Art Trade

Thursday, April 17, 2014 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Akamon Sogo Kenkyuto Room 549, Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo, Hongo Campus, University of Tokyo

ABSTRACT
Market actors are commonly faced with solving three distinct coordination problems as sources of uncertainty. How should they value the objects of their trade, how can they shield themselves from the competition, and with whom and how do they cooperate?
This paper investigates how Japanese antique art dealers confront these issues. While offering a rich description and analysis of a rather secretive Japanese market, the paper advances also our theoretical understanding of market behaviour in general. First, contrary to neoclassical economic theory and approaches in cultural economics, where the idea of value has largely been abandoned, the findings highlight the importance of distinguishing between notions of value and price in understanding markets. Second, while prior research in economic sociology highlights mechanisms such as product differentiation, first-mover advantages, reciprocal agreements, corruption, cartels, or monopolies to alleviate uncertainties created by competition, this paper shows how complex price making mechanisms in dealers' auctions can have a similar function.

SPEAKER
Harald CONRAD is Sasakawa Lecturer in Japan's Economy and Management at the University of Sheffield's School of East Asian Studies. Prior to his appointment at Sheffield in 2008, he was Associate Professor at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University from 2007 to 2008 and Deputy Director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo from 2005 to 2007. His research interests are in Japanese social policy, human resource management practices, the structure of markets and cross-cultural negotiations. His latest book publications are The Demographic Challenge - a Handbook about Japan, Brill 2008 (co-editor and author) and Human Resource Management in Ageing Societies, Palgrave
2008 (co-editor and author). His latest journal articles have appeared in the International Journal of Human Resource Management, Social Science Japan Journal, The Japanese Economy and Journal of Social Policy. A forthcoming book chapter on changes in Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese employment systems is in the Oxford Handbook of Employment Relations:
Comparative Employment Systems. Since April 2011, Harald has been co-editor of Japan Forum.

CONTEMPORARY JAPAN GROUP
The ISS Contemporary Japan Group provides English-speaking residents of the Tokyo area with an opportunity to hear cutting-edge research in social science and related policy issues, as well as a venue for researchers and professionals in or visiting Tokyo to present and receive knowledgeable feedback on their latest research projects. Admission is free and advance registration is not required. Everyone is welcome.

For more information, please visit our website:
http://web.iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp/cjg/
or contact
Gregory W. NOBLE (noble[at]iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp)

Approved by ssjmod at 11:34 AM

February 26, 2014

[SSJ: 8461] Re: posting materials on the web

From: Helmut Joshua Kostreba
Date: 2014/02/26

What do others think? Couldn't he just place the docs in DropBox as an open folder and publish the link to the folder?

Best Wishes

Helmut Kostreba

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

[SSJ: 8460] Re: posting materials on the web

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2014/02/26

Do a search on "free web hosting" and see if there is something that fits your needs.
If you need gigabytes of (free) storage, you can put your files on Google Drive or OneDrive (Microsoft) and make them open access.

What I do personally is use the miserly 20 megabytes of web server space provided by my ISP to run a portal that is basically a collection of links to the very large files that are actually on OneDrive (previously SkyDrive).

I would think that if you are at MIT there would be no shortage of people who can advise you on this.

EHK
Oxford, UK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

February 25, 2014

[SSJ: 8459] Re: posting materials on the web

From: JFSteele Research
Date: 2014/02/25

Dear Tom,

Although this may not be of help in the current context, as one example, OUP does allow authors contributing to SSJJ to include "additional materials"
in its *digitally* published issues of SSJJ.

We are just beginning to consider how best to use this service. In our last exchanges with OUP Tokyo, we discussed the inclusion of 'other media' such as photos, video and related material that can digitally serve as a complement to the published SSJJ article.

As such, it may be worth pursuing this with Routledge.
It is possible if they choose to offer the service.

Best,

Jackie Steele
SSJJ Managing Editor
Assoc. Professor, ISS, University of Tokyo

Approved by ssjmod at 12:28 PM

February 22, 2014

[SSJ: 8457] posting materials on the web

From: Tom Blackwood
Date: 2014/02/22

Dear SSJ-Forum,

(Apologies for cross-posting).

In a forthcoming publication (a chapter in an edited monograph), I would like to include URLs of links to information (appendices) that I cannot include in the hard copy due to lack of space. I was wondering if anyone on the list has experience with this, and if they could suggest some simple ways to deal with it.
Unfortunately, I cannot post such things on my current work website. Also, I do not have my own blog or a personal website; the closest thing I have would be my Academia.edu account, but while Academia.edu might be o.k. for complete papers, it doesn't seem to be the appropriate place to upload appendices. I am currently trying to find out whether the publisher
(Routledge) could host the appendices on their website, but I would greatly appreciate any suggestions from the list.

Finally, although the book might end up with an electronic version (e.g., Kindle), for the most part, I believe it will just be an old-fashioned paper monograph.

Thanks and regards,

Tom

--
Thomas Blackwood, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:48 AM

January 04, 2014

[SSJ: 8396] Kouhaku and secrecy rules

From: David R. Leheny
Date: 2014/01/04

Dear SSJ-Forum members,

I hope all of you are enjoying a nice beginning to a happy and healthy 2014.

Because I’m not the expert on party politics and elections that others on the list are, I am stepping into this issue with a bit of trepidation. But I was wondering, is it just me, or were the political subtexts of the recent NHK Kouhaku more interesting and deeper than the obvious one?

My assumption is that most of the ink soon to be spilled by Martin Fackler and others at the New York Times will focus on the announcement during the show that Oshima Yuko, the longtime dominant force in AKB48 politics, would graduate from the group. At the elderly age of 25, she would be likely to see only dwindling chances in the group’s annual elections, and she may be positioning herself to segue to what might be a lucrative career as a media pundit and writer. It’s surely an important story, not least because of Oshima’s tactical brilliance - her manipulation of
AKB48 voting districts and rules to achieve postal reform was breathtaking - but I also think that we’ve seen this sort of thing before. It doesn’t strike me as a game-changer, even if it will be treated as such by those who take a kind of “Great Idols of History”
approach to understanding politics. With all due respect to its practitioners, I view that kind of AKB48ology as being more journalistic than social scientific.

More important, in my view, was the triumphant return of Sashihara Rino, particularly in light of her efforts to transform crucial political and legal institutions; these changes would long outlive Sashihara herself.
SSJ-Forum members surely need no reminding of Sashihara’s career trajectory. One of AKB48’s most visible leaders, she was forced in 2012 into exile in HKT48, the “Hakata” branch based in Fukuoka.
Sashihara, of course, had herself experienced a dramatic rise in 2006-2007 as an uncommonly fresh face in the world of AKB48 politics, though many attributed her popularity to her strident stand on the North Korean abductions issue. But she gained a reputation as a somewhat feckless and incompetent leader (which was already pretty evident in her television show, "Sashiko no kuse ni - kono bangumi wa AKB to wa mattaku kankei
arimasen”) even before the sex scandal that engulfed her in 2012. The disputed revelations in a shukanshi about her sex life produced a surprising (and somewhat
suspicious) health scare: the much-discussed hyperventilation incident in the middle of one her concerts. At that point, she really had no choice but to accept demotion to regional politics.

Sashihara’s comeback has been nothing short of remarkable, which suggests that she has genuine political skills that most of us had likely underestimated, given the attention we tended to pay to Oshima. I myself have to admit to having ridiculed her book “Kawaii kuni e” (Toward a Cute Country) as the ravings of a rabid but perfectly coiffed nationalist.
Its opening chapter, which straightforwardly aimed to rehabilitate the image of her spiritual grandmother, Matsuda Seiko, created fodder for Japanese political and entertainment critics for months. As you all know, Seiko-chan produced national outrage in 1990 for her hasty and possible illegal decision to ram through a midnight agreement with the American idol community that resulted in her duet “The Perfect Combination"
with Donnie Wahlberg, the bad boy of New Kids on the Block (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FR7jpCAGpEI).
While somewhat blithely viewed in the United States as the cornerstone of the US-Japan entertainment alliance, that crisis brought 500,000 demonstrators to the streets of Tokyo in protest, ending only when Koizumi Kyoko entered the scene with her Kawaisa Baizou Keikaku (Cuteness Doubling Plan). The rest, as they say, is history. Despite the survival of the idol scene, Seiko-chan herself has been trying to repair the damage to her own reputation for decades, most recently with her duet with international karaoke champion Chris Hart
(http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16fcyb_pv-松田聖子-
クリス-ハート-夢がさめて_music); the performance by the two at the recent Kouhaku was an event highlight, immediately trumpeted by the United States embassy as part of its Tomodachi Initiative. With friends like these, I thought…. but then decided there was little to be gained by penning an angry op-ed about all the tomodachi stuff, as tiresome, self-serving, and illiterate about Japanese politics as it is.

Since winning the recent AKB48 general election, Sashihara has seemed to be trying to demonstrate that she’s a pragmatic, capable leader, not the angry ideologue so often criticized in media outlets overseas. Aside from doing her best to maintain stable, if not necessarily friendly, relations with An Youqi, Cindy Yen, and all Nine Muses, she has also attempted to shake the Japanese idol economy out of its doldrums.
Though praised initially by Paul Krugman, Sashihara’s inflationary efforts have unnerved a number of experts in Japan. After all, it at first seems great that, under her leadership, AKB48 has now set up branches in virtually every mid-sized city of Japan, with TKB48 serving as kind of an exclamation point; who knew there were potentially 48 idols in Tsukuba? But with Japan’s declining population and the constraints of the roman script, it seems that we are rapidly approaching the demographic and alphabetic limits of this kind of expansionary policy. “Sashikonomics" remains a popular buzzword, but without structural reform to idol groups, it’s difficult to know how much of an impact it will have over the long term. I think many of us remain worried that her real goal is to try to create SKK48 and TKS48 (Senkaku and Takeshima, respectively), which would have predictably disastrous results for Asia-Pacific security. That said, even a critic like me should give her credit for her restraint thus far.

Sashihara was clearly wounded by the dating/sex scandal, and Minegishi Minami’s tearful video
(post-head-shaving) this past year showed the continued costs to Japan’s cute community of media leaks and open reporting. And it’s there where I think her appearance at Kouhaku - teaming up with elderly enka singer Itsuki Hiroshi for a thrilling performance of “Hakata A La Mode” - provided the evening’s most interesting political subtext. After all, Sashihara’s championing of a media secrecy initiative that would severely punish journalists and whistleblowers alike for leaks was reflected in the choice of the song, with its compelling point about the need to hide one’s tears (“namida kakushite”), which you can’t very well do if your ex-boyfriend’s going to rat you out to Shukan Bunshun for your sexual proclivities. And that seems, to my mind, to be much more germane to the issue than the tatemae put forth by MOFA: that the new secrecy rules simply protect the mysteries of J-Idol cuteness from competitors overseas, that a PYY48
(Pyongyang) and BJN48 (Beijing) would readily emerge should the secrets of Japanese success be revealed through Wikileaks or another whistleblower site.

Japanese constitutional scholars have long argued about the “cuteness-vs.-privacy” tradeoff (I mean, we can’
t very well find these idols cute if we know what they’re really like), and I think one can respect the proponents of either side. But the problem with Sashihara’s initiative is that it’s so vaguely written, so broad in the administrative authority it provides the leaders of AKB48, that it threatens to make the group’s democracy a bit of a sham. I don’t want AKB48 elections to be marked by the kind of negative campaigning that defined the West Coast vs.
East Coast rap scene in the US in the 1990s, but if it turns out that an AKB48 member is taking payoffs from TEPCO, I’d like to know it before casting a vote for her as my favorite member. Sashihara’s media secrecy initiative seems to me at least to threaten even a
YKI48 kenkyuusei in Yokkaichi who might simply be trying to make sure the otaku can make an informed choice. And this is where my own concerns lie, in that it suggests that Sashihara, for all her talk of democracy and values-oriented entertainment, is really interested in democratic values only as a rhetorical cudgel to bash rising (and avowedly authoritarian) challengers like E-Girls.

It’s unsurprising that Washington immediately applauded the initiative as an essential part of the entertainment alliance that Seiko and Donnie started.
I’d like to think that Secretary of State John Kerry is merely poorly informed rather than deliberately dishonest in his recent claim that this will finally allow the US to start sharing secrets of its boy bands’ success with Japan without worrying that they’
d immediately show up in the pages of Spa! or Josei Seven. Sashihara may be comparatively well-liked in DC because of an apparent commonality of interests, but it’s unclear that anyone actually trusts her. It might be more accurate to say that misdiagnosis and overreaction from the Michael/Janet/LaToya Jackson debacles have overwhelmed any sense of balance in DC, making paranoia and panic the “new normal” in American soft diplomacy. And after the Bieber Incident(s), the Obama administration can’t afford any more costly mistakes. If Sashihara is using the new initiative simply to protect herself, she’s one canny operator; but if she thinks that she's going to see genuine interoperability between AKB48 and anyone on the Disney Channel, she’s taking a sucker’s bet.

Anyway, because of my interests in security politics, this was the issue that jumped out to me, though I assume that people interested in local politics may have been more focused on the Kouhaku appearance by Funasshi, the militantly unofficial mascot of Funabashi City. I’ve long worried that he’s nothing more than a rip-off of Jitters the Panicky Squirrel, the mascot of Hartford, Connecticut. But who knows? Those kinds of things are awfully hard to prove, and I suppose it’s irresponsible of me to write it without having some evidence.

I know many other SSJ-Forum members have done a lot more research on these issues than I have, so I defer to your collective judgment on whether I’m reading Kouhaku politics correctly.

Happy 2014 -

Dave

Approved by ssjmod at 11:35 AM

December 16, 2013

[SSJ: 8380] Head count at demo

From: David H. Slater
Date: 2013/12/16

Does anyone have a head count for the different demos last weekend. So fluctuating that it was almost impossible to tell.

Thanks,
David Slater

David H. Slater, Ph.D.
Director of the Institute of Comparative Culture Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology Faculty of Liberal Arts, Graduate Program in Japanese Studies Sophia University, Tokyo

Approved by ssjmod at 11:45 AM

September 02, 2013

[SSJ: 8268] Effectiveness of penalties in Japanese regulations

From: Alexandru Luta (alex.luta@gmail.com)
Date: 2013/09/02

Hello,

I was wondering if I could pick the brains of people who have been watching Japanese policy develop for a lot longer than I have.

I am conducting research on renewable energy policy, with Japan as a case study. Japan has implemented during 2003-2012 a policy instrument for renewable electricity called a renewable portfolio standard.
Roughly speaking, this instrument obligated certain entities (mainly, but not exclusively, Japan's famous
10 regional electric utilities) to have a given government-determined percentage of their electricity sales come from renewable energy sources - either in-house or purchased from somebody else, like an independent wind farm for instance.

This instrument was around for a long time and I think it is fair to say that it was universally loathed by all stakeholders - if for very different reasons. (The meeting minutes of one METI working group I have read reveal an amusingly disgruntled bureaucrat calling it a "kawaisou na houritsu".) As such, there was no shortage of attempts to change it - but METI stuck to its guns.
One of the most consistent inputs into the policy process was the power companies' plea to NOT raise their obligations. The argument went as follows: Japan does not have enough renewable electricity installations (or potential, etc.), so THAT MUCH renewable electricity cannot be produced, so don't force these targets on us, they are too high, we are struggling to meet them as it is and (here is where it gets interesting) THERE IS A PENALTY IF WE DON'T MEET THE OBLIGATION, so please do not put us in an impossible situation where we would have to pay the penalty because we could not meet the obligation because there wasn't enough renewable electricity around to begin with.

What is weird about the argument is that the penalty is actually quite small. I do not have the exact passage of the law on hand, but it was of the order of 1 million yen - FLAT! Regardless if an obligated entity missed its target by 1 kWh or 1 MWh, the penalty was still the same. Such a small fee would hardly be a significant deterrent to behemoth companies such as a regional utility. My question to this forum would then
be:

Are there examples from other industries/policy areas in Japan where obligated entities have felt compelled to comply with a regulation even though doing so incurred higher costs than simply paying the nominal fine set out by the government?

Thank you very much,

Alex Luta,
PhD Cand,
Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

August 28, 2013

[SSJ: 8261] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur (3)

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2013/08/28

To John's message regarding Fukuyama's argument about the mandate from politicians:

Which brings us back to the question" how is the mandate from the politicians made?" That is, who make the laws (who governs)? Politicians? Bureaucrats?
Policy Communities? Depending on the type of issue at hand (Campbell & Scheiner 2008, "Fragmentation and Power...")?

Ehud Harari, A.K.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

August 27, 2013

[SSJ: 8258] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2013/08/27

Earl's question about how the British system works.
I'd say much the same as the Japanee system except without the takotsubo. There is a stronger tie to the Mandarin's club (although they no longer all belong to the Atheneum as they used to) than to the Treasury or even the Foreign Office. All senior appointments are made by the Chief Cabinet Secretary,otherwise known as the head of the Civil Service. For example a friend who started off as a member of the Economic Service in the Minof Overseas Development, took exams to transfer to the Adminitrative Service, became Permsec (permanent
secretary) there (after a year's secondment to direct Blair's Expenditure Review)got a step up to Permsec at the Home Office, and was in line for the Chief Cabinet Secretary's job, but last year the incumbent split the job in some way I do not understand and my friend refused to do the new half-job and went to run the EBRD. The ad hoc political advisors, brought in a l'americaine in increasing numbers in the last twenty years, answer directly to the Minister, and only through the Minister, in consultation with the permsec, can influence policy. In spite of the clever and funny "Yes Minister" tv series of 20 years ago (a great hit in India too)it's still thought to be a good thing to be a civil servant. In spite of salary differentials the job is competitive with banking, and civil servants are not generally bashed by the press.ron Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:27 AM

August 26, 2013

[SSJ: 8256] Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur (3)

From: John Campbell
Date: 2013/08/26

On Friday I posted a message that responded indirectly to six comments on my first message on this topic; it actually appeared along with five more responses.
Thanks to all, and I will probably write again trying to respond to those (and any more that come in).

For the moment, however, I'd like to recommend an interesting piece by Frances Fukuyama, part of a longer series about "governance" and how to compare it. A lot of the recent discussion seems to be arguments about whether he is right to restrict the topic to implementation, rather than anything about substantive policy (I agree with FF on this). This piece focuses on the tendency to blame overregulation and heavy-handed government interventions into the economy and society on officious and power-hungry bureaucracies.

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/fukuyama/2013/08
/19/bad-mandates/

Fukuyama doesn't mention Japan but in fact that line of criticism is ubiquitous here and rarely challenged. Or rather, rarely challenged in the mainstream discourse in Japan. Of course the whole principal-agent line of argument, by Ramsayer, Rosenbluth, and others, is an exception.

Where does the fault lie for government intrusion?
Fukuyama says it is "bad mandates" from the legislature, that is, politicians. Surely that is where most of the blame (60%? 90%?) for all this lies in Japan too, looking back to 1955 say.

Westminster enthusiasts will argue that taking power from ministries and concentrating it in the Kantei will go a long way to dealing with this problem and they have a good case, but in the long run I'm not so sure.
Or maybe, even if true in the domain of implementation, maybe not so much if we do think about substantive policy.

jc

Approved by ssjmod at 11:25 AM

August 25, 2013

[SSJ: 8255] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur: Response

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2013/08/25

Relevant to the discussion on pols vs. bureaucrats, Gerry Curtis has a long 2012 talk at Columbia in which he deals with the issue under the DPJ after minute 30:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CwLlIFSwb0

It also includes and interesting discussion of the Senkaku Islands and why the quality of Japanese politicians has decline.
FYI.
Best,
Ellis

Approved by ssjmod at 11:39 AM

[SSJ: 8254] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur: Response

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2013/08/25

Thanks to John Campbell for raising this interesting discussion. Aurelia's response was particularly interesting. I know the dialogue is primarily about politician-bureaucrat relations, but just want to mention that a "Westminster"-style cabinet government also depends upon 1)unified and strong party top-down cabinet leadership and 2)a primarily unicameral system.
Japan has had neither of these. It is important therefore to also keep our eyes on Abe's ability to impose 1)on the LDP (remember the DPJ tried it and had to backtrack from top-down cabinet government) and whether reforms and LDP's victory in 2013 HOC election make it any easier to get around the many obstacles involved in 2).

Approved by ssjmod at 11:38 AM

August 24, 2013

[SSJ: 8253] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingM...

From: Ira Wolf
Date: 2013/08/24

On perhaps a somewhat "lower" level, another test case is the effort to create a "Japan NIH -- National Institutes of Health" by which the Prime Minister means not a replication of the US NIH (which has a budget of around $25-30 billion and several tens of thousands of
staff) but a process that will centralize the healthcare-related R&D budgets of MHLW, MEXT, and METI to make R&D more efficient and strategically focused.
The DPJ tried this and after 9 months the Director of the office working on this (a world-class medical
researcher) held a press conference, expressed his frustration, and announced that he was quitting and moving to Chicago where he could commercialize his research. The Chief Cabinet Secretary seems to be personally vested in this effort now. It will be at least a year, I think, before there will be any signs of how this effort is working. I recognize that it is not quite the same, perhaps, as shifting responsibility from bureaucrats to politicians (since the office doing this in the Cabinet Office is staffed by bureaucrats from the three ministries), but it is an interesting and important effort to change the way in which the three bureaucracies normally work.

Ira Wolf
Tokyo

Approved by ssjmod at 11:38 AM

[SSJ: 8252] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Woodall, Brian E
Date: 2013/08/24

I would argue that, more than six decades after the institutional framework for a parliamentary cabinet system was snapped together under a U.S. military dictatorship, Japan has failed to institutionalize cabinet government. The greatest deficiency lies in factors that inhibit the cabinet's ability to impart tactical direction to policy. In fact, the cabinet has never become the foremost executive organ as expected in a "Westminster system," and this has contributed to its mixed record in responding to critical challenges.
The autonomy of cabinets has never been assured, as inherently weak prime ministerial leadership, government officials who exercise considerable power (e.g., policy agenda-setting at the vice-ministers'
gatherings that preceded cabinet meetings), a ruling party that ruled almost perpetually from 1955 on (enabling it to institutionalize an intra-party system of pre-clearing all major policy and budgetary proposals before cabinet consideration), self-governing "policy tribes," and the uncertainties of coalition governments and Twisted Diets kept the cabinet from assuming its prescribed role. Although, on the surface, Japan's cabinet system resembles the Westminster model, in practice it does not.

There is much, much more to it than that. I explore this in depth in a forthcoming book.

Brian

Approved by ssjmod at 11:36 AM

August 23, 2013

[SSJ: 8250] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2013/08/23

My view is that it may appear to work for a few years with Yoshihide Suga, a harsh but fair (or fair but harsh, if you're a glass-half-full type of bureaucrat) taskmaster with ample experience communicating and working with a wide range of senior and not-so-senior officials, in charge. It won't matter in the long run, though, unless the parties in power stop relieving their cabinet and subcabinet political appointees every other year or even more frequently. Seriously, how can any minister (or his/her subcabinet apprentices) hope (or want) to impose his/her will on key policy issues when he/she knows (and knows that his subordinates
know) that he/she is only on that patch of the Earth for a short while? Actually, some do, with mixed results.

Makiko Tanaka secured the Foreign Ministry portfolio on the basis of her key role in drumming up grass-roots support for Junichiro Koizumi's upset victory over Ryutaro Hashimoto in the 2001 race for the LDP presidency (and perforce the prime minister's office) and little else by way of substantive qualifications, unless you count a visceral pro-China stance dating back to her days as her father's de facto first lady.
(She opted for MOFA over-METI, much to the relief of the officials there.) Many of her problems revolved around process and personalities, while clashes over substance rose over casual comments running counter to policies long established under the LDPO regime or (in the case of Yasukuni) the prime minister's own wishes.
Would Boss Coffee appoint Tommy Lee Jones as its CEO just because he helped it sell canned coffee?

Good. I didn't think you thought so. Next up, Shigeru Ishiba.

Ishiba must be the most qualified individual to be appointed Minister (or Secretary-General) of Defense in post-WW II Japan. Why, he breathes national security 24/7.at least when he's not inhaling fumes from the superglue that he uses to construct military vessels and aircraft from plastic model kits. Appointed as Minister of Defense in 2008-he had served in 2002-2004 as the Secretary-General of what was then the Defense Agency-in the wake of a series of scandals, he promptly instigated a series of reforms on which he put his personal stamp, reforms that received a mixed welcome from within MOD, which was probably a good sign.
Unfortunately for Ishiba, the 2009 election and the subsequent DPJ regime happened. The upper house DPJ pushed Toshimi Kitazawa for a cabinet post-possibly because Azuma Koshishi wanted to eliminate a rival-and Ishiba's institutional reform was stopped dead in its tracks.

Does anyone think that the appointment system really matter, if this process prevails? Or if if it doesn't?
If you do, I think that you're looking at the wrong end of the periscope.

I could go on and on, with other examples, if someone would pay me to do it. I also may write another post, just for the fun of it, from the senior bureaucrat's perspective. But enough for now; it is late, I am drunk, I need to put my mother to bed, and I've got to get my next fix of Zegapain (with a mildly interesting premise that has its roots in groundbreaking science fiction such as Ubik and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag". (Count Job's ordeal from the Old Testament, if you wish. God, what a jerk.not Job, mind
you.)

Approved by ssjmod at 11:35 AM

[SSJ: 8249] Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur: Response

From: John Campbell
Date: 2013/08/23

Thanks to the six people who sent in answers to my question. All were interesting. I'll make a couple of more points.

First, have politicians interfered with top bureaucratic appointments (notably jimujian) in the past? Sure, they have a voice in who is picked among the two or three candidates within the ministry.
Moreover, a PM (e.g. Tanaka Kakuei) or a minister (e.g.
Tanaka Makiko) has intervened in a bigger way from time to time. But when they did, it made headlines, and often caused them various troubles. Moreover, most often the person conformed to the norm that the jimujikan is appointed from among the current bureau chiefs (or rough equivalent) in that ministry. When I say "most often" I don't actually think of any exceptions for actual ministries though there have been a few appointments in lesser agencies that did not conform to the organizational norm.

An interesting example is Abe's appointment of Muraki Atsuko as MHLW jimujikan. It was a notable and laudable appointment in that she is a woman, and that she had been unjustly arrested in 2009--she was then a bureau chief but the incident was when she was a section chief--in a scandal, and then exonerated when it was shown the prosecutor had faked evidence.
However, it was not that which surprised MHLW officials and observers of the bureaucracy. It was that she had originally been a Ministry of Labor official, and since the merger with the MOHW that created the MHLW, the jikan post had always alternated between the two groups of officials. She was the second MOL person in a row, which violated the norm and caused a lot of comment that Abe was taking an usually strong hand in such appointments. However, she still was a bureau chief when appointed so the main norm was not violated.

If a PM/cabinet/minister could routinely violate this norm, and in particular not appoint a "proper" official of that ministry (such as someone who originally joined a different ministry, or a businessman or something), that would be a gigantic change.

Second, can such a reform be passed? Some thought that bureaucrats have powerful means to fight back. I don't think so. Based on what? In defending turf, or some policy, a ministry (or bureau) may take the point for a strong alliance of interest groups and politicians (a subgovernment or cozy triangle). It is they who have the power though the officials may well have the ideas.
Power to protect the interests of the bureaucracy as a whole? Where is the evidence? Their salaries and perks have been cut consistently and they have been subject to constant abuse, and nobody stands up for them. Why now, with regard to how the personnel system works?

Third, if implemented would it make a difference? That needs a lot of discussion, and it would be difficult in the short run, but I sure think so, Read Bernie Silberman's marvelous 1993 book Cages of Reason: The Rise of the Rational State in France, Japan, the United States and Great Britain to see the struggles in the 19th century to depoliticize the bureaucracy and establish effective governance. (I reviewed it in JAS and will send that to anyone who wants a short summary of his theory about how the four nations differed.)

Fourth, would it be good or bad? As you may gather from the last paragraph, I don't share the view of many political scientists that the Westminster System is necessarily all that great, or for that matter that either the UK today or Japan as Abe would like to see it is really Westminster. It is more government dominated by the Downing Street or the Kantei aided by "experts" who are brought in from wherever. Looks more like the US if we could imagine the US without Congress.

I am not blind to how tatewari gyousei and other bureaucratic dysfunctions have often screwed up Japanese governance, but the alternatives are not necessarily all that terrific.

More comments welcome.

John Campbell

Approved by ssjmod at 11:33 AM

[SSJ: 8248] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/08/23

We are now getting a real-world test case of the relative power of Abe verus the Finance Ministry bureaucrats on the issue of raising the consumption tax. The MOF and the Bank of Japan insist that Abe raise the consumption tax in April 2014, as specified in the 2012 law. So do the Cabinet Ministers allied with the bureaucrats, notably Finance Minister Aso and Economic/Fiscal Policy Minister Armari. Do do a majority of Keidanren leaders. On the other hand, Abe does not believe the promises of these bureaucrats that the tax hike will do little injury to the economy; he remembers the fate of Ryutaro Hashimoto after the 1997 hike.
Abe's most trusted political adviser, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga is urging some sort of postponement or spending offset. So do a few of a private economists who helped Abe retake power, notably Yale Professor (and Cabinet Office advisor) Koichi Hamada. Abe has appointed a special commission of about 50 people to advise him.

The market is betting that the tax hike will proceed on schedule and, assuming no really bad economic news in the next few weeks, including the Sept. 9 second report on the April-June GDP, so do I. But my confidence level in my forecast is lower than a few weeks ago.

So, there are three tests:

1) Will Abe postpone or not?

2) If Abe does postpone, will the MOF seek to undermine him as they have done with previous PMs who crossed them on an issue they considered vital, and as most of the bureaucrats did with the DPJ government since its start in 2009? If the MOF does try to undermine Abe, how will he respond? Will he start firing personnel and hiring others?

3) If Abe does not postpone and 2014 looks a lot worse than the MOF-BOJ promised, what will Abe do vis-a-vis the bureaucrats who gave him bad advice?

For those of us who enjoy watching such developments, it could be a very intersting time. For Japanese citizens who have to live with the consequences, not as much fun.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Econoimist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:33 AM

August 22, 2013

[SSJ: 8247] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur

From: Woodall, Brian E
Date: 2013/08/22

Aurelia hits the nail right on the head - Japan has superimposed the institutions of a Westminster-style parliamentary system on a Prussian-inspired bureaucratic system. And, as Ehud points out, deeply entrenched informal bureaucratic practice were one of the factors that undermined the DPJ's efforts to implement political control of the ministries. Indeed, informal practices often trump formal enactments in bureaucrat-politician power relations (e.g., Tanaka Makiko vs. Nogami Yoshimi/Suzuki Muneo).

Even though today's central state bureaucracy is a shadow of its former self (although it remains a formidable force in executive affairs), a great deal of institutional inertia must be overcome if Abe and his cabinet are going to assume the driver's seat. Younger bureaucrats may have a different mindset, but one still detects an "Emperor's servant" (tenno no kanri) attitude - i.e., servant of the state as opposed to an agent of the politically-appointed minister - among senior bureaucrats. Also, despite a good deal of mid-career "loaning out" (shukko), bureaucrats still regard themselves as officials of a particular ministry. As long as this continues, bureaucratic "sectionalism" and inter-ministerial rivalries will present obstacles to the realization of centralized political control (e.g., cabinet government).
Historically, major institutional change in Japanese executive affairs has followed "critical junctures"
(e.g., Meiji Restoration or MacArthur's reforms).
Unless the triple disasters of 3.11 can be construed to represent a similarly dramatic tipping point (which, to date, does not appear to be the case), it is difficult to imagine what will drive the sweeping power shift
alluded to in the Reynolds article.

Best,

Brian

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

[SSJ: 8246] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2013/08/22

Since the present Constitution went into effect in 1947, Japan has had a parliamentary cabinet system in form but not in practice.

-----
Please elaborate. I am specifically interested in how the Japanese system as actually practiced differs from the British system as actually practiced. I ask for the British comparison on the assumption that it represents something of a "gold standard" in terms of parliamentary systems.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

[SSJ: 8245] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2013/08/22

We all remember what happened to her: Koizumi kicked out both her, and the jimujikan, who headed the "rebellion" against her.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

[SSJ: 8244] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2013/08/22

To some of Aurelia's comments on Brian's comments:
The Civil service reform bill, which Abe plans to introduce (which is not much different from the bill Abe introduced during his first term and the DPJ introduced during its term but failed to have it
passed) include measures that address the issues of lack of inter-ministry mobility of high level bureaucrats (forming a Jinjikyou in the Kantei), promotion on the basis of seniority (including demotions for inadequate performance), and amakudari (regarding the latter, some restrictions have already been legislated. Next month I will be trying to find out the extent to which these restrictions have had an effect).

Whether the bill will pass this time around, and whether it will be implemented is another matter. In fact, the provisions in the Civil Service Law enacted under the auspices of the US Occupation, for job classification, on one hand, and and assignments and remuneration in accordance with relevant qualifications and performance, on the other, have not been changed; they have just been ignored by the bureaucrats, and the efforts of the Jinjiin (National Personnel Authority) to enforce these provisions have not succeeded.

Ehud, A.K.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

August 21, 2013

[SSJ: 8242] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Aurelia George Mulgan
Date: 2013/08/21

Just a few responses to Brian's comments about the real difficulties that any Japanese government might face in seeking to impose more political direction on the Japanese bureaucracy....Some key conditions might be:

1. A change in the view of the role of the public servant away from public servants as independent officials and trustees for the state (e.g. the Germanic/Prussian rechtsstaat view) to public servants as primarily agents of the elected government (the Anglo-American principal-agent view). In other words, you need a cultural/attitudinal shift in the public service. Just viewing themselves as public "servants"
rather than public "officials" would be a start.

2. A change in the career structure for top public servants away from spending their careers solely in one department/ministry to seeing themselves primarily as government servants who can serve in more than one agency and need to do so in order to advance up the rankings. What is needed here, in other words, is a fluid meritocracy across all major ministries, which would help to break down the current rigid loyalty structures in which bureaucrats are enculturated primarily to promote and defend their ministry's interests and to identify their own self-interests primarily with those of their ministries.

3. A shift in the institutional conditions for change - i.e. the constitutional ease of making structural changes in the bureaucracy away from major legislative change (Germanic) more towards administrative orders (Westminster). This would increase the capacity of central government (cabinet and central agencies) to impose change on line agencies.

4. Abolition of promotions based on seniority, amakudari and compulsory retirement age.

I don't see any of these changes on Abe's drawing board. Moreover, as Brian points out, what he is proposing will elicit countervailing reactions from the bureaucracy, which could sabotage the intent of his reform. The article by Isabel Reynolds was rather sensational in its title - the power shift that Abe is threatening nowhere near rivals MacArthur's reforms unless you think that the latter were superficial.


Best wishes,

Aurelia George Mulgan
Professor
School of Humanities and Social Sciences University of New South Wales Canberra, Australia http://www.eastasiaforum.org/author/aureliageorgemulgan

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

[SSJ: 8241] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/08/21

Did not Tanaka Makiko intervene in gaimusho personnel decisions, to big public outcry, but demonstrating that there's no particular legal barrier?

Approved by ssjmod at 11:27 AM

August 20, 2013

[SSJ: 8240] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2013/08/20

Following the logic of Brian's and Rick's messages, PM appointments of Jimu Jikan would have an effect similar to the DPJ's attempt to run the ministries by the sanyaku (daijin, fukudaijin, and daijin seimukan):
failure, because of resistance from the bureaucrats.

Ehud, A.K.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:27 AM

August 19, 2013

[SSJ: 8239] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/08/19

John Campbell wrote:

>If as suggested here he can get
>control of ministry personnel systems by appointing
administrative
>vice-ministers himself ... Japan might become one of
the more
>centralized decision-making systems among advanced
democracies.
>
>
>
How do experts here assess Abe's chances of doing this?

And, from a legal standpoint, how would this differ from the current situation where, from time to time, PM's have ousted Administrative Vice Ministers they didn't like, such as Abe's ouster of Foriegn Vice Minister Kawai? Lots of things occur which are really a matter of custom, not law. To what degree is that true of the appointments?

rick

Approved by ssjmod at 11:26 AM

[SSJ: 8238] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift RivalingMacArthur

From: Woodall, Brian E
Date: 2013/08/19

Thanks to Prof. Campbell for sharing this interesting article.

Since the present Constitution went into effect in 1947, Japan has had a parliamentary cabinet system in
form but not in practice. If Abe succeeds in placing
the cabinet in control over administrative vice-minister (jimujikan) appointments, it could herald a major enhancement in political oversight of Kasumigaseki. Of course, even if Abe is able to fend off the inevitable counterattack from the career civil servants and their political allies, it will take time and vigilance to institutionalize cabinet control over jimukikan appointments and the various formal and
informal ways in which bureaucrats shape policy. Then
there are the obstacles that these
politically-appointed jimujikan will confront in attempting to fully take control over bureaucratic appointments within their ministries and placing the cabinet in charge of imparting tactical direction to policymaking. If history is a guide, Abe must be committed to a long, pitched battle with a formidable foe backed by staunch allies. This will be interesting to keep an eye on.

Brian Woodall

Approved by ssjmod at 11:25 AM

[SSJ: 8237] Re: Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2013/08/19

"...at least if he were able to appoint real outsiders rather than from among top officials in the ministry..."

John:

My guess is that the system that will be put into place will actually work against such an outcome because of the evaluation system for the bureaucracy that will be adopted.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:24 AM

August 18, 2013

[SSJ: 8236] Abe Threatens Ministries With Power Shift Rivaling MacArthur

From: John Campbell (jccamp@umich.edu)
Date: 2013/08/18

An interesting piece by Isabel Reynolds and Takashi Hirokawa of Bloomberg gathers a few facts and some reactions from experts to speculate about a possible major change in the Japanese political structure.

http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-12/abe-threate
ns-ministries-with-power-shift-rivaling-macarthur-era

The issue is framed as politicians vs bureaucrats though of course it is essentially the kantei vs everybody else. The issue goes back to the beginnings of the 1955 system--as one example, the formal call to bring the Budget Bureau into the Cabinet Office in 1964--and has been high on the agenda since the early 1980s though with many ups and downs.

On the surface at least, Abe right now seems to have more potential power, or faces weaker opposition from any quarter--opposition parties, his own party rivals (individuals, factions, zoku), the ministries, interest groups, public opinion)--than any prime minister in Japanese history. If as suggested here he can get control of ministry personnel systems by appointing administrative vice-ministers himself (at least if he were able to appoint real outsiders rather than from among top officials in the ministry), Japan might become one of the more centralized decision-making systems among advanced democracies.

Many political scientists have hoped that Japan would move toward the "Westminster" model, though many of them probably were not thinking about having Abe at the top. What it would mean for Japan (or for that matter whether it really works so well in the UK) is an interesting question.

John Campbell

Approved by ssjmod at 11:23 AM

August 12, 2013

[SSJ: 8232] Senkakus -- Japan and China both pass big tests

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/08/12

August 15 posed a big test on the Senkakus/Diaoyu for both Japan and China. And both coutnries seemed to have passed; i.e. they have takens steps to prevent the provocations that, last year, triggered the riots and boycotts in China.

Last year, on Aug. 15, Hong Kong (and Taiwanese?) activists were able to get past Japanese Coast Guard vessels around the Senkakus and land on one of the islets. They unfurled Chinese and Taiwanese flags and were promptly arrested by Japanese authorities. These arrests were the immediate trigger for the anti-Japanese riots and boycotts.

This year, Abe has decided, with much bitterness, not to go to Yasukuni (recall the boycotts in 2005 in the aftermath of Koizumi's visit).

Meanwhile, Beijing has blocked activists trying to land. A few days ago, a rich Chinese fellow took his yacht to the surrounding waters, intending to land, and was chased off by Chinese Maritime Agency boats. Then, the same HK activist group that landed last year was going to go again this Aug. 15, but HK authorities somehow managed to find so many safety violations on the boat that the activists could not get permission to go. They then took their boat to Taiwan (despite the safety violations) and intended to join Taiwanese activists. But Taipei blocked them, and the HK activists have announced that they will not go. They have, of course, called the Chinese and Taiwanese authorities traitors, blah, blah, blah. But, so far at least, it looks as if Beijing is working hard to prevent the spark that could set off a new round. They are keeping any action by Chinese entities within the monopoly of the state, and have muzzled the loose cannons of the activists.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 10:54 AM

August 09, 2013

[SSJ: 8229] Re: Labor force changes

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/08/09

Joyce,

Sorry if the graphs are hard to discern. You can expand them by clicking on them.

The data are from the annual version of the monthly labor survey. I didn't save the URL but you can google the table titles. I normally start at the government statistics portal (http://www.stat.go.jp) which is much better indexed in Japanese. With few exceptions all of the actual data carry English headings. See also the IPSS site (the Natl Inst of Pop & Soc Security Research http://www.ipss.go.jp/).

長期時系列表3 (2)年齢階級(5歳階級)別労働
力人口及び労働力人口比率 - 全国
Historical data 3  (2) Labour force and labour force participation rate by age group - Whole Japan

There are stats on age of first marriage and year of first child. Both are increasing, and you can get data on what percent of a given age bracket have married, ditto when they had their first child. What I don't know (remember) is whether there are cross-tabulations of work and marriage. No time to look today, or to post graphs on marriage and fertility that I did (?) 5 years ago.

The muting of the M-curve has been going on 30 years, a little bit at a time. LF participation by 25-29 year olds hit its nadir at 43% in 1975. It hit 50% in 1981, 60% in 1989, 70% in 2000 and in 2012 was at 78%. (This is the heavier green line here, http://newjapanforum.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/female
lfjikeiretsu1.png). That's a 35 percentage point shift.

Participation for the 30-34 bracket was at 50% in 1986, hit 60% in 2002 and 2012 was at 69%.

Until 2001 participation was highest in the 20-24 age bracket, but since then it's been the 25-29 bracket (I presume due to the greater number of women in 4-year colleges -- 75% in some sort of post-secondary education, including the surviving tandai and a huge array of trade schools).

Now the gap between 25-29 and 30-34 was been fairly steady during 1995-2005 (about 12%, the depth of the
"M") but is now at 9%. The "M" has by no means vanished, but it is different, and except at the oldest and youngest age brackets ("retirement" and
"schooling"??) participation is higher at every age.

mike smitka
washington and lee
http://smitka.academic.wlu.edu

PS But I did at least check the 人口統計資料集 at IPSS, only eyeballing data, it has marriage data by 5-year brackets - for 2010 (the most recent date in some
tables) 35% of women age 30-34 had yet to marry. That was 9% in 1980, so to my mind that's a pretty big shift over roughly a generation. One in six women age 40-44 have yet to marry; that's a significant number if we're interested in fertility. On that front Table 4-25 notes that until 2002 the total number of children per married woman was steady at 2.2 through 2002. It's now down to 2.0. To me that's an implication of delayed marriage -- survey data (I've forgetten the source, something done once every 3-5 years?) showed the desired number of children constant at 2.0 since (from
memory) 1960. In the past women were able to achieve that target, on average (enough women went on to have
3+ children to offset those who failed to hit 2). Now
on average women are no longer hitting their target. [I treat men as passive players in all this, though at some point, for 5 minutes or so...]

Approved by ssjmod at 10:15 AM

August 07, 2013

[SSJ: 8228] Re: Labor force changes

From: Gelb, Joyce
Date: 2013/08/07

if there is a muting of the M shaped curve, which my previous note addresses, is it due to the later age of marriage and childbirth , rather than increased labor force participation over time?
joyce gelb

Approved by ssjmod at 10:15 AM

[SSJ: 8227] Re: Labor force changes

From: Gelb, Joyce
Date: 2013/08/07

I am curious as to the source of the data that mike smitka posted. nothing I have seen suggests a muting of the M shaped curve . is there evidence to show that women over 29 , married and with children , are remaining in the labor force. i have not yet had my morning coffee, but found the colored lines, though very catchy, a bit hard to follow.
joyce gelb

Approved by ssjmod at 10:14 AM

August 06, 2013

[SSJ: 8226] Re: Labor force changes

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/08/06

On a different note, I've put graphs of recent age-specific employment changes (e.g., the "M" curve for female LF participation) on the following two
sites:

https://newjapanforum.wordpress.com/

http://japanandeconomics.blogspot.com/

The sharp rise in participation by younger women (initially ages 25-29, now including 30-34) jumps out, as does an overall muting of the "M". We can observe the rise of retirement among men, and over the past 6-7 years a slight reversal.

=====================
Michael Smitka
Professor of Economics
Washington and Lee University
=====================

Approved by ssjmod at 10:13 AM

August 05, 2013

[SSJ: 8225] Re: Number of employees at large firms in Japan

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2013/08/05

Mike, thanks for going to the trouble to provide such detailed and helpful comment. The Roodooryoku choosa figures for 2012 show a total number of employees in non-agricultural industries of 54.52 million, including
14.89 million in enterprises of 500+, 10.19 million in enterprises of 100-499, 8.48 m in enterprises of 30-99,
15.55 m in enterprises of below 30, and 4.95 million government employees. The total labour force is 65.55 m, including 2.85 m unemployed. So according to these figures, 22.7% of the workforce is employed in enterprises of 500+, and 7.5% are government employees
- following Ron Dore in British factory-Japanese factory, I tend to think that conditions working as a government employee are not too different to those working for a large firm - making 30.2%. Impossible to say from these figures how many work for firms employing between 300 and 500, but if one were to assume half of those employed in firms employing between 100 and 500, then it would be 5.85m, or 8.9%.
Adding that to 30.2% gives 39.1%. So to say that about one-third of Japanese workers work for a large firm seems about right, with another 7-8% working for government (including e.g. teachers, of course).

However, as we know, large firms are employing more non-regular workers than they used to.

Peter

Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SALC, University of Manchester

Approved by ssjmod at 10:13 AM

August 04, 2013

[SSJ: 8224] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2013/08/04

Hi. I have to agree with Tom Gill here that Japanese college students aren't so much more nationalistic or rightist as relatively ignorant and often uninterested in politics. I don't have others' long experience teaching in Japan but after teaching for one term there I have this same impression. I find this is as true of the pacifist left as it is of the new right among college students. When I asked them I found that few of them follow the news every day from any source (newspaper, television, or online), and when I did a survey of my students in a class of about 20 students (all but 1 Japanese) on US-Japan relations they had some interesting if often naive views of US bases in Okinawa. They were equally split on whether US bases there should be reduced or eliminated, but if they were, neither the pacifist left and more conservative students wanted a US base moved near them, but two-thirds thought the bases should be turned over to the SDF; all thought China and N. Korea were a threat, but only one-third thought that Japan's SDF alone could defend Japan and the other 2/3 didn't have a clue on what to do.

In short, neither the pacifist leftist students nor the more conservative students seemed to think at all rationally about the consequences of their opinions, whether for e.g., turning US bases over to the SDF would in fact in any way improve Okinawan's hazards of crime, environment, etc compared to US bases, whether Japan could build its forces up enough by itself without the US (especially given its aging population, massive debt etc) to defend itself, or whether the SDF could in fact perform the same roles in Asia as US forces on Okinawa. My overall impression is that these issues, as has always been the case in postwar Japan, are emotional, identity, and "valence" issues and that college students' views and orientations and values are already mostly formed from parents and h.s. and college teachers and have little to do with information, knowledge, or rational analysis. Whether left or right there is a streak of anti-American feeling about things like the basis and a desire to not have them in Japan, but no real hard thinking about the consequences of that for Japan. The pacifist left students are certainly not the "Ampo" generations of the 60s and 70s ready to go out in the streets to demonstrate; neither are the new generation of conservatives rightist nationalists fully supportive of Abe and ready to pay the taxes and join the military to defend Japan.

Too often in the postwar, and I think today, the alternatives are presented to Japanese, young and old, as one of two emotional extremes without rational analysis and thought about realistic consequences of the alternatives. And this prevents a practical discourse of what Japan's choices really are. This is as true of college students as adults.

Best,
Ellis Krauss

Approved by ssjmod at 10:12 AM

August 03, 2013

[SSJ: 8222] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Sven Saaler
Date: 2013/08/03

Alex,

thanks for that.
Well, indeed, much depends on the questions, I guess.
No doubt, the hate-Korea-wave and anti-Chinese sentiment is on the rise -- if we believe polls.
(interestingly it is not on the rise if we choose to ignore older polls and use only the results of the last three, four years).

Being a historian, i have refrained from creating my own polls and tackling methodological questions.
However, I have actually tried to confirm the results of the NHK poll (parts of it, the questions relating to historical consciousness) and gave it to my students, over a period of 3 years (800 students in total, from
3-4 unis in Tokyo). The results were astonishingly similar to the results of the NHK poll...
I did not ask the question regarding the sources of historical knowledge, but the numbers of those affirming that the Asia-Pacific War was a war of aggression (one of the questions in the poll) was almost identical to that in the NHK poll for the same age group. I agree that this kind of historical consciousness is not necessarily based on profound historical knowledge. Could be the result of "political correctness." Or the writings of Shiba. Most likely it is a combination of several factors. Not all respondents might have even given the "correct answer", i.e. they might not have marked "school classes", although, sub-consciously, they might have massively been influenced by school classes, even noticing. They might have had a traumatic experience in a history school class, which made them erase their own memories of school classes and, thus, not mark "school classes"
as a factor that has had influence on their historical views (although the traumatic experience might have been the most important factor). So, we are speaking, of course, about a large number of individual cases.
Polls are intended to make sense out of a large number of individual experiences, I guess. I am not sure whether questioning the validity of polls as such leads to anything. They are out there, and I think we have to make something out of the results. Or we have to do better polls...

Sven

Approved by ssjmod at 10:11 AM

[SSJ: 8221] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Sven Saaler
Date: 2013/08/03

Earl,

thanks for your thoughts. I partly agree with your comments regarding the need to put the numbers into context. The data is 15 years old, and we have to see the numbers in this context, as you say. However, in context, the data is highly relevant, particularly since no more recent data is available. For a historian like me, data that is merely 15 years old is brand new, anyway. And since the data is out there, we cannot just ignore it, but we have to use it to try to explain what is going on. Yoshida Yutaka in his Nihonjin no sensokan has looked at these kind of opinion polls and has come to astonishing findings regarding the long-term development of the Japanese views of the war (even people in Korea found the findings astonishing so that his book was translated into Korean). He used polls from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. I think we (or rather the sociologists among us) cannot produce polls like this all of the time and then simply discard them. We have to take the context, and also methodological issues, into account, sure. But if the results of such polls cannot be used after only 13 years, then sociologists should stop doing this kind of polling.

I agree with some of the points you raise in this concrete case. The percentage for the internet would be higher today. But I doubt that internet would be 30% while both school classes and textbooks would be, say, less than 10%. I am also sure the percentage for "people close to me" would be lower today, since those with direct experiences from the war are getting smaller in number. The rest is speculation.

The surveys you are suggesting sound highly interesting, and I look forward to the results...

> "if it's in the textbooks, they learn it, if it's not
in the
> textbooks, they don't learn it" -

Here i completely agree with you. I dont think this is case.
Teachers use supplementary materials and do teach issues that are not dealt with in the textbooks. In some cases, it is difficult to do that, and i heard there were cases of disciplinary action against teachers talking too much about war crimes, although these were not mentioned in the textbook used in that school (which led to parents complain and the school taking disciplinary action against the teacher). But in general, teachers have some freedom to choose what they are teaching and what not. Some, of course, choose to not teach wartime history and war crimes. But some do, and some do so quite intensively.

Even more I agree with your assessment of the influence of Shiba Ryotaro. I have written about this topic in my book, and I think Alex Bukh also has. As have others.
When the Special NHK Drama "Saka no ue no kumo"
(recently translated into English) was aired 2009-11, a huge body of literature was published in Japan on the "Shiba view of history" (Shiba shikan). (there were some older titles by Narita Ryuichi and Nakamura Masanori before that already) Historians like Nakamura Masanori and Nakatsuki Akira agree (grudgingly) that Shiba's influence on the postwar Japanese historical consciousness is unrivaled. Notwithstanding the results of the NHK poll, I agree with this judgement=

Approved by ssjmod at 10:10 AM

[SSJ: 8220] Re: History textbooks

From: Sabine Fruhstuck
Date: 2013/08/03

Thanks, Tom and all, for sharing your insights. I have been suspicious of announcements according to which the J population has suddenly and dramatically moved to the right and begun to embrace a more conservative, reactionary agenda. That said, institutionalized ignorance and lack of interest in politics (present-day or historical), whether in Japan or elsewhere, always seem to translate into conservative attitudes and
(voting) behavior, do they not?

Sabine Fruhstuck
Professor of Modern Japanese Cultural Studies Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-7075
F: (805) 893 3011 E: fruhstuck[at]eastasian.ucsb.edu http://www.eastasian.ucsb.edu/faculty/fruhstuck.htm

Approved by ssjmod at 10:06 AM

August 02, 2013

[SSJ: 8219] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/08/02

Earl Kinmonth wrote:

"I would also note that I find it "amusing" when foreigners advise the Japanese government about what it should or should not be doing with approved history textbooks. I try to imagine them telling the Russian Republic not to rehabilitate Stalin, the PRC to come clean on Mao, the ROK to deal with collaboration, or even telling the Texas State Board of Education where to get off. (See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/21/ho
w-texas-inflicts-bad-textbooks-on-us
for a description of a system that puts the MOE to shame when it comes to politicizing history education.)."

To a significant extent this has been going on for decades. A UNESCO sponsored textbook project from the 1950s brought European countries together to critique each others' textbooks and cooperate in denationalizing them. Japan has been telling the ROK to deal with the issue of collaboration in the context of joint history commissions that have been trying to come up with a common history. That said, it is much harder to pursue cooperation in denationalizing textbooks with great powers such as Russia and the US. Nonetheless, Russia, for example, might find it advantageous to cooperate to some extent with its Eastern European neighbors on the contents of their textbooks in the context of protecting Russian minorities or, for example, dissuading the Baltic states or Poland from stationing US troops or missile defense units.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 11:05 AM

[SSJ: 8218] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/08/02

"I am just saying that we cannot dismiss the importance of childhood experience (and in the context of this thread, 'student' experience and perspective). In some cases, it could be quite difficult to understand a country, whether Japan or other countries, without such experience (here I am not talking about only Japanese history but things general). It seems to me that you underestimate the importance of insider experience..."

This claim about the importance of insider perspective is simply irrelevant in the context of Earl's research, which is based on the views of hundreds of insiders who have childhood experience in Japan's educational system. As I pointed out in a post a little while ago, there are some methodological limitations in Earl's survey, which is based on self-reporting, but that has nothing to do with a lack of insider knowledge.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 11:04 AM

[SSJ: 8216] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/08/02

Alexander Bukh wrote:

"One of the participants at the workshop where I presented the findings of my study, who is a highly qualified political psychologist told me that from a psychological point of view, respondents' perceptions of whether they were influenced by something are not really important when trying to measure the actual influence of a certain event or text....After all, how many of us can trace the exact origins of their knowledge of certain historical facts and more importantly their interpretation?"

I have been harboring a similar reaction to Earl's excellent research based on student self-reporting of where they learn about history. People can absorb knowledge without remembering it, and this can influence their attitudes. They can also be influenced indirectly without knowing it, say if their teachers are influenced by the local textbook. Underlying attitudes especially matter for those with little knowledge and who pay scant attention. Such people are more likely to hold attitude driven beliefs and opinions that are consistent than those who have more knowledge.

Also, we should not assume there is a positive correlation between the amount of time spent studying a subject and the degree of influence on a student. A textbook with two page on the Pacific War might not be much more influential than another textbook with only one page, and probably more influential than one with
10 pages. If a single page (or paragraph) on the
Pacific War in a textbook is all one have read on the subject, it can have a very large impact on one's views.

What we need to deal with this problem is a study that rates textbooks on something like a nationalist versus anti-militarist scale, and then interviews recent high school graduates from school districts using ideologically diverse textbooks and ask them questions that elicit their underlying attitudes on history.
This way we can see whether there is a correlation between textbooks and the attitudes of those potentially exposed to them directly or indirectly.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 10:13 AM

August 01, 2013

[SSJ: 8214] Re: History textbooks

From: Tom Gill
Date: 2013/08/01

Thanks very much Sven.

In a debate like this, there is plenty of scope for argument about methodology, question selection, sample size, sample selection, margin of error, age of the survey (the internet must be a bigger influence in 2013 than in 2000 for instance) etc., etc. before we even start debating the interpretation of data. Clearly multiple answers were permitted, so one would naturally want to know what the percentages would be if just one answer were allowed, on the most influential source; and whether a certain percentage answered "none of the above." A few people choosing a lot of sources could greatly distort the data if the sample is small.

Despite all these issues, my personal instinctive impression is that the findings of the study, as described by you, may well be roughly right: there is no strong support for prime minister Abe's style of nationalistic historical revisionism in Japan. All the stuff about whether Japan was forced to fight by the ABCD line, whether the colonialism was justified, whether "comfort women" were sex slaves or willing prostitutes... Such things are the obsession of a small minority of the Japanese population, nearly all of them male and most of them of Abe's age and above.

Regarding youths, my own experience closely matches Earl's. Like him, I have taught at several Japanese universities, including some quite elite ones. The problem with college students etc. is not that they have been brainwashed into admiring Japan's wartime activities, far less embracing fascism as an ideology for today. No, the problem is one of apathy and ignorance. When those South Korean football fans raised banners praising Yi Sun-Sin and An Jung-Geun at the big game in Seoul the other day, I am guessing that most of the Japan fans had no idea what they were going on about. The other Korean banner, accusing Japan of forgetting history, was strictly speaking correct. They have forgotten -- but not in the sense intended by the Koreans, in which Japanese people forget all the history that is inconvenient to a nationalist agenda, but in a much more literal sense -- they've forgotten the lot.

Or when deputy prime minister Taro Aso made his recent bizarre comment referring to how the Nazis revised the Weimar constitution (which I see he has just retracted, for what little/nothing it's worth) very few young Japanese would know what the Weimar Republic was, what the Nazis did to its constitution etc. Looking around 2-channel etc., I can see a few people denouncing Aso, a few defending him or attacking the media for making too much fuss about the comment... My guess is that there is a big swathe of people in between who are just bemused or not interested.

My personal impression is that very few young Japanese people actively support the Abe revisionist agenda. On the other hand, very few actively oppose that agenda. Most neither know nor care what it is all about. We are looking at a political vacuum, in which any politician with a bit of determination and charisma who gives the state a hefty shove can move it -- to the left or the right. Just because the voters gave the LDP a big majority in the last 2 elections, that does not mean they have all gone right-wing, any more than they had all gone left-wing when they handed the DPJ its landslide win in 2009. Neither of these spectacular results produced fireworks or street dancing. Both were mostly negative results caused by people being fed up with the other lot. The low turn-out at last month's upper house election calls into question the idea of a big surge of enthusiasm for old-school right-wing nationalism, though the money-printing aspect of Abenomics may have a certain fleeting appeal.

So I would wholeheartedly agree with Earl that most of the stuff in history textbooks, good, bad or indifferent, is water off a duck's back, even in those cases where the teacher does stick to the textbook -- which as Earl and others point out is far from always being the case.

But that doesn't mean there is nothing to worry about. Mischief-making political leadership, apathetic population, Korea and China really enjoying rubbing Japan's nose in the brown stuff to see if they can provoke a response... The way things are going, Abe might well be able to start tinkering with the constitution and enforcing greater political control, even if his agenda is only actively supported by a very small minority of the population.

Returning to the NHK survey, which I can't seem to find on Amazon or Google books by the way, we would want to know not just what people know about history, and what they think about it, and where they learned about it... But also how deep their knowledge is, how that knowledge interacts with political consciousness, and whether people care about historical issues enough to take action based on that awareness.

Tom Gill
Faculty of International Studies
Meiji Gakuin University

Approved by ssjmod at 10:59 AM

[SSJ: 8213] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Alexander Bukh
Date: 2013/08/01

Many thanks to Sven (hi Sven!) for sharing the summary of this NHK poll.
No doubt, the results of this poll do show that the Japanese consider school textbooks (and classes) as one of the most important sources of historical knowledge about the "last war" (I love this term).
I am not sure however about the usefulness of this and other similar polls if we are interested in exploring the factors and processes that shape the Japanese people's knowledge and interpretation of history.
Not long ago, I presented the findings of my study that analyzed university students' reception of revisionist historical manga.
Basically I gave the respondents exerts from Hate the Korean Wave and Introduction to China and asked them questions about the views expressed in these texts (the sampling is quite small but for those interested in reading the whole article it can be downloaded here http://www.academia.edu/2131695/Reception_of_the_revisi
onist_historical_manga_in_Japan_a_case_study_of_univers
ity_students)
One of the questions asked the students whether they were influenced by the arguments expressed in the texts. One of the participants at the workshop where I presented the findings of my study, who is a highly qualified political psychologist told me that from a psychological point of view, respondents' perceptions of whether they were influenced by something are not really important when trying to measure the actual influence of a certain event or text.
Apparently there are some rather complex methods used by psychologists in testing the effects of a certain experience and these have nothing to do with asking the respondents about their views of its importance.
I do not know much about psychology but it seems to me that the argument about the danger of taking people's responses about whether they were influenced by a certain text or the sources of their knowledge of history at face value is valid. After all, how many of us can trace the exact origins of their knowledge of certain historical facts and more importantly their interpretation? Personally I find this rather impossible.....


Yours,
Alexander Bukh
Victoria University of Wellington

Approved by ssjmod at 10:59 AM

July 31, 2013

[SSJ: 8212] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
Date: 2013/07/31

To Earl Kinmonth,

I know better than to be a right-wing Nihonjinron scholar. I have never said that only Japanese can understand Japan, and I understand that some non-Japanese people have better understanding of Japan than some Japanese people. I am just saying that we cannot dismiss the importance of childhood experience (and in the context of this thread, 'student'
experience and perspective). In some cases, it could be quite difficult to understand a country, whether Japan or other countries, without such experience (here I am not talking about only Japanese history but things general). It seems to me that you underestimate the importance of insider experience when you say '"Insider" experience is just that. A view of a particular place at a particular point in time.', although insider or native experience is not almighty.
I think we are in a better position to understand a country, whether Japan or other countries, from both insider and outsider perspectives when we have both native and international experience so that we can conduct a good comparative analysis.

I said six years, as I think I learned Japanese history to some extent at a junior high school and chose Japanese history as an elective when I was a high school student. That's it.

I understand the textbook approval system, including some major controversies such as 'Ienaga sosho'.

I agree with your argument for the importance of student and teacher survey, although it is not almighty and has its own problems. You ask whether teachers are actually using the textbook, but it seems to me that it is quite extreme to assume that most teachers are not using the textbook at all. In other words, a more reasonable assumption is that most teachers use textbooks more or less, if not always but at least occasionally as a basic reference material. In my case, there was only a teacher of 'world history' who used his own materials as well as the textbook but all other history teachers used textbooks as the main teaching tool.

I understand that your samples are some students at two most prestigious universities (according to you), but samples are still biased.

I agree with you 'nasty bit' argument.

Ancient (koten) history is part of Japanese history and Japanese ancient text is called 'kobun'. We need to rely on solid statistics to argue how popular Japanese history, world history, kobun and kanbun are among high school students as electives for university entrance exams.

I do not necessarily disagree with your argument of the importance of Japanese history textbooks for Japanese students and as some argue, its importance should not be overestimated (In this respect, I was just saying that Japanese history textbooks are a major source of the knowledge of Japanese history (not only 1930s or later but also before) for at least some Japanese people). Also, as you argue, Japanese textbooks may be symbolic in a sense. However, whether Japanese school textbooks matter in students' view of Japanese history or not, they have practical importance in both Japanese domestic politics and Japan's international relations with East Asia (and the USA). This is what I am much more interested.

Hiro Watanabe

*******************************************************
***********************
Dr. Hiroaki Richard Watanabe, D.Phil. Oxford, MA Yale, BA Tokyo Lecturer, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

http://www.shef.ac.uk/seas/staff/japanese/watanabe.html
http://www.wreac.org/people/WREAC-People/Core-Researche
rs/Watanabe%2C-Hiroaki-Richard/details

Approved by ssjmod at 10:58 AM

[SSJ: 8211] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2013/07/31

On 2013/07/3
> From: Sven Saaler
> Date: 2013/07/31
>
> Ok, here are the numbers (from Makita, Tetsuo (2000):
> Nihonjin no sensô to heiwa-kan. Sono jizoku to fûka,
in NHK Hôsô
> Kenkyû to Chôsa 2000:9, pp. 2–19 (the following is on
p. 10-11).

As time permits, I will look for this survey, but without seeing it, one point seems clear. It is rather dated. Even if the survey was done close to the date of publication, it will presumably be something close to
15 years out of date. Given this, it is not surprising that the Internet does not figure prominently. I was teaching at a prominent private university at that time. Most faculty did not have Internet access in their offices. Homes and schools with Internet connections were exceedingly rare. Kobayashi Yosninori and the Group to Create a New History Textbook were only just getting wound up. I have not checked, but my guess would be that the manga my students sometimes cite came later than the publication of this survey.

A further reason for doubting the relevance of a survey this old is the fact that official guidelines for the national curriculum were changed substantially in 2003-2004. Aside from reducing the overall public school content at all levels by one third or so, the changes produced a notable shift from public to private schools, at least from the middle school level. This shift had a distinct class character because of the cost of private schools. I have seen data that suggests that in some posh neighborhoods, up to eighty percent of middle schools students are in private rather than public schools.

The likely consequence of this is that kids from affluent backgrounds and those aiming high in the university pecking order may well learn little or no Japanese history because it is not a required university entrance exam subject and the type of private school that takes affluent would-be high achievers is inherently exam driven in a way that other schools are not. Although I have only just begun to read in this area, Japanese commentary suggests that such private schools can deviate quite substantially from the official curriculum without the MOE complaining.

I know I am repeating myself, but since discussions of the history textbook issue seem based on the idea that "if it's in the textbooks, they learn it, if it's not in the textbooks, they don't learn it" -

(1) You have to survey teachers to know what they are teaching;

(2) You have survey the kids to find out what they are learning;

Rather than concentrating on the textbooks, people should be looking at the NHK version of Japanese history. Judging by what my students cite in response to my survey questions, costume dramas like those on Sakamoto Ryoma or the Shinsengumi have vastly more impact than five or six lines about the comfort women or other similar issues in a textbook that may not be used at all and if it is used, only for the period up through Meiji. For those somewhat older, the novels and TV series based on the works of Shiba Ryutaro have probably done far more to shape the popular image of late Meiji Japan than anything that is or is not in textbooks that Japanese may or may not read when they are 13, 14, or 15 years old.

I would also note that I find it "amusing" when foreigners advise the Japanese government about what it should or should not be doing with approved history textbooks. I try to imagine them telling the Russian Republic not to rehabilitate Stalin, the PRC to come clean on Mao, the ROK to deal with collaboration, or even telling the Texas State Board of Education where to get off. (See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/21/ho
w-texas-inflicts-bad-textbooks-on-us
for a description of a system that puts the MOE to shame when it comes to politicizing history education.)

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 10:57 AM

[SSJ: 8210] Re: Number of employees at large firms in Japan

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/07/31

Peter, but sent to the list.

I've not gone through to compare sources, but:

(i) the Economic Census provides a breakdown by capitalization (the two biggest classes, so above \10 oku, account for 25% of employment, and then gives by sector, table 5 Table 5 Enterprises, Establishments and Persons Engaged by Sex, by Capital Size (10 Groups) for Japan, Prefectures and Municipalities, file c05000.
csv).
(ii) ibid by employee size finds Table 2 in three very large files provides info for single and multiple establishment enterprises, giving 49% of regular employees (常用雇用者数) in large (300+) establishments but no info on part-time etc etc so it's less than ideal. This is from initial 2012 data.
(iii) The Chusho Kigyo Hakusho (SME White Paper) gives Econ Census data for the previous 2009 census, with 63% of regular employees in small firms (which seems to be much lower than the only partially released 2012 version). That jumps to 79% if you look at small establishments vs small enterprises.
(iv) the annual Census of Manufacturers provides similar data but not including retail etc. for 2010 only 31% were in 300+ establishments (no enterprise data). there's a similar set of censuses for wholesale and retail, where even fewer are in large establishments.

Since you've looked at them, I've not looked at the labor-related ones.

My sense from past work is that (a) the overall picture doesn't vary much while (b) definitions vary a lot and
(c) that's even more true if you move to international comparisons. I used to say that 2/3rds of Japanese worked for "small" firms (300 employees as cutoff) while 2/3rds of people in the US worked for large (500+?). That's based on old data, Japan has seen a small decline, but I don't know about the US.

Unless what you're doing demands otherwise, I would urge you to stick to such "round" numbers rather than giving 2 significant digits, which implies precision beyond what the data allow, particularly in comparative work. Because the Economic Census (at least for the data so far available for 2012) doesn't include paato and hakenshain and so on, you can check the labor survey data against the Economic Census data (the labor surveys give "regular" employment -- are levels
similar?) but if there's no huge divergence, stick to it. It also provides better time series coverage.

mike smitka

Approved by ssjmod at 10:57 AM

[SSJ: 8209] Re: Number of employees at large firms in Japan

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2013/07/31

Peter:

You are right. The definition of 事業所 can be found, for instance, here:
http://www.meti.go.jp/statistics/tyo/syougyo/result-4.h
tml#menu05.

Jun

Approved by ssjmod at 10:56 AM

[SSJ: 8207] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Sven Saaler
Date: 2013/07/31

Ok, here are the numbers (from Makita, Tetsuo (2000):
Nihonjin no sensô to heiwa-kan. Sono jizoku to fûka, in NHK Hôsô Kenkyû to Chôsa 2000:9, pp. 2–19 (the following is on p. 10-11).

Q: What are factors that have influenced your thinking on the "last war"
("saki no senso" [defined in the poll as the war from 1931-1945])?
1. people close to me 36%
2. TV 32%
3. school classes 22%
4. school textbooks 21%
5. newspapers 20%
6. books 10%
7. anime, movies 9%
8. journals 3%
9. manga 3%
10. Internet 0
11. TV games 0

Above average in case of the younger generation were school classes, school textbooks (!), anime, manga and TV games (well, an average of 0 so that does not mean a lot I suppose). Below average for the young generation was mijika na hito and newspapers.
Hardly surprising, "people close to me" (mijika na
hito) was above average for those in their 50s, and below average for those between 16 and 29 years old.
Below average for those older than 60 was TV, school classes and textbooks, books, anime and manga.

The whole study is highly enlightening as far as historical consciousness in Japanese society is concerned. The polls show that there is not much support for conservative-revisionist views on history in the population. Polls of more recent date (Asahi 2005, Yomiuri 2006, Mainichi) have shown that these numbers have remained stable.

Sven Saaler
Sophia University

Approved by ssjmod at 10:54 AM

July 30, 2013

[SSJ: 8206] Textbooks-typo

From: Alexander Bukh
Date: 2013/07/30

Not that it really matters but in my previous post I meant to write that the history textbooks devote less than 5 ( and not 15) pages to the Asia Pacific War. Of course, the length varies from one textbook to another......

Yours,
Alexander Bukh
Victoria University of Wellington

Approved by ssjmod at 10:29 AM

[SSJ: 8205] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2013/07/30

On 2013/07/30 15:41, SSJ-Forum Moderator wrote:
> From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
> Date: 2013/07/30
>
> I have this 'student' and 'insider' experience of
learning Japanese
> history at Japanese schools for six years, which you
do not (and if
> you argue that it is not important, what can I say?).

Whatever your intent, this sounds like classic Nihonjinron - no foreigner can ever understand Japan without growing up Japanese.

"Insider" experience is just that. A view of a particular place at a particular point in time. Whether that insider experience has any general validity can only be established through an "outsider"
perspective and research. I would never dismiss anything a Japanese or other foreign scholar said about American high school education simply by asserting that I have "insider" experience that they lack. My "insider" experience was more than a half century ago (gasp, shudder) at a particular high school in a particular part of the United States. A Japanese or any other foreign scholar who has done recent research on American high schools will almost certainly know more about them than I do without having any "insider experience." Indeed, it is not just foreign scholars who will know more than I do. My returnee 帰国子女
students are a source of information on US (and other) schools from the perspective of students.

Further, it is not obvious to me how you could spend six years on Japanese history. The national syllabus
(学習指導要領) must have been very different in your era from what it is now. The current high school history syllabus offers two courses: Japanese History A
(2 credits) and Japanese History B (4 credits). If my reading of the national syllabus is correct, neither course is compulsory. They are electives within geography (地理). The MOE has resisted calls for Japanese history to be made compulsory.

There is no history as such at the elementary school level although it is touched on within "society" (社
会). Judging by what my two sons had, it is very light touch. That also seems to be the case for middle schools. There appears to be no distinct history course as such, least of all, Japanese history as a stand alone course. There is history within middle school "society," but it does not look like something that occupies the full three years of middle school. I'll ask my thirteen-year old who is a first year student in a Tokyo public school.
Once I get through a hundred or so exam scripts from my students at the two private universities, I'll research the subject myself. I've been planning to build a lecture on this subject. This exchange has given me the incentive to finish my project.

It might also be relevant that of the sixty or so exam scripts for a course on modern (Tokugawa to the
present) political history that I have read so far, not a single student has mentioned a textbook other than the one for the course. Wikipedia seems to be the weapon of first choice followed by mass market books on history by popular authors in the field.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 10:28 AM

[SSJ: 8204] Re: Number of employees at large firms in Japan

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2013/07/30

Thanks very much to Kay Shimizu and Mike Smitka for their illuminating responses. Here's a follow-up
question: for those of us who are not specialists in this topic but find it important for both our own research and for teaching to get a 'ballpark figure'
for the proportion of employees employed at large firms, what is the most reliable way to discover such a figure? I personally tend to use the Roodooryoku choosa for this, because it seems to me to be reliable as far as I can tell, has been used by some researchers I hold in regard in the past, and allows historical comparison of change over time, but is there a better approach?
(It is possible to look at literature on the topic too, but different authors may use different databases - often without explaining or justifying their choice or making reference to the work of other authors who make different choices - and of course such literature goes out of date quite fast.)

I realise, of course, that there can be various definitions of what is considered a 'large firm', and that the 500+ employees figure used by the Roodooryoku choosa is on the high side (300+ often being used instead, for instance).

Peter

Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SALC, University of Manchester

Approved by ssjmod at 10:28 AM

[SSJ: 8203] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
Date: 2013/07/30

To Earl Kinmonth,

As I said in my reply to Ehud Harari, my comments are not based on only a sample of one. As you could probably understand if you had a learning experience as a Japanese high school student, it is quite easy to understand other students' performance in learning Japanese history at school or preparatory schools. In addition, it is quite important to examine the issue of whether high school textbooks matter in students'
learning of Japanese history from students'
perspectives, as Fukuoka argued in his article in International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society.
I have this 'student' and 'insider' experience of learning Japanese history at Japanese schools for six years, which you do not (and if you argue that it is not important, what can I say?). I have not conducted any systematic analysis on this issue, as the main field of my research is comparative and international political economy, but at least I know many cases of students' learning performance in Japanese history.

I also taught Japanese history to many high school students as a private teacher and a teacher at different preparatory schools when I was an undergraduate student (as I do to British university students now), so obviously my claim is not based on only a sample of one for this reason too. I know that my claim still suffers from the issue of selection bias but so does yours. Public opinion is more useful in this sense and it is interesting that school textbooks and history class ranked high in the NHK opinion poll on what shaped historical views of Japanese people, as mentioned in Sven's post.

I know better than assuming that all Japanese high schools are exactly the same, as I saw and met many students from different high schools. I also taught high school students and spent many years in Japan enough to know how different Japanese high schools are, especially in terms of their academic performance (I would say that this is just a common sense among most Japanese people).

As for the content of university entrance exams of Japanese history, I investigated exams of at least 50 universities when I was a teacher. I remember that exam questions of many universities (especially private
ones) were multiple questions and many of them were quite meaningless. I still remember the questions of the entrance exam of a top private university such as 'What is the name of a brother of Imagawa Yoshimoto?'.
One of the exceptions was the entrance exam of the University of Tokyo, which was not multiple-choice but actually asked students to analyse how and why. I remember that the average score of mock exams of Japanese history for the University of Tokyo provided by major preparatory schools was usually a little below
30 out of the full score of 60, so Japanese high school teaching that emphasised rote learning (such as 'Iikuni tsukuro Minamoto-no Yoritomo', the year he initiated Kamakura bakufu was 1192) must have been quite useless for analysing the process, causes and consequences of major incidents in Japanese history.

I understand that there is almost no incentive for at least some and probably many high school students to learn Japanese history, as you argue. I was just arguing that history teaching at high school is a major source of learning Japanese history (not just 1930s or after but also before) for Japanese people, if many of them may know little or not much about it. If we focus on the issue of whether history textbooks matter in shaping Japanese people's view of Japanese history at the time of its imperialism, I do not know the answer, although in addition to or unlike school textbooks, parents may have great influence on people's view of history, at least in some cases. Again, the result of a NHK pole mentioned above, saying that history textbooks and school teaching matter in this respect, sounds interesting.

Hiro Watanabe

Approved by ssjmod at 10:15 AM

July 29, 2013

[SSJ: 8202] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Tom Gill
Date: 2013/07/29

Dear Sven,

I am interested! So please do look up the numbers. I wonder if the NHK survey you mention also covered the question of how interested people of various ages, occupation, gender etc. were in history in general and 20th century history in particular.

Tom Gill
Faculty of International Studies
Meiji Gakuin University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:14 AM

[SSJ: 8201] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Alexander Bukh
Date: 2013/07/29

I would say that it is actually the ambitious students that get less of their historical knowledge from school textbooks as they gain most of their knowledge from cram schools which use their own teaching material.
I have taught at two Japanese universities that are considered quite prestigious( one private, one
national) had quite a lot of discussions with students about history textbooks and their knowledge of Japan's modern history and my conclusions are similar to Earl's.
When conducting my research on history textbooks I had a number of discussions with high school history teachers and people from publishing companies and quite a few of them said that the importance of history textbooks in shaping students' understanding of history is overestimated.
At the end of the day it is very much up to the teacher how a certain event in Japan's history is taught in class and this is particularly relevant for post Meiji history because the narrative in the textbooks is very limited. I think that in most textbooks the whole Asia- Pacific War is covered in less than 15 pages . At the same time some students told me that they never got past Meiji in their history classes because the teachers saw their main task to prepare the students for high school/ university entrance exams and the latter rarely contain questions from Showa.

Yours,
Alexander Bukh
Victoria University of Wellington

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

[SSJ: 8200] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2013/07/29

On 2013/07/29 17:39, SSJ-Forum Moderator wrote:
I kind of understand
what Earl wanted to say from his experience but I also want to say that claiming Japanese textbooks is not a major source of knowledge of Japanese history for Japanese people only by considering some poor performing students is a little extreme. This claim seems to be equivalent of saying that most Japanese students are so stupid or bored that they cannot learn almost anything from history textbooks (if this may be true).


First, I do not know where you are getting this "poor performing students" business. The two universities where I teach Japanese history are at the top of the private university pecking order and are typically linked with the old imperial universities (旧帝国大学)
to indicate their status.

Second, I do not think you understand the textbook approval system. If a textbook is approved and if it is adopted, the students in an adopting school district get a copy. That is all you can say with any certainity. Without surveying a teachers and students, you do not really know

(1) is Japanese history actually being taught to the extent required or is some or all of the time being used for other things including subjects that carry more weight on entrance exams;

(2) whether teachers are actually using the textbook;

(3) how much of the textbook they are using ;

(4) what if any supplementary commentary or materials the teacher provides;

(5) how seriously students take Japanese history relative to other subjects, especially those that carry weight on entrance exams;

(6) how much they retain of what they learn.

Maybe I am exceptional, but I remember absolutely nothing of my high school history courses. I can remember having them, but that is all. And, I am an historian. I was, however, very interested in history in high school and read numerous novels, especially those of Upton Sinclair, that dealt with American social history.

Here are two of the questions I use to get a sense of what my students know about Japanese history.

Have you read a book (including manga), seen a movie or television documentary, or heard personal recollections about Japanese history that made a strong impression on you? If so, describe briefly.

Have you had any previous course dealing with Japanese history? If so describe briefly.


Perhaps my questions could be better worded, but I think even within the current wording there is sufficient latitude for students to say something about official textbooks or school courses. Overall, they do not. Comments about school courses in Japanese history tend to be "I had one but I don't really remember anything from it" or "I had one but we only got as far as the Meiji Restoration." In the few cases I have had where a student said a school course left a strong impression, it was because the teacher had used his or her own materials and put a very personal spin on the subject. Manga come up frequently, NHK costume drama, and novels (Shiba Ryutaro, for example).

And, let me say once again, that my survey base is students at the two most prestigious private university in Japan. Got it?

But, let's for the sake of argument assume

(1) Japanese history is taught to the degree mandated by the official curriculum guidlines (学習指導要領);

(2) the teacher follows the textbook cover to cover;

(3) the students are paying attention;

(4) all the "nasty bits" are in the textbook being used.

Given the way Japanese school textbooks are written, each "nasty bit" would get a few lines and perhaps a supplementary "bubble" alongside the main text with additional information. Further, given that the "nasty bits" with the possible exception of Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea are modern and given that the textbooks treat the whole of Japanese history from the bone age to the near present, all of the "nasty bits"
unless they are given exceptional treatment totally different from everything else will amount to perhaps two or three percent of the narrative. Skip a day and you will miss them Doze off in class and you will miss them UNLESS the teacher makes a point of taking up these subjects. And, teachers can take up subjects that are not in the textbooks if they are so inclined.

Further, consider the number of courses a high school student will take plus the hours they will spend in juku or yobiko if they are aiming at a high prestige university. Their one history course is going to be a small fraction of their total time, the "nasty bits" a microscopic fraction of everything else they are doing in high school. And, because as I have pointed out (1) modern Japanese history is not a mandatory Sentaa Shiken subject and (2) even if you elect Japanese history, the exam is weighted to Meiji or earlier history, there is no incentive to learn the "nasty bits" even if they are in the textbook. Unless individual teachers make an issue of the "nasty bits,"
it is unlikely that their presence or absence will have much if any impact on what kids learn about Japanese history.

One way to judge where the effort goes with Japanese history is to look at jukenjuku and yobiko advertisements. I have done this only casually so my conclusion is tentative, but if what the exam preparation industry offers is indicative of where would-be high flyers are putting their energy, it would appear that Japanese history is virtually off the radar screen although world history and "ancient" 古典
history and texts as well as kanbun 漢文 get some attention.

I stick with my original point. The textbooks are symbolic. To find out what kids are are learning, you need to survey teachers and students. You have to survey the teachers to find out what the kids might potentially learn. You have to survey the kids to find out what they have learned and remembered.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

[SSJ: 8199] Re: Number of employees at large firms in Japan

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/07/29

Peter,

You are correct in noting the distinction between "enterprise" and "establishment". The overwhelming majority of "enterprises" (businesses) have but a single "establishment" (and most establishments are synonymous with a small enterprise). However, the Economic Census asks respondents to report their headquarters and whether they are a subsidiary. All of this is based on a 2009 master list. [I've not looked at the actual wording of the survey, but it's available on the www.stat.go.jp site, at least in Japanese -- the data are also reported on the English-language site at www.e-stat.go.jp].

For many enterprises, that's fine, but subsidiaries and closely held affiliates may not report their parent correctly -- though clearly the survey is designed to elicit that. And do you aggregate individual franchises as a larger enterprise? While the franchisor (say McDonald's, the largest franchise in Japan) controls many details, and may set guidelines for employment conditions, stores are individually owned (how many stores the average franchisor owns is likely reported on their investor links on the company site). That's a conceptual issue, and almost surely McDonald's establishments are aggregated by franchisee and not by franchisor.

So the "Enterprise" numbers likely understate the number of people who work in large enterprises. It is also based on an earlier survey that tried to get a master list to which surveys could be sent, and to educate them in advance on reporting whether they were a subsidiary etc.

So in timing and the nuances of questions answers would differ from ones focusing on employment. But that's the nature of data collection. I put misc on the Economic Census below. The survey does try to count non-regular employment. It excludes family farms and in-house businesses (家事サービス業 which I assume includes "naishoku" -- I knew women who sewed neckties or made kimono fittings -- and not just cleaning) and foreign government offices.

mike smitka

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

[SSJ: 8198] Re: Number of employees at large firms in Japan

From: K. Shimizu
Date: 2013/07/29

I have been working on SMEs for a while, and as far as I know (from having interviewed officials at the statistical bureau as well as the SME Agency in Japan), the term enterprises (kigyo) differs from establishments (jigyosho) or company (kaisha). Any given enterprise can have one or more establishments.
Companies are a subset of enterprises.

Japanese data on SMEs often use establishments as the base unit and are then agglomerated into enterprises.
In the immediate post-war period, the vast majority of SMEs had just one establishment, thus data was collected per establishment. In 1963, there were roughly 3.99 million establishments, peaking at 6.64 million establishments in 1991 before declining back down to 5.80 million establishments (making up 4.19 million enterprises, a 12.8% decrease) in 2009.

Kay Shimizu
Assistant Professor
Dept of Political Science
Columbia University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

[SSJ: 8197] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2013/07/29

To Watanabe Sensei and Kinmonth Sensei:

Many thanks for your detailed clarifications.

Ehud Harari, A.K.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:10 AM

July 27, 2013

[SSJ: 8193] Two Lecturer Positions at the Johns Hopkins University

From: Erin Aeran Chung
Date: 2013/07/27

*Please circulate widely.*

The Program in East Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins University is accepting applications for two part-time teaching positions to commence in Spring 2014.
Applicants must have completed a Ph.D. by the time of appointment. We will begin review of applications on September 1, 2013.

The complete job advertisements are below. Please circulate them widely.

LECTURER IN EAST ASIAN CULTURES

The Johns Hopkins University Program in East Asian Studies invites applications for a part time teaching position in East Asian cultures beginning in Spring 2014. We are open to a broad range of specializations related to the cultures of China, Japan, and Korea, including classical literature, contemporary literature, film and media studies, religion, and philosophy. Applicants must have completed a PhD by the time of appointment. Courses will be taught at the Homewood campus in Baltimore. Please apply online, https://secure.interfolio.com/apply/21913, including a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, summary of teaching evaluations (if available), sample course syllabi, and the names of two references. Review of applications will begin on September 1, 2013 and continue until the position is filled.

Women and underrepresented minorities are especially encouraged to apply. The Johns Hopkins University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


LECTURER IN CHINESE POLITICS

The Johns Hopkins University Program in East Asian Studies invites applications for a part time teaching position in Chinese politics beginning in Spring 2014.
Survey courses concerning Chinese domestic politics and/or foreign policy are especially welcome, though more specialized lectures may also be of interest.
Applicants must have completed a PhD by the time of appointment. Courses will be taught at the Homewood campus in Baltimore. Please apply online, https://secure.interfolio.com/apply/21914, including a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, summary of teaching evaluations (if available), sample course syllabi, and the names of two references. Review of applications will begin on September 1, 2013 and continue until the position is filled.

Women and underrepresented minorities are especially encouraged to apply. The Johns Hopkins University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


Erin Aeran Chung
Associate Professor
Charles D. Miller Chair in East Asian Politics Department of Political Science Director, East Asian Studies Program Johns Hopkins University

Approved by ssjmod at 10:54 AM

[SSJ: 8192] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Sven Saaler
Date: 2013/07/27

Thanks for your reply, Peter.
> Sven says that Abe
> has a record of influencing textbook content. No. He
and other LDP and
> allied figures might have a record of trying to
influence content.
They are all members of the same committees to discuss history textbooks, so whether it is eventually Abe himself putting pressure on publishers (as he has done
recently) or whether he asks allied figures to do so, is secondary in this context, I think. As I have pointed out in my book "Politics, Memory and Public Opinion", the emergence of the Tsukuru-kai was to a large degree the result of politicians pushing a certain agenda - and actually Abe Shinzo played a central part in the prehistory of the Tsukurukai from a very early stage... But obviously, he was not alone.

> But in this case, such
> attempts failed. Why? For various reasons, perhaps,
but
> one may have been the public opposition that Sven notes. As I wrote,
> this is not the 1960s - it is just no longer that easy for
> nationalists to get their
way.
Actually, the "request" concerning Okinawa was not withdrawn until after Abe resigned. His administration sat out the protests and therefore, the Abe administration (or Abe himself) probably did not think of this as a failure (rather betrayal). I didnt mean to say that things are easy. Rather, the main argument in my book and other writings was that strong opposition from civil society prevented the tsukurukai textbook from spreading further. But I think the Abe administration will probably push the agenda of influencing history education stronger than any previous government (which is also why he included people like Shimomura et al. in the cabinet and gave Takaichi Sanae, one of the notorious historical revisionists in the LDP, the position she has). In the Okinawa case, Abe has shown that he is ready to do this even against public opinion. Of course, what is going to happen after he resigns, has to be seen...
>
> It is a complex story and from an anti-nationalist point of view, I
> think it's a more hopeful story than has been recognised.
I hope you are right. But apart from Teikoku Shoin, most textbooks that included passages on war crimes etc., lost market shares since around 2000, while Tokyo Shoseki (which does not) increased its share.
Additionally, after the tsukurukai book came out, most of the publishers deleted, for example, mention of the comfort women, while almost all had included the issue in the editions published in the late 1990s. So, the adoption system does not necessarily play a positive role. It did, however, allow civil society groups to influence the decisions on the local level (adoption committees). This resulted, as mentioned above, in civil society preventing the tsukurukai book from being adopted in a significant number of municipalities. The main question is how much pressure politicians will be able to put on the adoption committees. Mayors have done this successfully, as you mentioned, in Yokohama, and in Suginami before, and it is likely that something similar will happen in Osaka, Nagoya, and maybe other places in the near future.

Re. the importance of textbooks: I remember an opinion poll by NHK with a number of questions on history, and one of them was concerning the question how the historical views of people are being shaped. Possible answers were history textbooks, history classes, museums, books, TV, movies, internet etc., and history textbooks and history classes ranked quite high, while museums, internet etc. were almost negligible. I think historical novels also did relatively well. Probably the Shiba Ryotaro factor. If anybody is interested, i can look up the numbers.

best,
Sven

Approved by ssjmod at 10:53 AM

July 26, 2013

[SSJ: 8189] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2013/07/26

To Hiro Watanabe:

Earl's conclusion is based on a small sample (his students). Yours seem to be based on a sample of one (yourself).

Could it be that you were a special, rare case of an outstanding student who took his homework assignments seriously?

How many Japanese have gotten the BA from Todai, MA from Yale, and DPhil from Oxford?!

Best wishes.

Ehud Harari

Approved by ssjmod at 10:55 AM

[SSJ: 8191] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
Date: 2013/07/26

To Ehud Harari,

It is difficult to know and demonstrate in an objective manner how many Japanese (high school) students learned Japanese history a lot from school textbooks. One
(incomplete) way to measure this may be to examine the results of students' performance in Japanese history exams at school or major preparatory schools for university entrance, given that school textbooks are a major teaching tool, but conducting this investigation sounds unrealistic. What I can say is that school textbooks are the most common tool for teaching Japanese history at high schools and it cannot be just me (I was expecting somebody to say that I used only one example of myself) but at least some students (should be quite a lot if we think the number of all high school students in Japan) that learned Japanese history from school textbooks at least to some extent.
Here it is important to have own experience to learn Japanese history at a Japanese high school (or preparatory schools), as you can then know the performance of other high school students somehow, partly through the distribution of the results (such as average scores and 'hensachi') by high schools or preparatory schools (I am not saying that 'hensachi'
education is good).

In any case, this issue does not seem so important and a much more important issue is to examine the possible impact of the nationalist Abe/LDP regime on the content of Japanese history textbooks. I kind of understand what Earl wanted to say from his experience but I also want to say that claiming Japanese textbooks is not a major source of knowledge of Japanese history for Japanese people only by considering some poor performing students is a little extreme. This claim seems to be equivalent of saying that most Japanese students are so stupid or bored that they cannot learn almost anything from history textbooks (if this may be true).

*******************************************************
***********************
Dr. Hiroaki Richard Watanabe, D.Phil. Oxford, MA Yale, BA Tokyo Lecturer, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

http://www.shef.ac.uk/seas/staff/japanese/watanabe.html
http://www.wreac.org/people/WREAC-People/Core-Researche
rs/Watanabe%2C-Hiroaki-Richard/details

Approved by ssjmod at 10:52 AM

[SSJ: 8188] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
Date: 2013/07/26

To Earl Kinmonth,

I find your claim that Japanese textbooks are not a major factor in what Japanese do or do not know about their own history is too strong to make, as it is based on only a small sample of students at the university you teach, whose performance of learning Japanese history at high schools was poor. Although I understand that some or even many Japanese high school students do not learn much from history textbooks, Japanese textbooks must be a major source of knowledge on Japanese history for at least some Japanese students. I myself spent three years at a Japanese high school and could learn quite a lot from Yamakawa's textbook, which is considered the most authoritative high school textbook on Japanese history. Although TV dramas (like NHK Taiga Dramas) could be a source of the knowledge on Japanese history, they are often factually not so correct and I would like to ask you what could be a major source of history education at school other than school textbooks. It is difficult to claim that relatively unbiased high school textbooks such as Yamakawa's cannot be a major source of history teaching only for the reason that some Japanese high school students do not learn Japanese history well. I think it is essential to have own experience of learning Japanese history at a Japanese high school in order to make such a strong claim.

Hiro Watanabe

*******************************************************
***********************
Dr. Hiroaki Richard Watanabe, D.Phil. Oxford, MA Yale, BA Tokyo Lecturer, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

http://www.shef.ac.uk/seas/staff/japanese/watanabe.html
http://www.wreac.org/people/WREAC-People/Core-Researche
rs/Watanabe%2C-Hiroaki-Richard/details

Approved by ssjmod at 10:52 AM

[SSJ: 8190] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2013/07/26

On 2013/07/26 15:49, SSJ-Forum Moderator wrote:
> From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
> Date: 2013/07/26
>
>
> To Earl Kinmonth,
>
> I find your claim that Japanese textbooks are not a
major factor in
> what Japanese do or do not know about their own
history is too strong
> to make, as it is based on only a small sample of
students at the
> university you teach, whose performance of learning
Japanese history
> at high schools was poor.

I have been asking my questions about history for nearly a decade. By now the total number of responses is well over five hundred. I teach at three universities currently and have taught at three others.
The two institutions where I now teach Japanese history are considered to be at the very top of the private university pecking order, universities that are reputed to have quite rigorous entrance requirements. (My primary position is teaching sociology. I do not poll those students.)

Your personal experiences is a sample of one. My sample is in the hundreds and includes students from a variety of high schools albeit biased in the elite direction.

>
> "I would like to ask you what could be a major source
of history
> education at school other than school textbooks?"

Materials the teachers prepare themselves. I have had students tell me explicitly that their history teacher did not use the textbook but rather materials that he or she had prepared. Major bookstores such as the Junkudo in Ikebukuro that I regularly use carries numerous texts that are written to help teachers who want to put their own spin on modern history. There are also prepared collections of materials that they can use.


> Although TV dramas (like NHK Taiga Dramas) could be a
source of the
> knowledge on Japanese history, they are often
factually not so correct

What does factual correctness have to do with anything, least of all history? In any country popular history is often based on myth or even outright lies. Moreover, most historical "facts" do not mean much.
Knowing that a bomb went off on the SMRR tracks at
10:20 on 18 September
1931 is a historical "fact." If a TV program put the time as 10:21 or the date as the 17th, it would only indicate sloppiness. The real historical issues lie elsewhere and are generally not facts in the sense that 10:20 on 18 September 1931 is a "fact."

> I think it
> is essential to have own experience of learning Japanese history at a
> Japanese high school in order
to
> make such a strong claim.

That would still be a sample of one. You seem to be assuming that all Japanese high schools are exactly the same and if you have seen one you have seen them all. Japanese high schools vary at least as much as do colleges, probably more. To site an extreme example, there are high schools in Tokyo that cater to dropouts (定時制高等学
校) and there are
high schools that attract attention because of the high proportion of graduates who get into elite universities beginning with Todai. The students are not the same. The course content is not the same. The students do not even look the same. I used to walk past an industrial high school on my way to the station. The students were a rough looking bunch. Many smoked. I would sometimes cross the street to avoid them. In contrast, students at the exam-oriented high schools in Bunkyo-ku look quite different. I don't see them smoking or walking around with their trousers hanging low to show off their boxer shorts as was the case with the industrial high school kids.

I would also point out that there is little incentive for Japanese students to learn Japanese history. It is not typically an examination subject for the dwindling number of colleges that roll their own first stage tests. In the case of the widely used Senta Shiken, Japanese history is an elective.
(http://www.dnc.ac.jp/modules/center_exam/content0003.h
tml) I have
invigilated the Senta Shiken four times, most recently two years ago. To keep awake, I read through the subjects that have the most potential for political issues to show up. The Japanese history exams are heavily weighted to Meiji and earlier. Twentieth century questions are anodyne and give no incentive for students to learn anything controversial.

Moreover, I must stress that because of the steep decline in the number of eighteen-year olds coupled to a substantial increase in the number of "universities" and places on offer, the majority of college entrants no longer take a written examination at all, and if they do take a written examination, it is to keep up the pretense of selectivity and to stiff the kids 30-35,000 yen. Only a small number of elite public and private universities can exercise real selectivity. Most colleges will take any warm body who can pay the fees. This means that only those aiming an top tier universities have any incentive to study and history is not a subject that carries any weight for these students.

According to a June article in the Nihon keizai shinbun

(http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXDZO56221490U3A610C1ML
0000/) 45.8% of
all four year colleges are 定員割れ. Even if they admit every single person who applies, they cannot meet their enrollment quotas. High school students who do not aim for elite institutions (the vast
majority) know that they do not need to study much of anything least of all history to go on to college. Remedial high-school level instruction is now common in Japanese colleges. Moreover, even the bright sparks who aim for elite institutions have no incentive to learn Japanese history of any period least of all the modern because it is not a subject with a mandatory test.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 10:52 AM

July 25, 2013

[SSJ: 8187] Re: History textbooks (was Shimomura interview on English education)

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2013/07/25

In reply to Sven and Earl:

Well, we shall have to see what happens to the textbooks! I wouldn't think there is any chance whatsoever of the LDP taking legal action against textbook publishers (after all, it is the Ministry that is supposed to decide whether a textbook conforms sufficiently to the FLE - if the Ministry judges that it does, what grounds could there be for a court to judge otherwise, especially since courts upheld the approval process against Ienaga?). The singing of the national anthem is quite different in this sense, because it concerns staff refusing to follow educational directives (the equivalent would be if teachers refused to use a certain textbook, I suppose).
I am quite prepared to believe that LDP politicians might try to influence publishers directly, but I am less convinced about whether they will have success.
Publishers will be thinking about the market and whether changes will positively or negatively affect their market share. And the point about the struggle over content regarding Okinawa actually supports my view rather than Sven's, I think. Sven says that Abe has a record of influencing textbook content. No. He and other LDP and allied figures might have a record of trying to influence content. But in this case, such attempts failed. Why? For various reasons, perhaps, but one may have been the public opposition that Sven notes. As I wrote, this is not the 1960s - it is just no longer that easy for nationalists to get their way.

Nor do I agree that worries about textbook adoption simply resulted in publishers either cutting controversial material or losing market share. This is discussed in detail in my recent article. ('Japanese Colonialism and the Asia-Pacific War in Japan's History
Textbooks: changing representations and their causes', Modern Asian Studies 47: 2 (March 2013), pp. 542-580.) The textbook that gained most market share between 1996 and 2005 was published by Teikoku Shoin (gain of 12 percent market share), which contained rather a lot of material about colonialism, atrocities, oppression etc
- even including a reference to comfort women in 2001.
It is a complex story and from an anti-nationalist point of view, I think it's a more hopeful story than has been recognised.

I agree about the symbolic significance of the 'neighbouring countries' clause going well beyond history textbooks, however, and I agree that its removal would be very unhelpful for Japan's relations with China and the ROK.

I also agree with Earl that the significance of textbooks should definitely not be overrated.
Publications dealing with this topic include an article by Fukuoka in The International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 24: 3-4; Philip Seaton, Japan's Contested War Memories; and my chapter in Vickers and Jones (eds), History Education and National Identity in East Asia.

Peter

Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SALC, University of Manchester

Approved by ssjmod at 10:51 AM

[SSJ: 8186] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2013/07/25

I have repeatedly questioned my Japanese students about history teaching. Official textbooks play virtually no role in what (little) they know about Japanese history.
In response to an open ended question, they cite first historical manga and second television costume drama.
The uniform response has been that history is NOT a major subject. If it is taught, the emphasis is premodern.

The only thing textbook approval guarantees is that when a particular textbook is adopted in a particular jurisdiction, the kids get a copy.
Whether a teacher uses the textbook and if it is used is a completely separate question that can only be answered by surveys. Just because the national curicculum calls for history does not mean it is actually taught. Judging by newspaper articles, it is not uncommon for schools to use some or all of the time nominally dedicated to history to teach subjects of more significance on entrance exams. And, in schools lacking a large proportion of students aiming high in the university pecking order, much less is taught and still less is learned.

However great their symbolic significance may be, history textbooks are NOT a major factor in what Japanese do or do not know about their own
history. The widespread assumption that what is or is
not in school
history textbooks determines what children learn about Japanese history is wildly naive.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 10:51 AM

[SSJ: 8185] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Sven Saaler
Date: 2013/07/25

Dear Peter,

I have say that I cannot completely agree with your optimistic assessment.
Even though Prime Minister Abe and the government might not be able to influence the process of textbook approval as such, he reportedly has tried to influence publishers directly. In the last months, he has met with representatives of textbook publishers and requested that history textbooks should be more neutral in tone and avoid "controversial issues" (interesting concept...). More recently, an LDP committee on textbooks called for what they consider a 'balanced'
description of historical events in textbooks, complaining that current "descriptions give the impression of a strongly masochistic view of history that does not comply with the spirit of the fundamental law of education." The reference to the law of education indicates that the LDP would not shy away from legal action, if deemed necessary (just as certain mayors and governors took legal action against teachers who rejected to sing the national anthem). During Abe's first stint as PM, the Min. of Education demanded that high school textbook publishers scrap the reference to the role of the Japanese army in 1945 in forcing (or
not) Okinawans to commit collective suicide. The demand was only withdrawn after Okinawa saw unprecedented demonstrations -- and after PM Abe had resigned. So he
*has* a track record of influencing textbook contents, and with the neighboring countries clause gone, there will be much more possibilities to further do so in the future, which he is likely to use.

You are right pointing out the importance of the adoption system in case of middle-school textbooks. The adoption system has massively influenced textbook contents in the past, because publishers adjust the contents of their textbooks to the overall market situation. When the notorious tsukurukai textbook came out, most of the other publishers shortened or scrapped references to war crimes in their textbooks in order to remain "competitive". Those who did not, lost market shares; textbooks that were considered "moderate" (i.e.
void of any political color or message and with few references to war crimes etc.), won market shares, first of all Tokyo Shoseki (more than 50% when I checked last time). This development has not been reversed, although the tsukurukai textbook has failed to win a significant share of the textbook market (and the tsukurukai as an organization is, by now, almost defunct).

The case of Yokohama is similar to that of Suginami before. When the tsukurukai published the first version of its textbook, the only significant "success" for them was the decision of Suginami to adopt their textbook. But the decision was largely the result of the pressure which Mayor Yamada Hiroshi had put on the board of education. After Yamada, a known nationalist, had quit his post, a different textbook was adopted.
Yamada is now a member of the house of representatives for the JRP. Something similar will likely happen in Yokohama. However, as you say, we might have different cities or, rather, adoption districts, voting in favor of the tsukurukai (or its offspring kyoiku saisei kiko) textbook in the future -- and they might be even larger than Yokohama...

But there is one more thing we have to keep in mind when we think about the neighboring countries' clause, namely the fact that is much more than a clause in the framework of textbook screening -- it is a highly symbolic part of Japan's postwar reconciliation policies. It was announced in reaction to the 1982 textbook controversy and has to be seen in the framework of a series of apologies and declarations on historical issues in the 1980s and 1990s. In those years, Japan achieved considerable success in terms of reconciliation, but most of this was undone when PM Koizumi chose to frequently visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which advocates an interpretation of history in stark contrast to the declarations and apologies of the 1980s and 1990s. Abolishing the neighboring countries' clause would be more than a revision of textbook approval process -- it would be signal saying that Japan is not interested in reconciliation anymore.

Changes on the website of MOFA seem to confirm this trend. While there was previously a long list of statements and apologies behind the button "historical issues" (on the main page on the right - interestingly only on the English page), now the button brings you directly to the section "historical issues Q&A". This previously was a sub-section of "historical issues", but at the center of "historical issues" was a long list of apology statements and such. Only few of them are now integrated into Q&A (as far as I can see), but many are gone. While previous governments in the past often emphasized that Japan has apologized for war and colonial rule many times, the present administration is obviously not very much interested in these previous steps of reconciliation and does not even want these apologies etc.
to be seen.

Sven Saaler

Approved by ssjmod at 10:50 AM

July 24, 2013

[SSJ: 8183] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Robert Aspinall
Date: 2013/07/24

Re: Peter's reference to foreign educational models that influence Japan.

It has taken Japan's education policy makers a long time to realise that in the design of foreign language curricula, Western countries are very inappropriate models for the Japanese to follow.
In Western Europe and North America - the places from which education reformers initially drew their inspiration - the modern foreign language curricula were designed around languages that are not classified as 'difficult'.

Consider the following figures:

For a native English speaker to achieve a level of 'General Proficiency' at French or Spanish takes between 575 and 600 hours of study.
For a native English speaker to achieve that level at German takes about
750 hours.

Contrast these figures with the time required to reach the same level of proficiency in Japanese: about 2,200 hours.

By this (admittedly rough) calculation, and assuming that the figures work in both directions, Japanese-speaking students need almost four times as much time to learn English as English-speaking students need to learn French, and about three times as much time as English speaking students need to learn German.

Source:
http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide
/language-difficulty

So if a 'model curriculum' from the West is designed around modern foreign languages that are closely related to each other, it will fail as a useful model for a country that decides to teach its children languages which are significantly more difficult. In particular if a foreign language is made compulsory at the secondary level it will bring about results that are - at best - mediocre. There is no other possible outcome, because there is simply not enough time on the timetable, and properly qualified teaching staff and other educational resources will be spread too thinly.

Shimomura is right, therefore to look at South Korea and (parts of) China, as much more appropriate models for the teaching of a difficult foreign language to as many children as possible.
Under present budget constraints, however, it is hard to see how he will get the money to properly finance the training or hiring of qualified teachers. Maybe that's why he mentions using retirees with experience abroad who will presumably be asked to work for free.

This is not even to mention the ideological opposition to the teaching of English to young children which is very strong in the LDP and its supporters (and does not seem to have a parallel in South Korea and Taiwan).

Robert Aspinall
Shiga University

Approved by ssjmod at 10:49 AM

July 23, 2013

[SSJ: 8182] Re: LDP PR List Winners

From: Maclachlan, Patricia
Date: 2013/07/23

Dear All,

Paul Midford asked about Zentoku's relationship to the
LDP:

"On the other hand, I have a question: what is the relationship of the LDP to Zentoku and post master generals? I thought Koizumi had pretty well burned the LDP's ties to them. I don't remember exactly how far the DPJ and Kokumintou got in repealing postal privatization, but I believe the LDP has been opposing repeal. Hence, it would seem surprising if the LDP is recovering their ties with post masters."

Koizumi did indeed do a great deal to sever the LDP's electoral ties to the postmasters association, but the cut was never complete. Between 2005 and 2009, Zentoku and Taiju (the association of retired postmasters) backed the PNP and the DPJ, both of which eventually embraced postal reform as part of their cooperative agreement. Many LDP lawmakers were in favor of another round of reform as well, but remained relatively quiet on that issue for as long as the LDP was obligated by its 2005 electoral mandate to implement Koizumi's privatization legislation. (That mandate didn't stop the LDP, though, from readmitting a number of postal rebels into the party in the lead-up to the 2007 UH
election.) After the 2009 election, however, LDP unity --such as it was-- on privatization began to crumble.
In spring 2012, the LDP actually cooperated with DPJ and the Komeito to pass a (limited) postal reform bill.


The postmasters associations, meanwhile, have learned how to play the electoral field. They've put unrelenting pressure on both major parties to unravel Koizumi's legislation and their leaders have made no secret of the fact that they'll side with whichever party best serves their interests. Now that a round of further postal reform has been completed, the postmasters appear to be looking to their former political patrons for more concessions.

The LDP's recent behavior toward the postmasters appears less surprising to me than indicative of a trend over the last few years: in the context of increasing party competition, interest groups (postmasters, farmers, perhaps also doctors and
dentists) are in effect encouraging the parties to compete with one another along policy lines for groups'
electoral backing. Given the nature of the electoral system and the challenges that individual candidates face to secure votes, the parties have good reason to respond to these interest group pressures, since many groups are still in a position to deliver (now
smallish) blocs of votes.

In the months ahead, it'll be interesting to see how the LDP responds to postal reform. The issue certainly clashes with the tenets of "Abenomics," but it also translates into votes from what is still one of Japan's most significant vote-mobilizing interest groups. My guess is that the new government will eventually introduce some small but substantive changes under the radar screen that will do little to advance economic efficiency within the postal services, but much to attract the allegiance of key vested interests=

Approved by ssjmod at 10:48 AM

[SSJ: 8181] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2013/07/23

I don't recall the Yomiuri having been a cheerleader for textbook revision in the past (it is the Sankei that does that). It will indeed be 'interesting' to see what the LDP come up with in relation to history education. I presume that they will probably get rid of the so-called 'neighbouring countries' clause in the textbook approval criteria, but I wonder how much difference this will make in practice. I may be too optimistic, but I personally suspect that they will actually find it quite difficult to have history textbooks altered much to their liking. Abe, or any other politician, may deny whatever they like, but they are not the ones making decisions on textbook approval or adoption. That may be seen as a naive point of view, but we are no longer in the 1950s or 1960s, and whatever the views of those doing the approval in the Ministry of Education's textbook bureau, I don't think it is really politically possible any longer for facts that are firmly established among most historians to be forcibly cut from textbooks. Which is not to say that there may not be some efforts in that regard and a tendency for publishers to err on the side of conservatism - but I expect the Nanking Massacre to stay in the textbooks.

I argued in a recent article in Modern Asian Studies that textbook adoption at the local level is as important as, if not more important than, textbook approval in influencing the content of junior high history textbooks. The reason why the market share of nationalist textbooks has jumped sharply since 2009 is because the Yokohama Board of Education (which adopts textbooks for more schools than any other single board in Japan, I believe) decided to adopt a nationalist textbook. Most of the board members were appointed by the previous mayor from 2002-2009, Nakada Hiroshi. It seems to me unlikely that the Yokohama board will adopt this textbook again, as Nakada was succeeded by a DPJ mayor who has presumably been appointing less right-wing board members, but what happens elsewhere in Japan (e.g. in Osaka) remains to be seen. Personally I also think that how publishers feel about the general mood in the country regarding history and Japan's relations with its neighbours does have some influence on what goes into the textbooks (due to worries about textbook adoption and market share, not government approval), so from that point of view, textbooks may edge towards conservatism if Abe's nationalism (as opposed to Abenomics) is perceived to be popular.

Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SALC, University of Manchester

Approved by ssjmod at 10:48 AM

[SSJ: 8179] Re: LDP PR list Winners

From: Aurelia George Mulgan
Date: 2013/07/23

Dear Paul,

In response to your query:

<>

You will recall that it was Abe who as prime minister in 2006 allowed the postal rebels back into the party (I think it was six of them), which was the first nail in his coffin at that time. Now, it would seem that Zentoku is well and truly back in the LDP fold. During the Hatoyama administration, Ozawa Ichiro tried to win them over as a support base for the DPJ in the lead-up to the 2010 UH election when he was DPJ S-G. At the time, he aligned himself with the policies of the MInister of Postal 'Reform' and PNP leader, Kamei Shizuka, whose plan it was to scale back the ongoing process of postal privatisation. Rick Katz wrote about this at the time on SSJ-Forum, particularly about Ozawa's support for Kamei's demand to double the maximum deposit at Japan Post savings banks etc. etc.
Ozawa later provided guarantees that the postal 'reform' laws would pass the Diet prior to the UH election, addressing a gathering of 7000 commissioned postmasters in Nagoya. Ozawa's rush to give this commitment was to ensure that those postal votes would flow into the party in the election. At a later press conference, he said, 'Postal reform is a product of Koizumi's fake reforms. Visiting postal offices across the nation, I have heard about all sorts of terrible conditions..The Koizumi postal reforms have not improved convenience or provided any benefits to the people. I have promised to fix the situation. It is my responsibility to make utmost efforts to have the bill enacted during the current session.'

What I read into Zentoku's great victory in this election is that there will be extremely tough negotiations over postal-related issues in the TPP.

Best wishes,

Aurelia
UNSW, Canberra

Approved by ssjmod at 10:46 AM

[SSJ: 8177] Re: LDP PR list Winners

From: Aurelia George Mulgan
Date: 2013/07/23

Something that may be of interest: No. 2 on the PR winners' list was Yamada Toshio (also No. 2 in 2007).
Yamada is a former executive of JA’s peak body, the National Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, or JA-Zenchū. What is perhaps significant is the fact that he won just under 450,000 votes in the 2007 UH election and only just under 340,000 votes this time. That's a fall of around 25%. One could read into this a not insignificant decline in JA's organisational vote, considering that Yamada mobilises the vote of JA staff and their families around the country plus a few farmers. I do not think the decline would be due to the LDP's support for participating in the TPP negotiations in light of the fact that so many of its candidates won such thumping victories in 'rural' single-seat prefectural constituencies. PM Abe called JA's bluff on this one and won. What also struck me is how well the LDP has done across all constituency types, suggesting that its support base is increasingly well balanced across the urban-rural spectrum (even more so than in the Lower House election last December, which also showed evidence of the same phenomenon).

Best wishes,

Aurelia

Approved by ssjmod at 10:45 AM

July 22, 2013

[SSJ: 8175] Re: Shimomura interview on English education

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/07/22

The interesting thing about that interview is that Yomiuri failed to ask (or at least failed to print) any questions about his (and Abe's) ambitions to revise the history textbooks in line with their revisionist views on the war and its antecedents.

In 2012, Shimomura said that Abe "should declare that the Nanking Massacre did not take place and the issue of comfort women does not exist. He should fully negate the Tokyo Trials historical viewpoint, and should also visit Yasukuni Shrine." The interview was with Toshio Motoya, a real estate magnate and Abe associate whose magazine in 2008 awarded first prize to a notorious essay by Toshio Tamogami, who was appointed Air Force Chief of Staff during Abe's first term. Tamogami claimed that, "Japan was ensnared in a trap that was very carefully laid by the United States in order to draw Japan into a war." Though Tamogami was forced to resign, Mindy Kotler of the Washington-based Asia Policy Point, has discovered on Tamogami's website that Abe appeared publicly at least six times at events sponsored by Tamogami's Nippon Gambare organization.
Notably, Abe's head of the LDP Policy Affairs Research Council Sanae Takaichi was not forced to resign even though she expressed in milder terms similar ideas: "It was understood at that time [before and during the war] that our nation had to fight resolutely in self-defense for its own survival."

By the way, Nippon Gambare sents some boats to the Senkakus in April and said it would not try to land at that time in order not to cause problems for Abe in the UH elections. Let's see if they come back with the election over and whether Chinese boats also come and Chinese protesters try to land.

It should be noted that Abe himself signed a November 4, 2012 advertisement in the New Jersey Star-Ledger--just one month before the December Lower House elections--denying the Japanese government and military's role in forcing women into prostitution during World War II. So, did LDP Policy Chief Takaichi. Rather than justify the sex slavery, as Toru Hashimoto did, Abe simply denies it.

The Japanese press went after Toru Hashimoto, but has with a few exeptions like Asahi, steadfastly refrained from detailed reporting on either the statements of Abe and his aides, or on their consequences for Japan's foreign relations, not to mention the education of Japan's youth. The Yomiuri interview with Shimomura fits in with this pattern.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 10:15 AM

[SSJ: 8174] Re: Reflections on Yesterday's Upper House Election

From: David Murakami Wood
Date: 2013/07/22

A friend of mine is good friends an ex-DPJ junior minister (no names, I'm afraid) and their take on this is not that it is any kind of consolidation but that these two election losses should pave the way to a clearing out of the remaining first and second wave DPJ leaders - i.e. the old school ones who are are mainly ex-LDP etc., and the rise of the third wave - of leaders who do not have connections to the LDP and have come up largely through the DPJ itself. This may take a while, however and the damage that could be done in the meantime by an LDP more able to act on its own volition especially to Japan-China-Korea relations, is potentially immense. And no-one I know here thinks of Komeito as a check on the LDP, at least not in any progressive sense...

David Murakami Wood.

JSPS Invitation Fellow, Kwansei Gakuin University, Nishinomiya, Japan Visiting Fellow, Meiji University, Tokyo

Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies, Department of Sociology, Queen's University, Canada.

Approved by ssjmod at 10:14 AM

[SSJ: 8173] Re: LDP PR list Winners

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/07/22

"Third is Satō Masahisa, former JDF officer. Why is he so popular among LDP voters? Significance?"

Regarding Satō, this is his second time to be elected.
He was the commander of the GSDF deployment to Samawah in southern Iraq in 2004. He got a lot of good press coverage out of that. More recently I have seen him on Japanese TV talk/wide shows like TV Takkuru trying to discredit the DPJ's defense policies and more generally commenting on foreign policy issues.

I think Satō drew a lot of votes in 2007 based upon his Samawah exposure, but much of that memory has probably faded, and I doubt his TV appearances have fully compensated for that, so I am not sure if he fully qualifies as a "tarento." Nonetheless, he does have some significant name recognition and I think his service and loyalty to the LDP is appreciated by the party leadership. And I am sure he does garner a lot of votes from the SDF, their families, and SDF support organizations. That's a solid, if somewhat narrow, base upon which to run in PR.

On the other hand, I have a question: what is the relationship of the LDP to Zentoku and post master generals? I thought Koizumi had pretty well burned the LDP's ties to them. I don't remember exactly how far the DPJ and Kokumintou got in repealing postal privatization, but I believe the LDP has been opposing repeal. Hence, it would seem surprising if the LDP is recovering their ties with post masters.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 10:13 AM

[SSJ: 8170] LDP PR list Winners

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2013/07/22

A short check of the background of the LDP PR winners in the July 21st HC elections reveals, as expected, that most of them represent/are supported by nation-wide interest groups. There also are three tarneto.

See:
http://senkyo.mainichi.jp/2013san/kaihyo_hirei_ichigyo.
html?sid=001

First on the list (most popular) is the representative of Zentoku (Special Post Offices).

Third is Satō Masahisa, former JDF officer. Why is he so popular among LDP voters? Significance?

Best wishes.

Ehud Harari

Approved by ssjmod at 10:11 AM

[SSJ: 8169] Reflections on Yesterday's Upper House Election

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/07/22

Looking at the results from yesterday's election, I have a number of thoughts.

What I looked at most closely was not whether the coalition would win a majority, but whether the DPJ would keep its position as the main opposition party.
In my view, the DPJ made significant progress in reconsolidating its position as the main opposition party, although that may in large part be due to Ishin no kai's self-inflicted wounds. Unlike last December's election the DPJ beat Ishin no kai in votes and seats in the PR section. While Ishin no kai almost matched the DPJ for seats in December this time DPJ won more than twice as many seats as Ishin.

Still, this election clearly showed continued DPJ weakness as the main opposition party, weakness most clearly reflected in the gains the JCP made. Indeed, if all the new seats gained by Ishin, Mina no tou, and the JCP had gone to the DPJ instead, Minshutou would have won 33 seats, versus the 44 it held before the election, not such a big drop. Looking forward there is reason to be skeptical about Ishin's long-term viability as a party, especially outside of Osaka (and perhaps even there). Mina no tou probably has more staying power, but it is not clear whether the party is able to expand its base of support much beyond what it has now. If the DPJ is able to revamp its image with a new leadership line-up and policies that are more clearly distinguished from those of the DPJ it should be able to begin reaggregating the non-LDP vote in 2016 and make significant gains, especially if voters are unhappy with LDP rule and start to look back at DPJ rule nostalgically.

As for the LDP, it did succeed in breaking through the 30% threshold in PR, something it failed to do last December or in last month's Tokyo assembly election.
The 35% they received is a significant improvement. On the other hand, the party failed to win a stand alone majority, and appears to lack the votes to push constitutional reform through the Upper House. That also ensures that Komeito will continue to be influential on policy.

The question most commentators have been asking is whether the coalition's majority in the Upper House will allow Abe to show his "true colors" in terms of pursuing nationalist foreign and domestic policies.
His reliance on Komeito in the Upper House will help brake that tendency, but the deeper question is whether Abe feels as free to pursue his ideological proclivities as he did in 2006-2007? The last time he was PM the LDP had never experienced being voted out of office. Having recently experienced being relegated to the opposition, the question is whether Abe thinks he can prioritize his ideological goals, or whether it is now easier for him and the LDP loosing power again the way they did in 2009? If so, then Abe will likely decide that ideology is an unaffordable luxury and holding on to power is paramount. On the other hand, Abe might decide he doesn't care about the LDP's fate in 2016 and wants to maximize his policy goals over the next three years regardless, although that would likely generate a leadership challenge within the party.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 10:10 AM

June 21, 2013

[SSJ: 8132] Re: Is Deflation Bad For Japan?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/06/21

Earl H. Kinmonth wrote:
Do calculations of GDP relative to workforce or employment allow for illegal, undocumented workers?
Presumably there are proportionally more of these in the US than in Japan.

RK:


Intriguing question. I put a call into the Bureau of Labor Statistics today, but have yet to hear back.
However, a cursory look at the literature shows that the BLS thinks there is very little distortion to productivity figures on this front. One reason is that, according to estimates by the Social Security Administration, 75% of illegal workers have bought counterfeit social security cards and have taxes deducted from their paycheck. That occurred as the laws increasingly forced employers to check for some kind of documentation. So both hour and output are on the books. In other cases, e.g. a family hiring an illegal alien as a nanny and paying cash, neither the hours nor the output are on the books.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 10:56 AM

June 18, 2013

[SSJ: 8121] Re: Provocative Article on Japan as an Economic Model

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/06/18

A correction. I typed that Japan had the worst Gini coefficient of income equality among 17 rich OECD countries. I meant to type the fourth worst. The US is the worst in this measure.

Richard Katz

Approved by ssjmod at 10:33 AM

June 15, 2013

[SSJ: 8116] Re: Is Deflation Bad For Japan?

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2013/06/15

Do calculations of GDP relative to workforce or employment allow for illegal, undocumented workers?
Presumably there are proportionally more of these in the US than in Japan.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 10:30 AM

[SSJ: 8115] Re: Provocative Article on Japan as an Economic Model

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/06/15

Paul Midford wrote:

Again, the thing about Stiglitz's article that really caught my attention was the claim that labor productivity has been growing faster in Japan than the US. Richard Katz has his own calculation for 2001 to
2011 (this might not be the best period to measure for Japan, but it does have the virtue of being the most recent decade for which data is available)
RK:

A dubious virtue as is the practice of comparing GDP growth during Presidential terms; business cycles don't coincide with such arbitrary starting and ending points

PM:

Although Rick understandably thinks his calculation is better, we are now simply left with two competing estimates and no real means for evaluating which is better or even how they are different (e.g. different PPP models?).
RK:

Stiglitz and I use the same numerator, i.e. GDP. The difference is in the denominator. For "labor force," I use the actual labor force, i.e. those with jobs or seeking them. This has the virtue of combining GDP per hour with how much of the labor force is really being utilized.

Stiglitz, by contrast, takes the alleged "working age"
population, i.e. those15-64 years old. This is screwy.
About 44% of 15-24 year olds in Japan work vs. 69% of
55-64 year olds. So, as the number of 15-24 year olds dropped by 21% over the past decade and the number of
55-64 year olds rose by 17%, the ratio of employed people to the total 15-64 year old cohort rose. Even with zero increase in GDP per employed person, this would show a large increase in GDP per 15-64 year old.
It's like saying 2 + 2 = potatoes. That may be the standard for debaters, but not Nobel economists.


RK:
"From January 2008 through Dec. 2012, the total number of jobs in Japan fell by 1.9% but the total number of hours worked by all workers combined fell by 5.4%.
If we go from January 2001 through Dec. 2012, the total number of jobs in Japan fell by 2.6% but the total number of hours worked by all workers combined fell by 9.7%. That converted into lower real wages per worker, and anemic consumer spending power.

PM:

As macroeconomic problems are like
street cars, how an economy deals with them is no trivial matter, and this should be one way for an economy to qualify as a "model." Spreading the pain among still employed workers is arguably, in some crucial respects, a far superior response, since it can help avoid creating a class of long-term unemployed, a problem that now plagues the US. Workers who remain employed do not loose their skills as the long-term unemployed do, or are perceived to.

RK:

First, going back 50 years, this current US downturn is unique in its high level of long-term unemployment.
Secondly, Japan's system may seem more humane but it is one of the problems obstructing growth, since it's hard to shift workers from jobs and companies where they are redundant to ones where they can have higher productivity and wages. Why restrict our choices to the better of two bad systems (US and Japan)? Since their recovery from their own early 1990s crisis, the Nordic countries, in my opinion, have done the best in combining market efficiency, egalitarianism, a good social safety net, and active labor market efforts that enable workers to change jobs regularly, but protect them in downturns, give them new skills, and help them find new jobs, all with high and rising wages.

PM:


Yes, obviously inequality has been worsening in Japan over the past two decades. On the other hand, Stiglitz is talking about Japan as a model for the US, not for Europe, and is arguing that growth in labor productivity need not require US levels of inequality.
Of course, given the way European economies are perceived in the US as uniformly bad, pointing to Europe as a model of equality doesn't get one very far in a US debate.
RK:

Distorting the picture of Japan in order to score points in a US-centric policy debate does not seem to me either helpful or adherence to basic academic standards. By the mid-2000s, Japan had the worst Gini coeffcient among 17 high-income OECD countries and, if memory serves, the second highest rate of poverty.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 10:29 AM

June 13, 2013

[SSJ: 8108] Re: Provocative Article on Japan as an Economic Model

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/06/13

In reply to Paul Midford:

While I am generally a big admirer of Joe Stiglitz, his analysis of Japan is chock full of errors, misreadings, and false conclusions:

PM:

He argues that adjusted for changes in
labor-force size Japan has been outperforming the US and several other western economies. Japan's economy grew at an annual rate of 0.78% between 2001 and 2011, compared with 1.8% for the US. Yet, the US labor force rose by 9.2% while Japan's labor force shrank by 5.5%, consequently real output per worker grew at a faster pace in Japan than in the US (or in Australia, Germany or the UK).


RK:

Any economist knows that, when you want to compare growth rates of countries, you have to go from the peak of the business cycle to the next peak. In 2001, Japan was at the bottom after five years of zero growth.
Hence much of its growth from then through Jan-march
2008 was simply making up for what had been lost during those five years.

If we start off in 1997, the previous peak year, and end at 2007, the last peak year before the global slump, we find: Japan's PER CAPITA GDP grew a total of 8.8% during those ten years, compared to 22% for the US, 31% for the UK, and 19% for the Group of Seven Average. It grew the least of the G7.

If we look at 1997-2011, Japan's per capita GDP grew a total 5.5% vs. 18% for the US and 16% for the G7 average. It grew the least of the G7

Even during 2001-2011--the period used by Stiglitz--Japan's per capita GDP grew a total of 6.0% vs. 7.3% for the US and a G7 average of 6.5%. It came in 5th out of G7

How about growth in GDP PER WORKER (i.e. people with jobs)? Economists look at this because it a measure of labor productivity, the long-term basis for any improvement in living standards. Stiglitz used instead, GDP per person aged 15-64, which is a screwy number to use for all sorts of reasons.

During 1997-2007, Japan's GDP per worker grew a total of 12.1% over those ten years, vs. 19.4% for the US, and 16.2% for the G7 average. Only Italy did worse.

During 1997-2011, Japan's GDP per worker grew a total of 10.1% vs. 19.8% for the US and 13.8% for the G7 average. Only Italy did worse.

During 2001-2011--the period preferred by Stiglitz--Japan's GDP per worker grew a total of 8.9% vs. 9.8% for the US and 5.3% for the G7. Europe did so badly because it imposed on itself what someone with a perverse sense of humor called "expansionary austerity."

For more on this issue see the Adam Posen section of my analysis of Abenomics at http://www.international-economy.com/TIE_W13_Katz.pdf


PM:

More familiar to those of us who follow Japan, it has achieved this with lower unemployment rates (peaking at 5.5% during the Lehman recession and 5.8% since 1990)

RK:

Again, this is a misleading number. What Japanologists know, but most New York Times readers do not, is that, when a recession comes, the US lays off tons of workers, but Japan carries out a "share the pain"
approach. Instead of workers getting laid off, they are kept at their jobs, but with fewer hours of work and less pay.
>From January 2008 through Dec. 2012, the total number
of jobs in Japan fell by 1.9% but the total number of hours worked by all workers combined fell by 5.4%. A low unemployment rate is not a sign of macroeconomic health, but merely the difference between how Japan deals with macroeconomic problems.


PM:

and less economic inequality (with a Gini coefficient of .38 for the US versus .33 for Japan).

Again, misleading. Any high-income OECD country would look good compared to the US, which is an outlier in terms of both inequality and poverty. Its Gini coefficient is the worst among high-income OECD countries. Japan's once-vaunted income equality has been eroding over the past two decades. And its poverty rate is now the worst among high-income OECD countries, except, of course, for the US.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 10:51 AM

June 12, 2013

[SSJ: 8107] Re: Provocative Article on Japan as an Economic Model

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/06/12

Re Paul Midford on Stiglitz comparisons

Do not directly compare unemployment rates!! The way in which they are compiled in the US and Japan differ; my last attempt to look through the details (drawing on a Monthly Labor Review [US Bureau of Labor Statistics]
2002 article by Yamagami Toshihiko) suggests you need to bump the Japanese data up by 1/3rd. The comparison is made more difficult by the vast expansion of "contingent" labor in Japan (vs a modest increase in the US).

In any case, that Japan under a per capita metric outgrew the US is a backhanded compliment: US growth is setting the bar very, very low.

Re Seprényi Gábor on Deflation

The Austrians don't define inflation/deflation in terms of money stock, they assume that one is equivalent to the other. For adherents of the One True Faith where the only thing that can be money is (gold) bullion, well, when the price of gold rose and fell sharply it implied that prices first plummeted (gold would buy more goods) and then skyrocketed (as the price recently dropped from $1900 to under $1400 per ounce). If that doesn't make sense ... well, it doesn't make sense.
Most self-proclaimed Austrians don't view economics as an empirically-oriented social science.

Zero interest rates are a sign of an economy performing below potential, in the US, in the EU and in Japan.
That also means monetary policy tends to be toothless, since real interest rates remain positive. Quantitative easing is a reflection of that: if lots of money (=zero short-term rates) doesn't work, just try harder. So far there have been portfolio reallocations -- buying foreign assets -- but I judge those to be reversible arbitrage, so every time Gov Kuroda hints an easing of the throttle, the yen will rise again. As to the domestic economy, if bank lending rates of 0.9% don't tempt firms to borrow (BOJ data on contracted lending rates, vs a prime rate of 1.5%), will ones of 0.8% be any different? – I think not!

That doesn't mean the economy won't grow / "recover"
but if so it will be for reasons other than monetary policy.

mike smitka


=====================
Michael Smitka
Professor of Economics
Washington and Lee University

Home Page: http://smitka.academic.wlu.edu
=====================

Approved by ssjmod at 10:50 AM

June 11, 2013

[SSJ: 8103] more on deflation

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/06/11

MS:
Let me add a bit to RK's discussion of deflation, Japan-style.
First, there are many measures of (macroeconomic) price changes; we can use not just personal consumption but also government purchases, business fixed investment, and imports and exports to get a broader measure. It moves much the same.
Second, and even wonkier, alongside the desire to preserve room to use monetary policy, measured rates of inflation overstate the level of price changes. So if we want actual inflation to be (say) 1%, then we need to aim higher. The main reason for this is that consumers (and for the broader measures, business and the government) substitute away from more expensive goods to less expensive substitutes.
To calculate inflation we need an initial basket of goods and the quantities purchased of each. We then can calculate how much income we need to purchase that basket. In each subsequent period, we can collect current prices and calculate whether we need more money
(inflation) or less (deflation) to buy the same basket.
If one good falls in price relative to others - which of course is happening all the time - then we move more of our budget in that direction. If a better new good comes along, we're better off, but the inflation measure doesn't capture that. Similarly, if a new good comes along that captures market share, presumably that happens because we're better off. But the inflation measure doesn't capture that. Finally, there's the actual process of collecting price data. As the retail sector shifts, and there's been a revolution in retailing in Japan since the mid-1990s. (Both cars and roadside malls became commonplace in rural and suburban
Japan.) Data collection inevitably lags such changes, but new retailers gain share because they offer value (which may include convenience and the selection of goods and simple [or, if you're trying to design a retail outlet, not so simple!] ambience. And online shopping is even harder to work with.
Note that one reason inflation does not matter is government debt: incomes and tax collections go up, too, not just interest payments. However, when there's deflation, the real rate of interest the government pays can't fall. This is another area of asymmetry, reflecting the "zero lower bound" of (nominal) interest rates.

mike smitka, economics
washington and lee university

Approved by ssjmod at 11:16 AM

[SSJ: 8106] Provocative Article on Japan as an Economic Model

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/06/11

Leading economist Joseph Stiglitz just published a provocative article in the New York Times where he argues that Japan is an economic model (although not a perfect one) rather than a cautionary tale. Most provocatively, he argues that adjusted for changes in labor-force size Japan has been outperforming the US and several other western economies. Japan's economy grew at an annual rate of 0.78% between 2001 and 2011, compared with 1.8% for the US. Yet, the US labor force rose by 9.2% while Japan's labor force shrank by 5.5%, consequently real output per worker grew at a faster pace in Japan than in the US (or in Australia, Germany or the UK).

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/japan-i
s-a-model-not-a-cautionary-tale/?smid=fb-share

More familiar to those of us who follow Japan, it has achieved this with lower unemployment rates (peaking at 5.5% during the Lehman recession and 5.8% since 1990) and less economic inequality (with a Gini coefficient of .38 for the US versus .33 for Japan). Stiglitz is also optimistic about the prospects for Abenomics, although he emphasizes the importance of carrying through with structural reforms.

I would add that the Abe administration appears, perhaps unexpectedly, to be moving forward with structural reform of the electricity sector, which seems to have become the poster-child for structural reform overall. A government bill before the Diet calls for implementing a Nordic-style electricity market by 2019, while the Cabinet is pushing an ambitious off-shore wind program and realizing deep cuts in the cost of solar electricity by 2018.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 10:49 AM

[SSJ: 8105] Re: Is Deflation Bad For Japan?

From: Seprényi Gábor
Date: 2013/06/11

Nicholas Smith had an interesting analysis on this issue called "Does deflation even matter?"
http://www.realestate.co.jp/insider-guide/2012/05/14/sm
ith-on-deflation-in-japan-its-not-always-a-bad-thing/
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-13/deflation-isn-
t-always-so-bad-just-ask-japan.html

I think I can dig up the original analysis if anyone is interested.

This is probably the number 1 question to me ever since I've been here in Japan, and I still can't figure out a proper answer. But I firmly think that deflation is a symptom, and not the root of Japan's economic problems, as politicians tend to describe deflation. It's the politicians who likes to talk a lot about deflation and put the issue into focus suggesting that if deflation can be overcome then all problems are solved.

As Prof Katz rightly puts it, there can be different causes behind deflation. Moreover, even the definition of inflation/deflation is not solid among economists.
For Austrians inflation means the increase of the money supply (and not the rise of price level) and deflation means its opposite. Prof Katz also rightly highlighted that when it is spoken about deflation, the term is often used for something else, like recession.

Gabor Seprenyi
Embassy of Hungary

Approved by ssjmod at 10:49 AM

June 10, 2013

[SSJ: 8102] Re: Is Deflation Bad For Japan?

From: Fred Uleman
Date: 2013/06/10

Even if we assume deflation is bad for the economy, we also have the problem of trying to stem it if it is caused by an excess of supply from outside (e.g., cheap Chinese imports). Can the government -- any government
-- really pump enough money into the economy or spark enough demand to overwhelm the supply of cheaper goods?
Can you make the currency cheaper faster than production efficiencies can make the goods cheaper?

- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -
Fred Uleman, a translator, not an economist

Approved by ssjmod at 11:15 AM

June 08, 2013

[SSJ: 8100] Re: Is Deflation Bad For Japan?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/06/08

Robert W. Gordon wrote:

>What is deflation?
>
RK:

DEflation means a DROP in the average price of the goods and services that a country produces and consumers every year, from cars and refrigerators to food and sweaters to haircuts and movie tickets.
INflation means a RISE in those prices. It does NOT refer to a speculative rise or fall in the prices for financial assets like stocks, or physical assets like land. It does not mean recession (i.e. a drop in
GDP) or economic stagnation. Some people use the term "deflationary conditions" when they really mean to say "recessionary conditions" or stagnation.

Japan's deflation has been very mild. Since January 1999, consumer prices in Japan have fallen an average of 0.3% per year for a total drop of 4.1% over 14 years. During the same period, so-called core inflation (consumer prices except for food and energy) have fallen an average of 0.6% per year for a total drop of 8%.

Deflation should not be confused with term "DEFLATIONARY SPIRAL" which some people mistakenly applied to Japan some time ago. Deflation just means a drop in prices. A "deflationary spiral" means a situation like the US suffered in the early years of the 1930s Depression. Double-dip drops in prices caused firms to lose lots of money, which led them to cut investment and jobs. The loss of jobs, in turn, meant less spending on consumer goods and services. That deep drop in real demand led to further drops in prices (via the law of supply and demand) which, in turn, caused jobs and spending and demand to drop even further. As deflation and depression fed each other in a vicious cycle, they both dropped by DOUBLE-DIGITS PER YEAR in the first years of the Depression.

RG:

>Is it bad for "Japan"? If so, why?
>
RK:

Virtually every economist would agree on one bad effect from deflation.
It prevents the central bank from using "negative real interests" to stimulate the economy and help it recover from a recession. Real interest rates are the nominal interest rate minus inflation. So, if inflation is 2% and nominal interest rates (the ones you read about in the newspaper or pay on a car loan) are 0%, the "real"
(i.e.
inflation-adjusted) interest rate is negative 2%. That is the case in the US at present. Sometimes, an economy is in such a deep slump that it takes negative real rates to spur companies to invest more or consumer to buy more big-ticket items, like cars and homes

Beyond that views differ. The majority view--with which I disagree--is that deflation causes firms to invest less and consumers to buy less.
The idea is that a consumer says to himself: why should I buy a car today when the price will be lower a year from now. That very reluctance to buy means that fewer cars are built, workers have jobs and that weak demand causes prices to fall even more. In, on the other hand, consumers expected prices to rise, then would want to buy now instead of waiting.
Their purchases would increase demand and help push prices up. So, higher inflationary expectations are a self-fulfilling prophecy. PM Abe and BOJ Governor Kuroda have adopted this theory of inflation. Some economists, including Abe's core economic advisers, believe that deflation is THE PRIMARY source of the seeingly intractable economic stagnation. Others believe that it makes things worse, but that it is just one of many problems. Still others believe it is relatively insignificant.

By the way, this "rational expectations" view of inflation adopted by Abe and Kuroda has become popular among economists only in the past couple decades. It is very different from either the Keynesian view or the Friedmanite monetarist view. I think all the evidence shows that "expectations uber alles" view is false for the following reasons:

1) An average 0.3% or 0.6% fall in prices is too tiny to have an effect of spending behavior

2) If consumers were really refusing to spend as much because of deflation, then the savings rate in Japan should have gone up (less spending out of a given level of income means more savings). Instead, the opposite has happened. The average savings rate has steadily fallen from about 13% in 1997 to about 2% now.

3) The Cabinet Office does a survey of consumer expectations of inflation every month. For years and years, consumers have consistently and wrong expected prices to rise in the following 12 months. There is absolutely no correlation between what people expect prices to do in the coming year and how much they spend.

4) The evidence shows that deflation is a SYMPTOM of Japan's weak economy, not a CAUSE of it. If you trace out the ups and downs of both demand and deflation, you can see that worse deflation is NOT followed by weaker demand. On the other hand, weaker demand is followed a couple quarters later by worse deflation. Trying to cure inflation by raising expectations of future inflation is like trying to cure a patient's fever by telling the thermometer you expect it to read 98.6 degrees.

RG:

>Hhow does one square that with this article here,
which claims
>deflation can actually be "good"?
>
>See: http://mises.org/daily/4618/
>
RK:

The so-called "Austrian" economists like von Mises and Hayek are beloved by conservative and libertarian Anglo-American political circles, from Maggie Thatcher to the Cato Institute. But most mainstream professional economists--from liberal Keynesians to conservative Friedmanites--regard it as akin to astrology. I read recently that only about 2% of American Ph.D economists regard themselves as "Austrians" and, when they try to write for respectable academic journals, they hide some of their real views. You can safely disregard the article you cited.

RG:

>What about the idea that 0% inflation should be a
target?
>
RK:

Most monetary economists regard a target of 0% as reckless. Most major central banks that target an inflation rate try to keep it at 2%. First of all, 0% means that negative real interest rates are impossble in a recession, reducing the ability of the central bank to fight the downturn. Secondly, 0% is too close to outright deflation. An economic shock can easily send it into deflation. We've learned from bitter experience that, when it comes to deflation, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.

I hope this helps.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:14 AM

June 06, 2013

[SSJ: 8096] Re: Is Deflation Bad For Japan?

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2013/06/06

Hi, Robert. The following essay by Noah Smith does not answer your question directly but is useful when thinking about these issues.
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/sho
uld-we-trust-economists/276497/
Incidentally, the Mieses Institute essay is merely an exercise in rhetoric and does not provide a properly reasoned argument. I'd look somewhere else for material on that side of the discussion.


Jun

Approved by ssjmod at 10:52 AM

June 02, 2013

[SSJ: 8090] Is Deflation Bad For Japan?

From: Robert W. Gordon, Esq. 
Date: 2013/06/02

Could someone explain deflation and how it relates to Japan for me?

(I'm a lawyer, not an economist, so please explain in relatively simple terms).

What is deflation? Is it bad for "Japan"? If so, why?
If not why not?

News articles such as the one from the New York Times below, seem to imply that deflation is a very, very bad thing and what Prime Minister Abe is attempting to do with his economic policy is great.

See:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/business/global/in-ja
pan-a-hard-to-budge-obstacle-looms-over-the-fight-with-
deflation.html?_r=0

But how does one square that with this article here, which claims deflation can actually be "good"?

See: http://mises.org/daily/4618/

What about the idea that 0% inflation should be a target?

Thanks.

Bob

Approved by ssjmod at 10:38 AM

April 25, 2013

[SSJ: 8049] Re: Abe waffles on whether Japan 'invaded' China, Korea

From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
Date: 2013/04/25

If you go to the Japanese version of Asahi and Nikkei (and other major Japanese newspapers), you can find quite a few articles on this issue. I have already read close to ten articles on the issue in both Asahi and Nikkei (including shasetsu). Abe justified his poorly-thought right-wing opinion but this further hardened China's and South Korea's stance against Japan. These countries also agreed to set up a hotline on the North Korean issue by ignoring Japan.

*******************************************************
***********************
Dr. Hiroaki Richard Watanabe, D.Phil. Oxford, MA Yale, BA Tokyo Lecturer, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

http://www.shef.ac.uk/seas/staff/japanese/watanabe.html
http://www.wreac.org/people/WREAC-People/Core-Researchers/Watanabe%2C-Hiroaki-Richard/details

Approved by ssjmod at 11:23 AM

[SSJ: 8048] Re: Abe waffles on whether Japan 'invaded' China, Korea

From: Greg Johnson
Date: 2013/04/25

I have neither good speculation or actual knowledge but I think you are correct with #1 and #2. I have seen a couple of TV commentators from different networks asserting (or acknowledging?) that the Japanese government's relations with China and Korea may be contributing to adverse influence on US posture towards Japan, for example, important people like Kerry going to China first, and then Korea before Japan.

By the way, is it just me or does the new Yomiuri English edition The Japan News (in large print) by the Yomiuri Shinbun (in much smaller print) look oddly like the Japan Times? My wife brought home a copy of the former this a.m. thinking it was the latter and I've fished coins out of my pocket before realizing I'd grabbed the wrong one...


Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:22 AM

[SSJ: 8047] Re: Abe waffles on whether Japan 'invaded' China, Korea

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/04/25

Thanks to Rick Katz for raising some good questions.
Regarding his third question about whether visiting Yasukuni will hurt regional cooperation vis-a-vis North Korea, a friend on Facebook reposted a message from Abe's Facebook page that was supposedly authored by his Secretary. There DPJ Upper House member Tokunaga Eri is quoted as saying during Upper House Budget Committee deliberations that the Yasukuni visits by several cabinet members had worsened relations with China and the ROK, and this is discouraging for the families of those abducted by North Korea. In reply the State Security and Disaster Management Minister Keiji Furuya snaps "Who said anything about getting discouraged?"
Then Abe's "secretary" accuses Tokunaga of weakening Japanese diplomacy with this remark. Then in follow-up comments Abe or his "secretary" accuses Tokunaga of "lying" and says he will not allow the abductee victims to be "used" in this way. In another subsequent post he claims this quote indicates that the DPJ is becoming like Shamintou (shamintouka), which is points out is a "comrade party" of the North Korean Worker's Party.

I don't follow Abe's Facebook feed regularly so this may simply be par for course. Nonetheless, I get the impression that Abe is hitting back hard because he fears that Tokunaga's point could damage his administration's foreign-policy image (and maybe even because he thinks to some degree she's right).
Although Tokunaga's point about the abductee families becoming "discouraged" is probably wrong in the narrow sense given that they have tended to align with very conservative if not right-wing forces, she is obviously spot-on that the visit to Yasukuni, by damaging relations with Korea and China, is a set-back to efforts to coordinate pressure and diplomacy towards North Korea on the abductee issue, not to mention the nuclear and other issues. The reputation the Abe administration has as being hawkish, right-wing, and hostile toward Asian neighbors, has the potential to become a real vulnerability with the public moving forward, just as the DPJ's reputation for being hostile to the US alliance and pursuing a weak diplomacy did real damage to its political brand.

Best,

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 11:22 AM

[SSJ: 8046] Abe waffles on whether Japan 'invaded' China, Korea

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/04/25

In answer to a question in the Diet about the Murayama statement, Shinzo Abe stated:

> "The definition of what constitutes aggression has
yet to be
> established in academia or in the international
community," Abe said.
> "Things that happened between nations will look
differently depending
> on which side you view them from."
>
> At a meeting of the same lawmakers a day earlier, he
said that his
> administration has not necessarily embraced the
Murayama statement in
> its entirety.
>
Asahi translates his word as "aggression" while the Korean press has used "invasion."

It's front-page news in Korea. However, so far, I've found only one article in English from the major Japanese press. Not surprisingly, it's the Asahi at
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201
304240082 There is also a Jiji press piece citing Suga as saying that the Koreans misunderstood Abe's comments about "invasion" and took them out of context, at
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000160404
printed in Yomiuri's English edition.

I wonder if Japanese "google news" would come up with anything more.
English-language google does not.

This may be a repeat of the Japanese press' refusal to cover the Kurt Campbell interview with Kyodo in which he said that the State Dept.
warned Japan not to nationalize the Senkakus because China would have a very strong reaction.

The really strange thing is the self-justifying
worldview:

> Abe, who has long been known to have hawkish
leanings, was supposed to
> refrain from discussing his conservative view of
history ahead of the
> Upper House election in July so as not to make waves
in the diplomatic
> arena.
>
> But the shift shown by these remarks reflects his
distrust of South
> Korea and China, sources say....
>
> In what his aides described as "a show of his
intention not to
> personally visit," Abe made an offering of branches
of the sacred
> evergreen sakaki tree, which is used in Shinto
rituals, on April 21.
>
> The gesture was meant to avert the expected backlash
from South Korea
> and China....
>
> To protest, South Korea canceled a trip by foreign
minister Yun
> Byung-se to Japan scheduled for this weekend.
>
> The reaction reportedly led Abe to suspect that Japan
will get caught
> up in South Korea's bluster despite the
considerations it has shown to
> Seoul.
>
> "It became clear that giving consideration is
pointless," an aide to
> Abe described his thoughts. "(South Korea) will
protest anyway no
> matter what Japan does."
>
And then there is this.

> Aso dismissed Seoul's strong response in a news
conference on April
> 23, saying reactions overseas will not have a
significant overall
> impact on diplomacy


If Abe-Aso & Co. really believe this, this is just as blind as the Noda-Gaimusho view that China would not react to the nationalization of the Senkakus.

There still remains the question of why these guys are doing this now.
My three hypotheses are:

1) Abe is riding so high in the polls (76% approval in
Nikkei) that he thinks he can get away with it.
Hopefully, pride goeth before a fall

2) He thinks the public will be pissed at any Chinese-Korean reaction (.e.g. if China sending more vessels into Senkakus waters is seen as a reaction to the comments and visits) and that Japanese backlash against China-Korea will help the LDP, discredit the DPJ, and increase fissures inside DPJ. If this is the calculation, we'll see if this is correct or a big miscalculation

3) He thinks that cooperation with China-ROK will make no difference on NK behavior anyway, so there is no diplomatic downside.

Anyone with good speculation or any actual knowledge?


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:21 AM

April 23, 2013

[SSJ: 8045] BAJS Japan Branch: our two symposiums in 2013

From: Philip Seaton
Date: 2013/04/23

Dear Colleagues,

The British Association for Japanese Studies (Japan
Branch) warmly invites colleagues and members to its two events this year.

18 May, 13:30-17:40, at Kyoto University: "Reflections on Politics, Law and Human Rights in Contemporary Japan". The speakers are Ian Neary (University of Oxford), Mari Miura (Sophia University), Koichi Nakano (Sophia University), Mark Fenwick (Kyushu University) and Colin Jones (Doshisha University). For full details please see:

http://www.philipseaton.net/academic-organizations/bajs
-japan-branch/18-may-2013-symposium

If you want to attend the Kyoto event, please email Silvia Croydon at:

croydon.silvia.6z[at]kyoto-u.ac.jp


Our autumn event will be held in Akita on 2-3 November and is co-hosted by Akita University and Akita International University. The theme is "Sustainability and Revitalization in Rural Areas of Japan". The event website is:

http://www.philipseaton.net/academic-organizations/bajs
-japan-branch/bajs-japan-branch-event-2-3-november-2013

Full details about this event will be posted very soon and further announcements will be made at a later stage, but for now please make a note of the dates in your diaries.


Attendance at both events is free for both BAJS and non-BAJS members.

With warmest regards from Sapporo,
Philip Seaton


====================
Dr Philip Seaton, MA (Cantab), MA (Sussex), DPhil
(Sussex)
Professor, Director: Modern Japanese Studies Program.

Address:
Office of International Affairs, Hokkaido University, North 15, West 8, North Ward, Sapporo 060-0815, JAPAN.

Telephone:
+81-(0)11-706-8015

Website:
www.philipseaton.net
====================

Approved by ssjmod at 11:20 AM

April 04, 2013

[SSJ: 8031] Re: new co-authored blog post on Japan'spost-Fukushima energy politics

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2013/04/04

Paul Midford's point about tapering off of nuclear expansion some time ago is interesting. How do you eplain? Was it that local governments' appetite for sports stadiums, palatial museums etc which had successfully bribed nimby opposition until then was already saturated? Or was it a drying up of capital funds?

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:35 AM

April 03, 2013

[SSJ: 8027] Re: new co-authored blog post on Japan's post-Fukushima energy politics

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/04/03

Daniel Aldrich has co-authored an excellent article on post-Fukushima energy politics. Nonetheless, I do not think it is correct to claim that anti-nuclear sentiments, or perhaps more precisely growing safety concerns about nuclear power, had no impact on policy before the 3-11 quake. Rather, growing safety concerns and opposition from the public slowly dissipated the momentum of Japan's rapid nuclear expansion of the 1970s and early 1980s, with the Tokai-mura accident in the late 1990s being the most important turning point.
After Tokai-mura nuclear expansion halted and nuclear power remained steady or declined both in production share and capacity terms at a bit under 30%. Although the GOJ had a stated goal of producing 50% of electricity from nuclear power by 2030, it was obvious well before 3-11 that this goal was unattainable.

Also, this article, whose title after all focuses on energy politics rather than nuclear politics per se, might have said a bit about the DPJ's policy of replacing nuclear power with renewable energy, and the surprising embrace of renewable energy by the Abe cabinet, as well as Abe's (again surprising) support for breaking up the regional electric monopolies'
control of the grid.

These two points notwithstanding this article is definitely a worthwhile read.

Best,

Paul

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

March 25, 2013

[SSJ: 8015] The LDP and "My Number"

From: Paul Midford  
Date: 2013/03/25

Given the many discussions we have had on this Forum on the LDP and its reluctance to crack down on tax avoidance by creating a unified tax ID system, and even speculation that one reason the DPJ did poorly in the
2010 Upper House election was because of Kan broaching this idea, it was striking last week to see Abe proposing to create just such a ID system, or what is being called "My Number." Although it is not specifically being sold as a means to crack down on tax evasion, there's no doubt from the contents that it will facilitate just that. It also appears to be a belated attempt by Abe to respond to the pension record scandal of 2007 that brought down his earlier administration; a major reason for missing pension records was the lack of a personal number that could be used to match pension payments with payees. Overtime this could prove to be an important revenue raising measure. Any thoughts on why Abe is embracing a national tax ID system now?

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 12:01 PM

March 13, 2013

[SSJ: 8010] Re: New directory of Japan specialists

From: David Murakami Wood
Date: 2013/03/13

Thank-you for this response, Patricia.

I don't doubt the effort involved or the value of the product, but it seems to me that if the aim was to create a database of researchers, then it seems somewhat inefficient and slightly old-fashioned to do this as a static survey which is entirely dependent on time-limited funding rather than to create an easily updatable active database, that could be altered and added to without significant financial implications.

Perhaps next time the Japan Foundation do fund something like this, this kind of model could be considered, and a small amount built into the bid for the maintenance of the database in between major iterations, which would deal with the financial implications of adding new people or changing existing details (the doctoral student information is clearly particularly time-limited). It would add significant further value to an already valuable output.

Just to make it very clear - none of what I say here should be taken as implying that I don't think this is a worthwhile project - it's excellent - but it could have been even more useful than it already is - and more importantly, could be next time around.

All the best,

David.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

March 11, 2013

[SSJ: 8005] Re: New directory of Japan specialists

From: Patricia Steinhoff
Date: 2013/03/11

The Japan Directory Project survey for the United States and Canada was conducted over the past year using very complete lists from all our previous surveys for the Japan Foundation (which were conducted in 1988, 1995, and 2005), plus the current membership lists of JSAC and the AAS (all Japan specialists listed). We contacted every identified academic Japanese Studies program in the United States and Canada and asked them to participate in the program survey, through which they also provided the lists of all their Japan specialist staff. We then cross-checked all the staff lists and added those people to our lists of Japan specialists. We sent out multiple e-mails to every person and every program on our very comprehensive lists, inviting people to fill out the online survey forms. Professor Julian Dierkes, the Canadian PI for the project, also sent out notices through JSAC and announced the project widely. Notices were also sent to H-Japan and SSJ Forum announcing the project and inviting people to register on the site in order to be included in the study.

We received responses and have published data from
1,697 Japan specialists, 287 programs (academic and non-academic), and 88 libraries.

We also collected data on doctoral students in Japan-related fields from both the programs and the specialists, and combined those lists to produce our listing of 673 current and recent doctoral candidates.

Because of the repeated follow-ups and triangulation of data sources, we obtain a considerably higher response rate than a normal survey, but we are unable to identify 100% of the people who might possibly consider themselves to be Japan specialists, and we cannot achieve 100% return rates for those whom we do invite to participate. Unfortunately, we did not get any response from your institution and your name did not appear on either the JSAC or AAS list, so we had no way of identifying you as a Japan specialist in North America. We sincerely regret that neither Queens University nor any of its Japan specialists is included in this edition of the directory. The study is now finished and it is no longer possible to add individuals or institutions. We do not have any further funding and cannot provide any updates to the online directory. It will gradually go out of date, just as a print directory did, although we do hope that in the future the Japan Foundation will provide funding to update the information as a future project.

My thanks to all of those who did participate, and I hope those who did not participate this time will do so the next time the Japan Foundation sponsors this project.
Patricia Steinhoff

Approved by ssjmod at 11:41 AM

March 09, 2013

[SSJ: 8003] Re: New directory of Japan specialists

From: David Murakami Wood
Date: 2013/03/09

Interesting but rather incomplete... how was the survey on which this was based conducted? And how does one get included if one was missed out?

David.

David Murakami Wood
Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies, Surveillance Studies Centre, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Cross-appointed in Department of Geography, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:39 AM

February 18, 2013

[SSJ: 7973] Re: Yakuza and Fukushima

From: Greg Johnson
Date: 2013/02/18

Yes, and the reach of organized crime into Japan's nuclear power industry is not only an ethical problem, but also a security risk. Criminal gangs could easily organize sabotage or strikes, or extort protection money for not doing so. Jake Adelstein called the nuclear business in Japan "a black hole of criminal malfeasance, incompetence, and corruption."
http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/12/yakuza-an
d-nuclear-mafia-nationalization-looms-tepco/46803/

The Nuclear Regulatory Agency announced last month that it was considering background checks for employees.
Japan seems to be alone in not already doing so although the International Atomic Energy Association began recommending such checks 14 years ago.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ2
01301310069

That's shocking considering Japan's experience of domestic terrorism. However, checking individual employees will not eliminate the gangsters' role as an employment agency for the industry.

Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:10 AM

January 30, 2013

[SSJ: 7952] Re: Abenomics

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/01/30

Just back from selecting Japan Foundation fellowship recipients, though I was on the PhD committee. But until I finish my book on "Becoming Ordinary" I have no credibility applying for further research grants. And no one seems to want consultants who are only availabe during the period that my school is on break...

But I will let the list know what currency I'm receiving on my next trip, however many years away that may be. If you make money on that, then buy me a drink....

mike smitka

Approved by ssjmod at 11:08 AM

January 29, 2013

[SSJ: 7948] Re: Abenomics

From: Mark Manger
Date: 2013/01/29

RK:

Now, contrast all this to the yen. Even at its highest nominal level in 2012, the real (price-adjusted) yen was a few percent BELOW its quarter-century average by the OECD's consumer price measure and 14% BELOW its quarter-centuiry average using the OECD unit labor cost measure. Using the Bank of Japan measure (consumer prices), the yen at 90/$ is 15% BELOW its quarter-century average. During 1986-2012, the real yen has spent two-thirds of its time no more than 10% above or below its long-term average. So, suppose the BOJ set a rate at Y100/$. That would be so far below its longterm real value, and such a challenge to its competitors, that, sooner or later, I believe it would be highly likely to invite speculators to challenge it.
If, in a move more like the SNB's, the BOJ put a ceiling at Y75 or Y80, it would have a greater chance of success--at least for a while.

To sum up: just because the SNB succeeded in defending a ceiling at an OVERvalued level doesn't mean the BOJ can defend a ceiling at an UNDERvalued level.


MM:

Well, it seems we can't agree on the final 10%. It is irrelevant for the conceptual question if your currency is far off its equilibrium exchange rate or not.
Ceteris paribus, the market cannot "speculate" against a central bank that is willing to print potentially unlimited amounts of its own currency, buy USD, and sterilize the USD it acquires by buying T-bills or other USD assets (hence the idea of a sovereign wealth fund for Japan). Any survey of the literature on speculative attacks shows that problems only arise if a central bank could run out of reserves, which can only happen if an overvalued exchange rate is defended against speculation (see e.g. Lucio Sarno and Mark P.
Taylor. 2002. The economics of exchange rates.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

What matters, I'll grant you, is whether the US would tolerate this approach, because presumably other Asian countries would follow suit and devalue their currencies as well.

--Mark


Mark S. Manger
Assistant Professor
Munk School of Global Affairs | University of Toronto Observatory Site | 315 Bloor Street West | Room 212
Toronto, ON M5S 0A7
www.munkschool.utoronto.ca/mga

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Approved by ssjmod at 12:03 PM

[SSJ: 7947] Re: Abenomics: How promoting women could get Japan out of this crisis

From: Paul Sracic
Date: 2013/01/29

While it is true that the U.S. "has no national system of childcare provision," the statement is incomplete.
First of all, under the U.S. tax code, parents can qualify for up to about $6000 in tax credits for childcare. Also, under the 1990's "welfare to work"
legislature, the Federal govt. subsidizes childcare for
low income individuals. In the state that I live in,
the federal subsidy alone amounts to well over half a billion U.S. dollars per year. To qualify for the money, children must be placed in state licensed facilities. One can argue about the efficiency of the system, or even whether it can be called a system, but the national government does spend a considerable amount of money (both directly and through so-called tax expenditures) on childcare.


Paul Sracic
Professor and Chair
Department of Political Science
Rigelhaupt Pre-Law Center
Youngstown State University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:35 AM

January 28, 2013

[SSJ: 7946] Re: Abenomics

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2013/01/28

Mike Smitka writes:

"My track record in foreign exchange markets is 100% bad, though I won't go so far as to say that means should bet the opposite of what I suggest..."

The least that he can do is to let us know if and when he gets another fellowship what currency it will be based on.

Jun Okumura

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

[SSJ: 7944] Re: Abenomics

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/01/28


Mark Manger wrote:

Keep in mind that we're both 90% in agreement that this [fixed-rate for the yen] would only buy time for Japan, and that we disagree on whether it could work at all.
I agree that the 90% agreement on susbtance is what counts. I also think--and perhaps you do as well--they we'll never be able to settle our argument in the real world since it is politically impossible for Tokyo to adopt your proposal, due to opposition both at home and in important foreign capitals.

Still, it remains a useful intellectual exercise--at least for me--since I run across it all the time. As often happens with SSJ, I was forced to do a little useful research in order to deal with your arguments.
So, thanks.

I think there is a crucial factor in the ability to carry out this fixed rate currency policy: what rate does the central bank set? Is it one that is in the neighborhood of fundamental value, or is it way too undervalued? Or even overvalued? It would be a lot easier for the BOJ to defend a ceiling of Y80/$ than Y100/$. The Swiss National Bank action was more akin to adopting a ceiling of, say, Y75 or even Y70. Just because the SNB succeeded in defending a ceiling at an OVERvalued level doesn't mean the BOJ can defend a ceiling at an UNDERvalued level.

CAUTION: The rest of this may bore people not really interested in the ins and outs of currency and monetary policy.

CAUTION 2: This is in the nature of thinking out loud.

We know from experience that ordinary intervention works best when markets have substantially overshot or undershot fundamental values--and when they keep doing so due to "momentum investment" and herd instinct.
Then, intervention is a useful shot across the bow that can lead traders to stop in its tracks and help the market self-correct. By contrast, intervenion, even on the massive size conducted by Tokyo in 2003-04 and again in 2011, tends to fail when it is trying to impose a value too far away from fundamentals, or at least market perception of them.

With that in mind, let's look at the ceiling imposd by the Swiss National Bank vis-a-vis the Euro. This was imposed at a time when the Swiss franc had been pushed up to values far above anything resembling fundamentals. According to OECD estimates of Real Effective Exchange Rates, i.e. exchange rates adjusted for changes in the price differentials with a country's major trading partners, over the quarter century from 1986-2010, the "real" Swiss franc, had spent 95% of its time fluctuating in a range no more than 8% above or below its quarter-century average. But, due to speculation during the Euro-debt crisis, the real Swiss franc shot up during the July-September 2011 quarter to an unprecedented 20%-30% above its long-term average (20% as measured in consumer prices; and 30% as measured using unit labor costs).

Back in the second quarter of 2010, when the OECD put the real SF at its long-term average, the SF traded at an average of 1.25/Euro. At its peak on August 10, the SF equaled 1.03 (as with the yen, the lower the number, the stronger the currency). It then weakened over the following six weeks to 1.205 on Sept. 19. The SNB put the ceiling at 1.20. In other words, by the time, the SNB put on the ceiling, the nominal SF had already WEAKENED14% from its peak, and it had spent only three months stronger than 1.20. By November, it weakened another 3% to 124. But from January 2012 onward, the SF appreciated again to 120 and stayed there. 1.20/Euro is a pretty high level. At that level, the real SF was 10% above its long-term average as measured by consumer prices and 20% above its long-term average as measured by unit labor costs. This is sharply higher price-adusted level than any ever seen between 1986 and
2010 except for brief spell in 1995. 1.20/Euro is higher than any nominal level prior to June 2011. It is 27% stronger than the average 1.53 seen during 2000-2010. It's not as hard to keep the currency from rising higher when you have set a ceiling that is already so far above long-term real and nominal averages. The 1.20 level may have acted as a ceiling as well as a floor. The SNB was NOT challenging fundamentals. It was not pursuing a beggar-thy-neighbor cheap rate. It was not trying to fix a rate that the market thought was unsustainable. It was just telling
speculators: we'll let you seek a safe haven from the Euro-debt crisis and sharply overvalue the SF, but only to a certain degree. By the way, now that fears of the Eurodebt crisis are receding, the nominal SF has weakened to 1.24/Euro..

Now, contrast all this to the yen. Even at its highest nominal level in 2012, the real (price-adjusted) yen was a few percent BELOW its quarter-century average by the OECD's consumer price measure and 14% BELOW its quarter-centuiry average using the OECD unit labor cost measure. Using the Bank of Japan measure (consumer prices), the yen at 90/$ is 15% BELOW its quarter-century average. During 1986-2012, the real yen has spent two-thirds of its time no more than 10% above or below its long-term average. So, suppose the BOJ set a rate at Y100/$. That would be so far below its longterm real value, and such a challenge to its competitors, that, sooner or later, I believe it would be highly likely to invite speculators to challenge it.
If, in a move more like the SNB's, the BOJ put a ceiling at Y75 or Y80, it would have a greater chance of success--at least for a while.

To sum up: just because the SNB succeeded in defending a ceiling at an OVERvalued level doesn't mean the BOJ can defend a ceiling at an UNDERvalued level.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

January 27, 2013

[SSJ: 7943] Re: Abenomics: How promoting women could get Japan out of this crisis

From: Boling, Patricia A
Date: 2013/01/27

I write in response to Kathryn Ibata-Arens' post, titled "Abenomics: How promoting women could get Japan out of this crisis." She wrote: "Prime Minister Abe has an opportunity to forge a triple win: a larger pool of professional women can provide his Liberal Democratic Party with much needed new constituents to replace its dying (literally) base, these women will become more likely to have children, and best of all, boost growth in the Japanese economy in the long-term."

This argument strikes me as parallel to those who believe that Germany's Christian Democratic Party (CDP) did itself a favor by courting "sustainable family policy" (more generous, shorter parental leaves, and a big increase in childcare for children age one and over), because they gained votes among young urban women who care deeply about work-family policies. At the same time, Germany adopted policies that promised to increase its very low total fertility rate and at the same time promote economic expansion.

But the huge, perhaps insurmountable problems facing such a policy shift are the money it would take to provide sufficient spaces in licensed hoikuen (childcare centers) to meet existing and future demand from women who want to return to work, and the reluctance of the LDP (or any other governing party) to insist that companies enforce parental leave laws (keeping their employees' jobs open while they take a
12 month parental leave rather than tapping them on the shoulder and expecting them to quit and not come back), much less insist that companies stop discriminating against women in hiring. It seems pretty clear to me that the intellectual arguments for hiring talented women for good jobs, and for including them in corporate leadership, simply are not enough to persuade powerful actors in Japan to change the approach they have taken thus far to policies that reinforce a male breadwinner model and protect the jobs of mid-level male employees in regular positions.

Germany managed to conduct a powerful campaign to get business to back work-family policies in the early 2000s (the Alliance for the Family, a locally-based grassroots campaign to get business, civil society groups, local mayors and other leaders, charitable and church groups, etc), and the CDP recognized that it needed to embrace the same set of policies if it wanted to remain competitive. What would it take for Japan and the LDP to do the same thing? That's the $64 question, and I don't know the answer to it. Hearing and reading more demographic and feminist economic-political arguments about the need to utilize smart women in order to boost the economy and the birth rate isn't likely to have much effect, from what I can see.

Pat Boling

Patricia Boling, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Undergraduate Director, Department of Political Science Purdue University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:26 AM

January 26, 2013

[SSJ: 7942] Re: Abenomics: How promoting women could get Japan out of this crisis

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2013/01/26


From: Ibata-Arens, Kathryn (KIBATAAR@depaul.edu)
Date: 2013/01/25

> Japan's childcare infrastructure is possibly the
worst in the industrial world.

On what basis is this claim made? Has the author actually used "Japan's childcare infrastructure?"

I have for two children born 2000 and 2003. I thought the public daycare facilities good to excellent. My younger son continues to use public after-school facilities (gakudo hoiku). Again I would rate these as good to excellent. I have often thought that I was fortunate to have had my children in Japan rather than Britain.

To be sure, there are problems and there is regional variation within Japan. The problems and regional variation are issues that I take up in a course that I teach in Japanese to Japanese college students on the very subject of "the Japanese childcare system in international perspective." Aside from my personal experience, I can say that on the basis of my preparation for this course and projects done by my students, the Japanese system is at least good in comparative perspective relative to countries that have national systems and vastly superior to countries such as the US that have no national childcare infrastructure whatsoever.

And, just for the record, which countries are included in "the industrial world?" I presume this includes Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, etc. as well Korea, Brazil, China, etc. Have you or whoever originally made the quoted claim actually compared "Japan's childcare infrastructure" with the entire universe of countries in "the industrial world?" The results of such a comparison would, I think, point to a very different conclusion. And, as I explain to my students when I introduce my course, "You may wonder why there is nothing about the United States in this course. The answer is simple. The US has no national system of childcare provision."

For those not up on this issue, I would suggest that the main problems with public childcare in Japan are
(1) a shortage of places in >some< areas and (2) a limited number of facilities that can care for children who are ill. The shortage of places is primarily a big city problem and is largely for the 0-3 age group because of the high ratio of statf to children that is required. For children of school age, the main problem is a shortage of places for children in grades 1-3.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:17 AM

January 25, 2013

[SSJ: 7939] Re: Abenomics

From: Mark Manger
Date: 2013/01/25

On 2013-01-24, at 6:07 AM, SSJ-Forum Moderator
wrote:

Keep in mind that we're both 90% in agreement that this would only buy time for Japan, and that we disagree on whether it could work at all. Your counterarguments are
threefold:

1. The markets are too large and would overwhelm the intervention.

2. Other countries would not permit it.

3. Japan has lower inflation than other countries, so the Yen will slowly appreciate anyway.

On the first point:


From: Richard Katz (rbkatz@ix.netcom.com)
Date: 2013/01/24
But, in any case, it held during the 15 months from January 2003 to March 2004 when the government of Japan spent Y35 trillion (7% of GDP) on intervention and yet the nominal yen APPRECIATED 8% from Y119/$ to Y109. [.]

So, why can't Japan do what Switzerland did? Because Japan is not Switzerland. [..'] Switzerland is much smaller and less important in global trade and capital flows and in daily trades on global forex markets.


That would only make it easier for speculators to undermine the Swiss policy, because the market could "overwhelm" such an attempt much more easily for a smaller country. But it's conceptually wrong. The market can always overwhelm a country that wants to keep its currency overvalued, or e.g. pegged to a strong currency and overvalued. You cannot successfully fight a central bank determined to keep its currency undervalued by selling unlimited amounts of its own currency, unless the central bank can no longer sterilize the capital inflows (see below). The key here is "potentially unlimited", not a limited forex purchase like in the cases of Japan you cited. It's still true what Keynes wrote in 1941 in his call for an international clearing union: "For whilst a country's reserve cannot fall below zero, there is no ceiling which sets an upper limit." If you can show an empirical example of the contrary, I'd be very interested in seeing that, as would probably every forex trader in London or New York.

Suppose the MOF tries to fix the yen around Y100/$ when the market thinks it should be Y90. So, speculators use dollars to buy yen get Y100 for each dollar. Their purchases push the yen upward a bit, let's say to Y98/$. In that case they sell their 100 yen in the forex markets and get $1.02. They've made a 2% profit in just a few minutes, or hours or days. And then the MOF pushes back and the whole process starts all over again. The MOF has simply made speculators rich without affecting the yen rate. Look at the massive private capita flows into Japan during the period of intervention that simply neutralized the MOF actions.

Yes. But it's not Japan who pays for the 2% profit, rather speculators who bet the other way. And massive private capital inflows into Japan with a targeted exchange rate would only increase the money supply in Japan, which presumably isn't a bad thing if we want to beat deflation.

On the second point:


As far as I know, the EU did not
flip its wig when the Swiss National Bank put in the ceiling. The US Treasury and EU and China and other Asian would do so if Tokyo made a similar move. Knowing this, currency speculators would bet against the MOF/BOJ being able to sustain the policy, just as they did in the fixed currency system. If the speculators expect the MOF to fail, then they will take actions that will make it fail--in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If speculators believe that the EU will tolerate the Swiss policy, then they won't necessarily fight against it.

It is a separate argument to say that the forex rate is purely set by the market (which the Swiss have shown not be the case) and to argue that other countries won't permit targeted depreciation by the second-biggest economy in the world. The only way for other countries to prevent Japan from succeeding would be to also devaluate their currencies. That's a systemic challenge, but not a matter of whether it conceptually works.

On the third point:

Also, keep this in mind. With Japan having deflation and the rest of the world having inflation, the nominal yen has to rise a few percent per year just to keep the real (Price-adjusted) yen from becoming undervalued.
So, even if the rate that the MOF set today were market-conforming, in a few years, it would be out of whack with fundamentals. Speculators know this.

First, with the inflation differential being around 2-3%, that would just imply that the forex purchases would have to grow by that percentage every year.
Second, when accumulating forex reserves, the BoJ would either have to sterilize these, or generate inflation in Japan. So the first point is moot.

Sterilization could take two forms: sell more bonds at home, for which there probably isn't quite enough demand at this scale, or create a sovereign wealth fund and invest overseas. I think the latter wouldn't be such a bad idea for a country with Japan's demographic profile. But conveniently, the increase in the money supply after converting forex to Yen domestically would create inflation.

Finally, as to the theory in the article that you
cited: a number "rational expectations" monetary economists buy this notion despite all the evidence against it.

etc

This seems to be more a case of Taylor not understanding the root of Japan's problems, which have little to do with an output gap in the Keynesian sense, but you have explained that yourself already. I don't think it invalidates rational expectations in general.
In fact, that the Swiss intervention worked or that Draghi managed to buy time for the Eurozone is a point in favour of rational expectations.

Again, this would only buy time, it wouldn't solve the problem of structural reforms and do nothing for the demographics of course, and the US might not permit such a policy. But it would work.

--Mark

Mark S. Manger
Assistant Professor
Munk School of Global Affairs | University of Toronto Observatory Site | 315 Bloor Street West | Room 212
Toronto, ON M5S 0A7
mark.manger[at]utoronto.ca
www.munkschool.utoronto.ca/mga

JOIN THE GLOBAL CONVERSATION

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

[SSJ: 7938] Re: Abenomics

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2013/01/25

"I agree that Ishin no Kai won mostly despite Ishihara."

Wait, so you're saying that, despite the fact that Ishin was the second largest vote gettor in all three Kanto districts (yeah, I was disappointed too, since I voted for Y-- P--) behind the LDP?

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

January 24, 2013

[SSJ: 7936] Re: Abenomics

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/01/24

I agree with Nobuhiro Hiwatari on the economic concerns of the voters.

Meanwhile,Mark Manger wrote:
I almost completely agree with the assessment of Japan's economy by Richard Katz

RK:

Why is it so hard for me to get people to stop there?
Why is that so offten followed by a "but..." Oh, well.

MM:

but it contains a conceptual error: Of course the Yen exchange rate in the sense of deliberate depreciation is in Abe's control. All it would take would be to legislate that MOF declares an exchange rate target, and then further change laws that the BOJ has to support this target by printing unlimited amounts of Yen...

The Swiss central bank has just successfully demonstrated that this works by declaring that the Swiss franc would not be allowed to appreciate beyond 1.20Fr to the Euro.

RK:

Ten years ago, I would have agreed with you. But the failure of the massive 2003-04 intervention and of subsequent efforts has convinced me otherwise.

Some of Abe's advisors, including Kazuko Iwata, a wannabe for BOJ Governor, has proposed that Japan could control the yen even without an announced fixed-rate.
He claims it would just take Y50 trllion yen--or more than 10% of Japanese GDP--of BOJ-made money to do the trick. In the campaign Abe spoke of a public-private fund of as much as Y100 million (if memory serves) to buy foreign bonds. This talk has since gone down the memory hole as foreigners and some Japanese business leaders criticized it.

Let's take what has happened under the current flloating currency regime and then go to your proposal for a Swiss solution. Since 2001, the best leading indicator of the yen rate has been the gap between US and Japanese ten-year bond rates, with a correlation of 89%. The currency markets have seen that as a signal to buy and sell. That relationship does not always hold, and we'll see if the yen is now breaking out of that pattern. But, in any case, it held during the 15 months from January 2003 to March 2004 when the government of Japan spent Y35 trillion (7% of GDP) on intervention and yet the nominal yen APPRECIATED 8% from Y119/$ to Y109. If one does a chart comparing the Y/$ rate to the Japan/US interest rate gap, one cannot even tell that the intervention occurred. A similar thing happened in
2011 when Japan spent Y4 trillion in just one day.
Since Japan's rates were already so low, it was changes in the US 10-year rate that changed the gap. In other words, a few decisions by Alan Greenspan about US monetary ease,made without regard to Japan, had more power over the yen rate than all of Japan's intervention.

The reason for this is simple. Currency markets have completely changed since the end of the Bretton Woods fixed-rate system in 1971. Previously, almost all selling and buying of currencies was for the purpose of conducting transactions in the economy, either trade or capital flows. Even then, currency speculators overwhelmed fixed rates that fell too out of whack with changes in economies over time, e.g. the pound crisis.
Today, however, as much as 90% of currency trades are pure speculation having nothing to do with either trade or capital flows. According to the BIS in 2012, average DAILY turnover in the currency markets was about $5 trillion, and it keeps growing. The 2012 turnover was more than double the 2004 level. About 20% of the trades are in yen, i.e. $1 trillion per day. At today's exchange rate, that would be Y88 trillion each and every business DAY, far more than total Japanese exports of goods and services of Y70 trillion PER YEAR.
So, when the Ministry of Finance goes out to buy even
Y50 trillion of yen, the speculators quite happily and easily bet against the MOF, have more money to do so than the MOF, and get rich by countering the MOF. Sure, the BOJ can run its printing presses full steam, but derivatives, futures, options, options on futures, futures on options, etc. let speculators come up with an equal and opposite amount of money. As Alan Greenspan wrote in 2007, "Even the then seemingly massive Japanese purchases of foreign exchange barely budged the prices of the vast global pool of tradable securities."

Suppose the MOF tries to fix the yen around Y100/$ when the market thinks it should be Y90. So, speculators use dollars to buy yen get Y100 for each dollar. Their purchases push the yen upward a bit, let's say to Y98/$. In that case they sell their 100 yen in the forex markets and get $1.02. They've made a 2% profit in just a few minutes, or hours or days. And then the MOF pushes back and the whole process starts all over again. The MOF has simply made speculators rich without affecting the yen rate. Look at the massive private capita flows into Japan during the period of intervention that simply neutralized the MOF actions.

So, why can't Japan do what Switzerland did? Because Japan is not Switzerland. Just because a mouse can crawl underneath a door doesn't mean that a cat can do so. Switzerland is much smaller and less important in global trade and capital flows and in daily trades on global forex markets. As far as I know, the EU did not flip its wig when the Swiss National Bank put in the ceiling. The US Treasury and EU and China and other Asian would do so if Tokyo made a similar move. Knowing this, currency speculators would bet against the MOF/BOJ being able to sustain the policy, just as they did in the fixed currency system. If the speculators expect the MOF to fail, then they will take actions that will make it fail--in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If speculators believe that the EU will tolerate the Swiss policy, then they won't necessarily fight against it.

Also, keep this in mind. With Japan having deflation and the rest of the world having inflation, the nominal yen has to rise a few percent per year just to keep the real (Price-adjusted) yen from becoming undervalued.
So, even if the rate that the MOF set today were market-conforming, in a few years, it would be out of whack with fundamentals. Speculators know this.

Finally, as to the theory in the article that you
cited: a number "rational expectations" monetary economists buy this notion despite all the evidence against it. One of them was John Taylor-after whom the famous monetary "Taylor rule" is named. When he was Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs in the George W. Bush administration, he secretly supported Japan's massive 2003-04 currency intervention as a means of getting Japan to apply even more quantitative easing because he thought this would defeat deflation. "By not registering objections to the intervention, effectively allowing it to happen, the U.S. might make it easier for Japan to pump up their money supply," said Taylor in an autumn 2006 speech.
Then, in his 2007 book, Global Financial Warriors, Taylor went so far as to claim that the policy succeeded on both the yen front and in ending Japan's economic lethargy: "The yen did not strengthen much after the intervention ended March 5 [2004]. Everyone recognized that the Japanese recovery was solid and that the lost decade was a thing of past [emphasis added]." The latter sentence was approvingly cited in a December 2007 paper by Abe advisor Koichi Hamada.

Taylor could not have been more wrong. The nominal yen continued to strengthen, deflation went on its merry way, and, within a year after Taylor published this verdict, Japan's economy entered its worst slump in the entire postwar era. It has yet to recover to the pre-recesion peak. The lost decade has turned into the lost decades.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:24 AM

[SSJ: 7935] Re: Abenomics

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2013/01/24

Yes, conceptually it's possible ... but (i) other countries might not sit still, in which case it won't work and (ii) the amounts needed would likely be really large and not just on a one-shot basis. Would "unlimited" be politically sustainable, when those in charge faced newspaper headline after newspaper headline on how much was involved?

So ... if I had assets to play with, I'd be betting on the yen "overshooting" and then appreciating (perhaps on an episodic basis). [NB: every time I've lived in Japan with a dollar-based fellowship the yen has been strong; every time I've been there with a yen-based fellowship it's the dollar that's been strong. My track record in foreign exchange markets is 100% bad, though I won't go so far as to say that means should bet the opposite of what I suggest...]

mike smitka
academic economist

Approved by ssjmod at 11:22 AM

[SSJ: 7934] Re: Abenomics

From: Jean-Christophe Helary
Date: 2013/01/24

On Jan 23, 2013, Nobuhiro Hiwatari wrote:

> this image of the Japanese voter is quite odd,
particularly in light
> of the fact that it is debatable whether the Ishinn
no Kai won because
> of Ishihara or in spite of Ishihara.

I am not talking about Ishinnokai.

I am talking about Ishihara as the Tokyo politician who managed to force the Minshuto government to enter into open conflict with China, and that, right before the Jiminto had its internal elections where eventually not Tanigaki, who had reasonably well managed the party until then, but Abe's clique took the power.

As for "economic voting having (any) relevance", I'd like to see what was not clear about the political lockout for the Japanese voters. They knew Abe and Aso had done nothing in the past, they knew that the political lockout was caused by the Jiminto refusing to collaborate with the Minshuto in the Upper House and they blame the Minshuto for that and then put Abe/Aso in power because of "economic" promises (including reverting the no-nukes policy that a considerable amount of people supported) ?

Japanese voters did not choose Abe because they thought his economic proposals were better, they voted for him because he looked tough on the Chinese issue (conveniently staged by his pal's father just a few weeks before so that it could remain in the voter's short term media memory) and because they could not convince themselves that voting for the Minshuto en masse would make any difference regarding the issues that matter to them, without even noticing that at the exact same time the economy was being savagely hurt by the reactionaries who were provoking China.

Japanese voters may be concerned about their daily life, just like any other voter in the world. But pretending that their vote was in any way an
intelligent choice between two (or more) rational
positions on economic policies is seeing way too much into last election. The 15% or so who made the balance tip in favor of the Jiminto are people who have little understanding of economics beyond the fact that they need money to pay the bills.

As for the Ishinnokai, I would not be surprised if Ishihara had proposed to work with Hashimoto fully knowing that such an alliance would deter some voters from voting for the Osaka leader.

Jean-Christophe Helary=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:21 AM

[SSJ: 7933] Re: Abenomics

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2013/01/24

I agree that Ishin no Kai won mostly despite Ishihara.
In fact, the party mostly won in Osaka-fu and Kansai.
Thus, the party7s strong showing was much more because of support for Hashimoto and perhaps the expectation that he is the ultimate power in that party.

"I wonder why the voters reply as the most important issue of the day, the economy and social welfare, in all the surveys across to board, and why they have been selecting these two issues by a wide margin for some time?"

It's worth noting that over the past six months or so foreign policy and security issues, usually far behind economic issues, significantly closed the gap, at least temporarily. An NTV poll in September found that foreign policy issues finished third as the top priority of voters, at just over 20%, just below social security and tax policy at 23%, and not so far behind economic and employment policy at 30%. By contrast earthquake recovery was at 18%. Normally foreign policy has been finishing as the fifth most cited priority, or lower. Another NTV poll in December found that foreign policy had fallen back to #4, although it still led earthquake recovery, education, and deficit reduction as policy priorities.

Best Regards,

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 11:20 AM

January 23, 2013

[SSJ: 7932] Re: Abenomics

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2013/01/23

If the below explanation holds water, I wonder why the voters reply as the most important issue of the day, the economy and social welfare, in all the surveys across to board, and why they have been selecting these two issues by a wide margin for some time?

Also, the explanation makes Japan a rare case in which economic voting has no relevance, and it makes the Japanese voters gullible enough to be tricked by Ishihara but attentive enough to follow his words: this image of the Japanese voter is quite odd, particularly in light of the fact that it is debatable whether the Ishinn no Kai won because of Ishihara or in spite of Ishihara.

Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Institute of Social Sceiences

Approved by ssjmod at 11:07 AM

[SSJ: 7931] Re: Abenomics

From: Jean-Christophe Helary
Date: 2013/01/23

> From: Richard Katz

> Jean-Christophe Helary wrote:

>> Did Abe have an important election 6 months after
his getting in power
>> 6 years ago ?
>
> RK:
>
> Yes, he did and he lost it. He came to power at the
end of 2006 and faced an Upper House election in July
2007 (the UH election is held every three years).

No, the situation was totally different from now.

In 2006, the Upper House was held by Jiminto and Komeito and they had quite a comfortable majority.
The Minshuto then was a threat but certainly not a tangible one since Jiminto and its allies had always managed to secure enough votes to gain the majority in either house (with a very few exceptions that are not really relevant).

So, as far as Abe was concerned, it was business as usual in 2007-2007 and that election certainly had not the same weight as the one coming this July.

> JCH:
>
>> Abe and his friends know very well that they can't
do much for the economy...
>
> RK:
>
> What makes you believe that they "know very well that
they can't do much for the economy"?

Because Abe has not been elected for its economic policies. He has been elected because Ishihara managed to trick the public opinion into thinking that the time was ripe for a hardliner team to seize the power. His focus on infrastructure spendings instead of energy technology investment is a proof that he is just looking for short term results and has no interests whatsoever in making it easier for the Japanese people on the long term.

As you write, for them it is about magic wands and similar tricks, and if that doesn't work (which is
likely) they'll find a scapegoat.

Jean-Christophe Helary=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

January 22, 2013

[SSJ: 7927] Re: Abenomics

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/01/22

Jean-Christophe Helary wrote:

> Did Abe have an important election 6 months after his
getting in power
> 6 years ago ?

RK:

Yes, he did and he lost it. He came to power at the end of 2006 and faced an Upper House election in July 2007 (the UH election is held every three years). That is one of the reasons he ended up having to resign. One of the big reasons that the LDP did so poorly in 2007 was that Abe ignored the economy. With headline GDP numbers seeming to be OK, he ignored the fact that the benefits were not being transferred to ordinary people, e.g.
real wages kept falling.

JCH:

>Abe and his friends know very well that they can't do
much for the
>economy...
>

RK:

What makes you believe that they "know very well that they can't do much for the economy"? People often believe their own hype. Abe, who knows little to nothing about economics himself, has surrounded himself with economists who have told him that "inflation targeting" is the magic wand to revive inflation, lower the yen, and increase demand. Koichi Hamada has promised results on the inflation front within months if the BOJ does enough. (When it doesn't happen, they will claim the BOJ didn't do enough.) The initial market reaction in the yen and stock markets and public opinion polls has reinforced Abe's faith in the economic and political results of their nostrums. The fiscal side is far more contradictory and needs to be watched closely.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:03 AM

[SSJ: 7925] Re: Abenomics

From: Jean-Christophe Helary
Date: 2013/01/22

From: Richard Katz

> But, for now, the public sees Abe doing what the did
not do six years
> ago: put the economy on the front-burner.

Did Abe have an important election 6 months after his getting in power 6 years ago ?

Abe and his friends know very well that they can't do much for the economy so they are just trying to smoke-screen their way to the July elections and then they'll be safe for 3 years. Anything said and done before July should be take with an extra grain of salt.


Jean-Christophe Helary=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:02 AM

January 21, 2013

[SSJ: 7923] Abenomics

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2013/01/21

Japan could use a dose of stimulus. GDP is still 3% below the level first reached five years ago. So, in my view, macroeconomic stimulus is necessary but not sufficient. Stimulus alone, without structural reform, is just another shot of heroin that will make Japan even more of a stimulus addict than it already is.
However, the reaction in the currency and stock markets, if they continue, could be a big boost to the LDP in the July Upper House elections.

What differentiates Abe from some of his predecessors is that he wants to combine strong doses of both fiscal and monetary policy. What chance is there that this will have a better effect than past efforts?

Years of effort have shown that monetary stimulus alone is insufficient to elevate growth or defeat deflation.
Interestingly, Paul Krugman, who previously downplayed the role for fiscal policy, has now admitted that it takes a fiscal-monetary combination would boost growth.
This is a remarkable turnaround for him. In a comment on Adam Posen, who proposed just additional monetary stimulus and called fiscal stimulus counter-productive, Krugman wrote:

Posen is going with the notion that unconventional monetary policy, by working both on asset demand and on expectations, can do the job. Maybe, but most of us have taken the limited payoff to quantitative easing as a cautionary tale. There's a lot to say for the notion of using temporary fiscal stimulus [combined with monetary ease--rk] to push the output gap down, ideally even causing some economic overheating, to jump-start the transition to an inflationary regime.
That's what I've been arguing for years.

However, Krugman is wrong that the fiscal-monetary combo would be a lasting fix. Fiscal stimulus adds real demand to an economy that lacks sufficient domestic private demand in a slump. Monetary stimulus prevents interest rates from rising in response, which would make the fiscal stimulus self-defeating. In fact, the BOJ has succeded in knocking 3-4 year bond rates down to about as low as the overnight rate of 0.1%, while longer term rates are at near-record lows. In a healthy economy, stimulus raises the operating rate of firms and lowers unemployment. That causes firms to do even more hiring and investment and causes consumers to be more willing to spend. These reinforce each other and the vicious cycle of recession is transformed into the virtuous cycle of self-sustaining private-led growth.
This allows the stimulus to be safely withdrawn.
Krugman is wrong because Japan is not a healthy economy.

The recovery in 2002-2007 was led by an incredible dependence on a growing trade surplus fed by a super-cheap yen. 40% of all GDP growth in those years came just from growth in the trade surplus. Another 30% came from business investment, much of which was tied directly or indirectly to exports. That's why Japan's GDP fell 9% when the global slump occurred. During that decade the real price-adjusted value of the yen vis-a-vis its major trading partners fell to a level 30% below its average since 1986. Even at its highest nominal level in 2012, the real value of the yen was still below its quarter-century average.

Abe wants to repeat this by driving down the yen. But Tokyo does not have control over the yen rate. That is determined in global markets. The yen is falling in part because of Japan's spate of trade deficits, and Abe's comments were the trigger that turned abound sentiment among currency speculators. But there is absolutely no linkage in the data between easy money by the BOJ and the yen rate. The stock market is rising because it has been highly (89%) correlated with the yen since 2005. When the yen gets cheaper stocks rise.
Moreover, as some in Japan have pointed out, a cheaper yen has its costs as well as benefits, one of the costs being much higher energy prices and a transfer of purchasing power from Japan to oil sheiks.

What about consumer demand? In the 15 years since 1997, GDP had grown a meager 8%, but the total compensation of all employees combined has not grown at all, partly due to a long period of falling real wages per worker as well as a fall in the number of workers. The aged now receive virtually nothing on their bank accounts.
People are spending as much as they can, with the savings rate now around 2%. The problem is not lack of will to spend, but lack of wallet. If you want households to spend more, they need more income. The consumption tax hike will leave them with less income.
So, how can they be expected to spend more once stimulus is withdrawn. Why will firms that cannot run their plants at profitable operating rates borrow to expand capacity no matter how low interest rates are?
Business investment is about 18% below its peak of five years ago.

So, while Abenomics may boost the economy for a while, once the stimulus is withdrawn, it will do what it has done before after previous bouts of stimulus or a cheap
yen: fall back to stagnation. Meanwhile, what Abe proposes is a decade-long Y20 trillion (4% of GDP) per year program of public works. That's the old bridges to nowhere approach, whereas there are lots of worthwhile projects that are being ignored. (By the way, it is not entirely clear how long Abe will be able to keep this stimulus going since he seems to have reversed himself and caved into the demand from the Finance Ministry to limit deficit bonds to Y44 trillion, the same level as in initial budgets of the past few years.)

What Japan needs is to use the macro stimulus as anesthesia to help the people who would be hurt by serious structural reform. But that costs money, e.g.
for a stronger social safety net. But Abe is not even giving much lip service to real reform. 154 of the LDP candidates who won got the endorsement of the farm lobby by promising to stop Japan from joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Abe says it wiill take years to figure out an energy policy. There is no approach to increase firm efficiency by more competititon. No social safety net so that bad firms can die and better firms replace them at a rate equal to the pace in other rich countries.

A lot of economists believe in assorted magic wands and Japan has been a grand guinea pig for their assorted nostrums. For example, a majority of US economists still believe that the BOJ can create inflation any time it wants to, if it just announced a target and printed enough money. And many, like Posen and Krugman, argue that deflation and a "low" yen are Japan's main problems. To me, this is like saying you can cure a fever by targeting the thermometer to read 98.6. But Abe is now seen as trying it out and so they are cheering him on. In my view, this is just as wrong-headed as the warnings that Ben Bernanke was going to create inflation in the US by printing so much money after the Lehman shock, or as Herbert Hoover saying that, if people and firms spent as if there were no Depression, that alone would cure the Depression.
Once interest rates hit zero, the normal linkages between easy money and inflation break down, as years of experience in Japan and the last five years in the US have shown. Deflation is a symptom, not a cause. It reflects weak demand. If enough fiscal stimulus creates enough demand, that will help fight deflation--until the stimulus is withdrawn.

But, for now, the public sees Abe doing what the did not do six years ago: put the economy on the front-burner.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:56 AM

January 09, 2013

[SSJ: 7912] Lecture on Thursday January 17, 2013 at 18.30

From: Marga Dinkel
Date: 2013/01/09

Best wishes to everybody for a prosperous, happy and inspirational year of the snake.

We cordially invite you to the next DIJ Forum on

Thursday, 17 January 2013, 18.30 h
Daniel P. Aldrich, Purdue University

Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery

This lecture puts the Great East Japan Earthquake into perspective by analysing it in the context of other major disasters. Using micro- and neighborhood-level data from four disasters in three nations over the 20th and 21st centuries, this talk will investigate standard theories of recovery and resilience. Bivariate, time series cross sectional, and matching analyses show that more than factors such as individual or personal wealth, aid from the government, or damage from the disaster, the depth of social capital best predicts recovery. Social capital works through three main mechanisms: elevating voice and suppressing exit, overcoming collective action barriers, and providing informal insurance. Should social networks prove the critical engines before, during, and after disaster, this suggests a new approach to disaster mitigation for NGOs, individuals, and governments.

Daniel P. Aldrich is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Purdue University on leave for the academic year 2012 ̶ 2013 as a Fulbright research professor at Tokyo University. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in political science from Harvard University, an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, and his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published two books (Site fights and Building Resilience) and more than 80 peer reviewed articles, book chapters, reviews, and OpEds in locations such as the New York Times, CNN, and the Asahi Shinbun.

The lecture will be given in English. It will take place on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 6.30 p.m. at the DIJ. Admission is free, please register at: forum[at]dijtokyo.org or Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien Jochi Kioizaka Bld. 2F, 7-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0094
Tel: 03 - 3222 5198, Fax: 03 3222 5420

Approved by ssjmod at 11:50 AM

December 27, 2012

[SSJ: 7908] Re: New Minister of Education

From: Alexis D'Hautcourt
Date: 2012/12/27

Here is a long recent interview of Shimomura:
http://www.apa.co.jp/appletown/bigtalk/bt1212/english_i
ndex.html
Controversial it is.

Alexis D'Hautcourt

http://francaisaukansai.blogspot.com/

Approved by ssjmod at 11:42 AM

[SSJ: 7907] Re: How long will Abe last?

From:Greg Johnson
Date: 2012/12/27

I'd like to submit these questions related to the LDP election victory to anyone who'd care to comment, but particularly to the political scientists.

The recent election was held under electoral conditions that were earlier judged unconstitutional. Huh? May the legislature ignore the constitution with impunity?

Is this the return of one party rule to Japan? Is this the end a period in which the possibility seemed to exist of two or more viable Japanese parties, differing even slightly in policies and values, either/any of which the electorate could reasonably imagine governing? Or does the recent election conversely suggest that such a system now does exist?

The LDP wants to limit freedom of speech during national emergencies. What does the LDP have against freedom of speech?When has freedom of speech hindered Japan's government in a national emergency? Thinking back on the Hanshin earthquake, the Aum terror, the Tohoku earthquake and nuclear fiasco, I can't come up with any harm that free speech caused to national security. Isn't this simply a way to muffle political dissent? If the current Senkaku situation were declared a national emergency any suggestions that China's position contains a smidgen of merit could be banned.
The nuclear mess will take decades to get under control. And national security was this year added to the purposes of Japan's nuclear power regime in the 原
子力基本法. If the multiple melt-through situations were deemed an emergency, the government could ban antinuclear speech, to say nothing of posting on the internet radiation readings from one's backyard or groceries. This goal is to me by far the most ominous of Abe's plans. What's his problem with free speech?

Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:40 AM

[SSJ: 7905] Re: How long will Abe last?

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/12/27

Here's a related point that came to mind while writing a response to an email regarding Abe's prospects.

It is easy to forget, also, that 1) the other side of assuming that Abe is in good health now is that all the signs in 2007 that he intended to carry on but had to resign for health reasons were not some aimless, ill-designed pretext, 2) Fukuda willingly relinquished the office even though his poll numbers had been on a steady if unspectacular rise in the belief that Aso would be better equipped to fight an election campaign, and 3) Aso spent a year building a legacy instead of homing in on the election. With good health, Abe could easily have hung on at least until the next LDP leadership election and we would be dealing with a very different LDP narrative.

Approved by ssjmod at 10:13 AM

[SSJ: 7904] New Minister of Education

From: Julian Dierkes
Date: 2012/12/27

From: Julian Dierkes (julian.dierkes@ubc.ca)
Date: 2012/12/27

One of the appointments that immediately jumped out at me in the Abe Cabinet is Shimomura Hakubun (下村 博文).
He is perhaps known most for controversial comments he made in 2007 about sexual slavery during the Asia Pacific War, but he has now been appointed Minister of Education (and all the other things that MEXT is in charge of).

In Japanese education circles (policy, academic,
practitioners) there has been a frequent, almost unanimous lament that there is very little grounded understanding of primary and secondary education in the Diet which has added to the already powerful role that Monkasho plays in policy-making. There are very few Diet members that might be identified or identify themselves as education specialists.

Shimomura is also not exactly an education specialist, but he did run a juku (塾, supplementary education
school) briefly before entering politics, so many people in the education industry (corporate and smaller juku, a well as the many publishers of learning
materials) think of him as one of theirs.

In any decisions he makes, his conservatism will probably override this experience as a juku operator, but there have been parts of the LDP (including
Shimomura) that have been talking about a radical liberalization of education (giving juku a quasi-official status so that attendance there would fulfill compulsory education requirements), so I will be curious to watch whether he attempts any movement in this direction, particularly given the Diet majority available to the LDP.

Julian Dierkes
Institute of Asian Research
University of British Columbia=

Approved by ssjmod at 10:13 AM

December 26, 2012

[SSJ: 7901] Re: How long will Abe last?

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/12/26

Here's a preemptive defense of my three-and-a-half year "over" for Abe's second try.

How could Abe's term be cut short?

First, Prime Minister Abe may call a snap election in order to break through a legislative impasse. That is highly unlikely to happen until the next House of Representatives general election, since the LDP-Komeito coalition-a durable coalition between two broadly likeminded parties-has a HoR supermajority.

Second, he may feel compelled to resign after a disastrous LDP showing in the 2013 House of Councillors election. However, that is not going to happen unless the Japan Restoration Party, Your Party, and the DPJ can plan and execute a single member district-by-district pooling of votes. You only need to look at the results of the 2007 and 2010 HoC elections to see that. And what are the chances of the three main opposition parties doing that?

Third, he may feel compelled to resign or, more plausibly, defeated in the 2014 LDP leadership election, because his poll numbers fall through the political floor, and it is true that the previous six one-year administrations have seemed to wither and die, like annual plants. It is his competence and leadership and not his position on any specific issue that he must worry about. Here, he is protected on the legislative flank by the supermajority, while the LDP itself, already more disciplined than the DPJ, must have learned from the lessons of the DPJ. He has also been lowering expectations on potentially incendiary issues during and immediately after the election campaign and has assembled what appears to be a solid list of cabinet ministers. Loose lips sink ships, of course, and Nobuteru Ishihara and, to a lesser extent, Taro Aso have the potential to chime in with the odd false note.
However, they have served in the past without much incident (or much distinction, but that's another story), so I'm not betting on them doing anything too foolish any time soon.

Of course there's the matter of Abe himself, specifically, "his political skills, or his tin ears, or his grasp of language and issues", as Mike Smitka kindly worries on his behalf. Now my friends and acquaintances know that I have never thought much of him as a politician. In fact, I've been mystified by his original rise to power as well as his sudden, unforeseen comeback. But then, I never understood Koizumi's charms either, and I've always worried that I underestimate him because he got all his schooling in an escalator school system for rich kids. Shinjiro Koizumi is a perfect example of how that kind of misunderestimation can lead you astray, and Abe has been judged to be worthy by his LDP peers, the very people who know him best professionally and also have plenty of personal skin in the game. I do not understand him, I never may, but he does have my respect (I am aware that there are people who think that Abe and the people who selected him are just plain stupid. I have long shed belief in my own omniscience.)

It's useful to remember that Abe's gaffes, in my opinion, have not been of the off-the-cuff, weird stuff that someone like Nobuteru Ishihara sometimes emits but expressions of deeply held views-especially unpopular in China and South Korea-or attempts to explain them.
He would obvious do better if he had the Koizumis'
natural talent to know the right thing to say at the right time, but he doesn't. But he can learn from his mistakes, and he has had the lead-up to the election to get some potential snags out of his system or at least air them and put them into mothballs.

Note also that he is assembling an impressive array of political appointees; the following names have been
media-confirmed: Yasutake Tango (ex-MOF), Shotaro Yachi (ex-MOFA), Koichi Hamada (economist, Yale), and Isao Iijima (Prime Minister Koizumi's political majordomo extraordinaire). I'm a little worried about Professor Hamada because he is not a political player to the best of my knowledge and this does not appear to be a team for radical change, but it does look like a pretty good firewall as far as navigating around potential pitfalls is concerned.

Of course there's always the unknown unknown, like the abductee revelations and Fukushima Daiichi, which are probably more likely than an asteroid hitting the Earth and finally making Francis Fukuyama's prediction come true. But fat tails are difficult to guess at.

Finally, some people wonder about his actual health. In fact, that was the first thing that I heard at an evening get-together of mostly corporate executives and a smattering of academics when the question turned to the political scene. But people raising that question are essentially implying that there is a conspiracy involving at least one doctor, one nurse, and one apothecary and the process of locating them without disclosing said fact to third parties. Like most conspiracy theories, it just doesn't make sense. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, Abe is like so many other people in developed countries: a person with a chronic health problem whose symptoms he avoids by taking up-to-date medication.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

[SSJ: 7900] Re: How long will Abe last?

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/12/26

"I'm wondering how long you all expect Abe to last a full year?"

Mike:

You mean, of course:

"I'm wondering how long you all expect Abe to last; a full year?"

I'll take the over on a 3-1/2 years over-under as long as he remains in functional health. The outcome of a
2016 double election will determine whether or not he'll beat Koizumi's record.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

[SSJ: 7899] Politics Quiz 3

From: John Campbell
Date: 2012/12/26

Mike Smitka asks about what happened to the quiz? I saw his message just as the Lower House was voting--I was waiting to be sure about Q5. Here are the results:

1a. Party with the most seats: everyone said LDP

1b. How many seats? Everyone was way way off: LDP got 294; highest guess was 265 (Sarah Hyde) and most much lower.

2a. Most popular vote OR most PR vote (my mistake, wrote it different ways in different mails): Almost all said LDP.

2b. What share? Answering for Single Member district vote, which was 43%: Gerald Curtis was 41%, Michael
Strausz 40%. Answering for PR vote, which was
27.6%: Chris Winkler 28%.

3a. Ishin no Kai, number of seats was 54; Jun Okamoto said 51 and Ko Maeda 50

3b. What share? SMD vote was 11.6%; Ken'ichi Arriga said 12.5% and Sam Jameson said 10%. Answering for the PR vote, Ishin no Kai got 20.3%; Jun Okamoto said 20%

4. Who will be PM? Everyone said Abe.

5. Governing coalition (voting for Abe as PM): the
voting just concluded, and in the Lower House and the first ballot in the Upper House, the LDP and Koumeitou voted for Abe. Everyone had those two in the coalition but only four said only those two: Gerald Curtis, Ira Wolf, Chris Winkler, and Yukio Maeda.

6. The final question was which party would get the
most seats in the Upper House election next July. We have to wait for that one. Yukio had noted I should have asked how long the PM will serve, and Rick Katz just posed the same question, or anyway the over-and-under of 1 year. If you send Rick your guess he will tally it, and if you copy me I'll keep it till the results are out.

Yours, John
__________________________
>From John Creighton Campbell
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
University of Michigan
Visiting Scholar, Institute of Gerontology Tokyo University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:04 AM

December 23, 2012

[SSJ: 7898] How long will Abe last?

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/12/23

OK, John Campbell was taking bets on how much the LDP would win. (BTW John, any results?) I don't bet outside of friendly card games, but I'm wondering how long you all expect Abe to last a full year?

After all, I can't imagine that either his political skills, or his tin ears, or his grasp of language and issues have improved with age. The LDP isn't unified across numbers of issues and not everyone gets along with everyone else. And I don't think monetary policy is effective when interest rates are zero. We have a few years of evidence, right? So the economy won't necessarily work in his favor (if it does, it won't be his fault). Uh, there are other fault lines, too. But I don't watch politics enough to even recognize many of the names, much less make an informed guess about whether he will stumble his way for longer than in his first go-around.

If you email me numbers privately, I can post as a New Year's offering, but maybe others can help refine the question, pointing out where he is more vulnerable.
Will the LDP have lost enough sheen to fare poorly enough in the 2013 upper house elections to unseat him?
Other possible triggers?=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:03 AM

December 17, 2012

[SSJ: 7892] Did Japan just turn right? What does the LDP/Restoration win mean for future politics and security of Japan?

From: Ibata-Arens, Kathryn
Date: 2012/12/17


SSJ Colleagues,

What does the LDP win and Restoration gain (and precipitous loss of DPJ) mean for future security in Japan? See Newsweek Daily Beast post on Japan's right - and militarist leaning - turn in today's election.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/16/why-ja
pan-s-right-turn-could-be-trouble-for-the-u-s.html

Why Japan's Right Turn Could Be Trouble for the U.S.
Dec 16, 2012 4:45 AM EST
A militaristic coalition is poised for gains in Sunday's elections, behind right-wing former governor Shintaro Ishihara. Why America has much at stake with its closest Asian ally.

The Rising Sun may be making a comeback in Japan. Less than a century ago, this nationalist and militarist symbol flew over Imperialist Japan as it was invading countries all over Asia. It is now popularized by a militaristic political coalition that might win election on Sunday.

Japan is our strongest security ally in Asia and one of our top trading partners. A stable, moderate democracy in Japan is in the American national interest.
Unfortunately, Japan could be moving toward a nationalist, militarized future, if the right-wing candidate Shintaro Ishihara and his ilk have their way.

Having just returned from Tokyo, I can tell you that many in the Japanese news media have expressed concern since the Nov. 17 announcement by Ishihara that his newly formed Sunrise Party (reminiscent of Japan's Imperialist past) would merge forces with the Restoration Party, led by Toru Hashimoto, Osaka's conservative mayor. Calls made by Ishihara for a "new military" are alarming to many Japanese, and the Chinese blogosphere has been fretful about it.

Americans should worry, too.

Politicians like Ishihara (who just stepped down as governor of Tokyo to run for parliament) want to scuttle Japan's pacifist constitution, remilitarize-including pursuing nuclear weapons-and take a more belligerent stance against China. These developments should be of grave concern for Americans because we have a security treaty with Japan promising to protect our ally.

The region is at risk. On Wednesday North Korea launched a long-range rocket that flew over Okinawa, Japan, and has boasted that it has missile capability to hit the United States.

Japan's recent bungling of the September 2012 dispute with China over the tiny, uninhabited Senkaku Islets (called Diaoyu in Chinese) southwest of Japan, illustrates just what is at stake. China, Japan, and Taiwan all claim ownership of the islets, located between these countries in the East China Sea. Beijing expressed outrage in response to the purchase of the Senkakus by the Japanese central government, and it didn't matter that the only reason for doing so was to prevent Ishihara's attempt to buy them.

The approval rating of the Democratic Party of Japan
(DPJ) is at an all-time low: 16 percent. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (the third prime minister in as many
years) doesn't fare much better. The DPJ rode in to national power in a landslide victory in the 2009 elections on a wave of anti-Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP) sentiment. The DPJ is a young party: in its forward-looking viewpoint, in its representation by thirty-something politicians, and in its support from young Japanese voters.

The DPJ leadership took the heat for the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and radiation crisis, even though the Fukushima Nuclear Plant meltdown was found to be in part the result of lax oversight by cozy business-bureaucrat ties, cultivated for nearly a half a century when the LDP was in power. Only the DPJ has taken a strong stance against a return to nuclear power. Currently, two of Japan's 54 plants are operating.

What should really cause concern is that Ishihara and his ilk are gaining popularity within the Japanese electorate, including a young generation of disenfranchised men. Japan is turning increasingly inward, and backward, after two decades of stagnant economic growth.

Of course, the Ishihara-Hashimoto nationalists are not going to win a majority on the 16th. Japan's military is but a shadow of its former self with less than
300,000 personnel today compared to 6 million at the height of World War II. However, this weakness partly explains the right-wing appeal.

Ordinary Japanese doubt that the U.S. has the will and wherewithal to "have Japan's back" if ever needed. If the Ishihara-Hashimoto cabal manages to win enough seats to be part of the ruling coalition, theirs will be a voice to be reckoned with in future policy decisions regarding nuclear power and posturing toward China and other Asian nations. Japan's rightists might find an open ear in the new administration. The conservative LDP politician Shinzo Abe is expected to be the next prime minister. Abe has called for upgrading Japan's military and a stronger stance against China.

We, as Americans, should do what we can to avoid being drawn into yet another international conflict-this time in Asia. Our elected officials should pay attention.
Allowing Japan to become "fly-over" territory on the way to more enticing countries in Asia is dangerous to the American interest.

Kathryn Ibata-Arens serves on the bilateral U.S.-Japan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Council and is an associate professor at DePaul University in Chicago, where she teaches Asian business, politics, and economy.
=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:55 AM

December 05, 2012

[SSJ: 7879] Asian-American Quotas at Ivy League Universities?

From: Robert Dujarric
Date: 2012/12/05

FYI, interesting article. Would be interesting to get comments from admissions offices.

Asian-American Quotas at Ivy League Universities?
November 28, 2012 - America's elite Ivy League universities appear to follow a de facto Asian-American admissions quota policy.

Ron Unz provides detailed statistical evidence that the pattern of Asian-American enrollment over the last two decades is remarkably similar to what followed the establishment of Ivy League Jewish quotas in the mid-1920s. Soon after the U.S. Department of Justice closed its early 1990s investigation into allegations of anti-Asian admissions bias at the Ivy League:

. . Asian-American numbers at Harvard, Yale, and
Columbia began large declines.
. . Asian-American enrollments throughout the
Ivy League strangely converged to very similar levels.
. . The college-age population of
Asian-Americans doubled during 1993-2011 as did their top academic awards, but none of this was reflected in their Ivy League enrollments.
. . As one example, the percentage of
college-age Asian-Americans at Harvard dropped by more than 50% during 1993-2011, a larger decline than that suffered by Jews following the 1925 establishment of ethnic quotas.
. . Meanwhile race-neutral Caltech saw its
Asian-American enrollment increase closely in line with the growth of the college-age Asian-American population.
. . Comparing the Ivy League enrollments of
Asian-Americans with those of high-performing white subpopulations rules out general "diversity"factors as an explanation for these patterns.

See "The Myth of American Meritocracy"in the December American Conservative, or online here:
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myt
h-of-american-meritocracy/

--
Robert Dujarric (robertdujarric[at]gmail.com)

Temple University, Japan Campus

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

December 03, 2012

[SSJ: 7875] Is the DPJ taking a page or more from the Obama campaign?

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/12/03

The following is an exchange with Paul Sracic, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Rigelhaupt Pre-Law Center at Youngstown State University in Ohio. (Posted with his consent. and yes, that Ohio.) Your thoughts are welcome.

Jun Okumura


Paul: I was just reading Michael Cucek's Shisaku blog post about the joint news conference between the leaders of the 11 parties, and noticed that Prime Minister Noda had written on his card that the theme for the DPJ was "Do we go forward?" As you probably know, "forward" was President Obama's slogan this year.
I remember in the last lower house election I was struck by how much some of the DPJ signs looked like those used in the Obama campaign in 2008. Do you think the DPJ is consciously following the American Democrats this year? After all, it worked out well in 2009. If the Prime Minister mentions Ohio in one of his campaign speeches, we will know for sure!

Me: "Move backward" obviously means going back to the old LDP way of doing things, whatever that is. That's an easy and obvious association to make. The Obama campaign's slogan cannot refer to moving back as a general (and negative) proposition because the Democrats are part of the past too. My tentative
answer: If the DPJ was inspired by the Obama campaign, it certainly gave its own slogan a situation-appropriate, significantly different tweak.

Paul: Actually, even the move backwards part is consistent with the Obama campaign, since he always accused Romney of "wanting to take us back to the [Bush] policies that got us into this [economic] mess."

Approved by ssjmod at 11:08 AM

December 02, 2012

[SSJ: 7872] Why no nuclear energy policy change after 3.11?

From: David Arase
Date: 2012/12/02


I've noticed more media attention to the question why Japanese nuclear policy has not changed direction after 3.11. In a bit a shameless self-promotion, I offer an answer to this question in the following article: "The impact of 3.11 on Japan," East Asia: An International Quarterly, 29:4 (December 2012).
http://www.springerlink.com/content/w058m43181064185/.
Maybe the title should have been "The Non-impact of
3.11 on Japan." Oh well. I wrote it for the ISA meeting last April and updated it two months ago for publication.
David Arase

Approved by ssjmod at 11:19 AM

November 30, 2012

[SSJ: 7871] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/11/30

Perhaps given Rick's useful listing of Abe's irresponsible statements, combined with his past track record as PM, the real question is "How degenerate is Japanese politics now that a miserably failed PM with this record could be the front-runner to become PM again?" Can anyone think of another example in the democratic world like this (other than W's 2004 election victory of course)?

Best,
Ellis

Approved by ssjmod at 11:18 AM

[SSJ: 7870] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/11/30


First, a thanks to Jun Okumura for reporting that the Mainichi translation was in error, not the original Mainichi editorial. I wonder if the same is true of Asahi.

But, now that I have set up Jun with my gracious thanks, I have cleverly rendered him powerless to disagree with my reply to his comment that:


>And it's hard for a politician or
>op-ed writer to say "let's not upset the Chinese"
while offering no
>meaningful alternative when the general public mood is
running against
>the Chinese actions.


Jun is probably right that is is hard. But that doesn't mean that it's not necessary. What would be the consequences? The likely Chinese reaction? The Japanese options in light of China's reaction? Etc. Etc. Does Abe intend to tell Beijing: "don't take it so seriously; I just did it to win some votes"? That should go over well.

And, at the risk of sounding naive, why is it so hard to ask these very simple questions about "what happens next if you station personnel?"

The lack of proper debate prior to the Noda purchase of the Senkakus was an ingredient in Tokyo's widely-reported miscalculation of Chinese reaction. How come there was so little discussion in the press (at least from what I've seen) of a third option between letting Ishihara buy them or Noda buying them? That was to pressure the owner to maintain the lease he had held for so long, and up the lease rate, if necessary.

I spoke last night to an American businessman in China who said that Chinese officials asked him at the time (i.e. while the national purchase was still being discussed within
Japan) to get the US government to put pressure on Tokyo to find a way to maintain the status quo. I have no reason to believe this person was lying to me. He said the officials told him that the Chinese govt was communicating this to DC itself, as well as to Japan.

Did anyone on Noda's political team or the Gaimusho present Noda with this leasing/status quo option; if so, why was it rejected? If not, why was it not presented? Why did Noda and his advisors think that the Chinese would simply accept their purchase? Why didn't the Japanese press discuss this third option? Would things have turned out better if they had?

The Chinese in turn, from what I can tell, decided that Noda bought them, not as a lesser evil, but because he wanted to as part of Japan's rightist shift. He could easily have chosen to maintain the status quo if he really wanted to, they say. The Chinese seem inclined to see Machiavellian motives, rather than mistakes, in all sorts of moves. No one in China believed the bombing of the Chinese mission in Yugoslavia by the US was a mistake. The international relations literature suggests that nations, like individuals, are able to accept injury more readily if they believe it was inadvertant.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist

Approved by ssjmod at 11:17 AM

[SSJ: 7869] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/11/30

Aurelia George Mulgan writes:
"Or, alternatively, over-confidence about the election outcome." (2012/11/29)

HAHA. BTW the J-File wish list has disappeared from the LDP website. Do I have a collector's item on my hard disk or what? And where does that leave "consideration"?


Approved by ssjmod at 11:16 AM

November 29, 2012

[SSJ: 7865] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/11/29

To Rick's comments (2012/11/29):

"Are the English-language translations of the Asahi and Mainichi editorials correct?"

The Mainichi editorial refers correctly to Abe's repeated assertion, ultimately winding up in the wish list part of the to "consider" "permanently posting komuin."

"I have yet to see a similar flood of comments, criticisms, and tough reporter questions about the Senkakus idea."

See first answer. And it's hard for a politician or op-ed writer to say "let's not upset the Chinese" while offering no meaningful alternative when the general public mood is running against the Chinese actions.
Also, Abe's specific references to the Senkaku Islands other than "komuin" concerns the JCG Coast Guard, so people probably do not associate the "consideration"
with the SDF. However, he has consistently referred to refitting retired MSDF vessels as JCG vessels for a while; today proposed employing MSDF members to fill the manpower gap. I'm curious to see how Chinese officials and think tank figures respond to this latest? proposal.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:14 AM

[SSJ: 7864] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Aurelia George Mulgan
Date: 2012/11/29

Jun Okumura said:

Correction: The new document is entitled "政権公約
(Regime Promises)", implying, I suppose, that these aren't just stuff that we throw out for the election campaign.

Or, alternatively, over-confidence about the election outcome.


Aurelia George Mulgan
School of Humanities and Social Sciences University of New South Wales Canberra, Australia

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

November 28, 2012

[SSJ: 7863] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/11/28

Michael Cucek wrote:

> Section 132 of the LDP 2012
election manifesto promises to re-examine

> the current policy of leaving the islands uninhabited
and to study


> the possible permanent stationing of civil servants
(komuin) on
the

> islands [emph. added--rk]


Michael,

Thanks for the correction. I'm relieved on susbtantive grounds. Wondering how I got it so wrong, I rechecked my original sources and found that I had the same problem as that other Rick: you know, the one who went to Casablanca for the waters? I, too, was misinformed.

The first place I read about this was in the Nov. 21 Asahi editorial which wrote:

> "The LDP's manifesto also promises
to permanently station public

> servants in the disputed Senkaku Islands [emph.
added]."

The Nov. 22 Mainichi editorial writes:

> "In its manifesto, the LDP pledged
to permanently station public

> servants to the Senkaku Islands [emph added]"


The Nov. 23 Nikkei, on the other hand--which I read after seeing your note--got it right:

> The Liberal Democratic Party said
in its manifesto for the Dec. 16

> lower house election that it wants to consider
stationing
public

> officials on the Senkaku Islands...It is unclear
whether the LDP
is

> truly serious about the idea of stationing public
servants on the

> Senkaku Islands, even at the risk of further ramping
up tensions
with

> China....The LDP needs to understand its
responsibilities and

> clearly explain its Senkaku policy, to avoid turning
off voters.
It

> has lashed out at the ruling Democratic Party of
Japan for backing


> away from promises it made prior to the 2009 general
election,
after

> all. LDP President Abe has also said that the LDP
will
'deliver on

> its promises at any cost.' [emph. added]"


All of this raises a couple questions:

1) Are the English-language translations of the Asahi and Mainichi editorials correct?. If so, then we have at least some of mass media telling the voters (who are unlikely to be as fastidious as Michael in checking the original, very long manifesto) that Abe made a promise.
How widespread is this? What is the public understanding of Abe's stance? How are LDPers presenting this in speeches, etc?

2) Abe was widely--and deservedly--criticized for some of his radical proposals on monetary policy. These included the possibility of revising the BOJ Law in a way that would, in effect, rescind the independence it was granted in 1998; having the BOJ directly underwrite all new issuances of deficit-covering JGB bond (a violation of the Public Finance Law introduced shortly after WWII in response to the postwar hyperinflation:
and having the BOJ proclaim a completely non-credible inflation target of 3%. Not just DPJ politicians, but many newspaper articles and some business leaders piled on in the criticisms. Abe was peppered with questions on this by reporters. In response, Abe has back-pedaled on some of the proposals and used weasel words to claim he was misunderstood on others.

I have yet to see a similar flood of comments, criticisms, and tough reporter questions about the Senkakus idea. Why is that? Does that mean people agree? That they are afraid to be seen going against a public mood? They they don't take it seriously?
Inquiring minds want to know. The DPJ has elliptically criticized it by calling for a "cool-headed" approach.
But why the frontal assault on his BOJ ideas but precious little on the Senkakus notion.

BTW, did anybody notice Abe's proposal to set up a "My grandfather was not a war criminal" institute re:
Japan's actions in WWII? So much for calming the waters on history issues with Korea and China.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

[SSJ: 7862] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Thomas Berger
Date: 2012/11/28

Dear Richard,

Expanding on what Mr. Cucek said, I would add that a good case can be made Japanese should examine such options. Japan has to demonstrate to China, to the United States and even to itself, that it has options beyond just waiting to see what China does next. I think that it would be foolish for Japan to exercise that option - not only would it provoke the Chinese, but it would alarm the United States, which has become quite worried about Japanese nationalism, cf. Joe Nye's recent piece in the Financial Times. But by underlining that it has options it can put pressure on China, and by demonstrating restraint it can reassure the United States and encourage the US to continue to reassure Japan.

Thomas Berger
Boston University
Visiting Professor, Keio University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

[SSJ: 7861] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/11/28

Correction: The new document is entitled "政権公約
(Regime Promises)", implying, I suppose, that these aren't just stuff that we throw out for the election campaign.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

[SSJ: 7860] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/11/28

Richard Katz writes:

“I raise this issue because Shinzo Abe has made a rather specific promise in the LDP's campaign
manifesto: to permanently station government personnel on the Senkakus.” (2012/11/28)

FYI the LDP retitled its manifesto “Campaign Promises” and downgraded the provisional “Collection of Campaign Promises” to “Comprehensive Compendium of LDP Policies”. What is now officially the Campaign Promises document says, “We shall strengthen effective control of the Senkaku Islands and resolutely protect the islands and the sea.” However, this sentence is not included in the headline Four Actions and only makes its appearance in the LDP Policy Bank details that are attached. The “permanent posting of government officials/personnel/public servants/schmervants” reference remains in the Comprehensive Compendium but is circumscribed-always was-by the dreaded “kento-suru (検討)”, or “consider”, a word that conjures images of Dante’s Limbo in the minds of public-speakingese connoisseurs in these parts.

So, Rick, yes everyone too, please repeat after me:
Wuss! Wuss! Wuss! No, louder. WUSS! WUSS! WUSS!

Yeah, that’s more like it.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:10 AM

[SSJ: 7859] Re: Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Michael Cucek
Date: 2012/11/28

Mr. Katz-

Section 132 of the LDP 2012 election manifesto promises to re-examine the current policy of leaving the islands uninhabited and to study the possible permanent stationing of civil servants (komuin) on the islands .

Since the promise is merely to take a look at changes in current policies, not to effect actual change, the LDP and Abe Shinzo cannot be held accountable for inaction post-election.


Michael Cucek
Shisaku

Approved by ssjmod at 11:10 AM

November 27, 2012

[SSJ: 7858] Abe, Senkakus and the Public View of Manifesto Promises

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/11/27

One of the interesting things about this election is how seriously the voters take at least some of the promises made in party manifestos. A DPJ Diet member in the Kansai region told me about going home to his district and being greeted at appearances with shouts of "Liar, liar."
And that was from his erstwhile supporters! The reason for this was his vote in favor of the consumption tax, which the voters saw a violation of the DPJ's campaign promise not to raise taxes until after seeking voters'
approval in another Lower House election. He reported that other DPJers were encountering similar reactions and now I've seen some press coverage of this phenomenon. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall any precedent.

I raise this issue because Shinzo Abe has made a rather specific promise in the LDP's campaign manifesto: to permanently station government personnel on the Senkakus. It is not clear if these would be civilians or Coast Guard or SDF personnnel. If Abe goes ahead with this, there is sure to be a Chinese reaction.
Indeed, during a series of discussions with a few security experts and LDPers in October, prior to the release of the manifesto, several experts assured me that, while Abe would likely build up coast guard vessels in the surrounding waters, he would try to cool things. Hence, he would avoid the kind provocative steps advocated by Shintaro Ishihara, such as stationing personnel or facilities on the islands. Not a single expert or LDPer (among the admittedly few with whom I spoke) predicted that Abe would do what the manifesto promises. Nor did anyone foresee that the manifesto would say this.

This raises some questions: is it just saber-rattling that Abe thinks will help the LDP in the election and then can either be implemented or ignored after the election? Or, if this becomes a major topic of discussion leading up to the elections, is it a promise that Abe will find himself pressured to keep, regardless of any advice to the contrary from foreign affairs experts? Will the "liar, liar" cries against the DPJ on the consumption tax--cries that the LDP help stir up--affect Abe's actions on the Senkakus?


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:09 AM

November 20, 2012

[SSJ: 7844] Politics Quiz #3

From: John Campbell
Date: 2012/11/20

Dear SSJ Forum members,

Can you forecast Japanese politics? It hasn't been easy lately, but for those who would like to try it now, please answer any of the following questions that you like, in an email to me (jccamp[at]umich.edu).

1. What party will get
(a) The most seats (480 total)?
(b) How many?

2. What party will get
(a) The largest share of the Proportional Representation vote?
(b) What percentage?

3. What about the Isshin no Kai?
(a) Number of seats?
(b) Proportional Representation vote percentage?

4. Who will be the prime minister?

5. What parties will make up the winning coalition (i.e. voted for the elected prime minister)?

6. What party will get the most seats in the Upper House election next summer?

Please feel free to add a paragraph with answers to interesting questions I should have included, or additional forecasts about Japanese politics over the next year or so.

I will announce the winners of each question but will not disclose the names of losers, so don't worry about public shaming. I myself was a consistent loser in the first two quizzes.

John Campbell

Approved by ssjmod at 10:57 AM

November 14, 2012

[SSJ: 7838] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Kenneth McElwain
Date: 2012/11/14

Hi all,

Just to return briefly to the campaign laws issue, there have been over 80 statutory changes to the Public Office Election Law (POEL), Political Funds Control Law (PFCL), and Political Party Public Subsidy Law since 1950. Each of these legal reforms encompassed multiple discrete changes. For example, the 1992 POEL reform that raised campaign deposits also restricted donations to candidates, increased public funding for campaign signs and posters, raised campaign spending limits, and toughened electoral fraud penalties. My point being, it's not always easy to isolate the effect of any given POEL change, because it is likely part of a broader package of simultaneous reforms that may have contradictory effects.

In an article I wrote a few years back, I argued that the LDP has consistently altered campaign regulations to benefit the government. Some of these--especially changes to the PFCL--have partisan effects:
restrictions on campaign donations harm pro-business parties like the LDP more than they do pro-labor JSP/DPJ. Others--especially changes to the POEL--have broader pro-incumbent effects: restrictions on electioneering disproportionately harm challengers, who are less well-known than incumbents. The goal of the latter category is, as others have noted, to deter the entry of independent candidates. As the party system stabilized through the 1970s, the biggest threat or wild card to incumbents was the entry of new spoiler candidates. This concern was shared across the political spectrum; in general, POEL reforms were more likely to receive bi-partisan support (because they helped all incumbents) than PFCL changes (which split the LDP vs. JSP/DPJ). The most striking example of restricted electioneering was the gradual reduction in the number of legal campaign days, from 30 in 1950 to just 12 days by 1994.

McElwain, K. M. (2008). "Manipulating Electoral Rules to Manufacture Single Party Dominance." American Journal of Political Science 52(1): 32-47.

As Ellis Krauss and Robert Pekkanen write in their book, these reforms have had pretty big effects on the nature of election campaigning and party organization.
Koenkai are valuable precisely because their dominant activities are social networking and mobilization (permitted under the POEL) that were not tied to political persuasion (which is legally proscribed).
The value of the three crown jewels of
campaigning--jiban, kanban, kaban--are not unique to Japan, but geographical support bases and name recognition were particularly important because candidates can't rely on the campaign process to guarantee that their profiles and programs are sold to the electorate.

Kenneth McElwain
--------
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Approved by ssjmod at 11:46 AM

[SSJ: 7833] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/11/14

I thank Ellis for the correction. I note that 1) Germany and New Zealand at one hand and Ukraine at the other indicate that 5% owes more to the mesmerizing quality of certain numbers (3, 10, 666...) than any reasonable consideration of the practical significance of the number five; and 2) the Ukraine seats are divided equally between single-seat constituencies and proportional seats whereas a much larger proportion of the HOC seats are allocated to SMDs in Japan, suggesting that the Japanese system, even without a formal threshold, could be a rough equivalent of the Ukraine system in suppressing micro- and mini-parties.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:40 AM

November 13, 2012

[SSJ: 7832] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/11/13

Thanks to Jun for his interesting, complex model about thresholds in Japan's Diet (especially HOC); but it is not necessarily true that hybrid systems do not have a threshold too. In NZ's parliamentary elections (MMP) for e.g. [from the official electoral web page] .:
"Your party vote is important because it helps decide the share of the 120* seats in Parliament that is allocated to each political party. If a party crosses the minimum 'threshold' (either by winning at least one electorate seat, or 5% of all party votes) it has seats allocated to it in close proportion to the percentage of party votes it receives."

Similarly for Germany's hybrid system (MMP):
" The electoral law stipulates that a party must receive a minimum of 5 percent of the national vote, or three constituency seats, in order to get any representation in the Bundestag."

There is also a threshold in the Ukraine's MMM (Mixed Member Majoritarian) systems like Japan's where the two tiers of SSD and PR are separate and no adjustments for the vote in PR as in MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) systems like NZ and Germany.

So many hybrid system democratic parliaments are elected with 5% thresholds and the intent is to exclude micro, one-issue, or extremist parties. Interestingly, the European Court declared Germany's imposition of a threshold (5%) in EU elections to be unconstitutional according to EU law exactly because it discouraged small parties.

FYI.
Best,
Ellis

Approved by ssjmod at 11:39 AM

November 10, 2012

[SSJ: 7827] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/11/10

Richard Katz writes:

"What's wrong with putting micro-parties at a disadvantage?" (2012/11/09)

Rick poses a general question that goes well beyond the scope of my original aside-to-an-aside regarding "regional micro-parties" and cannot in my view be answered in the abstract. I will try to demonstrate this by responding to the specific points that he raises to support his rhetorical question.

Thresholds are not imposed in a vacuum. The only formal thresholds that I can recall are set at 5%, and I assume that Rick's memory tells him the same. Now if my memory serves me correctly-always a dubious proposition, so caveat spectator-the 5% threshold is instituted solely in more-or-less straight proportional systems. But Japan's national electoral system is a hybrid, where in both Houses only a minority of the seats (48 x 2) is apportioned through proportional representation while the majority of the seats (73 x 2) are allocated by way of SMDs. In the House of Councilors, the numbers are 73 x 2 48 x2. It's easy arithmetic to confirm that the proportional part as configured has the rough equivalent of a 2 % threshold.
(The de facto threshold rises and falls with the number of proportional seats, which is significantly smaller in any of the regional districts in the House of
Representatives.) This HOC as a whole seems to be reasonably pari passu with pure proportional system with a 5% threshold.

Of course, the arithmetic, a little more elaborate this time but straightforward nevertheless, shows that the DPJ after the 2009 HOR general election would not have had a HOC majority if all 121 X 2 seats had been allocated proportionally with a 5% threshold. Of course, the overrepresentation of outback prefectures in the Japanese electoral system means this would have been the case if only the current 48 X 2 proportional seats had been allocated with a 5% threshold. The policy distortions from Rick's perspective, which BTW I share on what I think are his specifics, may have been caused by the presence of the two micro-parties, but the broader political paralysis that has gripped the political scene of late is rooted in the unequal distribution of voting rights between the metropolitan and the periphery. In fact, it can be plausibly argued that it was the presence of the two micro-parties that enabled the incoming regime to do anything at all. It was arguably a case of no tail, then no wag.

Of course a counterfactual argument can be made that the DPJ would have had no choice but to work with the LDP and/or Komeito from the get-go and the ensuing legislative process could have wound up to be more constructive than in the current "twisted" Diet.
However, I do not think that this is likely to have resulted in the kind of reforms that I believe Rick supports, which I again share, as long as the two major parties each lack coherence and consistency in the policy inclinations of their Diet members. Whether that in turn would have resulted in an earlier precipitation of political realignment we shall never know. But change one thing and so many other things are likely to change, generating any number of alternate presents and futures, so I'll stop right there before my imagination gets out of hand. I will add one fact though; the Japanese political system got along just fine for many decades with a HOC that could and did generate micro- and mini-parties well before a subsidy system that favored large parties was instituted. Think about that.

Finally, as a matter of logical consistency, Rick must be in opposition to independent legislators. Naughty, naughty; what would George Washington say to that if he were alive today?

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7826] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Daniel M. Smith
Date: 2012/11/10

Thanks, Kentaro Fukumoto, for pointing out the paper that Masataka Harada and I are working on about Japan's election deposit.

For those who are interested, we use regression discontinuity design to evaluate the deterrent effect of the election deposit (on frivolous repeat
candidacies) during the 1947-1993 SNTV period. Japan has historically had one of the highest (if not THE
highest) election deposits in the world. At the moment, it is 3 million yen for SMD races, but throughout the 1970s it was 1 million yen, and throughout the 1980s and until the electoral reform it was 2 million yen.
Because candidates who either marginally lose or retain their deposit can be treated as observationally equivalent in all other respects (quality, effort, etc.), a difference between the two groups allows us to estimate the causal effect of losing the deposit on a losing candidate's decision to run again or quit.

Our findings indicate that the election deposit did not serve it's supposed purpose, as Ellis mentioned, of deterring frivolous or "freak" candidacies (at least with regard to those candidates who tried to run at least once). While losing candidates nominated by serious parties (the LDP, JSP, Komeito, etc.) did indeed tend to quit (or lose the nomination) after the losing the deposit, independents, JCP candidates, and candidates from minor fringe parties were not so deterred.

These results call into question the raison d'être of the election deposit (if it was indeed to deter such "freak" candidacies). Since the introduction of SMDs, the overall number of candidates (e.g., from the JCP) has decreased as expected given the new mechanics of the electoral system, but new fringe parties like the Happiness Realization Party still run candidates in SMDs where they have no chance of winning (and nearly always lose the deposit). And "freak" candidates like the eccentric inventor Dr. Nakamatsu and "smile therapist" Mac Akasaka (of the "Smile Party") are notorious, especially in the House of Councillors elections. Perhaps the national exposure and free NHK air time are worth the cost of the deposit to these candidates/parties.

Dan

--
Daniel M. Smith
Postdoctoral Fellow
Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center Encina Hall, Stanford University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

November 09, 2012

[SSJ: 7824] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/11/09

Jun Okumura wrote:

>A better place to look for a legally imposed financial
barrier to new
>entries would be the Political Party Subsidies Act...
in fact, this
>averages out to 44,341,180 yen worth of hay per Diet
member....(The
>arrangement is also likely to put regional
micro-parties (four Diet
>members or less) at a disadvantage.)
>
What's wrong with putting micro-parties at a disadvantage? Japan already has so many veto points that prevent a majority from getting things done. How does it help democracy to allow the micro-party tail wag (or
veto) the big party dog? I recall the early days of DPJ rule when DPJ supporters said Hatoyama was allowing Shizuka Kamei to dictate things.
Countries where single-issue splinter parties play a kingmaker role (e.g. Israel) don't seem to do so well.
It would seem a good idea that a small party needs to certain minimum level of support to gain a role. I think in some European Proportional Representation electoral systems, a party has to get 5% of the vote to get any parliamentary seats, whereas in 2005, New Party Daiichi got 1 PR seat in the Lower House with just 1% of the PR vote.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Econmomist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:47 AM

November 08, 2012

[SSJ: 7823] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Schoppa, Leonard
Date: 2012/11/08

Karen and I mentioned that the deposit figure was raised at the time of the 1994 reforms as part of a set of reforms designed to strengthen the party leader by making independent candidacy less attractive. Under the old electoral system, ambitious new conservative candidates denied an LDP endorsement often ran as independents, siphoning off votes from the LDP-endorsed candidates. Party leaders trying to maintain backbencher support for Diet votes couldn't gain much leverage from threats to withdraw the party endorsement because that candidate could then run as an independent and have a good chance of winning--both because the bar was lower in multi-member districts (often 15%) and because the deposit fee was lower. So independent candidacy was seen broadly at that time as a source of the poor functioning of Japanese democracy: it made factions and backbenchers and zoku too powerful relative to the party leader, so that parties lacked coherence and were unable to offer bold leadership.

The 1994 reforms made life more difficult for independents by: 1) forcing them to win a plurality in an SMD and giving them no chance to get in off the PR list because they could not run as dual candidates (I think this is the point Ehud is remembering); 2) putting them under stricter spending limits than candidates supported by a party; 3) depriving them of the public subsidy that went to candidates who were members of qualified parties (as Jun Okumura explains); AND 4) making them pay a higher deposit. When Koizimi kicked out the postal rebels in 2005, you could see those left as independents struggling with all of these disadvantages. In my view, the deposit was the least of their problems. Having to win a plurality in districts with established candidates with subsidies, higher spending limits, were probably the biggest deterrents.

What is surprising to me is not that the system includes these incentives to belong to a party (which many nations have found to be the best way to organize democratic politics), but that despite all of these disincentives to run, Japan still has so many independent candidates in the SMDs! And that bold leaders have nevertheless been rare, despite the example Koizumi set in using the power afforded by these institutions to offer stronger leadership.

The recent record suggests that the flaw in the reforms--in terms of their ability to give party leaders the leverage to lead--was that they discouraged independents but left the door open to micro-parties composed of disgruntled back-benchers. Noda might have been able to show stronger leadership (e.g. forcing his party to back his TPP plans and implement the consumption tax increase with less drama and rancor) if his DPJ rivals had not had the safety net of landing in a micro-party that could avoid most of the sanctions on independents put into the 1994 law.

Len Schoppa

Approved by ssjmod at 11:34 AM

November 07, 2012

[SSJ: 7821] Re: Concerns about the safety of school judo

From: Joseph Tomei
Date: 2012/11/07

I'm going to recycle a post that I made to Robert in another forum. This isn't to claim that Judo is better than kendo, but to note that as a compulsory sport, there are a range of other considerations.

I've done martial arts for almost 30 years, my first martial art was judo, when I was in second grade, and my father went with me (he received his black belt in an alternate system to Kodokan judo, Kodenkan in Hawaii, under Seishiro Okazaki) and I have a sandan in judo, so I'm more sympathetic to judo as an optimal required sport.

[in response to a comment about how judo beginners learn to fall] As for learning how to fall, one usually first learns ukemi, which is how to take breakfalls. Having taught adults how to take breakfalls, it is much better to teach it to students when they are young. Less mass so less chance of injury, and more youthful flexibility. I do think some things should be done to make it safer. I have been told and I pass it on to my aikido students that learning how to fall is probably a bigger safety factor than thinking how martial arts is going to protect you from being mugged because whenever you don't see a curb, or miss a step, you may need to fall correctly. I remember when I was a kid and my father got tripped by the dog running just in front of his feet at the top of 6 concrete steps at our house. He went down doing a judo style breakfall and got up afterwards. Later found out that he had cracked two ribs, but that is far better than breaking his neck.

I also think that there should be some compulsory sport in school. While the ideal would be to have several sports that students can choose from, judo has a number of advantages in terms of cost, facilities and participation. Judo also has an advantage in that it permits students of all sizes and builds to adequately participate. Team sports would have problems not only from the nature of the sport (how can you be sure students are getting the exercise they need), but also from the fact that students of particular builds are favored, while I can't think of any other individual sports that provide exercise over the full range of body movements, with the possible exception of wrestling, though that is problematic for women (especially with male
teachers) and has many of the
same injury possibilities as judo. Swimming might be the ideal, but that is season dependent and requires specialised facilities.

I do worry that poor teachers, both those with inadequate training and those with behavioral problems are a worry, but I think that is more a problem with the way Japanese schools are staffed and their hierarchical nature. However, I don't think that should be an indictment of judo. [I suspect that there are as many incidents of over zealous kendo teachers behaving badly]

For high schools, the compulsory sport is either judo or kendo iirc, so the question is whether to add it to JHS. With the various factors that have arisen with Japan becoming a developed country, one of the effects is that often, JHS 'kids' look more like adults and are physically maturing faster. I'm not as optimistic to believe that judo will save Japanese schools from bullying, but as a choice of a compulsory sport, it may be better for helping deal with these physical development differences that arise.

I do think there are some things that should be done to improve safety. In junior judo in the US, chokes and armbars are not permitted and tsutemi waza (sacrifice techniques) are generally not taught. I realize that Japanese might balk at 'watering down' judo, but in the glance over the listed fatalities caused by judo, shime waza (chokes) seems to be a big factor. In addition, many of the other fatalities in the longer list occurred in tournament competitions. This problem arises when a match is fought and the person who is being thrown doesn't want to lose the match and so refuses to take the ukemi and is thrown so that they hit their head or techniques that are even more risky (in that they don't permit the uke (the person being
thrown) much option in the
ukemi) are used. While it is a judo fatality, I see it as the result of competition rather than the inherent nature of judo.

Again, I am biased, but judo is a great sport to learn as a kid, it lets you develop balance and strength without over emphasizing any particular part of the body, it requires very little money and ideally gives you a certain amount of confidence.

On Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 2:17 PM, SSJ-Forum Moderator wrote:
Of course kids will try to rough-house, and they will stumble/fall, but that's an issue in any group of kids, especially young boys. Kendo is nothing like judo, which I tried at one point, but was discouraged from continuing because I'm not very flexible and never managed to roll gracefully. But that was a college-level group run by a professional athlete, not a school group where the teachers may not be well-trained. And someone in the group always had a bandaged knee or wrist or finger, judo is not kind to joints.


--
Joseph Tomei
Kumamoto Gakuen University
Writing class blog at tomeiter.blogspot.com

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

[SSJ: 7820] Re: Concerns about the safety of school judo

From: Robert W. Gordon, Esq.
Date: 2012/11/07


I see. Thanks. I guess I must have had an unusually rough kendo dojo then.

Robert

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

[SSJ: 7819] Re: Concerns about the safety of school judo

From: Robert Aspinall
Date: 2012/11/07

Thank you for the question about Kendo.

I don't have statistics for accidents in other school sports in Japan, but as far as I can tell Judo is bar far the most dangerous.
Falls and throws are a normal part of Judo, but in too many cases in Japanese schools they have resulted in serious injury or death.

To take 2 examples (out of a list of 110) from the site that I mentioned in my previous post [http://judojiko.net/eng/]

2002, 8th grade male student
On the day of the accident, the judo team had a joint practice session with teams from other middle schools from 9:00. At around 10:21, they started kakari-geiko
(3 min x 6), and the victim practiced with a student from a different school. When he was thrown with osto-gari, because his partner fell with him, he hit his back, head, and stomach hard on the mat.
Thereafter, they resumed the match, and at around 10:24, the partner threw the victim again with osto-gari. This time, he hit his back and head and became unconscious.
The teacher in
charge put a cold wet towel on the victim's forehead and watched him for a while. As he did not regain consciousness, the teacher called an ambulance and his parents.
The victim was
taken to a medical institution and treated with a mechanical ventilator at the ICU; however, he became brain-dead the following day and died 3 days after the accident.

Cause of death: acute subdural hematoma


2003, 10th grade male student
On the day of the accident after warm-up, stretching, and ukemi practice, the victim did 50 uchikomi with a partner. Thereafter, he did randori with another student and was thrown with migi-seoinage (right shoulder throw). Right after the fall, he stood up but then fell forward on his stomach. He was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with acute subdural hematoma. He later experienced symptoms such as profound coma, cessation of natural breathing, dilation of the pupil, and no brainstem response. He was declared brain-dead and he died after 8 days.

Cause of death: acute subdural hematoma


Judo contains very dangerous actions that are not allowed in other sports.
To take the case of rugby for example:
The International Rugby Board's rule on 'spear tackles'
reads: "It is dangerous play to lift a player from the ground and drop or drive that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground so that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground."

Clearly when children are engaging in Judo they require careful, expert supervision. The number of deaths and serious injuries thus far indicates that this has not been the case in Japanese secondary schools. Without proper training of staff, making the sport complusory instead of optional can only make matters worse.

Robert Aspinall
Shiga University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

[SSJ: 7818] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/11/07

And if someone really wants to talk about campaign expenses for individual races...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/virginia-senate-race-a-marathon-between-allen-kaine/2012/11/06/06a938bc-27af-11e2b2a0-ae18d6159439_story.html?hpid=z5

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

[SSJ: 7817] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Kentaro Fukumoto
Date: 2012/11/07

Hi,

Masataka Harada and Dan Smith rigorously test that concern at APSA, using regression discontinuity design.
Their answer is negative; the deposit requirements are not so deterrent.

Best,

Kentaro

*******************************************************
*********
Kentaro FUKUMOTO, Ph. D.
Professor, Department of Political Science, Gakushuin University
http://www-cc.gakushuin.ac.jp/~e982440/index_e.htm
*******************************************************

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7816] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/11/07

Peter Cave writes:

"[T]he deposit requirements. for candidates running for political office in Japan, especially for the Diet:.
seem a very significant deterrent to political participation (especially by those who are not personally wealthy or backed by wealth/business) and a threat to political competitiveness. I wonder if it also helps to explain why the DPJ failed to fight a significant number of Diet districts for some years."
(2012/11/07)

A forfeitable 3,000,000 yen deposit for a single-member district (SMD) in the House of Representatives (HOR) appears to be a significant deterrent against running for a Diet seat if you are out of work, have only illiquid assets if any, is unable to secure support from any of the established parties, and lack name recognition. If you do not belong to this demographic, you have other, more serious concerns.

An SMD bid is expensive. You must expect any candidate from a major party to spend up to the legal limit of
(19,100,000 + 15 x number of eligible voters in the
SMD) yen. Other candidates from established parties may spend less, but are highly likely to incur expenditures well above the 3,000,000 deposit. That limit would be
22,321,040 yen under the latest National Census, in Kochi District 1, currently the smallest SMD available to you. It would be significantly higher in any metropolitan SMD. You must be willing to spend a substantial amount of money yourself if you want to be competitive, or have some other compensating feature to your makeup, to which I will come back later.

Coming up with that kind money is not a problem if you have plenty of liquid assets; it's somewhat more problematic if you are married and need to take out a mortgage on the family home for that. (Some people do that, though, apparently.) In any case, the buck does not stop there. The official campaign period starts when the election is called, but you will have spent months if not years before that laying down the ground works of your official campaign, and that costs money too. Affiliation with an established party will alleviate your money concerns, but you will still be footing much of the bill.

It will also cost your time. Running for office, if you are serious, can be a full-time job. That means that you will have to suspend or otherwise drastically curtail your day job. That takes a huge leap of faith if you are a salaryman-unless you're say, a Panasonic employee and you're running as the labor union's candidate *wink wink* so you can go back to your day job if your bid fails. It's easier, of course if you are a doctor, dentist, lawyer or other professional with a well-established practice and can pick up where you left off if your bid is unsuccessful.

Name recognition can be a good substitute for the above. This is not a HOR SMD example, but Yukio Aoshima, a well-known writer/comedian/actor, tossed his hat into a Tokyo gubernatorial race as an independent, left the country in the days when there was no internet to speak of, and still won the race.

Of course, none of this matters if you're out-of-work and penniless, and the only campaigning that you intend to do is use the free TV broadcasting airtime that MIC gives to each of the candidates to hold forth on the subject of your choice: Legalize pot? Why not? Ah, but there's the matter of the 3,000,000 yen deposit. so what you need here is the support of the DPJ or some other party with street cred so you can get at least
1/10 of the effective votes cast in the SMD on the party name alone so you can get that money back.

I hope that this enough as an illustration of the following comment from Ellis Kraus:

"I think the high deposit requirement was put in mai[nl]y as a deterrent to discourage single issues micro parties and frivolous candidates from running."
(2012/11/07)

(For the right price, I will cover the regional proportional districts as well as the House of Counselors, all in more detail.)

Sidebar: A better place to look for a legally imposed financial barrier to new entries would be the Political Party Subsidies Act, under which the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is distributing
32,014,332,000 billion yen this year to 11 political parties passing thresholds based on based on the number of Diet members they have and/or votes they received in the last lower house and last two upper house elections. (The Japan Communist Party refuses to accept the money on principle.) That can buy a lot of hay; in fact, this averages out to 44,341,180 yen worth of hay per Diet member. That means that you're spotting the LDPs and Komeitos a huge cash advantage when you're starting up a new party. It also explains the financial appeal of (presentable) B- and C-list Diet members to the latest crop of start-ups. (The arrangement is also likely to put regional micro-parties (four Diet members or less) at a disadvantage.)

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7815] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2012/11/07

If I am not mistaken, Len Schoppa and Karen Cox in 2002 pointed out that the high deposit in the SMD was related to the possibility of dual candidacy (in the SMD and the PR). The dual candidacy was one way to entice newcomers to run in SMDs where winning a seat was uncertain.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

[SSJ: 7813] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Jeff Kingston
Date: 2012/11/07

Peter
You can read about it in excellent book by Ellis Krausse and Robert Pekkanen:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Rise-Fall-Japans-Organizations/dp/0801476828

Approved by ssjmod at 11:09 AM

[SSJ: 7812] Re: Election deposit requirement

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/11/07

Hi Peter:
I think the high deposit requirement was put in maiy as a deterrent to discourage single issues micro parties and frivolous candidates from running.
Best
Ellis

Approved by ssjmod at 11:08 AM

November 05, 2012

[SSJ: 7811] Re: Concerns about the safety of school judo

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/11/05

Kendo does not pose the same safety issues. I've done kendo for a number of years, as long as equipment is maintained (no splinters in the "shinai", the bamboo
sword) the only injuries I know of come from normal sorts of sports issues (the occasional bruise, a rare twisted ankle or banged-up knee). Tripping isn't allowed, the bogu (armor) is effective, and the tsuki (thrust stroke) is not something permitted in anything below top-level competition. Indeed, I did kendo in part because of my son, but in part because I'd hurt an achilles tendon playing squash and kendo was kind to it.

Of course kids will try to rough-house, and they will stumble/fall, but that's an issue in any group of kids, especially young boys. Kendo is nothing like judo, which I tried at one point, but was discouraged from continuing because I'm not very flexible and never managed to roll gracefully. But that was a college-level group run by a professional athlete, not a school group where the teachers may not be well-trained. And someone in the group always had a bandaged knee or wrist or finger, judo is not kind to joints.

=====================
Michael Smitka
Professor of Economics
Washington and Lee University

Blogs: http://autosandeconomics.blogspot.com
http://japanandeconomics.blogspot.com
http://autosandeconomics.blogspot.com

Approved by ssjmod at 11:21 AM

[SSJ: 7810] Election deposit requirement

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2012/11/05

Alerted by Michael Cucek's Shisaku blog, I was fascinated to read how high the deposit requirements are for candidates running for political office in Japan, especially for the Diet:
:http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/yen-for-living/candidate-
deposit-requirement-guarantees-same-faces-on-the-ballot
/

I don't recall reading this before, though no doubt ten people will now write and point out that it's been in front on my nose in scholarly publications for years.
Anyway, this does seem a very significant deterrent to political participation (especially by those who are not personally wealthy or backed by wealth/business) and a threat to political competitiveness. I wonder if it also helps to explain why the DPJ failed to fight a significant number of Diet districts for some years.

Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SALC, University of Manchester
Samuel Alexander Building
Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)161 275 3195
www.manchester.ac.uk/research/peter.cave/=


Approved by ssjmod at 11:20 AM

[SSJ: 7808] Fiji Islanders in Japan: Nov. 14, 2012; DIJ Social Science Study Group

From: Barbara Holthus
Date: 2012/11/05

You are invited to our upcoming DIJ Social Science Study Group, to be held Wednesday, 14 November 2012, 18.30 h

Presentation by
Dominik Schieder, Hitotsubashi University

Fiji Islanders in Japan:
Transnational ties and ideas of community

Migration from the Pacific Island state of Fiji to Japan is a relatively new phenomenon which has lead to the establishment of micro-groups of Fiji Islanders throughout Japan. It was only after Fiji, a former British Crown Colony, gained its independence in 1970 that Japan’s interests in the Fiji Islands, its people and resources brought Fijians of diverse ethnic and cultural background to Tokyo, Osaka and other urban centres. At present, Japan’s involvement with Fiji predominantly takes the form of development aid, scholarship funding for students, trade and investment, as well as sport and tourism.

Despite the fact that the number of immigrants continues to grow, Japan is still not a typical Pacific Islander migrant destination or an immigrant society in general. However, while Fiji Islanders in Japan face a number of linguistic, cultural and social difficulties, the majority of them seem to cope remarkably well with their so-called gaijin status, as well as the lack of extended social networks that usually characterize their social lives in the Fiji Islands.

Some of the research questions that drive my work, are:
How important is the “community” for Fiji Islanders in Japan? Can we talk about the existence of a pan-Fijian identity amongst the Fiji Islanders? How are the social networks of transnational Fiji Islanders in Japan constituted?

In this presentation I focus particularly on Fiji Islanders in the Kantō region. I have been conducting ethnographic research and interviews with Fijians since March 2012. Data collected through questionnaires, electronic interviews and social networking services will also be taken into consideration.

Dominik Schieder is a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo. Before that he taught Peace and Conflict Studies and Political Anthropology at Heidelberg University and Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. His recent publications and presentations address political conflicts, elitism and sport in Fiji, as well as transnational Fiji Islander migration to Japan and beyond.

The DIJ Social Science Study Group is a forum for young scholars and Ph.D. candidates in the field of Social Sciences organized by Maren Godzik, Phoebe Holdgrün and Barbara Holthus.

All are welcome to attend, but registration
(holthus[at]dijtokyo.org) is appreciated.

German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo (DIJ) Jōchi Kioizaka Bldg. 2F, 7-1 Kioichō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō 102-0094, Phone: 03-3222-5077

For a map please refer to www.dijtokyo.org

Barbara G. Holthus, Ph.D.
Deputy Director
German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo Jochi Kioizaka Bldg. 2F, 7-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
102-0094
Ph: 0081-3-3222-5942
E-mail: holthus[at]dijtokyo.org, barbaraholthus[at]gmail.com , http://www.dijtokyo.org

Approved by ssjmod at 11:19 AM

November 03, 2012

[SSJ: 7807] Re: Concerns about the safety of school judo

From:Robert W. Gordon, Esq.
Date: 2012/11/03

Have you heard of anything similar for kendo?

(in terms of accidents, deaths, or similar type of
organization)

Robert

Approved by ssjmod at 11:18 AM

November 01, 2012

[SSJ: 7806] Concerns about the safety of school judo

From: Robert Aspinall
Date: 2012/11/01

As most of you will know, traditional martial arts became compulsory in junior high schools this year.
This is a direct result of the new Fundamental Law of Education, introduced the last time Abe was prime minister, which called for a return to traditional Japanese values.
In most cases the martial art that has been chosen is judo.

Many parents are very concerned about this.
Since 1983 there have been 108 recorded deaths of children in judo class or school judo club activities in Japan. (This figure does not include accidents in private clubs.) With a huge increase in the number of participants it can be assumed that the death rate will increase in the future.
Nobody has been prosecuted for any of these deaths.

As a result, a group of parents and activists have set up the Japan Judo Accidents Victim Association.
Their aim is to reduce deaths and serious injuries among school students.
Their English language web site is here:

http://judojiko.net/eng/

If you click on 'Download' you will find 2 documents that list in detail the fatal accidents that have occurred since 1983.
I especially urge parents of children who are at a Japanese junior high school or who will soon be attending junior high school to look at the site.

Robert Aspinall
Shiga University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:17 AM

October 03, 2012

[SSJ: 7787] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/10/03

Paul Midford has clearly studied the renewables issue a lot more than I have. I'd have to see how experts would respond to his latest arguments about storage technology, etc.

In the meantime, I do what I usually do when I have no expertise of my own: rely on the consensus view of experts. As I first noted in a previous post, a 2010 report of the US National Academy of Sciences spoke of two major scientific/engineering barriers to predominant use of renewables. One is that lots of electricity is lost in transmission, a barrier to putting acres and acres of solar cells in the deserts, or wind farms in the seas, and transmitting the electricty to cities hundreds or thousands of miles away. Another is storage that can handle the loads required at a feasible cost, a problem easily seen in the difficulties of producing feasible storage batteries for cars. They wrote:


"The primary current barriers [to renewables] are the cost-competitiveness of the existing technologies .... the lack of sufficient transmission capacity to move electricity generated from renewable resources to distant demand centers, and the lack of sustained policies. Expanded research and development
(R&D) is needed to realize continued improvements and further cost reductions for these technologies....It is reasonable to envision that, collectively, non-hydropower renewable electricity could begin to provide a material contribution (i.e., reaching a level of 10 percent or more... in the period up to 2020 with such accelerated deployment....
It is reasonable to envision that continued and even further accelerated deployment could potentially result in nonhydroelectric renewables providing, collectively, 20 percent or more of domestic electricity generation by 2035....[this compares to DPJ goal of 20-27% non-hydro by 2030--rk]
Achieving a predominant (i.e., >50 percent) penetration of intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar into the electricity marketplace, however, WILL REQUIRE TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE LARGELY UNAVAILABLE OR
NOT YET DEVELOPED TODAY [emphasis added--rk] such
as large-scale and distributed
cost-effective ENERGY STORAGE and new methods for cost-effective, LONG-DISTANCE ELECTRICITY TRANSMISSION. ....
....Policy incentives, such as renewable portfolio standards, the production tax credit, feed-in tariffs, and greenhouse gas controls, thus have been required, and for the foreseeable future will continue to be required, to drive further increases in the use of renewable sources of electricity.....
Comparisons between past forecasts of renewable electricity penetration and actual data show that, while renewable technologies generally have met forecasts of cost reductions, THEY HAVE FALLEN SHORT OF DEPLOYMENT PROJECTIONS.... "

Since Paul reports on storage technologies that have been in use for years, and are presumably known to the NAS report authors in 2010, I have to presume that their assessment of these technologies is different from his. I'd be delighted if new developments come along that cause these experts to change their minds.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist

Approved by ssjmod at 11:38 AM

October 02, 2012

[SSJ: 7782] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/10/02

First, let me thank Alexandru Luta for his information on Taro Aso. Following up on his lead, I found that he had proposed back in 2009, long before Fukushima, to use subsidies to make renewables 20% of Japan's electricity by 2020, and to increase solar power 20-fold by 2020 to create a Y50 trillion industry--that's 10% of current GDP. He asserted that the economies of scale would halve the cost of solar power systems within only three-to-five years!

Alex Luta wrote:


"Innocent macro question: So, if a utility retires a coal plant and replaces it with a wind farm, is that net or gross [investment] in terms of GDP accounting?"

RK:

Good question. GDP growth is the sum of an increase in the work-hours of labor, plus the net increase in capital stock, plus improvements that increase the productivity of labor and capital, i.e. more output for a given level of input. If you replace less skilled workers with more skilled workers, that shows up in enhanced labor productivity. If you replace typewriters with PCs, that shows up in improved productivity of capital. The productivity of labor and capital combined is called Total Factor Productivity (TFP) and is the key to longterm growth, particularly in mature economies. Problems in TFP growth is one of the big reasons for Japan's economic stagnation.

In Japan, what are seeing is not the replacement of coal plants by wind farms, but rather the replacement of nuclear plants by wind farms and solar cells (and coal plants). Wind farms and solar cells produce a lot less energy per yen compared to nuclear power; hence, they LOWER the productivity of capital and thus GDP.
Wind farms also cause more carbon emissions than nuclear plants (see Lancet article that I cited the other day); if these costs were incorporated into today's GDP, they would also lower the productivity of capital and thus GDP (these costs and their consequences for GDP will show up in the future, e.g. a report in today's news about how warming of the oceans is causing fish to become smaller). Other renewables cause more pollution and thus higher health costs, and that lowers GDP.

If Japan really were replacing coal plants with wind farms--which it is not--you would have to balance out the higher cost of wind farms with the "external economies," i.e. the reduced health costs and see how they net out.

In any case, the Noda administration commissioned four different institutes to estimate the impact on GDP of eliminating nuclear by 2030. BTW, in deciding in the need for electricity, the Noda administration presumed baseline real GDP growth of about 1%; in judging the revenue to be gained from hiking the consumption tax, the Noda administration projected baseline real GDP growth that was double that pace: 2%. And so it goes.
In any case, while one government-related institute reckoned the cost to be negligible, another indusry-led one said it would make 2030 GDP Y46 trillion yen lower than the baseline scenario--almost 7.5% lower. That's almost as much as all the revenue to be gained from the consumption tax hike. Its a bit less than the anticipated increase in health care costs for the elderly during that period. The difference in the four forecasts depends on estimates of how much people lower their use of electricity due to higher costs and how much it will cost to reduce carbon emissions. It's pretty risky to hope that the "negligible" impact is the correct one. The first rule of economics--there ain't no free lunch--tells me not to buy it. But industry proponents of nukes also have an interest in playing up the downside. So, while I believe the impact of a 20-year phaseout would be severe, I have no idea how to quantify that.

In response to my comment that:


"Personally, at present, I'm inclined to see nuclear as a bridging technology until renewals are ready for prime time."

Paul Midford wrote:


"Although RK
seems to be ostensibly challenging the Noda administration policy, his position is pretty much their policy: gradually phasing out nuclear power while gradually phasing in renewables over the next quarter of a century."

RK:

Hardly. First of all, I'm not talking about a quarter century; I'm talking about several decades, depending on the pace of progress in renewables. Secondly, I'm not proposing replacing nukes with renewables in the next couple decades, but gradually replacing fossil fuels with renewables as the latter become ready with the aid of sensible and limited subsidies, and using more LNG and less coal and oil in the meantime. US exports of LNG to Japan (and others) would make this much cheaper for Japan while weakening petro-dictators.
Phasing out nukes is way down the road in my desired process. Noda, by contrast, wants to replace nuclear in the near-term with the hope of renewables and the reality of more coal plants and other fossil plants.
His goal does not even hope for a reduction in the share of fossil fuels in the total electricity picture over the next few decades. Moreover, his team is cutting back on their goal for the reduction carbon emissions. I fail to see how the fight against global warming is helped by replacing a fuel with virtually no carbon emissons, with a host of fuels with higher carbon emissions (whether they be fossil fuels or renewables, according to the IAEA).

The reason for my ambivalence about nuclear over the very long term is that, while I think nuclear can be safe IF everyone followed global best practice, that's a big IF. But I don't see how we can defeat the accelerating process of global warming while abandoning nukes in the next couple decades. As far as I can tell, the menu of history is giving us a choice among less-than-desirable meals. One can pretend canned tuna is really chateaubriand, but that doesn't make it so.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

October 01, 2012

[SSJ: 7781] Re: Reluctant litigants?

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2012/10/01

I suspect that the call for more lawyers in Japan was based on an unthinking and simple minded comparison of bengoshi numbers with those for US lawyers (and perhaps UK solicitors) while failing to recognize that lawyers in the US and solictors in the UK perform many functions that are handled by other legal and tax professionals in Japan, things such as drawing up wills, checking property deeds, and the like. Even if the propensity to litigate was exactly the same, Japan would not need as many bengoshi because other legal and tax professionals already handle legal and tax matters not involving litigation that might well be the work of lawyers in the US or solicitors in the UK.

As for civil litigation, I have not checked numbers, but there does seem to be an increase in IP (intellectual property) litigation. Judging by Nihon Keizai Shinbun articles, IP suits between Japanese companies and to an even greater extent vis a vis Korean, PRC, and ROC companies seem to be quite common.
I find this "amusing" in that when Japanese companies were charged with IP infringement by US and European firms in the 1970s and 1980s, the usual Japanese response was a cultural argument
- the Japanese had a different notion of IP or if there was a dispute it should be settled by "negotiation"
(favorable to the Japanese side) rather than litigation because Japanese had a cultural aversion to litigation (despite the historical record showing otherwise).

Could it be that what goes around comes around - that IP culture is a function of whether or not you have any worth protecting with expensive litigation?

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

September 30, 2012

[SSJ: 7780] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/09/30

I want to thank Richard Katz for his thoughtful and extensive discussion regarding renewable energy. Alex Luta already did an excellent job addressing some of the points he raised, so I will not focus on those points, except toward the end of this post. First I want to focus on one issue Rick raises where I feel well placed to contribute some knowledge, namely electricity storage. According to RK:

"Then there is the scientific problem of electricity storage. These problems are not easily overcome just by making today's solar cells more cheaply."

I interpret this passage to mean that fundamental and uncertain scientific advances are needed before we can store electricity, and because we cannot count on such advances this is another reason not to rely on renewables. In answer to this I will show that electricity storage is, strictly speaking, not necessary for renewable energy to replace nuclear in producing 30% of Japan's electricity within the next 25 years, that Japan already has significant electricity storage capacity, and that there are at least two major storage technologies available today that are already being used and only need to be scaled up until increasing economies of scale kick in.

Electricity storage is not needed for Japan to reach the modest goal of producing 30% of its electricity from renewables because today wind and solar plants are backed up with natural gas generators (natural gas generators are the fastest and cheapest fossil fuel
backup) that kick on when these renewables electricity production dips. This is not an ideal solution to be sure, and this method would by definition prevent renewables from producing 100% of Japan's electricity (the limit would probably be somewhere between half and two-thirds of Japan's electricity production), but as 30% is such a modest level, renewables could easily supply an average of 30% of Japan's electricity using this method alone, and without relying on storage.

Second, Japan already has substantial electricity storage capacity in the form of pump storage hydro:
25.5 gigawatts, or nearly a quarter of global capacity.
Moreover, Japan can use its conventional hydro dams for electricity storage as well: electricity production can be increased and decreased as renewable production falls or rises (and there tends to be a complementary relationship between the availability of solar and
hydro: sunny hot days tend to produce less hydro potential, and cloudy rainy days produce less solar energy).

Third, and most importantly, there are two other commercially used technologies available today for electricity storage that only need to be scaled up:
flywheel storage and hydrogen storage. Flywheel storage involves storing electricity as kinectic energy inside of a vacuum cylinder where a flywheel spins.
Solar and wind power the flywheel, and when its energy is needed it in turn powers a generator. Flywheel storage has been in use commercially in the US for the last few years. Beacon Power runs a flywheel plant for the grid in New York state and is preparing to build a second plant in Pennsylvania.

The second technology involves storing electricity as
hydrogen: renewable energy powers electrolysis to make hydrogen, this hydrogen is stored, and when needed, is used to power fuel cells that produce electricity. How revolutionary are these two technologies? Both electrolysis and fuel cells are mid 19th century technology. Of course, both have developed considerably since then (I have seen the advances that Japanese-Norwegian groups are reporting in this area, especially for cars), but there are no significant technological hurdles to employing these technologies to store renewable energy in the form of hydrogen for the grid. Indeed, fuel cells have been widely used commercially for a long time: the Space Shuttle, many satellites, remote light houses, forklifts, etc. What is needed is product development to scale up to a level needed to provide significant storage capacity for the grid, and investment to put hydrogen storage infrastructure in place and realize economies of scale.
Germany already has a number of pilot projects under way that provide hydrogen storage of electricity.

This brings me to the last paragraph of Richard Katz's most recent post:

"Personally, at present, I'm inclined to see nuclear as a bridging technology until renewals are ready for prime time. I'm for subsidizing renewables, particularly research to accelerate their commercial feasibility, but the amount of subsidy needs to have some reasonable limit, as does the pacing of their introduction.

What strikes me about this passage is that although RK seems to be ostensibly challenging the Noda administration policy, his position is pretty much their policy: gradually phasing out nuclear power while gradually phasing in renewables over the next quarter of a century. On the other hand, renewables are way past the stage of basic research (although new and better forms are constantly under development).
What they need for "commercial feasibility" is to realize economies of scale through broader adoption, and that is something basic research cannot achieve.
This is why mechanisms like the Feed-in-Tariff makes sense.

The main problem with the German Feed-in-Tariff to date is not that it has been too optimistic (cost overruns are impossible by definition, since those who cannot produce at the gradually-falling subsidized price provided are left to go bankrupt), but too pessimistic.
The cost of renewable energy has dropped much faster than the designers of the FIT imagined, and consequently those investing in this area have been realizing wind-fall profits. As a result Germany slashed its FIT subsidies for new renewable capacity this year by 20-30%, and eliminated them altogether for solar PV plants producing more than 10 megawatts, as the later had already reached market parity. They did this, even though the average family has only been paying approximately 4 Euros extra a month in electricity rates due to the FIT. Here is another indicator of how competitive solar has become: solar electricity is estimated to have cut peak summertime wholesale prices in Germany by as much as 40% compared to prices before the advent of large-scale solar:
http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/03/27/why-generators-are-
terrified-of-solar/

Regarding Japan and its FIT, the level of subsidy may well have been set too high, but the difference with Germany undoubtedly reflects, in part, Japan's higher electricity rates. As I wrote earlier, the way to deal with Japan's high electricity rates is to break up the de facto regional electricity monopolies by divesting them of the grid and allowing competition via equal access to the grid for Japanese and foreign suppliers.
The other thing Japan should do is adopt more rational pricing policies: users, especially large scale users, should have to pay a lot more when they use electricity at peak demand, and reward users with cheaper electricity when demand is low. If Toyota wants the absorbent priviledge of producing cars on a hot weekday afternoon in August, it should have to pay the absorbent cost, but if it wants to produce cars on a Sunday morning in May it should be rewarded with dirt cheap power. The lack of effective congestion or peak charges is one reason why electricity is so expensive in Japan. With more rational pricing there will be less need to subsidize renewables.

Then again, if installed solar electricity capacity surges thanks to Japan's new FIT, electricity supply will also likely surge on hot summer days (as is already happening in Germany), easing the very danger of shortage that was used to justify restarting the two Oi reactors this summer. Indeed, one reason for why we now know that the Oi reactors did not need to be restarted to prevent a shortage is because solar electricity production exceeded government estimates by 67% (Asahi Shimbun, September 5, 2012).

Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

September 29, 2012

[SSJ: 7779] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/09/29

Paul Midford:
And this week the Noda cabinet used the 40 year rule as the basis for announcing its intention to close the Mihama reactors.

RK:
I've been unable to find any info on this. Can you elaborate?

PM: This was reported in Daily Yomiuri on September 19th

"'On the principle [of the 40-year rule], we're going to decommission [the reactors],'"
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference Tuesday. The reactors Fujimura referred to were the No. 1 reactor at the Tsuruga plant and the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at the Mihama plant."

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120918003826.htm


One other thing about the 40 year rule and the possibility of extensions that would add up to
20 years: the conditions for this remain largely undefined, but as I read the law the extensions will be based not only on passing a series of safety tests, but on the basis of special or extenuating circumstances, and cannot be a routine practice.

Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science & Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7778] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Alexandru Luta
Date: 2012/09/29

Again, quickly, to respond to Richard Katz's stimulating questions (Sep 28):

RK: "Wind power depends on the lifetime of the turbines"

True. However, the very info quoted by RK shows that the lifetime (20-30) years equals or exceeds the duration of the FIT (20 years). What comes after 20 years is exceedingly cheap, with the plant being amortized. Also, please let's keep in mind that plant operation periods are subject to extension by regulatory means. This has been done for thermal, hydro, nuclear, etc. I don't see why this should not apply to renewables.

It is also true that biomass needs to gather waster products, etc. But this cost needs to be contextualized against other costs, which would alternatively be born by households (either as consumers or tax payers):
fossil fuel extraction, disposal and/or reprocessing of nuclear waste, carbon externalities, etc. A useful discussion can be had here once somebody provides some data?

RK: "Now, if we're going to cut down forests in Germany and elsewhere to burn them, the net effect on carbon emissions will be quite substantial"

Ok, i should re-emphasize here that i am skeptical of the "renewableness" of biomass and that i am no big expert on it. However:

The "often just wood and dung" argument is valid. India for instance had a "combined renewable and waste"
percentage in its total primary energy supply (electricity + transport + heat) of cca 42% in 1990 and cca 28% in 2006, and yes, that means mostly wood and dung (see IEA World Energy Balances for source). But we're not thinking of India here, or of powering the British Industrial Revolution, or anything of the sorts. Nobody i am familiar with is saying that the great big hope of renewables is to chop down all the forests and burn them and, since the forests are green, the energy we get out of that is gonna be green, too.

The idea about biomass is that there is a balance between harvesting and energy generation, and that a production cycle is created. Yes, there is combustion, ergo CO2, but that is offset by the fact that there is an equivalent amount of CO2 being re-absorbed into new biomass (wood, grass, algae, what have you) being produced for the next harvest. Hence, carbon neutrality. All of this requires very, very careful carbon accounting and very, very good governance, just as RK's source says: "Only biomass that is carefully chosen, grown responsibly, and efficiently converted into energy can reduce carbon and other emissions compared to fossil fuels."

Good accounting and good governance are thin on the ground these days, hence my skepticism. But, to allay concerns once more: No-one is seriously thinking about cutting down forests these days anymore. Here is the kind of stuff we are heading towards (TED Talks on
algae):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-HE4Hfa-OY

RK: "Gross business investment is 13% of GDP (nominal).
Most of that goes simply to replace worn-out and/or technologically obsolete buildings and equipment. What enables GDP to grow is the NET investment that adds to the size of the total capital stock."

Innocent macro question: So, if a utility retires a coal plant and replaces it with a wind farm, is that net or gross in terms of GDP accounting?

Maybe not so innocent question: I guess my question was more along the lines of how much of GDP large infrastructure projects take up? Things like Germany's highway system, or the nuclearization of France, or the Three Gorges Dam? That's more where i was aiming at.

RK: "Is this a disguised boondoggle?"

Oh, yes, absolutely. The FIT on solar is not a DPJ invention and has nothing to do with Fukushima. The Aso administration rolled it out in 2009. Fukushima Daiichi was a corruption-tainted nuclear power plant in a country full of corruption-tainted nuclear power plants, the Copenhagen conference was the wet dream of Green Parties everywhere, and you had to be a gas nutter to have even heard of the word "fracking". The reason why the LDP created it was because Japanese solar panel producers, who used to be kings of the world market, were having their lunch eaten by the Germans and the Chinese. The LDP FIT was, at 48 yen/kWh, actually 14% more expensive than the current one. All in the name of creating a domestic market.

Now that Fukushima has happened, the policy landscape has changed of course a whole lot, with anti-nuclear forces enjoying an unprecedented voice. One does wish that the government got its act together and demonstrated that it means business in terms of nuclear safety, and generally nuclear policy at large. Strictly from a CO2 point of view, Japan's power sector cannot be said to be heading in a good direction over the medium term.

Alex Luta.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

September 28, 2012

[SSJ: 7777] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/28

Alexandru Luta wrote:
"A lot of this "new" coal capacity is
being built to replace aging capacity."
RK:

Point well taken. The projections are that coal's share of Germany's electricity generation will rise from 42% to well over 50%. Thus, whatever carbon emissions and deaths and illnesses that are now created by use of coal will rise by around 20% (50/42), assuming that these new plants are not any cleaner.

AL:


"The feed-in tariff is ... an
investment support ...Once [the investment] is recouped and the feed-in tariff for a given installation expires, the cost of the electricity from the given installations would be equal maintenance costs. Practically zero. I.e. free."
RK:

Not so.

Biomass requires the ongoing costs of cutting down trees, collecting farm waste, sewages, etc. etc.
transporting it to the site and running the machines that convert it to electric power.

Wind power depends on the lifetime of the turbines, onshore and offshore, and the cost of replacement as they wear out. An ad for "National Wind" which describes itself as America's "Leading Developer of Utility-Scale, Community-Owned Wind Farms" says the lifetime of its turbines are estimated to be 20-30 years. Japan's feed-in-tariff under a law that went into effect on July 1 has a 20-year life for the feed-in-tariff.

AL:

{Regarding high carbon emissions from biomass]

"Biomass _is_ burning wood, dung, wood
chips, waste, etc. Therefore it does emit CO2. However, biomass is renewable because the wood, dung, etc. also came from the atmosphere. The carbon accounting should (normative statement alert!) add up to zero."

RK:

I'm no scientist, but this sounds completely wrong to me. We've taken about 5 billion years to produce an ecosystem where the CO2 pumped into the air by the breathing of animal life is offset sufficiently by the
CO2 withdrawn from the air by plant respiration (and carbon from the soil). The balance of the ecosystem requires that plant life not have net zero emissions, but rather a strongly negative effective on CO2 emissions. Merely cutting down lots of the Amazon rainforest for lumber--let alone burning it--is said to be an important factor in global warming (more below).
Now, if we're going to cut down forests in Germany and elsewhere to burn them, the net effect on carbon emissions will be quite substantial.


AL:


"Given the sentence RK
wrote, i cannot tell what he exactly referred to, but i suspect he gets his information from data about the disastrous carbon accounting of palm oil."

RK:

I made it clear in the post and the citation that I was not talking about palm oil, but good old-fashioned trees and such in Germany. The Natural Resources Defense Council website that I cited yesterday
(http://tinyurl.com/9knt6a4) stated:

. You can plant new trees, but forests aren't
'renewable'. Natural forests, with their complex ecosystems, cannot be regrown like a crop of beans or lettuce. And tree plantations will never provide the clean water, storm buffers, wildlife habitat, and other ecosystem services that natural forests do.
. TREE LOSS is responsible for TWENTY PERCENT of
the carbon pollution produced globally. When biomass is harvested from forests, carbon stored in the soil is released into the atmosphere. This is in addition to the carbon that is emitted when the wood is burned for energy. ...Only biomass that is carefully chosen, grown responsibly, and efficiently converted into energy can reduce carbon and other emissions compared to fossil fuels.
. Like burning coal or anything else, burning
biomass produces harmful air pollution. Burning biomass produces sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and a variety of toxic substances. These pollutants increase the incidence of asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory ailments, and premature death. And whether they come from burning coal or burning forests, these substances pollute the air and harm people's health.

AL:


"If you do the math on those years and those GDP percentages mentioned by RK after this point, you get 1-2.5% GDP a year,"

RK:

The figures put out by the government are Y150 trillion for renewables and assorted energy-saving devices, about 1.5% of GDP per year over 20 years. This assumes that the advertised cost has not been deliberately minimized for political reasons.

Total public works spending in Japan is now 4.6% of GDP, down from a peak of 8.6% in 1994. So, if the goverment paid for it, we'd be talking about an amount equal a third of all current public works spending.
Now, if you wanted to propose this as Keynesian stimulus, I might be inclined to agree, but not for 20 years. Besides, the DPJ and LDP say that they are both dedicated to deficit reduction, hence the bitter fight over the tax hike. Add in the growing costs of more people retiring, the strain on the budget and the pressure for new tax hikes would be huge.

How about private investment? Gross business investment is 13% of GDP (nominal). Most of that goes simply to replace worn-out and/or technologically obsolete buildings and equipment. What enables GDP to grow is the NET investment that adds to the size of the total capital stock. Since 2000, that net investment has averaged 3.4% of GDP. So, we are talking about investments in renewables and conservation alone adding up to almost half of the current level of private investment. This is not being done to add to Japan's energy capacity, but to replace it with a source that is more expensive, more polluting, and adds more to global warming. And this is all proposed in the name of preventing a nuclear disaster whose risk could be minimized, if not eliminated, much more cheaply if Japan's political system could adopt global best practices. (That is, there will be nuclear accidents, but accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima are preventable, according to the Carnegie report I cited in earlier posts.)


Utlimately, someone has to bear the cost. Given the effort not to disadvantage job-creating firms, I suspect most of the cost will be borne by householders who already pays among the highest electricity rates in the OECD. That leaves them less money to spend on other things. Not so good for consumer demand. To the extent that some of the cost is borne by firms, some of those that are very electricity-intensive will tend to leave Japan.

Moreover, why did Japan create a feed-in-tariff for solar at Y42/khw--twice as high as the FIT in Germany and France? Why did it create an FIT for large wind farms at Y23/kwh--again twice as high as in Germany? Is this a disguised boondoggle?

More than 20,000 people were killed by the tsunami versus perhaps a couple hundred who will die from cancer due to the radiation from Fukushima Dai-Ichi. It turns out that 40% of Japan's coastline was protected by seawalls (http://tinyurl.com/8t89aen).
Unfortuantely, they were not high enough or in enough places to prevent those 20,000 deaths. Yet, I don't hear anyone suggesting that every meter of Japan's coastline be protected with 15-meter high seawalls at Lord-knows-what-cost. Why, then, are we proposing to to the equivalent with renewables? Maybe each windfarm should carry a sign: from the good people who brought you bridges to nowhere.

It may be that, in the end, a risk-averse population traumatized by the Fukushima disaster will choose renewables before those renewables are ready for prime time because they don't believe the government can or will impose the needed safety devices, or they don't believe that safety devices will really work. If so, they should at least know what the real costs are going to be to make an informed choice.

Personally, at present, I'm inclinded to see nuclear as a bridging technology until renewals are ready for prime time. I'm for subsidizing renewables, particularly research to accelerate their commercial feasibility, but the amount of subsidy needs to have some reasonable limit, as does the pacing of their introduction.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:26 AM

September 27, 2012

[SSJ: 7776] Reluctant litigants?

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2012/09/27

I've been updating an undergraduate lecture on law and the legal system in Japan. One of the topics is the 'reluctant litigant' debate - i.e. why is there less civil litigation in Japan than in some other countries (though not all)? Recent articles and working papers discuss the problems that reform of legal education has run into in Japan - meaning that fewer candidates are passing the Bar Exam than envisaged when legal reform was put in train in 2001. At that time, the idea was to have 3000 people a year passing, but for several years, the number has been 2000 (still four times as many as
20 years ago, of course). A number of recent articles and working papers suggest that among the main reasons for the apparent scaling down of ambitions has been opposition to further expansion from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren). These analyses tend to present opposition from Nichibenren as ostensibly stemming from concerns about decreasing quality of those passing the Bar Exam, but imply that perhaps this may ultimately be less important than 'conservatism' among lawyers worried about increased competition among lawyers (and thus poorer livelihoods).

I happen to have a friend who is a lawyer (bengoshi) outside the big urban centres (but not in the sticks - a provincial town), and see him most years. The last few years, we have usually discussed this issue a bit, and he always maintains that there simply isn't enough work for new lawyers to get jobs or at least a good living; thus, significant numbers of those who pass the Bar Exam simply can't find jobs or at least not good jobs. He currently has a young lawyer working in his office part-time because this person cannot find a full-time position in a legal office; and he has recently reduced his clerical staff by one person because of lack of work. As it happens, his own daughter has a strong interest in going to graduate Law School and becoming a lawyer, but he is not encouraging her for this reason. This makes me wonder whether the arguments of the papers I am reading are really fair to Nichibenren. Might it be true that there isn't enough work to support a further significant increase in lawyers (bengoshi)? If so, what might the reasons be?
For many years it has been argued by John Haley, Ginsburg and Hoetker, and others that the Japanese would be ready to go to law if there were more lawyers and if legal procedures were reformed in certain ways.
Now there are more lawyers, but (according to my
friend) not enough work. So is this a problem of unreformed legal procedures? if not, what is the problem? (Or, is my friend simply badly informed?)

Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SALC, University of Manchester
www.manchester.ac.uk/research/peter.cave/

Approved by ssjmod at 11:25 AM

September 26, 2012

[SSJ: 7774] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Alexandru Luta
Date: 2012/09/26

A very brief (all things are relative) response to Richard Katz's post from Sep 26:

RK: "According to the National Association of Energy and Water, nearly 40% (14,000 of the 36,000 megawatts) of NEW electricity generation capacity being planned for Germany will be fueled by coal."

1. There is new and then there is new. I apologize for not having figures at hand, but a lot of this "new"
capacity is new in the sense that it will get built, but it is not "new" in the sense of additional. In plain English, a lot of this "new" coal capacity is being built to replace aging capacity. This does not mean that there will be lots more MW of coal generation in Germany - it only means that old MW are getting replaced with new MW. It would be interesting to hear how much of these 14 GW are actually new and additional MW.

2. There is coal and then there is coal. What is the efficiency of these power plants? Old technology has figures in the 30s, newer in the 40s. Higher percentages mean lower greenhouse gas emissions per output. This can be diminished even further if the plant is CCS-ready. (Admittedly, there is not a single coal power plant with CCS operating commercially anywhere in the world. Toshiba has a CCS-ready design with an efficiency of 20%. Not a winner, so far.) The point is, emissions CAN go down even if you build new coal, as long as the new capacity is merely new, but not additional.

RK: "The feed-in-tariff for wind now requires customers to pay around 3 times the cost of conventional electricity."

The feed-in tariff is a technology support instrument.
What it is meant to do is to provide an acceptable return to investors within the instrument's coverage period, allowing them to get financing for the large capital expenses that "new energies" (to use Japanese
jargon) require. Thus, what consumers' money is used for is not electricity production per se, but an investment support spread out over a certain period of time. The level of the tariff is calculated to make the investors recoup their investment within that period.
Once it is recouped and the feed-in tariff for a given installation expires, the cost of the electricity from the given installations would be equal maintenance costs. Practically zero. I.e. free.

If you don't believe me, go visit Norway, which I just did. There you will find that electric utilities are scrambling to build transmission lines to Germany and Scotland, because they know that without them the upcoming wind, small-scale hydro and biomass is going to make the bottom fall out of the Nordic electricity market over the medium term, unless the excess electricity produced at zero marginal cost is shipped off somewhere.

The extra costs of renewables are undeniable. But some form of investment needs to happen anyway to keep any country's power system running into the future.
Expensive things need to get built one way or the other. Investing as much as sensibly possible into something clean and has zero marginal cost does not seem silly to me.

RK: "Biomass also releases huge amounts of global warming gases. In fact, some studies show that traditional biomass in developing countries may release more carbon emissions than oil or coal."

There is a lot of truth here, but a bit more detail would be welcome. Biomass _is_ burning wood, dung, wood chips, waste, etc. Therefore it does emit CO2. However, biomass is renewable because the wood, dung, etc. also came from the atmosphere. The carbon accounting should (normative statement alert!) add up to zero. It does, if there is good governance. Given the sentence RK wrote, i cannot tell what he exactly referred to, but i suspect he gets his information from data about the disastrous carbon accounting of palm oil. You only get palm oil from palm plantations, and in places with poor governance the way you get palm plantations is through the deforestation of pristine rain forests. The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere through this turns the entire exercise into a sick joke. Therefore, i would warn anybody to use a big, big, BIG amount of salt when hearing that this or that place wants to meet their renewables obligation through biomass. It does not mean that it cannot be done (i hesitatingly put Sweden and Finland forward), but the governance apparatus for biomass is necessarily much more complex than for other forms of renewables.

RK: "What are the total costs of Germany's program and who pays them?"

If you do the math on those years and those GDP percentages mentioned by RK after this point, you get 1-2.5% GDP a year, not accounting for discount factors.
The days when i was doing macro are a long time ago, but could we get an economic historian here to tell us how much of GDP large-scale infrastructure overhauls take up? Is this really something that would break the bank? It would be interesting to know how these types of things are generally financed.

===

Overall, i would like to say that for Japan now what is really important are these kinds of questions:

1. If coal-fired capacity will be built, what kind of technology is it really going to be? And will it be replacement-new or additional-new?
2. Who will pay for the necessary upgrades in transmission? This is necessary already now under a "conventional" energy system, as this summer's Kansai EPCO debacle showed, but if you add fluctuating-output renewables it is going to be unavoidable.
3. Who will pay for the balancing capacity? Will Japan get a capacity market?
4. What is the impact on electricity tariffs going to be once insurance for nuclear is taken into account?
This is an entirely different matter from clean-up costs.
5. When do we get the new safety standards online? And when, for the love of god, will we know how many nuclear power plants will come online?

Thank you, and sorry for the length.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:24 AM

[SSJ: 7773] It's time for the politics quiz RESULTS!

From: John Campbell
Date: 2012/09/26

Earlier this month I asked this group and others to pick the winners of the DPJ and LDP leadership election, as well as the next prime minister. I got responses from 20 people. We now have the results for the first two parts.

For the DPJ, 18 out of 20 picked Noda. For the LDP, zero out of 20 picked Abe. Four picked Ishiba, who at least came in second. Eleven picked Ishihara.

For the PM vote, of course no one picked Abe but six picked Noda, and one Hashimoto, so they are still alive.

jc

Approved by ssjmod at 11:23 AM

[SSJ: 7771] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/26


In response to Andrew DeWit and Paul Midford who pointed to renewables in Germany to say that the DPJ is being realistic when it made a goal of 30-35% of electricity from renewables within two decades:

Regard this as "thinking out loud" by someone who has not seriously studied the topic and who will certainly accept correction of fact or logic. I apologize for the length; for those just interested in Japanese info, it's strewn thoughout.

Germany has set a target of the renewable share of electricity consumption to 35% by 2020, 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, while reducing CO2 emissions 40% below
1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
A cursory look suggests that this is far easier said than done, and that the attempt has very high costs.

In 2011, when renewables provided 20% of electrcity, the main sources of electricity from renewables were wind (38%), biomass (26%), hydro (16%) and photovoltaic solar (16%).

First, keep in mind that, in the effort to phase out nuclear, Germany is widely projected to increase the use of the deadliesst form of energy--coal--from 42% of electricity generation to more than 50%, according to the German Institute for Economic Research. According to the National Association of Energy and Water, nearly 40% (14,000 of the 36,000 megawatts) of NEW electricity generation capacity being planned for Germany will be fueled by coal. Coal consumption has increased 5% since Merkel announced the plan to end nuclear by 2022. How Germany expects to reduce carbon emissions while replacing nuclear with coal over the next decade is a mystery to me.

Wind power, as I understand it, is highly dependent on local conditions onshore and offshore, and so I don't know whether Germany's results can be replicated in Japan. According to one source, Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research, the feed-in-tariff for wind now requires customers to pay around 3 times the cost of conventional electricity.

Biomass is, all too often, just a fancy word for wood and dung. It is more deadly than natural gas, and far more deadly than nuclear, though certainly less so than oil or coal. According to the Lancet article I cited the other day, deaths per terawatthours from nuclear power are 0.052 but biomass is 90 times more deadly at 4.63, and twice as deadly as natural gas at 2.8. As for serious and chronic illness, for biomass it's 43 cases per terawatthour vs. 0.22 for nuclear and 30 for natural gas.

Japan consumes about 1,000 TWH per year, so, according to the Lancet figures based on European experience, in the pre-Fukushima days--when coal generated 27% of Japan's electricity, oil 9%, gas 27% and nuclear 27% (the other 10% being mostly hydro)--almost 9,000 people died every year from the pollution caused by fossil fuels. Most of them (6,566) died from coal use. Nuclear killed 14. 9,000 is as many people dying every year as the total number projected by the World Health Organization to die in the 40 years following the 1987 Chernobyl accident. With almost all nuclear plants shut-down, and being replaced by thermal fuel, the number of death is significantly higher now.

Biomass also releases huge amounts of global warming gases. In fact, some studies show that traditional biomass in developing countries may release more carbon emissions than oil or coal. To mitigate the the global warming from biomass, e.g. by carbon recapture, is very expensive. The feed-in-tariff for biomass appears to be about 50% higher than for wind, so perhaps 5 times the cost of onventional power (based on report of Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research). It also causes deforestation in countries like Germany, which, in turns, leads to less CO2 absorption and more global warming, and cutting so many trees raises issues of sustainability. A third of trees cut down in Germany today are used to supply energy. Environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council support use of biomass that comes from waste and reside left over from farming, but not from cutting down trees (see
http://tinyurl.com/9knt6a4 and
http://preview.tinyurl.com/8fnpjqh)

A 2009 study from RWI Essen concluded that , under Germany's feed-in-tariff system, using solar photovoltaics is 53 times more expensive than the European Union Emission Trading Scheme's market price.
Again, some countries are more suitable to solar energy than others, as this stage of the engineering game. My understanding is that one of the big problems with solar power is that you need a ton of square meters of solar cells to produce X amount of energy. Then there is the scientific problem of electricity storage. These problems are not easily overcome just by making today's solar cells more cheaply.

What are the total costs of Germany's program and who pays them? Estimates vary wildly (see
http://tinyurl.com/32ub8c6 ). The official estimate of the German Ministry of Economics is about $75 billion over the next decade, beyond what has already been invested. By contrast, the unofficial estimates of the Economics ministry, the Rhenish-Westphalian Institute for Economic Research (RWI), German Energy Agency (DENA), Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV), and the government-owned development bank (KfW), put the cost at about $340 Billion--five times the official estimate--over the next decade; that's about 10% of a year's GDP. Siemens, which now earns a third of its revenue from providing renewable energy products, estimates that the total cost of the renewables campaign will add up to $1.8 trillion by 2030. That's equal to half of a year's GDP and, over two decades, 18 times the official estimate for costs in the next decade.


Who's going to pay this cost and how? On the grounds that forcing companies to pay higher electricity rates would cost jobs, most of the cost is being borne by household customers. The cost of electricity is now becoming a big political issue in Germany a year before national elections and leading for some calls to put a break on the program. A reported 10% of the population had problems paying the higher bills and, reportedly, several hundred thousand people have had their energy cut off for nonpayment of bills due to the higher costs.

Now, let's look at Japan. The DPJ's plan is to spend about Y50 trillion yen on renewables. That would equal more than 10% of a year's GDP. Then, there would be another Y100 trillion in conservation measures, another 20% of GDP. I'm not sure over what timeframe, but if it's being done to meet the 2030 goal, the spending on renewables alone would cost more than the entire revenue to be obtained from hiking the consumption tax.
Again, who is going to pay this cost, and how will the money be extracted from them: higher electricty rates, higher taxes? And this assumes that the cost is accurate.

Moreover, like Germany, Japan is building coal-fired plants since coal costs less than LNG or oil. Again, I can't see how this coheres with carbon emissions goals, let alone current health concerns. Nikkei
(http://tinyurl.com/9hruvjx) reports:


>The government is looking to make coal-fired power
plants easier to build and expand by relaxing its procedures for assessing their environmental
>impact....Tokyo Electric Power Co., which plans to
construct coal-fired plants as an alternative to nuclear plants, is expected to file for approval as early as next >year under new [environmental] assessment procedures.<

I am sure there are counterarguments to everything I've said. But when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. The cost of a rapid Japanese phase-out of nuclear power will be very high in both health and economic terms. Some people might consider that cost worth paying to avoid the risk of a disaster that could dwarf even Fukushima. Before taking that step, I'd first rather see if there is a way to make nuclear safe for Japan (or Japan safe for nuclear).


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:19 AM

September 25, 2012

[SSJ: 7767] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Greg Johnson
Date: 2012/09/25


I should have made it clear that the Tokyo shinbun article to which I posted a link is not accusing Keidanren of impeding innovation in energy policy.
http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/s/article/2012092290070744.ht
ml That's my sentiment. Keidanren members have long
benefited from electricity costs subsidized by taxpayers and household consumers (from whom power companies receive the greater percentage of their profits, if I understand correctly). I think it is natural that they should respond to a national emergency with creativity, innovation, foresight, rather than complaints and threats to move their jobs elsewhere. (By the way, how's China working out for them in that respect?)

Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:02 AM

September 24, 2012

[SSJ: 7764] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/24

Regarding the law on the life of reactors, this was part of the 2012 law that created the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (now called Authority instead of Commission). Everything I've read says that the law says the life of the reactors is, in principle, limited to 40 years but that the NRA can grant one extension of
20 years if the reactors meets safety standards to be set by the NRA. Most recently, the Nikkei wrote on Sept. 20 (http://tinyurl.com/97uacs5)


The revised law on nuclear reactors that set the 40-year rule allows an extension of up to 20 years if safety is confirmed.

And the day before (http://tinyurl.com/9z4ksf7)


Tanaka said the new organization's role is to ensure that the use of atomic power would not cause harm to people's lives and environment, but concerns linger that the new rule to limit the reactors' operation to
40 years could be watered down as a related legislation also allows up to 20 years of extension.

Paul Midford:


And this week the Noda cabinet used the 40 year rule as the basis for announcing its intention to close the Mihama reactors.


RK:

I've been unable to find any info on this. Can you elaborate?


I'd like to reframe my question on the reform potential in Japan. Maybe a better question would be: what kind of reforms would make regulation effective, and how likely are those particular reforms?.

For example, I can easily think of a dozen measures that would drastically reduce the severity of the next popping of the US financial bubble. Had they been in place, the global recession would never have been as severe. Most affect conflicts of interest, politically vulnerability of regualators, and incentives to market players to commit fraud and take excessive risks with other people's money. They don't require a big institutional overhaul of the US, but they do require beating back the Wall Street lobby which funds so much of both political parties, and which has so many academic defenders.

Similarly, there are presumably reforms in Japan that might make regulator truly more independent, more expert and more powerful: e.g. staffing the NRC not only from the existing Ministries by people who are amateurs in nuclear issues, but also by genuine nuclear engineers and scientists; perhaps sending officials overseas for a while to see how other nuclear power powers operate; perhaps an international agreement that allows the IAEA to supervise the safety regimes in all the countries using nuclear power.

Once we've discussed what measures might be more effective, it might be easier to discuss which are politically feasible or what would need to be done to make them politically feasible.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 10:58 AM

[SSJ: 7762] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/09/24

PM:
"As for nuclear regulation, I think what we have seen proves that long-term effective regulation of the nuclear power industry is not feasible. Nuclear power by its nature is too concentrated in terms of size, sunk capital, expertise, etc., and hence a very corrupting influence on the political system and hence the regulators."

Alex Luta: Well, not necessarily. I would like to bring Finland into the discussion. I would not like to say that the parliamentary approval of the new-build projects for the Olkiluoto 4 and the new plant at Hanhikivi have been models of good governance, but what _has_ been is the ongoing friction between the technology provider Areva and the nuclear regulator STUK in the case of the Olkiluoto 3 reactor. I think there have been calculations showing how that one reactor has become the most expensive building project in the history of mankind, simply due to the intransigence of STUK in the implementation of safety regulations. We're talking of "Nope, that's no good, tear it down and build it again"
type of interventions. Hardly the stuff that corruption scandals are made of. There you have a concrete empirical example that organizations _can_ be designed in ways that make regulatory capture difficult.

PM: Alex Luta raises an interesting comparative
example: nuclear regulation appears to be far stricter in Finland. My comments were intended to be mostly aimed at Japan, and perhaps the US, but political systems in the Nordic region, not least of all Finland, do suggest that effective nuclear regulation is possible. A crucial reason is that interest groups have a much more difficult time using money to influence politics and policy in Nordic countries than in Japan, the US, or alas, in more average democratic states. It would be very hard for an interest group to buy TV and radio time to criticize nuclear regulators or their backers, or to buy off politicians and bureaucrats. However, one other problem is that nuclear regulation, as I mentioned before, is an on-going process, not a one-time fix. Finland may have effective regulation today, but what about in 10, 20,
50 or more years later? The political system there looks very uncorruptible today, but will it continue to be so in the future? I would add that this applies even more so to nuclear regulation in the US. From the outside, the NRC looks uncorrupted today (although NISA appeared, except perhaps to the closest observers, relatively competent and uncorrupted two years ago, and after a future accident we might learn new things about the NRC that would not leave a good impression), but given how financial regulation became corrupted in the US, there are even more reasons to doubt the future, if not current, integrity of nuclear regulation in the US.


Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 10:57 AM

[SSJ: 7761] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/09/24

Regarding the relevant passages of the new law, and that these do not take effect until January, see

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201206070077

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 10:56 AM

[SSJ: 7759] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Alexandru Luta
Date: 2012/09/24

Can we all put this issue to rest by having a link to the actual text of the law, for us all to read?

Alex Luta.

Approved by ssjmod at 10:55 AM

September 23, 2012

[SSJ: 7756] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: David H. Slater
Date: 2012/09/23

In this thread, there has been various references to the "nuclear village," and for those who would like to know more about how it works, please see Jeff Kingston's very interesting article on Japan Focus.
"Japan's Nuclear Village." (
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Jeff-Kingston/3822)

While giving some historical background to the machinations of the "village" pre-3.11, it also addresses some of the concerns about the role of public opinion in the formation of nuclear policy and the dynamics of oversight of regulation, compliance since
3.11 that have been mentioned by others here. Good article.

David Slater
Sophia U.

--
David H. Slater, Ph.D.
Faculty of Liberal Arts

Sophia University, Tokyo

Approved by ssjmod at 10:52 AM

September 22, 2012

[SSJ: 7755] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Greg Johnson
Date: 2012/09/22

Suggestions are presented in the following article that it was not merely the ossified leaders of Keidanren (who gained their offices not by innovative thinking but by surviving their entry year peers in large bureaucratic corporations) but also the U.S. government that quashed a Japanese cabinet decision to establish an official target for abolishing nuclear energy:

http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/s/article/2012092290070744.ht
ml

Among U.S. concerns is that reprocessing spent fuel would result in an accumulation of plutonium (So stop doing it), and a decline in nuclear technological ability (There aren't too many VHS technicians around anymore either. Seeking better alternatives tends to degrade capability in obsolete technologies.) In addition, I doubt the U.S. nuclear village would be happy if anti nuclear activists there looked at examples in Germany and Japan and actually imagined they could push or pull American energy policy out of the Cold War.

Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:47 AM

[SSJ: 7754] The independence of regulators

From: Alexandru Luta
Date: 2012/09/22


Many thanks to Richard Katz for pointing out the DPJ retreat on the issue of the age at which nuclear plants are to be retired. I wasn't aware that the possibility to extend their lifetimes by 20 years had been granted.

I would like to pose a question to the members of this forum about the regulatory independence of the new nuclear safety agency. The great number of ex-METI staff that have been made part of this agency is sure to have raised some eyebrows at this point, but my question would be about their potential independence in the future.

I have not been following this as closely as i should have, so i am not clear about their mandate and the scope of their authority. My only reference point is the founding of the Japanese Environmental Agency, which was staffed with people from MHW, MAFF, MITI and the Economic Planning Agency. Studies such as McKean (Pollution and Policy Making, in Pempel's Policymaking in Contemporary Japan) and Wong (The Roots of Japan's International Environmental Policies) show that it was quite a while before these people developed an identity of their own and started acting as the JEA and not just staffers on secondment from their mother-ministries.

So, does anybody here have any ideas about how neutrality and independence of agencies has been ensured in other cases? Or gone spectacularly wrong?
What would be some interesting developments to watch out for? Examples either from Japan or other places would be welcome.

Thank you,

Alex Luta,
PhD Cand,
Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:46 AM

[SSJ: 7753] Re: New Article on Asahi Shimbun on Sino-Japanese maritimedisputes and the risk of war in the East China Sea

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/09/22

I don't know whether the Chinese censor has already excised Dr. Patalano's paper from the local cybersphere but at any rate I can't get it. He has kindly sent it to me though, and I agree entirely that there is a great deal at stake in the Senkaku fracas, but I would emphasize that the pride and prestige of winning or losing is now far more important in driving policy than fish, oil, and rareminerals. I would also go along with his judgement that dispute will be continuous, but the Chinese will not risk war --- yet!
What I would not agree with, though, was his pessimism.
His belief that these disputes will be continuous and never-ending. The cost is so great that surely sense will prevail in the end. If photos were allowed, I would send pictures of Japanese shops boarded up, with standard municipal government boarding and the slogan
即将閉業。啓請期待; of a large cardboard advertisement for the Shanghai Municipal Cultural Centre’s Japanese language classes tossed on a rubbish heap. Japanese papers have carried the news of publihsers intructed not to publish pro-Japanese books. Customs clearance slow-downs. 7 out of 9 Poliburo members making anti-Japanese speeches.
Biggest burst of official rhetorical zenophobia since NATO bombed Belgrade Embassy.
Surely there will come a time when inflamed passions subside, and the truth that only good fences make good neighbours -- and that having a good fence is more important than whether the neighbour gets better grazing land
or not -- will sink in. Both the International Court
of Justice and
whatever is the judicial body set up under UNCLOS are explicitly designed to make viable fences. The obviously sensible thing to is go to them.
Japan is losing more from the fracas than China, because mob zenophobia is so much stronger. So Japan will have to take the initiative. China certainly won.
t. Japan should tell China: You are theones challenging the status quo so you should take the initiative by appealing to ICJ. If you don't we will got to the Security Council declaring that the dispute is a threat to pease and asking for a resolution urging China to go to ICJ.
But with a choice between Ishiba and Ishihara Jr as next Prime Minister, the whole Japanese political class has gone dotty. Thye have stopped thnking and speaking frankly. The fear of being branded unpatriotic hikokumin is approaching levels of the late 1930s. The only one who breaks the concensus is 87-year-old Nonaka Hiromu who appeared yesterday on Chinese
tv to apologise for Ichihara's stupidity. He gets no
notice in the
Japanese press, and to add insult to injury a You Tube repeat of his speech seems to have been taken down by the Chinese censor. I did a 1300-ji piece for the Asahi making the above arguments on 15 Sep. The editor showered it with praise but they are still dithering as to whether to print it. Even the Asahi seems to have gone under the tiide of nationalism.

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:46 AM

[SSJ: 7752] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/09/22

Alex Luta:
The [40-year] limit on the life spans is legally binding, but it is distinct from the recent statement by the Cabinet.
RK:

Not so. In January, the Noda administration submitted a bill to the Diet that would have limited the life of all nuclear plants to 40 years, but caved to the LDP's demand to allow a 20-year extension if authorities ruled that the plant was still safe. The law came into effect in June. In July, NISA used the escape clause to grant an extension to 40-year-old reactor at Mihima operated by Kansai Electric. The head of the new NRA, Shunji Tanaka, a former vice chair of the Atomic Energy Commission--who says that "The most important thing is to recover confidence in the nuclear safety administration"--told a press conference that he would enforce the 40-year limit, saying that, "It would be extremely difficult [for a nuclear reactor] to get an extension." But, if he changes his mind, there is nothing in the law to prevent him from doing so. The first test is whether to rescind NISA's decision on Mihima.

PM: Not quite: In early June NISA used the old law to call for extending the life of the Mihama plant by 10 years. However, once the new law came into effect this was automatically reduced to 3 years. Any extension after that would require another review and more stringent standards. In the meantime NISA ordered a study of whether there is an active fault under Mihama.
If one is found, under the new law the plant must close. And this week the Noda cabinet used the 40 year rule as the basis for announcing its intention to close the Mihama reactors.

Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:43 AM

September 21, 2012

[SSJ: 7748] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/21

Alexandru Luta wrote:

Regarding Paul Midford's claim from Sep 19

"I think what we have seen
proves that long-term effective regulation of the nuclear power industry is not feasible [due to the inherent characteristics of the technology]. "
AL replied:

Well, not necessarily. I would like to bring Finland into the discussion....

RK:

And some Japanese would like to bring the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission into the discussion.

Some critics contend that the new Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) is not really as independent as it is supposed to be. Of the 480 members of the NRA Secretariat, 460 are reportedly transfers from METI's Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency (NISA) or the Nuclear Safety Commission. NISA was complicit in helping the utilities evade known upgrade needs, cover up falsified safety reports and, during the crisis, was useless to advise Kan because its staff knew nothing about nuclear power. They were regular METI officials, trained in economic policy, but technologically challenged when it came to nuclear issues.
Kenkichi Hirose, former head of NISA, told a Diet panel investigating the March 2011 incident that, while experts at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission are qualified to operate reactors, that NISA officials were kept busy with paperwork. Shuya Nomura, a professor at the Chuo Law School who was a member of the Diet panel cited above, told the Yomiuri that the NRA secretariat needs to be a body that people will want to work for.
He cited the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as an example of a place considered prestigious by American nuclear experts. Former Kan aide Tasaka added that it is necessary to have outsiders scrutinize the NRA, including an expert from overseas, such as a former member of the US NRC. However, doing this may require changing the law to allow foreigners to take such a position. The Diet should also form a committee to check the NRA and its secretariat, Tasaka said.
So, Alexandru says that proper regulation is possible, at least in some countries. So far, however, no one on the Forum has volunteered the opinion that this is politically possible, let alone likely, in Japan, or has suggested a way to make it more likely. My ray of hope is that the sample size of SSJ responses is still small.

AL:

The [40-year] limit on the life spans is legally binding, but it is distinct from the recent statement by the Cabinet.
RK:

Not so. In January, the Noda administration submitted a bill to the Diet that would have limited the life of all nuclear plants to 40 years, but caved to the LDP's demand to allow a 20-year extension if authorities ruled that the plant was still safe. The law came into effect in June. In July, NISA used the escape clause to grant an extension to 40-year-old reactor at Mihima operated by Kansai Electric. The head of the new NRA, Shunji Tanaka, a former vice chair of the Atomic Energy Commission--who says that "The most important thing is to recover confidence in the nuclear safety administration"--told a press conference that he would enforce the 40-year limit, saying that, "It would be extremely difficult [for a nuclear reactor] to get an extension." But, if he changes his mind, there is nothing in the law to prevent him from doing so. The first test is whether to rescind NISA's decision on Mihima.

I thank Andrew DeWit for his info on Germany and renewables and will look into it.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 01:28 PM

[SSJ: 7746] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/09/21

Richard Katz wrote:

"I've seen no evidence that renewables can be geared up at a feasible cost to provide 25% of Japan's electricity in just ten years or even 20 years. A 2010 report of the National Academy of Sciences said that, in the US, non-hydro renewables could conceivably reach 10% of the nation's electricity generation by 2020, if there are sufficient cost reductions that match and exceed cost reductions in other sources, e.g. natural gas. This could conceivably rise to 20% by 2035. Going to 50% or more would require new scientific advances.
The report also notes that past prediction of the penetration of renewables have over-estimated their share. (Executive Summary, Electricity from Renewable
Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments, 2010 from, National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences). I don't see why this would be different in Japan. So, I'd like to hear why you think that is the case."

It's hard to come up with "evidence" from the future, so I would prefer to reinterprete this as evidence in the present that points to possible road-blocks in the future. Andrew DeWitt already did a great job providing evidence regarding progress that Germany has already made in increasing its renewable energy electricity production in a very short-time (from under 4% of electricity supplied to well over 20% in only 10 years). That is certainly a benchmark relevant for Japan, as is Denmark, where over 20% of electricity production comes from renewables. I will concentrate on addressing potential roadblocks. As I already wrote, the main obstacle for Japan is political, not technical.

Regarding the study from two years ago that Rick cites for the US, the growth rate estimated for the next 8 years, continued for the following 16, would allow the US to produce more than 30% of its electricity from renewables by the 2030s. Moreover, I have to ask what technological barriers there are that would prevent 50% or all American electricity from being produced by renewables? What technological advances would be needed? Exploitable wind and solar resources alone well exceed total consumption even with current technology (regarding Japan, I already presented data from METI and the Environment Ministry showing this was the case even for Japan). Rather, I would suggest the barriers are mostly political and regulatory. If, for example, the US implemented a Japanese-style feed in tarriff, the expansion of renewable electricity production would be much faster. The same would be true if the US got serious about developing regulations and investments to provide grid access for renewable projects and developing a smart grid and associated storage facilities.

Again, with Japan, what technical barriers prevent Japan from producing 30% of its electricity by the 2030s, if not earlier? This is now the government's target. I would like to see a serious study explain why the government's plan is technically infeasible.
The only barriers I see relate to regulation and ownership structure. What barriers are going to stop the new Feed in Tarriff from prompting entrepreneurs to produce enough renewable energy capacity to meet, and probably well exceed, 30% of Japan's electricity needs by the 2030s? The main bottleneck is ensuring grid access, which is why the EPCOs have to be divested of grid control. The second issue is how storage technology is deployed in reality, which is mostly a regulatory issue. Will renewable energy producers be required to provide storage (e.g. flywheel or hydrogen), will this become the responsibility of the grid owner, or is a market created for companies to specialize in the provision of storage services?

NIMBY issues are a barrier, as objections arise to placing wind turbines on-land, and off-shore in the case of Japan (fishing interests). NIMBY issues are of declining importance in rural Japan where depopulation and declining economies make renewable energy increasingly attractive. I am not aware of any significant NIMBY issues so far regarding solar. If there is the political will, the costs and benefits of wind turbines can be seriously discussed with local opponents. Even with renewables there is often no free
lunch: would local groups rather have a nuclear power plant in their backyard or wind turbines?

Again, the primary barriers to renewable electricity replacing nuclear power are political. That said I will add one caveat: the primary threat to the spread of renewable energy comes not from expensive nuclear power, but from increasingly inexpensive natural gas, although the feed in tarriff offers significant insulation for Japanese renewable energy producers.
Behind the fall in natural gas prices has been a rapid increase in natural gas reserves in the US and elsewhere. Moving forward this significantly eases cost concerns for thermal electric plants and energy security concerns (as long as Japan does not fear dependence on North America). Moreover, it likely that Japan possesses large reserves of natural gas and methane, including hydrates, on the seabed of its vast EEZ (not counting the small portions of that EEZ that are in dispute with China and Korea), an area which is three times that of Japan's land territory.
Consequently, Japan even has the possibility to achieve a measure of self-reliance in natural gas production.
Burning natural gas has essentially no negative impacts on human health (unlike coal in particular), and produces the lowest CO2 emissions of any fossil fuel, although these emissions are not zero.

What this boils down to is that Japan can rapidly (although perhaps not instantaneously) end its reliance on nuclear and promote a rapid expansion in renewable electricity production while using natural gas as a hedge (a hedge I don't think is necessary, but a security blanket nonetheless for the truly risk averse). Thus, the rapid expansion and ongoing technological advancement of renewables plus the large increase in natural gas supplies provide Japan with good reasons and incentives to end reliance on nuclear power.

Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:41 AM

September 20, 2012

[SSJ: 7745] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2012/09/20

I cannot answer Thomas Berger's question. I too have wondered about this. The first reference I have seen to Japan needing to "Amerika ni hairyo" came about two weeks ago in a Yomiuri article about Japan (allegedly) going to zero nuke dependency in the 2030s. It was a very off hand statement in a rather long article (about two-thirds of a page). No explanation was given.
Since then, this mantra has increased in frequency and prominence. I have yet to see anything remotely resembling an explanation of what is behind this.
Moreover, I don't recall any references to the US in the German decision to pull out of nuclear generation.

When I first saw this assertion, I immediately wondered whether there was some covert arrangement by which Japanese nuclear fuel recyling would be providing the US with an alternative source of weapon's grade nuclear material. I thought this because much of the Yomiuri article was about how going to zero would impact on the Japanese recyling program.

My own personal feeling is that this is probably "made in Japan foreign pressure" (Wasei gaiatsu). We've gone through a relatively hot summer with almost zero reliance on nuclear generation and virtually no concerted power saving efforts. Many of the local shops are still air conditioning the street. Despite signs claiming they have upped the temperature to save power, many large stores are uncomfortably cold.
Commuter railroads seem to be running a full schedule with air conditioning at pre-Fukushima levels. In this context, the nuke lobby does not have anything concrete to point to as the dire consequences of (near) zero reliance on nuclear generation. Hence, the "Amerika ni hairyo" mantra.

But, this is only speculation on my part. I too would like to know if there is any substance sinister or otherwise behind this.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:39 AM

[SSJ: 7744] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Andrew DeWit
Date: 2012/09/20

RK:

I've seen no evidence that renewables can be geared up at a feasible cost to provide 25% of Japan's electricity in just ten years or even 20 years. A 2010 report of the National Academy of Sciences said that, in the US, non-hydro renewables could conceivably reach 10% of the nation's electricity generation by 2020, if there are sufficient cost reductions that match and exceed cost reductions in other sources, e.g. natural gas. This could conceivably rise to 20% by 2035. Going to 50% or more would require new scientific advances.
The report also notes that past prediction of the penetration of renewables have over-estimated their share. (Executive Summary, Electricity from Renewable
Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments, 2010 from, National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences). I don't see why this would be different in Japan. So, I'd like to hear why you think that is the case.

It seems to depend on who's doing the study. The International Energy Agency, for example, was not supportive of renewables until a few years ago, when they started hiring specialists. The agency's new study "Energy Technology Perspectives 2012" includes a 2 degree celsius warming scenario wherein there is 50% renewable penetration in US power by 2050 (p 627).
Moreover, the most sophisticated study on the US appears to be the NREL's Renewable Electricity Futures Study, "a collaboration with more than 110 contributors from 35 organizations including national laboratories, industry, universities, and non-governmental organizations," concludes that 80% by
2050 is doable with advances in grids, storage and etc:

http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/

Some studies write off the potential for renewables by invoking the need for technical advances and then throwing up their hands. Some studies see the technical challenges as opportunities to gain leadership in what they depict as the melding of energy, IT and biotech (such as in the algal biofuels that 200 firms in the US are busy with, along with help from NASA, the military, Boeing, the airlines, etc).

What we do know, as empirical fact, is that the Germans went from 7.8% renewables in electricity in 2002 to 20% in 2011 (and are now over 25%):

see slide 4
http://irena.org/DocumentDownloads/events/MaltaSeptembe
r2012/4_Ellen_von_Zitzewitz.pdf

and for 2012:
http://cleantechnica.com/2012/07/26/germany-26-of-elect
ricity-from-renewable-energy-in-1st-half-of-2012/

In 2005 Angela Merkel deemed Germany's 20% by 2020 target "hardly realistic":
http://www.windpowermonthly.com/news/963739/Change-air-
energy-policy-general-election-returns-coalition-govern
ment/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH

And Germany did that without - it would seem - impairing the performance of their economy. For example, the World Economic Forum's Competitiveness Index ranks them 6th in the world:
http://reports.weforum.org/global-competitiveness-repor
t-2012-2013/

In the Japanese case, much of the METI and all of the nuclear village certainly have not been keen on renewables. Their target (now rescinded) for renewables in power generation was 1.63% by 2014, which the relevant committee's members declared to be "bold."
These interests were ready to push serious work on smart grids out to the 2020s, and countered the IEA's encouragement to build a national grid with the insistence that it was cheaper to build more nuclear.

Perhaps someone ought to calculate the opportunity cost of protecting these kinds of monopolies when you're in the middle of a distributed energy revolution.

Anyway, Japan's energy basic plan of June 2010 projected 21% renewables by 2030:
http://www.npu.go.jp/policy/policy04/pdf/20110607/siryo
u3.pdf

Now they're talking in the ballpark of 30% by 2030.

Meanwhile, the feed-in tariff that former PM Kan got put in last summer took effect on July 1 and has in 2 months led to 72,680 projects totaling 1.3 gigawatts:
http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/saiene/kaitori/dl/setsubi/
201208setsubi.pdf

The FIT spreads around a significant pecuniary incentive for big capital, SMEs, farmers, households, local governments and the like to cooperate. We see this eg in the Mitsubishi-JA Zennoh deal this month to do a tie-up that will put 400-600 solar arrays on farms from Hokkaido to Okinawa:
http://www.mitsubishicorp.com/jp/en/pr/archive/2012/htm
l/0000015277.html

Banks and credit unions are organizing special packages to feed finance into this expanding demand.

The utilities have also enhanced the above incentives to deploy renewables (and efficiency) via their price increases and talk of more to come in order to maintain their businesses. Their customer pool would appear to be shrinking through inroads from renewables and efficiency as well as because local governments and other actors are bailing out on them as soon as they can contract with alternative sources of supply. Keep in mind that Tokyo Metro is installing its own gas and renewable generating capacity, explicitly aimed at "blowing a hole" in Tepco's business model (vice-gov Inose Naoki's phrase:
http://www.zakzak.co.jp/society/politics/news/20120703/
plt1207030745005-n1.htm).

Can Japan outdo the Germans on deploying renewables?
One wonders. But there seem to be a lot of incentives and organizing overlooked by Yomiuri etc commentary that suggests the ambition to get out of nuclear is mere emotionalism.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:38 AM

[SSJ: 7743] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Thomas Berger
Date: 2012/09/20

I have followed with rapt attention the discussion of the pros and cons of Japan's nuclear policies here on the forum.

One question that I have, as a complete shiroto
(novice) to all this is how and why the US has been Japan not to close down its nuclear power industry.

I went to a recent US-Japan dialog and the explanation I heard was that if Japan stops its nuclear industry, it will encourage other countries with lower safety standards to enter the nuclear power market internationally. The team from CSIS did not go into much detail on the topic however.

Certainly Japanese television has been presenting an image of the US and Japanese business pushing for keeping Japan in the nuclear power business over the objections of the US, but I was not aware that the US had anything formally on the issue.

Could some of the better informed people on the forum help fill me in?

Thomas Berger
Boston University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:37 AM

[SSJ: 7741] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Alexandru Luta
Date: 2012/09/20

I would like to nitpick a little bit some of the statements that have come up here so far. (Given the sensitive subject, i should perhaps mention at this point that if i happen to voice disagreement with part of what somebody has been saying, it does not mean that i disagree with everything that they have said.)

1. Regarding Paul Midford's claim from Sep 19

"As for nuclear regulation, I think what we have seen proves that long-term effective regulation of the nuclear power industry is not feasible. Nuclear power by its nature is too concentrated in terms of size, sunk capital, expertise, etc., and hence a very corrupting influence on the political system and hence the regulators."

Well, not necessarily. I would like to bring Finland into the discussion. I would not like to say that the parliamentary approval of the new-build projects for the Olkiluoto 4 and the new plant at Hanhikivi have been models of good governance, but what _has_ been is the ongoing friction between the technology provider Areva and the nuclear regulator STUK in the case of the Olkiluoto 3 reactor. I think there have been calculations showing how that one reactor has become the most expensive building project in the history of mankind, simply due to the intransigence of STUK in the implementation of safety regulations. We're talking of "Nope, that's no good, tear it down and build it again"
type of interventions. Hardly the stuff that corruption scandals are made of. There you have a concrete empirical example that organizations _can_ be designed in ways that make regulatory capture difficult.

If i am not mistaken, even in Japan, this is exactly the stuff that regulatory battles rage on about: how much independence to give to a regulatory agent. People here obviously also know how to create an independent body - it is only that the interest calculus of politicians has leaned more in the direction of political control. I think the more interesting normatively driven practical question would be what to do to change that calculus.

2. Same message by Paul Midford:

"[Noda's phaseout of nuclear power]
is legally binding in the sense that the recently enacted law on nuclear safety specifies a 40 year life span for commercial reactors"

The limit on the life spans is legally binding, but it is distinct from the recent statement by the Cabinet.
The life span is indeed referred to in the document, but it is a law in its own right, cranked out at some point in February, if i am not mistaken? The Cabinet statement, btw, is an "an" (a proposal). Not a lot of legal oomph there. Yet i couldn't agree with Paul Midford more about his observation that the policy is "absurdly contradictory". I still would like to hear people's opinions on why on earth Noda, Edano, the DPJ, its factions (you know, ANYBODY at ANY level) might have thought that saying one thing on Friday and a different thing on Saturday would be wise.

3. Greg Johnson's message from Sep 19:

"Japan's nuclear village is so powerful it can force a government to renege on a desperate election promise even before the election, almost immediately after it is uttered"

Ok, i know that talking about early elections is a guilty pleasure of everybody on this forum. The constant jabber in the media about this may have something to do with this. But can somebody explain to me why on earth would the PM call for an election now?
This man has already shown a couple of times that he delights to step back and just watch his opponents crumple into an ineffectual puddle. Personally, if i were him, i'd just stay back, watch the hype about the new LDP head fade away, wait for Hashimoto to say a couple of more inflammatory things to put off indecisive voters, and then just walk into the regular elections at a much calmer time. Picking his own battleground, if you will.

I realize that Noda is not prescient and crises can jump on anybody out of nowhere, but am i really alone here thinking that calling for elections now would simply be stupid? Can anybody here comment about what drove past PMs into calling elections? Some comparison and contextualization would be really helpful.

Thank you.

Alex Luta,
PhD Cand,
Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:27 AM

[SSJ: 7739] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/20

Paul Midford wrote:

> I think what we have seen proves
that long-term effective regulation

> of the nuclear power industry is not feasible.
Nuclear power by its

> nature is too concentrated in terms of size, sunk
capital,
expertise,

> etc., and hence a very corrupting influence on the
political system

> and hence the regulators.

>

RK:

Is that equally true in other countries? Is Japan's malfeasance an artifact of the technology or of Japan's political-business-bureaucratic iron triangle? My impression is that upgrades have been made elsewhere as technology improves and as events, like the 1999 flooding in France or the 9/11 attacks in the US, show the need. My sense--correct me if I'm wrong--is that the nuclear village in Japan has been exceptionally corrupt. (In the US, this level of corruption is seen in the Wall Street-Washington nexus).

PM:

> Also, Rick's question implies a
static answer: a one-time fix and

> the problem is solved. In fact, safety regulation is
constant

> process.

>

RK:

Of course.

PM:

> Actually, it is legally binding in
the sense that the recently

> enacted law on nuclear safety specifies a 40 year
life span for

> commercial reactors, and I believe they eliminated
the escape
clause

> that would have allowed for exceptions.

>
RK:

The DPJ tried to make the law put on a strict limit of
40 years, but the LDP refused and the DPJ, as usual, surrendered. 40 years was just a guideline and discretion over extension was put in the hands of the to-be-created Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In July, METI's Nuclear and Industry Safety Commission
(NISA) did, in fact, grant such an extension to the Mihama reactor in Fukui prefecture, saying that the ultimate fate would lie in the hands of the NRC. After Noda's incredibly bumbling handling of the whole issue, including his backdown, the cabinet has confirmed that, while 40 years is an ambition, decisions lie in the hands of the NRC.

PM:

> In principle, under Noda's zero
nukes by the 2030s policy the answer

> could be somewhere up to about 25% over the next
decade, in which

> case these impacts would be minimal. That would give
plenty of time

> for decomissioning nuclear power plants and replacing
them with

> renewable energy.

>

RK:

I've seen no evidence that renewables can be geared up at a feasible cost to provide 25% of Japan's electricity in just ten years or even 20 years. A 2010 report of the National Academy of Sciences said that, in the US, non-hydro renewables could conceivably reach 10% of the nation's electricity generation by 2020, if there are sufficient cost reductions that match and exceed cost reductions in other sources, e.g. natural gas. This could conceivably rise to 20% by 2035. Going to 50% or more would require new scientific advances.
The report also notes that past prediction of the penetration of renewables have over-estimated their share. (Executive Summary, Electricity from Renewable
Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments, 2010 from, National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences). I don't see why this would be different in Japan. So, I'd like to hear why you think that is the case.

Greg Johnson wrote:

> The CEO of G.E. says natural gas
and wind will be cheaper than

> nuclear.

>

RK:

Yes, from the standpoint of the company. Which is one reason why American firms are not building nukes. But the companies don't pay the cost of the tens of thousands of people who die every year in the US from pollution caused largely by fossil fuels, nor the health expenses of those who go to hospitals but don't die, not the lost days of work and school. But the economy as a whole pays. The companies only pay when governments force them to adopt anti-pollution devices that provide more benefits for the economy that their costs.

GJ:

> Now proponents of nuclear power
are commenting on the higher costs of

> not using it, whereas just a couple of months ago,
the issue was a

> power shortage that turned out to be fiction.

>

RK:

Was it a fiction? The number of heat strokes that sent people to the hospital, and the dozens of deaths from heat stroke, shows one way that blackouts were prevented. If some of the old oil and gas generators brought out of mothballs to replace nuclear had failed, the shortages would have been more manifest. So, resuming the two reactors at Oi could be seen as a kind of insurance or cushion, but it was handled so badly that it increased distrust. Then there are the firms that are building plants overseas instead of in Japan.Now consider that GDP and industrial production remain below peak levels and consider what happens when they reach and then exceed the peak of early 2008.

I told some friends in METI that, if they claimed the Apocalypse from the failure to restart the two plants, and then there was no Apocalypse, people would say:
see, we don't need nuclear power. They told me that they had never looked at it that way. The failure of bureaucrats to understand people still stuns me after all these years.


GJ:

> Setting aside CO2, does natural
gas produce pollution more harmful to

> health than that of nuclear?

>

RK:

Absolutely, from everything I've read based on nuclear accidents so far. The only nuclear accident estimated to result in mass deaths is Chernobyl, which the World Health Organization said would cause 9,000 premature deaths over 40 years, far less than those who die from fossil fuel-caused pollution every single year in the US (60,000 per year according to studies from the 1990s; less now due to anti-pollution upgrades), and I suspect in Japan as well. I've been unable to find figures on this for Japan; if anyone has them, I'd appreciate the help.

Lancet journal (for which you can register for free) has a 2007 article on "Electricity generation and health" at http://tinyurl.com/d6sfach. Looking at Europe, they measured the number of deaths and serious illnesses per terawatt of electricity generation (mostly heart and lung problems for fossil fuels and cancer for nuclear).

For deaths, the numbers are:

coal: 24.5
oil: 18.4
gas: 2.8
nuclear: 0.052.

So, natural gas is, by far, the best of the fossil fuels but far worse than nuclear.

For serious/chronic illnesses, the numbers are:

coal: 225
oil: 161
gas: 30
nuclear: 0.22.

Once again, natural gas is, by far, the best of the fossil fuels but far worse than nuclear.

Then there is the issue of global warming, which seems to be proceeding more quickly than scientists had expected.

Of course, all of these numbers would be meaningless if Fukushima had not been contained and the worst-case scenario had proceeded. But that, as many specialists argue, was preventable from a technological point of view. It was the refusal of the regulators and TEPCO to take care of known, foreseen problems with known fixes that led to the real possibility of a far, far worse catastrophe affecting areas with tens of millions of people, rather than the 200,000 living within the 30 kilometer evacuation range around Fukushima.

After the 2007 earthquakes that caused damage at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex in Niigata (where TEPCO had also falsified safety inspection records as at Fukushima), the governor of Niigata would not let any reactors resume until they were inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and found to be safe. But I don't see any way to get the government of Japan (or any other country) to admit to its people that it cannot protect them and must let a supranational agency do it for them.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:00 AM

September 19, 2012

[SSJ: 7738] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Fred Uleman
Date: 2012/09/19

Paul mentions "new safety guidelines (as opposed to the provisional onces applied to the Oi reactors)"

But even those provisional guidelines were not really applied to the Oi reactors. Rather, the Oi people said they had plans to satisfy the guidelines in three years' time and the fact that they had plans on paper was enough to get them a go-ahead on restarting.

No, I do not think public trust of the nuclear village will be restored any time soon. Especially with Noda all over the map on policy goals. So the question is not whether trust will be restored. It won't. But will more and more plants be restarted in the face of this distrust? And there the answer is: I fear so. Because that's how the industry wants to dispel the distrust -- not by investing heavily in safety but by saying, "See, it didn't blow up today. Totally safe."

- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -
Fred Uleman, translator emeritus

Approved by ssjmod at 11:40 AM

[SSJ: 7737] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Greg Johnson
Date: 2012/09/19

Now proponents of nuclear power are commenting on the higher costs of not using it, whereas just a couple of months ago, the issue was a power shortage that turned out to be fiction. The CEO of G.E. says natural gas and wind will be cheaper than nuclear.
http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Immelt-can-t
-justify-nuclear-power-3747910.php Is he wrong?

I have ethical concerns about a form of energy that leaves to the future material that will stay dangerous longer than the sum of human history so far. But if fossil fuels are causing global warming, and I think they are, then they also leave a harmful legacy. If I understand correctly, most of Japan's loss of nuclear has been made up by natural gas, not coal or oil.
Setting aside CO2, does natural gas produce pollution more harmful to health than that of nuclear?

If I accept that the long term risks of nuclear and fossil fuel balance each other out, I think that nuclear power might be relatively safe in sparsely populated nations. But I wonder if best global practices are good enough for a densely populated country that experiences 20% of the world's earthquakes above magnitude 6 and has nuclear plants are sitting on faults. Clouds of volcanic ash from a Mt. Fuji eruption could endanger air-cooled machinery and electronic devices in the Kanto region. Eruptions could continue for years. Are nuclear plants vulnerable to airborne particles? Has anybody in Japan's power industry or bureaucracy considered what that might do to Hamaoka or possibly Tokai? I hope I'm wrong, but I'd be willing to bet the next round of drinks that they haven't.

The DPJ started backpedalling on campaign promises almost as soon as it formed its first cabinet. And the zero nuclear power pledge was more ephemeral than most.
The government also said it would continue building nuclear plants that would produce nuclear power decades beyond the zero deadline it had just announced. And now the cabinet seems to be pretending the promise never occurred.
http://www.jiji.com/jc/eqa?g=eqa&k=2012091900267

Japan's nuclear village is so powerful it can force a government to renege on a desperate election promise even before the election, almost immediately after it is uttered, so I have strong doubts about whether it is
capable of prioritizing safety.

Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:40 AM

[SSJ: 7734] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/09/19

Thanks to Rick Katz for, as always, asking important and well thought out questions.

"So, here's what I'd like to throw open for discussion.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that the technological fixes are in place if there is the political will to enforce them. Do people think that the Japanese political, bureaucratic and business elite is capable of forcing the nuclear village to adopt these upgrades?"

As for nuclear regulation, I think what we have seen proves that long-term effective regulation of the nuclear power industry is not feasible. Nuclear power by its nature is too concentrated in terms of size, sunk capital, expertise, etc., and hence a very corrupting influence on the political system and hence the regulators. Also, Rick's question implies a static
answer: a one-time fix and the problem is solved. In fact, safety regulation is constant process. The nuclear industry might be forced to implement fixes today, but new fixes will be needed in the future in the face of new conditions that prevail then. If they nuclear industry suceeds in corrupting the regulators again, nuclear power will again become unsafe.

"If they did, do you think it would make any difference to the Japanese public, or has trust been so shattered that it is not recoverable regardless of any safety upgrades?"

I don't think trust in nuclear regulation can be recovered, but I do think there is a possibility that once the new safety agency comes up with new safety guidelines (as opposed to the provisional onces applied to the Oi reactors), that the public will tolerate the use of nuclear power in the short run, or at longest until the current reactors reach 40 years of age, which is what Noda's policy is assuming. Yet, it remains an open question whether the public will tolerate this, and playing up the threat of roling blackouts and shortages is unlikely to work next summer (it is also doubtful whether the new regulations and safety measures will be in place by then).

"This policy [Noda's phaseout of nuclear power] would not be legally binding unless the Diet approved a new law."

Actually, it is legally binding in the sense that the recently enacted law on nuclear safety specifies a 40 year life span for commercial reactors, and I believe they eliminated the escape clause that would have allowed for exceptions. That said, if only that law is applied there would still be some small amount of nuclear power operating into the 2040s. That said, we should note the Noda's policy, as of now, remains absurdly contradictory: fuel reprocessing will continue and METI minister Edano announced that previously licesensed new reactors could still be built.

"At the same time, the cost of abandoning nuclear power is very high, inclding more deaths due to air pollution from more fossil fuels, higher prices for fuel imports, lower GDP growth, costs of decommissioning, tons of money thrown at renewables, etc."

One uncertain factor is the extent to which Japan will rely on nuclear over the next 15 plus years. In principle, under Noda's zero nukes by the 2030s policy the answer could be somewhere up to about 25% over the next decade, in which case these impacts would be minimal. That would give plenty of time for decomissioning nuclear power plants and replacing them with renewable energy. And if Japan doesn't throw money at renewables it would have to throw that money at new nuclear power plants anyway (not to mention the question of whether throwing money at renewables might be a good strategy for promoting economic growth similar to throwing money at bullet trains or rising industries in the past).

The real problem Japan has regarding electricity is the dominance protected and bloated regional EPCOs that do not face competition; this is what drives Japan's already high electricity prices. What is badly needed is a dose of Schumpterian creative destruction in the form of competition. First, the EPCOs need to be divested of control over the grid, and the grid needs to be developed into a national grid. That will allow level competition among energy sources in Japan.
Second, and related, Japan should allow Korean and Russian electricity producers to enter the market via power lines across the Korean Straits and the Sea of Japan. Finally, Japan needs to invest a lot more in its grid, not only to make it truly national, but to make it smart, and to build in the electrical storage capacity that will be required with the widespread use of renewables (e.g. flywheel storage and hydrogen storage). Japan's real electricity crisis does not stem from a lack of suitable technology, it stems from political weakness.

Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:37 AM

[SSJ: 7730] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/09/19

To RK: think the answer to your first question is 'maybe' (capable of enforcing upgrades to nuclear
plants)

But the answer to second is won't make any difference to public--too much distrust and anti-nuclear sentiment now. So answer to first question is therefore moot, unless and until public starts to feel consequences in terms of energy costs and pollution from the alternatives. Even then-concentrated benefits and diffuse costs may make it take a while, if ever.

Best, Ellis

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

September 18, 2012

[SSJ: 7728] Re: Noda's No Nukes Policy--CORRECTION

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/18

In my last posting, I mistakenly typed:

>From: Richard Katz
>Date: 2012/09/18
>
>
>Japan's reactors are designed to
>shut down when a serious earthquake occurs and back-up
reactors go into
>operation.
>

I meant to type "back-up GENERATORS go into operation"
[to keep the cooling systems going].

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7722] Noda's No Nukes Policy

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/18

In what many believe to be a desperate election gambit--and I agree--the Noda administration has announced a goal of eliminating all nuclear power by the end of the 2030s. In fact, the measures that they have announced so far would not accomplish the goal. I estimate that about 44% of today's nuclear capacity would still in operation in 2030; 25% in 2035; and 17% in 2039. This policy would not be legally binding unless the Diet approved a new law. However, I believe it will constrain the LDP, assuming it wins the next election, especially if it needs either the DPJ or Japan Restoration Party as allies to form a majority.
Already, on the Sept. 15 TV debate, most of the leading candidates to become the new LDP President played down the issue, to the consternation of the Yomiuri.

I'd like to raise a question about this to the SSJ membership. Although the damange caused by Fukushima is far less than that caused by Chernobyl, a worst-case scenario drawn up for Naoto Kan by Shunsuke Kondo, the head of the Atomic Energy Commission, talked about a possible need to evacuate 30-40 million people in the Tokyo area if the explosions damaged not just the reactor buildings, but the core reactor container vessels. That would have let loose much greater volumes of lethal radiation. Koichi Kitazawa, president of the Rebuild Japan Initiative (also known as the Funabashi
Commission) and a former chief of the Japan's Science and Technology Agency, said that Japan was "very lucky"
to have escaped the worst-case scenario. Funabashi said it would have happened if TEPCO had abandoned the plant. I'm not aware of anyone who has challenged Kondo's assessment.

So, my concern is not over what did happen, but what might have happened.

I'm no scientist, but after reading a number of academic reports, I am convinced that the Fukushima disaster could have been prevented if regulators had demanded that TEPCO put in place upgrades using technology that is available today and that follows best global practice, including some upgrades instituted after some flooding incidents at a reactor in France in 1999. Japan's reactors are designed to shut down when a serious earthquake occurs and back-up reactors go into operation. This has happened numerous times over the years and it happened at Fukushima on March 2001. But the back-up generators and electrical switching gear were in the basement and pumping stations were not hardened to protect against flood. In fact, in some upgrades, new generators were built high enough to survive the tsunami, but the electrical gear was left in the basement. So, after an hour, the back-up power failed due to the tsunami. Because upgrades were done at Fukushima Dai-ni and Onagawa, the tsunami did not lead to a similar disaster.

At the same time, the cost of abandoning nuclear power is very high, inclding more deaths due to air pollution from more fossil fuels, higher prices for fuel imports, lower GDP growth, costs of decommissioning, tons of money thrown at renewables, etc. To my mind, a no nukes policy is like buying very expensive fire insurance.
The odds of a fire wiping out your home are tiny but the impact is enormous. So, it's worthwhile to buy the insurance--as long as the price of insurance is commensurate with the risk. To abandon all nukes is like paying $20,000 a year to raise the coverage on one's insurance, when one could dramatically lower the odds of a fire becoming catastrophic by maknig upgrades that cost $3,000 per year.

On the other hand, what if you believe that the nuclear village is so incestuous and corrupt that Japan is incapable of forcing regulators and firms to adopt the needed changes? After all, Wall Street has hardly been reformed despite the global disaster that it created.
If you believe that the indispensable changes are impossible and we'll just get fig leaf gestures, then a no nukes policy is far more understandable.

So, here's what I'd like to throw open for discussion.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that the technological fixes are in place if there is the political will to enforce them. Do people think that the Japanese political, bureaucratic and business elite is capable of forcing the nuclear village to adopt these upgrades? If they did, do you think it would make any difference to the Japanese public, or has trust been so shattered that it is not recoverable regardless of any safety upgrades?

I don't know the answer to either of the two questions, but I'd like to believe that the answer to the first question is yes.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:25 AM

September 06, 2012

[SSJ: 7710] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/06


Ellis Krauss wrote (in response to me)

> You may well be right that both
DPJ and LDP will lose seats in the

> next HOR election

>

>

RK:

Once again, thanks for the info. Let me make sure that I am not misunderstood. I am not saying that the LDP and DPJ will EACH lose seats in the LH election. I am saying that, barring divine intervention, the DPJ will get clobbered and that the COMBINED TOTAL of LDP and DPJ votes and seats will most likely decline. Parties other than the LDP will pick up many of the votes and seats that the DPJ loses. If today's polling trends continue, the LDP might lose seats in the PR segment but will surely increase seats in the SMD section.

This would reverse a trend since the 1994 electoral law changes as the party realignment moved much closer to a "two-party plus" system during the 2005 and 2009 elections.

In the PR segment, the top TWO parties' share of the vote rose from 61% in 1996 to 69% in 2009. Their share of PR seats rose from 65% to 78%. The SINGLE top party's share of the PR vote rose from 33% to 42%. Its share of seats rose even more: from 35% to 48%.

In the SMD segment, the top TWO parties' share of the votes rose from 67% in 1996 to 86% in 2009. Their share of SMD seats rose from 88% to 95% . The SINGLE top party's share of the vote rose from 39% to 47%. Its share of seats rose even more: from 56% to 73% in 2005 and 74% in 2009.

The fly in the ointment is that Hashimoto is an unknown phenomenon so far, a way for voters to say "no" to both the LDP and DPJ. When his party is actually formed and has to campaign, some disillusionment may set in. For now, however, two polls--Yomiuri and Kyodo--showed Hashimoto's party coming in second in the PR vote while Sankei showed it coming in first. Then, there is Your Party. Japan may be destined for another period of party realignment involving many parties forming and dissolving, defections back and forth, etc. One interesting question. In the past, when a Diet member defected from one party to another, his koenkai moved with him. Will that continue?

Paul Midford wrote:

> Hashimoto's party may do very
well, but I would bet that this such an

> outcome will have more to do with its anti-nuclear
stance rather

> than due to the tax increase issue.

>

RK:

I think the overarching issue is "trust," or the lack of it, represented by the both the tax and nuclear issues. It also, in my mind, may partially explain the different reaction to the sales tax in Japan vs. Norway (as I learned during a journalist trip to Sweden and Denmark), but that's for another posting.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:46 AM

September 04, 2012

[SSJ: 7709] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/09/04

RK: Thanks for the reminder of the difference, which I take to mean that, for the whole election combined (district and PR) the party counts more than the individual candidate (correct me if I've misinterpreted you). I would note that polls overall, for both LH and UH, show voters paying more attention to the party and less to individual candidates than in the past. Even incumbents who had won their district seats by double-digits lost them in 2009 (and I believe in 2005 as well).

ESK: Yes-in the local districts, party and party leader image will count more in HOR's SSD than in HOC's large SNTV district where the personal vote will matter more; and in the PR districts, party and party leader image will count for more in the HOR's closed list than in the HOC's open list districts. This should follow from Carey and Shugart's famous model:
Seat allocation formulas affect candidates' incentives to campaign on a personal rather than party reputation. Variables that enhance personal voteseeking
include: (1) lack of party leadership control over access to and rank on ballots, (2) degree to which candidates are elected on individual votes independent of co-partisans, and (3) whether voters cast a single intra-party vote instead of multiple votes or a party-level vote.
District magnitude has
the unusual feature that, as it increases, the value of a personal reputation rises if the electoral formula itseff fosters personal vote-seeking, but falls if the electoral formula fosters party reputation-seeking.
("Incentives to Cultivate a Personal Vote:
a Rank Ordering of Electoral Formulas," Electoral Studies Vol. 14, No. 4).

But then there is also the malapportionment issue. The HOC districts are more malapportioned in favor of rural areas that it affects and distorts the vote, especially in the single seat districts. As Mike Thies has pointed out, this was one of the major reasons the LDP won more seats in the 2010 HOC election than the DPJ, even though the DPJ won more votes in both kinds of districts. In some cases in the 2010 HOC election a 4% vote swing in single seat local districts could produce
40+% difference in seat wins compared to the 2007 HOC
election!

So all this means that trying to predict outcomes in the HOC where the results in many ways are artificially determined by the nature of the electoral system is especially difficult. You may well be right that both DPJ and LDP will lose seats in the next HOR election; but whether that will also occur in the next HOC election...

Best,
Ellis Krauss

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

[SSJ: 7708] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/09/04

My belated response to Rick's question is that I don't have a very strong opinion one way or the other, but on balance I personally oppose raising the consumption tax. Given Japan's relatively high poverty level and rising inequality, I think raising the regressive consumption tax is a mistake (even with some allowance for helping those with lower incomes). I think Japan does need to raise taxes/revenues, albeit in a more progressive way. Although I have not spent time looking at the pros and cons in detail, I would prefer Rick's alternative tax/revenue increase ideas to raising the consumption tax. That said, I can't help but add that as a resident of Norway, where the consumption tax is 25% (15% for food), and the economy is booming, it's difficult for me to see raising the tax to a mere 10% as a big problem (except, again, for those on the low income end of the spectrum).

I would make one other point about public opinion and the consumption increase: I think Rick may be over reading the lessons of the 2010 election. I agree that Kan's sudden announcement that he wanted to increase the consumption tax hurt the DPJ, but I would argue that it was the way he did this more than the policy position itself that hurt the DPJ. Making an open ended announcement, with few details, weeks before the election, less than a year after the DPJ manifesto had promised no tax increase before 2013 (and the implication that Kan wanted to increase the tax by 2012), was what hurt most. His failure to define his policy allowed his opponents to do it for him in the worst possible light. Noda, on the other hand, had a lot of time to define and explain his policy.
Consequently, I would not expect Noda's tax increase to hurt the DPJ as much. Also, Minna no tou also did very well in 2009, and their improved performance in 2010 is in part a function of fielding more candidates.

Hashimoto's party may do very well, but I would bet that this such an outcome will have more to do with its anti-nuclear stance rather than due to the tax increase issue.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

[SSJ: 7706] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/04

Ellis Krauss wrote:

>One small point of response to Richard Katz' comment
that:
>
>We could easily have a repeat of the 2010 UH election
in which, at
>least in the PR segment, both the DPJ and LDP lose
votes to anti-tax
>(and anti-nuclear?) parties.
>
>
>ESK: it is very dangerous to make any equivalence
between the HOC and
>HOR elections because their electoral systems are so
different. Not
>only is the HOC's local tier SNTV vs. the HOR's SSD ,
but the HOC has
>an Open List PR system vs the HOR's Closed List PR.
>Thus the personal vote in the Hoc's PR tier counts for
more than in the
>HOR's where it's the party vote that counts most.
>
>
Thanks for the reminder of the difference, which I take to mean that, for the whole election combined (district and PR) the party counts more than the individual candidate (correct me if I've misinterpreted you). I would note that polls overall, for both LH and UH, show voters paying more attention to the party and less to individual candidates than in the past. Even incumbents who had won their district seats by double-digits lost them in 2009 (and I believe in 2005 as well).

Despite this difference between UH and LH elections, I believe the notion that both the LDP and DPJ could lose votes and seats to anti-tax parties remains still valid (i.e. if this proves true, then the combined vote and seat total of DPJ and LDP would be much lower than in
2005 or 2009).

This makes the impact of the Hashimoto party potential even more significant. In a Sept. 3 Kyodo poll on party preference for the PR segment, the LDP came in first at 22.%, Hashimoto's prospective party at 17.6% and the DPJ third at 12.4%. What will be interesting to see is whether Hashimoto's boomlet lasts at least through the election or whether he is viewed as "wacky" or "incompetent" as some of the Republican candidates who rose and fell within weeks, once they got serious exposure. One of the reasons DPJers wanted to delay elections was because they felt Hashimoto would turn out to be a "flash in the pan."

Also, according to some things I've seen, a big part of the battle for LDP president will revolve around whom to ally with if they cannot form a government with just themselves, the Komeito and defectors. Some (like Abe and who else?) prefer to allly with Hashimoto while others would prefer what remains of the DPJ.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

[SSJ: 7704] It's time for the politics quiz!

From: John Campbell
Date: 2012/09/04

Now is the perfect time to forecast (guess?) the next leaders of both the DPJ and the LDP. And while we are at it, the next PM too. Not necessarily one of those two,

Just send me an email (preferably not to the SSJ forum) answering those questions. This should be quick since there might be developments soon that will affect the race. So let's say by Thursday September 6, by midnight Tokyo time. If there is a tie, the earlier answer wins.

Emails to jccamp@umich.edu. No twittering please.

jc

Approved by ssjmod at 11:09 AM

September 01, 2012

[SSJ: 7700] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2012/09/01


In the long rally of interesting exchanges on this topic, Greg Noble raised a point that passed relatively (and regrettably) unnoticed but poses a serious problem to democratic politics in Japan: why do PM approval rates drop like a rock, ensuring short tenured governments, given the frequency of elections of either House? Low approval rates guarantees unstable leadership especially with a national election approaching every couple of years.

Greg has cited scholars who are tenaciously grapping with the phenomenon empirically, but none as far as I know has come up with a definite answer.
And, I don't have one either. The reason I thought it's a good idea to ask if anyone has one.

The rest of this post is just idle afterthought.

Watching the RNC did remind me of the number of GOP presidential hopefuls whose popularity soared and dropped in a matter of months. Why? My best answer is that they were revealed to be incompetent, scandalous, or too wacky before they got anywhere, hence leaving the most uncharismatic but probably sound candidate standing. When I say "incompetent, scandalous, or too wacky," of course I am not talking about leaders of the DJP but I do feel an eerie resemblance.

If the analogy works for Japanese politics, mind you I am not claiming so, it seems to me the fundamental problem with Japanese politics is the leadership selection process within the major parties.

Why are we getting a succession of PMs who were not qualified to assume the office? To mimic the speeches at Tampa, "don't the Japanese voters deserve better?"
One thing seems clear to me: political instability, partisan chaos, and short-longevity governments are the new normal since electoral reform and tinkering with the electoral system ain't the solution.

I fear that the media and scholars are running around wondering who's going to be the leader of the major parties and who's going to win/loose the next election, while shying away from the more serious problem of our political system. A problem that needs to be addressed and requires serious political reform. I cannot help thinking that "the politics of indecisiveness" goes beyond a fancy catchword and points to far more grave pathologies of Japanese political institutions that is eroding Japanese democratic politics. I hope I won't be accused of fiddling polisci tunes while Tokyo burned.
But, on the other hand, it might be just male menopause, and there is nothing extraordinary to worry out. Politics is always suboptimal, you see.

Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Institute of Social Sciences

Approved by ssjmod at 11:14 AM

[SSJ: 7699] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/09/01


I don't want to try anyone's patience if people think the thread has been played out, but Nobuhiro Hiwatari posed some direct questions posed to me and I feel it's only proper to respond.


Why did Kan make the tax hike the centerpiece of his [2010] campaign? Was he, as Noda, "willing to sacrifice his own career and the DPJ's electoral chances"?

RK:

I think Kan had a couple reasons. One was policy. When he became Finannce Minister in early 2010, he said part of his job was to convince voters of the need for a tax hike. Then, in May, he went to an OECD ministerial meeting in Paris, where he got freaked out by the emerging Greek crisis. Upon returning to Tokyo, he received a briefing about a Greek scenario for Japan, complete with charts. I've never been able to find out who gave him the briefing, but DPJers in some other ministries were complaining that Kan was too impressed by MOF bureaucrats, who seemed to him so much smarter and less corrupt than the Health Ministry bureaucrats he'd dealt with before. Kan started talking publicly about the need to move quickly on a tax hike to avoid a Greek Tragedy in Japan, where a spike in interest rates would wreak havoc. For what it's worth, the ten-year Japan govenrment bond interest rates during June 2010 was 1.3%. Today, it's 0.8%.

Secondly, as I indicated in my August 30 response to Greg Noble, Kan grossly misread the mood of the public, and continued to misread it even after his poll readings started plunging. He vainly tried to fuzz up his tax stance, but that just made him look weasely. I don't think he was willing to fall on his sword like Noda and he, like most pollsters, was surprised by the severity of the voter repudiation.

NH:

Also, the LDP's 2010 Manifesto said they will "reform the tax system including a consumption tax increase"
(p.8 headeline). However, they won!

RK:

LDP leaders had long said it would raise the tax at some point. Many said it needed to cut spending first, e.g. Koizumi. Unlike Kan, the LDP did not propose an immediate rise during the 2010 campaign, whereas Kan initially spoke of raising the tax by April 2012.

Beside the LDP did not win, the DPJ lost. This is not just semantics. In the PR segement, both parties lost votes and seats to the anti-tax Your Party, but Your Party took more votes from the DPJ than from the LDP (DPJ down by 4.8 million from 2007; LDP down by 2.4 million). So that helped the LDP relative to the DPJ.
The LDP's share of the PR vote declined to a mere 24% of the vote, down from 28% in 2007, 30% in 2004 and 39% in 2001 (see Figure 1). It won only 12 PR seats, down from 14 in 2007, 15 in 2004, and 20 in 2001. In the district seat segment, all of the LDP's gains came from
29 mostly-rural single-district seats, which have only 30% of the population, but 40% of the district seats.
The DPJ had taken a lot of these seats from the LDP in 2007--when Ozawa dropped the tax hike by the way--and then lost them back in 2010. The LDP's gain of 16 seats in those 29 districts accounted for the entirety of its seat improvement. In the rest of the country, with 70% of the popuation, it did not gain a single seat.

NH:

Firstly, DPJ no longer needs to fight the next election on a tax hike platform. So Noda has put himself in a much better position than Kan in facing the election.
RK:

Do you really think the voters will have forgotten the tax hike by then? Do you think the third force parties will let the voters forget? Do you know of any DPJ electoral strategists who are telling Noda that he's in a better position than Kan?

NH:

The parties destined to win big are not the anti-tax hike parties. They are LDP and the Osaka-Hashimoto group.

RK:

Hashimoto is in the habit of issuing vague pronouncements on certain issues and harder positions on others. As far as I can tell, all he has said is that all revenue from the consumption tax should be allocated to local govenments (as opposed to DPJ stance that it is for social security), but he has opposed Noda's tax hike and the LDP-Komeito-DPJ pact on this hike. Correct me if this has changed. In any case, we'll see how he campaigns. It would be very interesting to see really detailed questioning of Hashimoto voters on why they voted for his party.

NH:

Any major party leader who wants to build up a reputation of being a responsible and a competent manager of the economy will sound more credible if the person speaks the "truth." Otherwise, why did Walter Mondale explicitly say he will raise taxes? Why is Paul Ryan calling for sacrifice?
RK:

How well did that work out for Mondale?

I know of only one case in the OECD--one election in Australia--where a party campaigned on a tax hike and won. There are other cases where candidates opposed tax hikes, won, and then raised taxes afterwards, including Ronald Reagan (who therefore could not win the Republican nomination today).

As for Paul Ryan, most of the sacrifice is borne by the poor, e.g. Medicaid and food stamps, and by some of the elderly (Medicare). The Romney-Ryan plan calls for another round of big tax cuts to be financed by unnamed closing of tax loopholes. The campaign has given strict instructions not to name any. Thus, when reporters ask Romney or his advisers if they will end mortgage interest deduction, they won't say. Will they end tax subsidies for oil and gas industry? They won't say.
Etc. Etc. We'll see how well the Ryan plan for Medicare plays in the must-have state of Florida. The Obama campaign is delighted that Romney chose Ryan.

NH:

Identifying the cause of electoral change is difficult

RK:

I agree, but it doesn't mean that analysts shouldn't try. It's also why politicians (at least in some
countries) hire high-priced consultants to tell them what will work. And, in some cases, explanation is easier than in others. When a politician like Kan is riding high in the polls and then comes out with a tax hike and his ratings immediately plunge at a record pace, it's not implausible to suggest a linkage. Asahi in June 2010 explained Kan's abrupt ratings drop by saying he had "alienated people who oppose a consumption tax increase."

Finally, if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you same the question I'm asking others: do you think the tax hike is a good or bad idea in terms of economic substance, rather than political cost? Also, it would be interesting to see whether political scientists and economists tend to assess the political costs differently. Also, whether political scientists and elected politicians assess the political costs differently. Certainly, the scared DPJers with whom I speak blame the tax hike, among other things, even those who support the hike as a matter of policy.

One question for the political scientists on the Forum.
Regardless of your own assessment of the political costs of the tax hike, how do you think politicians (including backbenchers) in the various parties will assess it? Do you think that politicians--especially backbenchers who spend lots of time going to their districts every weekend to get the pulse of the voters--have a comparative advantage in assessing the costs compared to political scientists?


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

August 31, 2012

[SSJ: 7698] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Krauss, Ellis
Date: 2012/08/31

One small point of response to Richard Katz '

We could easily have a repeat of the 2010 UH election in which, at least in the PR segment, both the DPJ and LDP lose votes to anti-tax (and anti-nuclear?) parties.


ESK: it is very dangerous to make any equivalence between the HOC and HOR elections because their electoral systems are so different. Not only is the HOC's local tier SNTV vs. the HOR's SSD , but the HOC has an Open List PR system vs the HOR's Closed List PR.
Thus the personal vote in the Hoc's PR tier counts for more than in the HOR's where it's the party vote that counts most.

Best regards,
Ellis
Ellis S. Krauss
Professor,
Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies University of California, San Diego La Jolla

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

[SSJ: 7697] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/08/31

Paul Midford wrote:

> I don't think raising this tax is
>nearly as unpopular as some on

> this forum seem to think. In a recent NTV poll, a
razor thin
majority

> of 50.4% opposed raising the tax (versus 36% who
support raising
the

> tax, the rest being undecided).


RK:

Firstly, I take note of comments by Paul and Greg Noble that Noda's approval rating, while low, is not as bad as some other recent PMs. It's puzzling. And we'll have to see the impact, if any, of the territorial disputes.

A July 30 Nikkei poll with similar overall results to the NTV poll showed the division among parties. Among DPJ supporters, 64% were for the tax hike with 30% against. Among LDP supporters, opinions were equally divided at 45%. But, among those who don't support any party, and whose votes will tip the balance in the election, only 30% supported the bills; 57% were opposed. So, Noda could lose votes among opponents while not gaining new votes among supporters.

Meanwhile, the share of voters who support no party rose to 32%. That's the highest level since Nikkei's surveys on this began in 1987. That tops the 27% for the LDP and 18% for the DPJ. Presumably a goodly portion of these are for the prospective Hashimoto party. We could easily have a repeat of the 2010 UH election in which, at least in the PR segment, both the DPJ and LDP lose votes to anti-tax (and anti-nuclear?) parties. As for the single seat districts, I agree with Paul that it partly depends on the ability of the party to field (and recruit from other parties) strong candidates. But 2005 and 2009 showed that SMD seats are a lot less safe for incumbents than they used to be; in a growing number of SMDs, the party and policy matters more than the individual candidate and local interest group support.

If the LDP-Komeito wins big, but fails to cobble together a majority through assorted defections and needs a coalition, it will be interesting to see whom they ally with. Some (like Shinzo Abe and Heizo
Takenaka) talk of a coalition with Hashimoto; others say that most LDP leaders hate him (including comparisons to Hitler) and would rather make the DPJ (or parts thereof) a junior partner. If they did try to ally with "third force" parties, how would the LDP respond if the latter demanded a de facto repeal or delay of the tax hike?

As for the idea that voters support raising the tax in the abstract but not Noda's tax, the same thing was true in 2010. It would not be the first time that voters support seemingly contradictory ideas. According to the Yomiuri, in a June 19 meeting of party leaders--even after polls showed an abrupt plunge of 10-18% percentage points in Kan's approval since he vowed an early tax hike--Kan and his colleagues still told themselves that they would gain voter support by showing themselves more fiscally responsible than Hatoyama. They pointed to polls showing that a majority of voters supported an eventual tax hike. At the time, my comment on this logic was: the voters feel about the tax hike the same way that the young St. Augustine famously felt about chastity: "Lord, make me [fiscally] chaste, but not yet."

By the way, to get the tax hike through the Diet, Noda acceded to the LDP's demand to put to a separate vote (one never held) a proposal for a taxpayer ID. The Finance Ministry once calculated that the ID would eliminate so much tax evasion that it could raise as much money as a 5 percentage point hike in the consumption tax.

One final question to Paul. If you don't mind, can you tell us whether you are for or against the tax hike on economic grounds? I'm asking because I'm trying to test my suspicion that pro-tax analysts unconciously tend to give greater weight to evidence showing low political cost while while anti-tax analysts like me unconsciously do the opposite. Let me be clear: I am not accusing anyone of acting like a lawyer. I am saying that we are subject to unconscious and somewhat unavoidable cognitive biases, and that the best cure, at least for me, is the challenging dialogue that SSJ provides.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

[SSJ: 7696] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2012/08/31

Just a couple of clarification questions that occurred, if I may.


> From: Richard Katz (rbkatz@ix.netcom.com)

1.Mr. Katz wrote--

>In contrast, there is little doubt in my mind that the
severity of the
>DPJ's defeat in the 2010 UH elections was largely due
to Kan making
>the tax hike the centerpiece of his campaign.

If so, why did Kan make the tax hike the centerpiece of his campaign?
Was he, as Noda, "willing to sacrifice his own career and the DPJ's electoral chances"?

Also, the LDP's 2010 Manifesto said they will "reform the tax system including a consumption tax increase"
(p.8 headeline). However, they won!

The Social Democrats pledged not to increase the consumption tax and they lost.


2. Short of a miracle DPJ will lose the next election.
But is that because of the tax hike/ or the debacle within the party, or the current sluggish economy?

Firstly, DPJ no longer needs to fight the next election on a tax hike platform. So Noda has put himself in a much better position than Kan in facing the election.
More importantly Noda's supporters and DPJ party leaders are likely to retain their seats, and the anti-tax hike group is more likely to lose their seats.
This begs the question; are they going to lose their seats because the party passed the tax increase or have they become strongly anti-tax hike because they had little chance of retaining their seats?

The same question applies to parties.

The parties destined to win big are not the anti-tax hike parties. They are LDP and the Osaka-Hashimoto group (and probably the Komeito--but the Komeito can never win big since their supporters are loyal but not growing). The LDP and Komeito helped Noda pass the tax increase and has blood on their hands.
Hashimoto wants to change the consumption tax into a local revenue base. By contrast, none of the fringe parties campaigning on a anti-tax platform are likely to increase their seats, particularly to Ozawa group.

3. My pet point is, which I don't expect to convince anyone, that leaders who want to win power commit to policy leadership (in a competitive party system not like LDP single party rule), which means convincing the voters that unpleasant economic policies are necessary ones. Any major party leader who wants to build up a reputation of being a responsible and a competent manager of the economy will sound more credible if the person speaks the "truth." Otherwise, why did Walter Mondale explicitly say he will raise taxes? Why is Paul Ryan calling for sacrifice?

4. My final point is, in the current Japanese situation of party fluidity, in which the number of parties competing seem to change daily, the incumbents are unsafe, and a huge number of districts are up for grabs, no one can even remotely predict the outcome not even the number of parties running.

>From a technical point of view, identifying the cause
of electoral
>change is
difficult even in a stable party system like the U.S.
And even there, the single best predictor is the economic situation and not any single issue,including a tax increase. (Well, of course slavery in the mid-1880s is a totally different matter) Did H. W. Bush lose reelection because he raised taxes or because the economy didn't pick up? Actually, the economic forecast was rosier than now when Noda took office and committed to tax hikes.

I should stop.

Nobuhiro Hiwatari

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

August 30, 2012

[SSJ: 7695] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/08/30

Thanks to Aurelia for raising this point about whether Noda has violated the
2009 DPJ Manifesto by enacting a law that eventually raises the consumption tax.
I have to admit that I have not taken a close look at how the Manifesto's wording can be parsed, but I think one can argue that Noda did not violate this pledge since he has not raised the consumption tax before July
2013 (obviously the tax rise will not occur until 2014 and 2015).


Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 11:10 AM

[SSJ: 7694] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Aurelia George Mulgan
Date: 2012/08/30

There is an important difference between the DPJ and the LDP on raising the consumption tax issue: the DPJ promised that it would not raise the tax during its first term in office. The LDP, in contrast, pledged that it would. So DPJ voters feel justified in punishing the DPJ for breaking its promise, hence the potentially greater electoral repercussions for the DPJ.

Best,

Aurelia George Mulgan
UNSW, Canberra

Approved by ssjmod at 11:09 AM

[SSJ: 7693] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/08/30

Gregory W. Noble wrote:

Has Prime Minister Noda really chosen a
disastrously unpopular policy? Raising taxes is always unpopular in the short run, but the effect on Noda and the DPJ seems if anything relatively mild...it is fair to say that the DPJ's prospects were already bleak no matter what Noda did about taxes...
RK;

This raises the question that I mentioned before: to what extent does someone's view of the "ought" skew their view of the "is."

Greg Noble thinks raising the consumption tax a la Noda's legislation is necessary and beneficial, and he finds the electoral costs to be minimal.
I think it's the wrong tax at the wrong time (I'll leave to another post what the alternatives might be), and I find the electoral costs to be very high.

Now, I think it's fair to say that Greg and I are both looking at much of the same data, both in touch with politicians, both capable of making sound interpretations, and both conscientious in striving to prevent our value judgments from skewing our perceptions and analyses. And yet we come up with opposite conclusions as to the political cost. I've not seen any good data, but I would not be surprised if there is a significant correlation between analysts'
and policymakers' views of the economic benefit or harm of the tax hike and their view of the political costs (however, there are certainly pro-tax DPJers who are now scared as hell). If so, then how do policymakers make "rational" choices about what is in their own self-interest when their perception of the costs of doing X or Y is skewed by their policy desires, social affiliations, etc. Certainly, key advisers Noda like Sengoku underplayed the costs because of their overconfidence that they could make a coalition with the LDP-Komeito with the DPJ as the senior partner.
Regardless, I truly believe Noda was willing to sacrifice his own career and the DPJ's electoral chances if that's what it took the get the tax hiked.

In judging Kan's unpopularity, Greg points to March
2011 and not the 2010 UH defeat. It is certainly true that, in the wake of 3/11, the media followed the bureaucrats' lead in accusing Kan of making things worse by meddling. I suspect that history will treat him more kindly.

In contrast, there is little doubt in my mind that the severity of the DPJ's defeat in the 2010 UH elections was largely due to Kan making the tax hike the centerpiece of his campaign. He came into office in early June and achieved approval ratings in the high 60s. People were glad to see the end of the Ozawa-Hatoyama regime. Then, Kan came out with the tax hike as his campaign centerpiece and his ratings dropped like a rock. He made history as the Prime Minister who took least time (just a few weeks) to plunge to fewer approvals than disapprovals. The election results were even worse for the DPJ than pre-election forecasts. Moreover, in the PR segment, the DPJ didn't lose votes to the LDP. Rather, both the DPJ and LDP lost votes to Your Party, which opposed the tax hike. Kan's stance repelled tax hike opponents, but didn't gain many additional votes from tax hike supporters. Kan himself said just after the election, "The results were far from what we sought. One major reason was that my remarks on the consumption tax left an abrupt impression to the public and my explanation was insufficient."

Yet, Greg's post never mentions the role of the tax hike or even the defeat of 2010. I have found many other pro-tax analysts discounting the tax hike's role in the defeat.

Should the DPJ do as badly as many DPJers fear (a mid-August Yomiuri poll showed it coming in third behind the prospective Hashimoto party in the PR segment), then I suspect many pro-tax analysts will blame factors other than the tax hike. Meanwhile, anti-tax analysts will blame the tax hike as one of the most important factors. All of this backs up earlier comments that social scientists not only have trouble predicting the future, they also have trouble predicting the past.

Add some other costs to the econmy as the DPJ sacrifices other policies to overcome the negative political impact of the consumption tax hike. Nikkei says a decision on TPP will be put off until next year.
Meanwhile, the press is reporting that the Noda administration may adopt the zero target for nuclear target by 2030 or perhaps some years later. That remains to be seen. Nonetheless, I believe Noda's brusque handling of the nuclear issue due to his fixation on taxes added to the existing public distrust--a distrust much higher than government officials realized. If Japan does adopt the zero nuclear option, some analysts think the impact on GDP growth will be negligible, while others say it could lower 2030 GDP by Y45 trillion from the baseline scenario. (I've found that the more pro-nuclear analysts find a larger impact on GDP than the anti-nuclear analysts, another case of the "ought"
skewing perceptions of the "is.") Yet, social security spending will already be almost Y40 trillion yen higher than now by 2025. If the more pessimistic GDP prognosis is correct, the negative impact on the budget deficit--not to mention people's living standards--could be greater than the gain claimed for the tax hike. (For more on this, Nikkei subscribers can look at
http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20120824D24HH039.htm.)

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:08 AM

August 29, 2012

[SSJ: 7692] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/08/29

Ron Dore wrote:

>I'd like to read about [MOF Vice Minister Eijiro]
Katsu's lobbying for
>the agreement on the consumption tax but the site
Richard Katz quotes
>http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ20
1
>204050061.
>gets me nowhere. Help please. RD
>
>

A very reliable source in Tokyo told me about Katsu mediating between the LDP and DPJ during the final weeks of negotiation before the June vote on the tax hike .

The Asahi piece was a separate matter, a reporter's own analysis about the MOF-DPJ relationship. I just thought I'd pass it along to suggest some of the influences on Noda's thinking about Japan's fiscal situation and his decision-making on the tax hike.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:09 AM

August 28, 2012

[SSJ: 7684] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz (rbkatz@ix.netcom.com)
Date: 2012/08/28


David H. Slater wrote:

>When analysts have to guess at actor's
>preferences... and to isolate single or at least
non-conflicting
>preferences, we have a pretty narrow range of
applicability...
>impossibly elastic definition of "utility," ...
>that we ignore actor's own imperfect understanding...
>

I agree. Even the "thin rational choice theory"--that actors rationally pursue their goals, whether the goals themselves are rational or not--ignores systemic cognitive biases. For example, rational choice theory rests on the proposition that, if someone prefers A to B and prefers B to C, then he must prefer A to C.
Sounds like common sense, but there are all sorts of cases where this does not apply. One classic
example: if A and B are presented separately, people chose A over B; however, if A and B are presented at the same time, there are types of cases where people reverse themselves and prefer B to A. This "reversal of preference" is a cogntive bias that skillful lawyers can use to sway juries regarding the size of compensatory and punitive damages. It is just as "irrational" as paying $400 rather than $300 for the identical TV. But don't people do this all the time when they buy Tylenol at a higher price instead of the generic brand with exactly the same ingredients at a lower price?

Similarly, there are lots of cases where people regularly lie to themselves even when such self-delusion hurts them. In many occupations, people systematically overestimate their skill, e.g. 80% of the people thinking that they are above average. The typical non-professional investor who actively trades stock for himself, thinking he can outsmart the market, does worse than if he engaged in fewer trades. Notably, women investors are less over-confident than men.
People starting small businesses, as well as CEOs, systematically over-estimate their chances of success.
That's bad for the entrepreneurs, but can sometimes be good for the economy. If people were more rational in pursuing their goals, we would not have as many entrepreneurs as we need. The few that succeed create enormous benefits for the rest of us. (It would be interesting to see research on cross-country comparisons of these sorts of cognitive
biases.)

This does not even get into cases where social affiliations or ideology skew perception, where a view of the "ought" skews the perception of the "is."

A realistic view of the limits of rationality does not leave us with nihilism since the cognitive biases can often be mapped and predicted.
This insight is the basis of "behavioral economics."

The rational self-interested actor is certainly part of the picture of human behavior and has proved very useful in economics. However, politics is far more complicated that economics. It needs a more comprehensive view, of which rational self-interest is only part.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report


Approved by ssjmod at 11:03 AM

[SSJ: 7683] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/08/28

I would echo some of what John Campbell said the other day, and question whether what Noda has done in regards to raising the consumption tax is really so irrational, even in terms of the narrow goal of winning reelection.


First, I don't think raising this tax is nearly as unpopular as some on this forum seem to think. In a recent NTV poll, a razor thin majority of 50.4% opposed raising the tax (versus 36% who support raising the tax, the rest being undecided). Moreover, I would question whether this is really a stable majority.
Earlier polling showed that pluralities verging on majorities support raising the consumption tax in the abstract. My understanding of these poll results is that voters have been saying that they support raising the tax in the abstract, but not this particular proposal. In the NTV poll, over 36% of opponents of the tax increase based their opposition on the fact that the number of Diet members had not been lowered at the same time, suggesting that if Noda had pushed this reform through at the same time, he might have reduced this razor thin majority well below a majority, if not below a plurality.

Second, the twisted Diet may have turned into an unanticipated blessing for Noda. By forcing him to get the LDP and Komei to come on board, Noda has effectively neutralized the consumption tax as an election issue vis-a-vis the main opposition party and Komei. The only parties that can run against the DPJ on this issue now are Minna no tou, Ozawa's party, Genzei Nippon, or perhaps Hashimoto's parties, and it is not clear how big a challenge any of these parties can pose (that depends how effectively they can organize and field candidates).  It's also worth noting that the Noda cabinet support ratings have been fairly stable around 25%, which is not high (and is lower than the support rate for the consumption tax increase), but not bad when compared to those of other recent cabinets after a year in office.

Paul Midford
NTNU

Approved by ssjmod at 11:02 AM

[SSJ: 7682] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/08/28

Perhaps Prof Hiwatari is so impressed by the way in which rational choice theorists have illuminated the complexity of Congressional law-making is because, a few statesman like George Mitchell apart, 95% of the participant politicians really are individualists for whom enhancing their own wealth, power and status provides 90% of their motivation. You get a less perfect fit of model to observed reality out of such simple assumptions about politicians' motivations in more communitarian societies like Japan or Italy.

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:01 AM

[SSJ: 7681] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/08/28

I'd like to read about Katsu's lobbying for the
agreement on the consumption tax but the site Richard
Katz quotes
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201204050061.
gets me nowhere. Help please. RD

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:00 AM

August 27, 2012

[SSJ: 7680] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: David H. Slater
Date: 2012/08/27

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
>
> Date: 2012/08/25
>
> Reading somewhat tersely the posts and thus probably
missing the main
> point, I cannot but feel like I am looking at a group
of people who
> are huddled around a combustion engine engine
wondering what good it
> does.


To Prof. Hiwatari--Great image--something like this?
http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/tm
c/lowres/tmcn2188l.jpg
And in the spirit of cartooning each others'
approaches--culturalist
vs. rational choice--I must be the one in the hat.

And I much agree with what I take to be your point: a theory must be evaluated as a function of what you want to explain, or what you are willing to accept as having "explained" a given set of circumstances.

But I am losing some of my resolve in reading Prof.
McKean's
explanations: I thought it was anthropology, not political science or economics, that sought to reveal the underlying logic of social behavior, at least as long as we understand that logics or rationalities--in the plural, as always--are not exhausted by the ends-means utilitarianism that are too often assumed in dastardly perversions of rational choice theory.

And of course, all of us natives are "rational;" the trick is to define which rationality is at work, when and how.

David Slater
Sophia U.

Approved by ssjmod at 10:59 AM

[SSJ: 7679] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Gregory W. Noble
Date: 2012/08/27

This conversation has elicited some interesting posts, not least Meg McKean's timely reminder of the dangers of point prediction and the importance of incorporating relevant context into the decision-making calculus. So let's look at some context.

(1) Is it surprising that a center-left party has increased taxes to support social-welfare spending, especially given a huge accumulation of public debt?
No.

(2) Has Prime Minister Noda really chosen a disastrously unpopular policy? Raising taxes is always unpopular in the short run, but the effect on Noda and the DPJ seems if anything relatively mild. Polls earlier in the year showed that a majority of the public reluctantly supported the consumption tax increase in theory, though they quickly opposed specific proposals. The initial Jiji and Asahi cabinet support polls suggest at most a mild tick down in already low and sagging ratings-but as work by Maeda Yukio, Benjamin Nyblade and others has detailed, recent Japanese prime ministers have all suffered rapid losses of popular support. If anything, Noda has done better than his five predecessors. It is also important to note that the alternatives to rasing taxes were not painless, either: allow the deficit to balloon even further out of control, or cut expenditures ever more deeply in the face of increasing pension and medical costs. Construction companies, civil servants and professors in national universities are only some of the many groups that have already felt the sting of the budget knife.

(3) Has the tax increase inflicted a fatal blow on the political prospects of the DPJ and Noda himself? Again, it is hard to predict the outcomes of specific elections, but it is fair to say that the DPJ's prospects were already bleak no matter what Noda did about taxes: continued economic weakness, the real and perceived failures of the first two DPJ Prime Ministers (including Hatoyama's incredibly inept fumbling on Futenma and Kan's response to the 3.11 nuclear crisis), and above all the huge cohort of weak and inexperienced MPs from the DPJ's smashing victory of 2009 combined to present Noda and the DPJ with the likelihood of a huge and perhaps catastrophic loss of seats anyway. Given that reality, the defection of the ever-troublesome Ozawa Ichiro and his followers, many of whom were unlikely to win reelection anyway, was not completely unwelcome. In addition, the fact that the LDP agreed on the substantive need to increase consumption taxes greatly decreased the DPJ's vulnerability on taxes. The big winner in the next election is likely to be smaller parties rather than the LDP-but again, that was true regardless of the tax issue. So when the dust settles after the next election, it is not inconceivable that the DPJ could be back in power as the largest partner in a coalition government. As for Noda's own position, the chances of him holding on for years or coming back as a future prime minister were never great to begin with.

(4) What about the larger political context-what is the perceived problem for which painful tax increases were seen as one of the answers? Noda is responding to a perceived lack of political leadership and prime ministerial direction in Japan. In that context, championing difficult and controversial policies that promise to advantage the public and the long-term well being of the nation at the expense of specific interest groups and short-term political advantage becomes a sign of seriousness. As Hiwatari noted earlier, politicians seek election, office, and policy. Having achieved the first two, prime ministers are more likely to focus on the latter, especially as they near the end of their time in office. More than other politicians, they are likely to care about how history evaluates them, and in the recent Japanese political context that means showing a degree of seriousness and leadership in handling difficult and controversial tasks. This may also help explain Noda's surprisingly tough stance on maritime sovereignty disputes with China and South Korea. Perhaps the emphasis on strong political leadership is wrong-Arend Lijphart makes a good case for the superiority of consenual over majoritarian democracy, and many Japanese observers criticize the DPJ's approach to the bureaucracy as misguided-but that was and is the context in Japan.

(5) Is Noda's decision to increase the consumption tax explicable only in terms of his own ideological predisposition or pressure from the Ministry of Finance? No. In fact, it represents a consensus emerging after a long and public debate between those in both the DPJ and LDP who believed that Japan should first cut spending and invigorate the economy (including the LDP's Nakagawa Hidenao, former prime minister Koizumi's economic guru Takenaka Heizo, and-at least initially-former prime minister Abe) and those, also in both parties, who contended that growth and austerity alone could not possibly bridge the yawning deficit. The key figure here was the veteran "responsible finance" politician Yosano Kaoru, who held a dizzying variety of financial posts in both LDP and DPJ cabinets. In these debates, alternatives such as increasing the income, estate and property taxes or improving tax collection via creation of a genuine taxpayer ID number also received attention, but with limited exceptions, none garnered a consensus. Similar debates also roiled the business and economics communities, but again something like a consensus has emerged that Japan must begin to do something about the deficit. Talk of capital flight and banking failure, once dismissed as inconceivable in Japan, where Japanese citizens and domestic financial institutions hold the vast majority of debt, is beginning to increase. The IMF and OECD have advocated precisely the path taken by Noda: moderate and staged increases in the consumption tax. As for Noda, his accomplishment was not so much to decide to increase the consumption tax, but to respond adroitly to pressures from both the LDP and from the DPJ's back benchers, making the former look opportunistic and giving the latter a chance to have their say and grandstand to their supporters without ultimately blocking passage of the legislation.

(6) But substantively, isn't increasing taxes in a still weak economy risky and even counterprodutive, as Paul Krugman and Martin Wolf have argued? Evaluating the risks and tradeoffs involved requires a separate conversation, but two points relevant to Noda's decision are worth noting: the increases are modest and delayed, even tardy. The 10% rate will be just half that of the UK (and less than half the average in continental Europe), and will not be reached until late 2015-more than six years after the end of the international financial crisis, and more than four years later than the 2.5% increase pushed through by the Cameron-Osborne government in the UK. Noda's approach can hardly be called "austerian." Indeed, most financial experts are convinced that further tax hikes and expenditure cuts will be necessary. Conversely, if Noda's initiative had failed, it is not clear that another prime minister would have had the conviction, skill and power-especially in the face of a divided government and probably an increasingly fractured party system--to increase taxes before a collapse in confidence and cratering of bond prices led to a full-scale banking crisis.

Approved by ssjmod at 10:57 AM

[SSJ: 7678] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2012/08/27

Meg's post sounds convincing to me. It can be summarized simply as follows: to explain a problem, one can make educated assumptions about what would be rational behavior for an individual or a group, but one shouldn't reach conclusions on the basis of these assumption; test them by probing as deep as possible.
"Legwork" is not a bad word. Some would call it "common sense."

FWIW.

Ehud, A.K.

Approved by ssjmod at 10:56 AM

[SSJ: 7677] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/08/27

Ellis Krauss wrote:

Koizumi's postal privatization I think was multi-pronged...and it would help destroy what he perceived as the evil at the heart of Japanese politics--the old Tanaka/Takeshita faction...I think anyone who interprets Koizumi's goals as only economic is making a mistake...

RK:

I agree completely. I think he was more interested in political reform than economic reform (except insofar as Takenaka finally convinced him to fix the banking crisis). However, he failed to be a transformational leader along the lines of Roosevelt, Reagan and Thatcher, in the sense of constraining not only his own party, but also the opposition, to change their ways. A top aide to Koizumi told me that Koizumi recognized this failure. Sam Jameson's post adds to the evidence.

John Campbell cites Michael Cucek at
http://tinyurl.com/9vfddcc. But I don't understand Michael's logic. I fail to see how accomplishing something that the majority of voters hate is better than not doing anything if your main purpose is to get yourself and your party re-elected.

In my view, Noda did it because the MOF scared the pants off of him, as it had Kan before him: Japan could become the next Greece. This was no time for him to be egoistically thinking about his own career. From my conversations with officials back in 2010, I concluded that this "Greek tragedy" scenario was a view that many of these bureaucrats themselves did not believe to be true, but they thought it was a good selling point.
This spring, the MOF's Eijiro Katsu played Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy in getting the LDP to make a deal with the DPJ. For one man's opinion on the DPJ-MOF relationship, see
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201
204050061.

JC:

Until pretty recently I had thought that Noda's tax hike strategy would be a real plus and probably win the election for the DPJ...
RK:

My own cognitive bias was to give more weight to evidence showing the difficulty of passage than to evidence showing that it could pass.

When Kan campaigned on the consumption tax in 2010, I felt it would lead to electoral disaster. The line from DPJ supporters was that it was such a shrewd move because it took a campaign issue away from the LDP. A political scientist who knows Kan said he felt it would make the party look more responsible. Kan's approval rating dropped like a rock as soon as he made the tax hike his campaign centerpiece. Yet, even after the UH loss, many tax hike proponents insistently denied that the tax issue was a major factor in the defeat. Imagine how different today would be if Kan had managed to overcome the Ozawa-Hatoyama damage and given the DPJ a single-party majority in the UH.

I almost completely discounted the likelihood of a formal DPJ-LDP coalition--something being promoted by some DPJers--and in one of my more intemperate moments--wrote in December 2011 that the tax hike didn't have a snowball's change of passage. My logic was that the LDP had no reason to change as long as its stance as the "party of no" hurt the DPJ more than it hurt the LDP. Mike Cucek argued, correctly as it turned out, that the rise of Toru Hashimoto would change the basis for this logic.

While some people were saying that the LDP was changing its mind on the tax, I resisted the ambiguous evidence of this until mid-April. I then felt that the LDP reversed itself for a few reasons: 1) its obstructionism was now hurting it more; 2) the LDP leaders were fiscal hawks facing great pressure from the MOF who skillfully used the Greek tragedy scenario to scare them senseless; 3) the LDP leaders believed that, if the Diet failed to pass the hike now, it would not get another chance for maybe five years; and 4) the LDP figured it would be far better to have the tax hike pass under the DPJ's watch than under their own.

In any case, I maintained my view that it would be an electoral disaster for the DPJ, despite claims that people would flock to Noda's "politics that can make a decision." Note that he made a decision on one issue and has fudged other crucial issues.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 10:55 AM

August 25, 2012

[SSJ: 7675] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2012/08/25

> From: David H. Slater
> Date: 2012/08/23
>
> Doesn't that pretty much put rational choice theory
out of the running
> as a serious tool of understanding the complexity of
almost any
> social, cultural or political phenomena?


Reading somewhat tersely the posts and thus probably missing the main point, I cannot but feel like I am looking at a group of people who are huddled around a combustion engine engine wondering what good it does.

Before trying to explain my point, let me just say that I am not trying to be a wise ass or to cause any offense

1. I think probably most of us were told when defending our dissertation prospectus, "your answer is only as good as your question." Obviously it is the question that counts. And to my mind "how does rational choice theory explain Noda?" is not a good way to phrase a question.

I tried to explain that there are a number of theories, (or hypotheses if you wish),that can answer Noda's behavior. Some may wish to explain that from a psychological point of view ("a man possessed"?), some may wish to explain that from an anthropological point of view. You can also explain it from a rationalist point of view (which is not rational choice), or you can explain it using rational choice modeling (in which case the questions is likely to become Prime Minister Noda's behavior or party leader Noda's behavior). But if you want to employ political science (or any other
disciplinary) theorizing to answer your question,I think it is necessary that you ask the question in ways that respond to what the theory is suppose to answer.

Of course, not all questions need to be academic, and hence "is Noda rational?" is a legitimate question but it is one that will probably invite answers as good as the question. I think the same can be said with questions like 'is Noda similar (or different) from Koizumi?" If the validity of a theory is the question, the question should address what constitutes the theory that is tested by using Noda's case,including the core tenets, the scope, and the proof of the theory.

2.In a similar vain, whether rational choice is a serious tool of understanding the complexity of almost any social, cultural or political phenomena seems to me to be a (North American) moot question but not a rhetorical one. It's like asking what good an engine does when engines are fit into a variety of mobile and transportable devices.
Rational choice
theorizing is at the core of economic science, and has been widely and successfully used to generate a large number of invaluable insights in political science, particularly in the study of American politics, international politics, and political economy, and the reasoning is spreading to (not retreating from) the study of comparative politics.
Everyone has the right to write off most of the advances in economic and political sciences over the last few decades as rubbish, but in doing so they should be aware that they are making the clam that such developments have added almost nothing to our understanding of the complex social phenomena,

3. Finally,not that it matters, but I would disagree with the rational choice impotence hypothesis. I stand in awe when I think of how rational choice students of Congress have penetrated and explained the messy and complex process of lawmaking that was once thought as something akin to sausage making. The bottom line is,our current day understanding of lawmaking is nothing like sausage making. The same can be said of the workings of international institutions and inter-state relations. More to the point, without rational choice there would be no theory of nuclear deterrence or a rational explanation of war. If you can provide a theory (a theory, mind you, not the theory) that can predict when war is likely to break out, or why weak states may initiate wars (which is ostensibly irrational since they are going to lose), I think rational choice theories are doing pretty well.


Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Institute of Social Science


Approved by ssjmod at 11:53 AM

August 24, 2012

[SSJ: 7674] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Meg McKean
Date: 2012/08/24

David's comments about when rational choice is and isn't useful got me thinking about how to schematize good and bad occasions for using rational choice. I'll try to lay out the situations in which I find it most helpful. And it can be VERY helpful in combination with thoughtful cultural analysis. The two are not mutually exclusive at all.

First, rational choice NEVER has off-the-shelf explanations (have explanations, will find problem to explain). It would be absurd to imagine that any theory is arrogant enough to offer an explanation in advance of a problem!

Second, of course, if one has to infer preferences from behavior (this is guessing at cause from effect), one is creating tautology and doing bad social science.
When one MUST do this for lack of independent information about preferences, one must be prepared to amend the assumptions, the information, the predictions, the model as soon as better information arrives. But doing this can still be helpful because it forces one to be imaginative about an actor's preferences and the constraints s/he faces, and one may discover conflicts and difficulties in the situation just by trying to think through it. We may be doing that with Noda and his taxes.

Third, it is always harder to attempt making point predictions about a single individual actor rather than about a class of actors all facing similar situations.
The point prediction requires that one really have a lot of psychological insight about that particular individual.
Generalizing about a class of people (legislators in this body, merchants who sell food made with subsidized corn syrup, rent-seekers in the timber industry, farmers in an irrigation system) within which there is still room for individual exceptions is a lot safer.

Fourth, rational choice can be quite helpful for working through mysteries when you can be fairly certain about the preferences but find that people with those preferences do not seem to be taking action to pursue them (as compared to situations where you see behavior but do not know about the
preferences and have to invent them). I offer my
favorite example, which
pits good rational choice against bad cultural analysis. Development advisors flying in to Tanzania found two valleys, one with good tree cover and prosperous agriculture, and another lacking both. The snotty advisors told the people in the bad valley they should plant trees (prevent soil erosion, retain water, provide leaf litter as fertilizer, etc). The people nodded yes, we should plant trees on the hillsides around our fields. But they didn't. Next wave of advisors, same advice, same response. So these people said they wanted trees but wouldn't plant them.
Advisors concluded there was a cultural resistance to progress, laziness, lack of understanding of relationship between investment and results, etc. Lots of unflattering conclusions, these people aren't "ready" for modernization.
(And of course we know what David McClelland would have advised -- create focus groups and read Horatio Alger stories to these people to give them entrepreneurial spirit. Makes me vomit.) More thoughtful researchers arrived and actually began talking to the people more, asking them why, learning about the situation. well, it turns out they lived in a kleptocracy run by the landlords, and they didn't own the hillsides themselves, and anticipated that if they planted trees and cared for them to grow them to maturity (a multi-year investment of effort), the local elite would just harvest the trees and sell them for personal income. The investment required would be a donation of labor to people they already hated. They would not be able to capture the benefit of this effort.
These people were rational (and materialistic) egoists par excellence actually. They knew far better than the fly-in-fly-out advisors about progress, effort, investment, results, and probabilities. The remedy would lie not in tree-planting, but in institutional reforms they were too politically weak to accomplish on their own. Hence stasis in a sub-optimal
trap. What rational choice offered here was simply
the dictum that one
should not throw out the assumption that these people are rational and have good knowledge until you've tried everything else. Question other things first. Soak and poke. Above all, investigate rather than reaching premature conclusions.

For me, rational choice's biggest contributions are
two: 1) the collective action insight, which you cannot arrive at without assumptions of rationality, and which explains regrettably much in our lives; and
2) the reluctance to shut down an investigation by declaring that an actor simply must not be rational.
So I defend it as an approach. But note that far from being an alternative to sound empirical investigation and sensitive ethnnography, it requires those things.

For Noda, rational choice offers no quickie answers.
Instead, we have to keep considering alternatives, and at some point get enough information
from him to figure it out. The quick answer (this is
often what people
resort to on North Korea or Iran too) that the actors are just nuts, or nasty, or uninformed, or suicidal, is a surrender rather than an answer.

Best,

Meg McKean

Approved by ssjmod at 11:53 AM

[SSJ: 7673] Noda and rational choice

From: John Campbell
Date: 2012/08/24

I wanted to call the attention of the SSJ community (if that is what we are) to this contribution to the debate by Michael Cusek in his excellent blog Shisaku.

http://shisaku.blogspot.jp/2012/08/why-noda-chose-consumption-tax-or-how.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=emailutm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/OStrU+(Shisaku)

To underline something he implies, an argument that Noda's endorsement of the consumption tax increase was irrational and/or foolish requires consideration of his strategic alternatives. Michael argues that Noda's other two stated goals--restarting reactors and TPP--were hardly a good basis for an election campaign against the LDP. I wonder if anyone has a better suggestion--what would you do if you were Noda, just coming into office?

Until pretty recently I had thought that Noda's tax hike strategy would be a real plus and probably win the election for the DPJ, by putting the LDP in a super awkward position and showing himself as a Prime Minister who can accomplish something important (finally). I hadn't anticipated that the DPJ would disintegrate to the extent it has, which makes the argument moot, but I still think it makes sense.

John Campbell


Approved by ssjmod at 11:51 AM

August 23, 2012

[SSJ: 7671] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: David H. Slater
Date: 2012/08/23

Prof. McKean clarifies the situation for us, again...
She writes
Rational choice modeling is only as good as one's
initial guesses about the actor's preferences, and it's
not helpful in a situation where the actor has
conflicting preferences (which is undoubtedly the case
with Noda and taxes).

Doesn't that pretty much put rational choice theory out of the running as a serious tool of understanding the complexity of almost any social, cultural or political phenomena? When analysts have to guess at actor's preferences (esp. when these are usually only revealed after the fact by actions or in self-serving interviews), and to isolate single or at least non-conflicting preferences, we have a pretty narrow range of applicability. More generally, doesn't the claim to explanatory power here require such a simplification of the flux and flow human behavior (including but not limited to the speculation of motive, impossibly elastic definition of "utility," and that we ignore actor's own imperfect understanding of the world and its various choices...phew...), well, does this not generate a rather arbitrary or self-evident or unprovable explanation? (This is to set aside the claim that a 'culturalist' or 'institutionalist' deterministic argument is any better or worse.)

Even if we imagine that any "explanation" indeed needs to do some of these things--that is, find a way to sort out the complexity into some orderly patterns--there must be some lower limit below which we cannot go without charges of reductionism outweighing possible insight generated through the attribution of 'rationality'?

David Slater
Sophia U.

--
David H. Slater, Ph.D.
Faculty of Liberal Arts
Sophia University, Tokyo

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

August 22, 2012

[SSJ: 7670] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/08/22

To Tom Berger and Rick Katz and Meg McKean and everyone else in this discussion:

I wonder if the only sure thing we might be able to say about all this is what Bismark said:

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.
--Otto von Bismarck

Or perhaps we should modify that (given that we are political scientists who are paid to "see the laws being made and how") to :

Laws are not like sausages; you can try to see how they are made but you aren't going to agree on the taste.

#:=)>
Best,
Ellis Krauss

Read more at
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/o/ottovonbis16
1318.html#yWlmuV1xuKlRgVvu.99

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

[SSJ: 7669] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Krauss, Ellis
Date: 2012/08/22

TO RICK KATZ POST:
RK: In the case of Koizumi, I would say he took a calculated risk to fight for his policy goal. He had not fought, he would havebeen neutered, so he had little to lose. He would rather have gone down fighting than accept being neutered. Beyond that, years of precedent had shown that, when he engaged in "Koizumi theater," couching policy debates as a morality play between the good guys and the bad guys ("forces of resistance"), it boosted his approval ratings. So, his "Hail May pass" of a snap election, expelling postal rebels, appointing assassins, and turning the postal issue into a grand referendum on the whole notion of reform was a calcuated risk by someone quite attuned to public feeling.

ESK: Yes, everything you say about Koizumi is true but I think this is much clearer in retrospect than at the time. I think almost all observers and perhaps Koizumi himself were at least surprised at the size of his victory. Further, I think Koizumi, like Noda, had more than just self-interested goals of victory in the election in mind with postal privatization. It had been his pet issue for 20 years at least.

RK: What is strange about Koizumi is that, having won in a landslide, he did not use his newfound power to push harder for his policy goals. E.g. in the effort to pass the postal bill, he had let it be watered down. He could have restored the original bill. He chose not to.

ESK: I have it on good authority that Koizumi ,after the landslide in 2005, wanted to try to unite the party again. As we saw clearly after his retirement, the reactionary forces were still in the party (and definitely reasserted themselves under Abe). After the election victory, Koizumi also tried to find a compromise between the old LDP "bottom up" and his own style of more "top down" policymaking, as part of that effort to reunite the party. Maybe he wanted to change the LDP more than destroy it after all, once he won?

RK:In the case of Noda, by contrast, one either has to assume complete folly if his goal was self-interested power-seeking, orelse one has to judge that passing the tax was more important to him than either his own power or that of his party. How many people on this list believed in January that prioritizing the tax hike would help Nodaand the DPJ? How many still believed that in April or May?

ESK: Definitely. Noda's goal was one he believed in and that was necessary for the country and its future (we'll see if he was correct; Paul Krugman has been in Japan saying that the timing of the consumption tax increase was bad and may knock Japan back into recession). Koizumi's postal privatization I think was
multi-pronged: he thought it was good for the country, but it also could vindicate him, he had nothing to lose (as you pointed out), and it would help destroy what he perceived as the evil at the heart of Japanese politics--the old Tanaka/Takeshita faction and its influence in the party, bottom-up policymaking, and policies of pork barrel, money, etc. I think anyone who interprets Koizumi's goals as only economic is making a mistake in evaluating him. And maybe that is part of the problem in this discussion: Koizumi cannot be characterized along one dimension of goal-seeking; maybe Noda can?

ESK: Definitely on other social sciences that cannot predict either the future or sometimes even the past well. That's also another way of saying that science makes a lot of mistakes on its way to trying to find "truth." Lots of different analyses, conflict, attacking the accepted wisdom, etc. Accepted paradigms that provide explanations in one era, will be thrown out and replaced in others. Indeed, isn't that part of the scientific method itself? That is what is so ridiculous about the current Republican attempt to cut off funding for political science on the grounds that it "can't predict." They either fundamentally don't understand the nature of science or that's just a cover for their real aim which is to make sure people who can explain what they do don't have the resources to do it.
Or both.
Best regards,

Ellis S. Krauss

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

[SSJ: 7668] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Jameson
Date: 2012/08/22

At PM 08:09 08/22/12 +0900, you wrote:
>From: Richard Katz
>Date: 2012/08/22
>
>
>Ellis Krauss wrote:
>
>>How many people on SSJ would have said that Koizumi
>was not being rational....
>>If Noda's ... actions wound up being popular with the >>public and reviving the fortunes of the DPJ, how many >>of us would say that he was not being a rational actor >>in retrospect?
>>
>
>RK:
>
>Historian Barbara Tuchman makes an important
>distinction in her book >"March of Folly." In a world
of uncerainties, simple >miscalculation is >going to happen a certain percentage of the time and >therefore
>calculated risks by decision-makers are unavoidable.
>There is a world of
>difference between that and what she calls, "folly,"
>i.e. a refusal to
>heed the available evidence due to assorted blinders
>and excessive >wishful thinking.
>
>In the case of Koizumi, I would say he took a
>calculated risk to fight >for his policy goal. He had
not fought, he would have >been neutered, so >he had little to lose. He would rather have gone down
>fighting than >accept being neutered. Beyond that,
years of precedent >had shown that, >when he engaged in "Koizumi theater," couching policy >debates as a
>morality play between the good guys and the bad guys ("forces of
>>resistance"), it boosted his approval
ratings. So, his >"Hail May pass"
>of a snap election, expelling postal rebels, appointing >assassins, and >turning the postal issue into a grand referendum on the >whole notion of
>reform was a calcuated risk by someone quite attuned
to >public feeling.
>What is strange about Koizumi is that, having won in a >landslide, he did >not use his newfound power to push harder for his >policy goals. E.g. in >the effort to pass the postal bill, he had let it be
>watered down. He >could have restored the original
bill. He chose not to.

He also allowed the original bill to be written so reforms would not go into effect until 2017. The result of that blunder came just recently when Koizumi's postal bill was killed with just three LDP politicians (one of them Koizumi's son) voting against the move.

Koizumi's reform law to pay off debts of the Public Highways Corp., shepherded into law by Inose who is now vice governor of Tokyo, is not in the news now -- and there is no likelihood that it will survive until 2040.
Sam Jamesoln

>
>In the case of Noda, by contrast, one either has to
>assume complete >folly if his goal was
self-interested power-seeking, or >else one has to
>judge that passing the tax was more important to him than either his
>own >power or that of his party. How
many people on this >list believed in >January that prioritizing the tax hike would help Noda >and the DPJ? How >many still believed that in April or May?
>
>(How many who thought that the tax hike >was a good idea in substance also thought it would help >the DPJ politically? How many >who thought the tax hike was a bad idea in substance >thought it would harm the DPJ
politically?) > >>From what I can tell, the whole school of "public >choice" theory a la >James Buchanan rests of the notion that political
>actors--whether >politicians or bureaucrats--do not
act in order to >promote the public >good but to aggrandize their own position. To me, it >would seem that >Noda's actions must be taken as either an exception to >this standpoint, >or as evidence that the standpoint is, at best, >incomplete.
>
>However, I truly did expect rational choice proponents >to provide some >sort of explanation that made sense within their model.
>Meg McKean's
>answer, "If one gets a lot of utility out of pursing
>principle, then a >rational actor will do so" strikes
me as tautological, >i.e. he did it >because he wanted to do it. What we want to know is:
>under what
>conditions do politicans who face constant trade-offs
>among several >goals--including both personal
ambition and policy >goals and social
>passions--choose one goal or the other. Under what conditions does the
>>ranking of goals change?
>
>Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see a lot of
>interest among >rational choice proponents on the
list in trying come >up with an >explanation.
Psychologists have shown that it is >typical for everyone, >including social scientists, to weigh more heavily >evidence that >confirms their paradigms than evidence that undermines >it; they often >ignore the latter. And PET scans back up this finding >and help explain >why it exists.
>
>BTW, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel
>Prize in economics >for showing the impact on
economics of certain findings >from psychology, >has pointed out that the rational choice model is
>incomplete even in >explaining how people act to
achieve a given goal, what >Tom Berger >referred to as "thin" rationality. His findings--which >show how people >deviate even from pure instrumental rationality in >predictable ways-- >gave rise to the growing school of thought known as >"behavioral economics."
>He has a chapter on this issue, e.g. the "Allais
>paradox"
>in his recent book "Thinking Fast and Slow," and he
>has the brain scans to back up his psychological experiments. Even the
>>economists, political
scientists, etc. in the audience >to which he
>presented this finding violated their own premises, e.g. "expected
>>utility theory," when he had them
perform an >experiment. When he and his >colleague showed the rational actor proponents that >they did so, >they basically either ignored the contradiction or >presented what Kahneman considered >the equivalent of Ptolemaic epicycles.
>
>EK:
>
>>Another political science problem we
>>share with several other social sciences : we are
>>extremely poor at prediction but better at post-facto explanation.
>>
>
>RK:
>
>I agree and take it further than Ellis. Economists not >only have trouble >predicting the future; sometimes, they can't even >predict the past. This
>is especially true when intepretations of the past
have >ramifications >for policy. e.g. the cause the 1930s Depression or the >apparently purely >factual issue of whether or not there was a major >growth in income >inequality in the US over the past couple decades.
>Worse yet,
>politically liberal economists and politically
>conservative economists >come down on different sides
of what are seemingly >technical issues. I >wonder if there is any literature on how political >outlook correlates >with model preference among political scientists.
>
>
>Richard Katz
>The Oriental Economist Report
>
>


Approved by ssjmod at 11:10 AM

[SSJ: 7667] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: meg mckean
Date: 2012/08/22

Hi Folks,

I have been at 11,000 ft without electicity for more than a week (a voluntary hiking trip in the sierras) so have not responded to this. Sorry for the delay!

Rational choice modeling is only as good as one's initial guesses about the actor's preferences, and it's not helpful in a situation where the actor has conflicting preferences (which is undoubtedly the case with Noda and taxes). So it can be very helpful to ASK the actor about his/her preferences. One problem here in figuring out Noda's priorities is that we haven't asked him, and people around him guess different things.

But rational choice would allow an actor to prefer whatever s/he wants.
(see Michael Laver's original edition of The Politics of Private Desires, in which he points out that someone who gets more utility out of diving into an empty swimming pool head first than out of any other activity would be entirely rational in pursuing that option.
Only once of course, since after the dive there will be no more options anyway.) Self-serving means doing what the self wants, but it does not mean others can handily or casually assume that the self wants re-election, or fame, or lots of money, or lots of money sooner rather than even more money later, or anything else. So Noda may prefer holding the DPJ together, or shooting for a chance at a long-term reputation as the guy who saved the Japanese economy by raising taxes enough to fix a deficit.

The greatest contribution that rational choice might be able to make in this (not very appropriate) situation is that if we experiment with various initial preferences for Noda, and look at his choices, we may be forced to recognize some constraints, or some features of the situation, that we
would not otherwise notice. An example would be
figuring out why
legislators might want a pay increase but vote against giving it to themselves. They may make hidden deals with each other to make sure the minimum necessary number will vote FOR it, so that it actually passes, while those in iffy electoral contests heroically vote against it to impress their constituents, assured all the time that they will get the salary increase it anyway.

To echo Ron Dore's comments, sometimes the effort to use the theory can expose more of the (fun and probably
disgusting) politics to view. Also, if you think overly hard about what I've noted above, you may realize that rationality and sanity are different (an insane person with a poor grip on reality could rationally pursue very nutty preferences; what's rational or not is the pursuit. A sane person with a perfectly sound grip on reality and a good command of cause and effect might be unable to make a choice between two conflicting but equally strong preferences
-- and in desperation might flip a coin).

meg mckean

Approved by ssjmod at 11:09 AM

[SSJ: 7666] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Thomas U. Berger
Date: 2012/08/22

As always, Ellis makes an excellent point. Actions that seem crazy, even fool hardy, may afterwards prove to have been strokes of genius that distinguish the truly brilliant decision maker from his or her run-of-the-mill peers. Koizumi's daring 2005 campaign in which he in effect ran against his own party seemed astounding at the time, but proved highly successful.
He tapped into a ground swell of public dissatisfaction with the status quo, and his ejection from the party of anti-reform rebels, followed by his use of the assassins (shikaku) proved such a great story line that he commanded media attention for months on end and won one of the most resounding victories in Japanese politics. As the old phrase goes, he was crazy like a fox.

Unfortunately, Ellis' argument raises interesting questions that undermine to some extent his subsequent point that social science is much better at postdiction (or retrodiction) than at prediction. It is possible to have quite a debate about why Koizumi went down this path.
The standard explanation is that Koizumi's political instincts allowed him to read the popular mood far better than his rivals. An adherent to rational choice theory would then ask, however, is why did he have a better read? If you assume that we live in a world of perfect information and that all actors have more or less equal capacity for rational calculation, this shouldn't happen. Someone made a mistake, and it clearly wasn't Koizumi. So perhaps Koizumi had access to information that his opponents didn't. Or alternatively, his opponents'
room for maneuver was constrained in a way that his wasn't, perhaps because of the interests to which they were beholden to, and/or because of the structure of decision-making that they had to work with. Of course, people can switch patrons, or change institutional structures, but doing so takes time and energy (again, to use rat-c jargon, there are transaction costs). Or, there is yet another alternative, that there was such large element of uncertainty ("imperfect information") and people were essentially placing bets. Koizumi guessed right.
"Rucky" - peace symbol and smile.

In other words, even within rational choice framework, there are many plausible explanations for this past event. Political scientists can - and no doubt profitably will - spend ages debating them. Historians are no different. Having read quite a bit of history, I have come to appreciate how many great historical debates remain open. Was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan necessary to end the war, or could the same result have been achieved without doing so (as a result, as Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has recently argued so brilliantly, of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria)? Was Japanese Imperialism best understood as a reaction to Western Imperialism, or was it driven by home-grown factors? Or what combination of these factors best explains the event?

To make matters worse, if you were to ask Koizumi, he would undoubtedly say that he acted selflessly out a deep rooted sense of duty to help the country, without any consideration of whether he personally benefited.
Is that a true statement? Or is there a Machiavellian calculation that his selfish personal interests are best served by a stance of selflessness? Or - again - is it a mixture of the two? No way to tell - perhaps even for Koizumi himself, since - as Hitler is reputed to have said - the most effective liar is one who believes his own lies.

There are of course facts. No one can say that Koizumi lost the election in 2005. But trying to figure out why certain events in the social world happened is a daunting task, given that human beings are motivated actors and there is no way of directly measuring their motivations, despite the best efforts of generations of pollsters and political psychologists. All social scientists can do - regardless of whether they are rationalists and culturalists, or adherents of various other paradigms that emphasize psychology or the impact of impersonal structures such as class or the environment - is try to make probabilistic statements about how the variables that they emphasize tend to create certain kinds of attitudes under existing conditions.

All such statements tend to be tautological, since you are trying to infer the causes of action (the independent variable) from the actions themselves (the dependent variable). Peter Cave's comment that rational choice tends to be tautolgical is quite correct - in effect, all too often they "just so" stories that provide post-hoc rationalist explanations of how the elephant got his trunk, or won the election.
Unfortunately, in the past Culturalist explanations were singled out with some justification by Brian Barry and others as inherently post-hoc, tautological form of analysis that reflected the analyst's biases or plain laziness ("they just can't do the math"). Rationalist theories that rely on supposedly easily measurable variables - such as votes or profits - were supposed to remedy the problem. Unfortunately, as many in this thread have already noted, they just don't stand up all that well empirically.

Frustrating, I know, but the best that I have been able to come up with. There are, of course, people who persistently claim they can do more, but their track record on prediction or post-diction is just not very good.

Thomas U. Berger
Boston University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:09 AM

[SSJ: 7665] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/08/22


Ellis Krauss wrote:

>How many people on SSJ would have said that Koizumi
was not being rational....
>If Noda's ... actions wound up being popular with the public and
>reviving the fortunes of the DPJ, how many of us would say that he was
>not being a rational actor in retrospect?
>

RK:

Historian Barbara Tuchman makes an important distinction in her book "March of Folly." In a world of uncerainties, simple miscalculation is going to happen a certain percentage of the time and therefore calculated risks by decision-makers are unavoidable.
There is a world of
difference between that and what she calls, "folly,"
i.e. a refusal to
heed the available evidence due to assorted blinders and excessive wishful thinking.

In the case of Koizumi, I would say he took a calculated risk to fight for his policy goal. He had not fought, he would have been neutered, so he had little to lose. He would rather have gone down fighting than accept being neutered. Beyond that, years of precedent had shown that, when he engaged in "Koizumi theater," couching policy debates as a morality play between the good guys and the bad guys ("forces of resistance"), it boosted his approval ratings. So, his "Hail May pass"
of a snap election, expelling postal rebels, appointing assassins, and turning the postal issue into a grand referendum on the whole notion of reform was a calcuated risk by someone quite attuned to public feeling.
What is strange about Koizumi is that, having won in a landslide, he did not use his newfound power to push harder for his policy goals. E.g. in the effort to pass the postal bill, he had let it be watered down. He could have restored the original bill. He chose not to.

In the case of Noda, by contrast, one either has to assume complete folly if his goal was self-interested power-seeking, or else one has to judge that passing the tax was more important to him than either his own power or that of his party. How many people on this list believed in January that prioritizing the tax hike would help Noda and the DPJ? How many still believed that in April or May?

(How many who thought that the tax hike
was a good idea in substance also thought it would help the DPJ politically? How many who thought the tax hike was a bad idea in substance thought it would harm the DPJ politically?)

>From what I can tell, the whole school of "public
choice" theory a la
James Buchanan rests of the notion that political actors--whether politicians or bureaucrats--do not act in order to promote the public good but to aggrandize their own position. To me, it would seem that Noda's actions must be taken as either an exception to this standpoint, or as evidence that the standpoint is, at best, incomplete.

However, I truly did expect rational choice proponents to provide some sort of explanation that made sense within their model.
Meg McKean's
answer, "If one gets a lot of utility out of pursing principle, then a rational actor will do so" strikes me as tautological, i.e. he did it because he wanted to do it. What we want to know is:
under what
conditions do politicans who face constant trade-offs among several goals--including both personal ambition and policy goals and social passions--choose one goal or the other. Under what conditions does the ranking of goals change?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see a lot of interest among rational choice proponents on the list in trying come up with an explanation. Psychologists have shown that it is typical for everyone, including social scientists, to weigh more heavily evidence that confirms their paradigms than evidence that undermines it; they often ignore the latter. And PET scans back up this finding and help explain why it exists.

BTW, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in economics for showing the impact on economics of certain findings from psychology, has pointed out that the rational choice model is incomplete even in explaining how people act to achieve a given goal, what Tom Berger referred to as "thin" rationality. His findings--which show how people deviate even from pure instrumental rationality in predictable ways-- gave rise to the growing school of thought known as "behavioral economics."
He has a chapter on this issue, e.g. the "Allais paradox"
in his recent book "Thinking Fast and Slow," and he has the brain scans to back up his psychological experiments. Even the economists, political scientists, etc. in the audience to which he presented this finding violated their own premises, e.g. "expected utility theory," when he had them perform an experiment. When he and his colleague showed the rational actor proponents that they did so, they basically either ignored the contradiction or presented what Kahneman considered the equivalent of Ptolemaic epicycles.

EK:

>Another political science problem we
>share with several other social sciences : we are extremely poor at
>prediction but better at post-facto explanation.
>

RK:

I agree and take it further than Ellis. Economists not
only have trouble
predicting the future; sometimes, they can't even
predict the past. This
is especially true when intepretations of the past have
ramifications
for policy. e.g. the cause the 1930s Depression or the
apparently purely
factual issue of whether or not there was a major
growth in income
inequality in the US over the past couple decades.
Worse yet,
politically liberal economists and politically
conservative economists
come down on different sides of what are seemingly
technical issues. I
wonder if there is any literature on how political
outlook correlates
with model preference among political scientists.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:08 AM

August 21, 2012

[SSJ: 7663] Re: Always something happening in Japanese politics!

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/08/21

John Campbell writes:

"Will Hatoyama challenge Noda next?" (2012/08/21)

Perhaps. And you know what they say, "If Hatoyama comes, can Kan be far behind?" A panoply of riches if you ask me. But then they also say, "One mountain pigeon does not a DPJ Indian Summer make."

On a lighter note, the Japanese media is wont to take any ambiguous uttering and spin it into the direst of statements to fit the preferred narrative. Sometimes, the principals actually do speak in code, but just as often what you end up getting is what you really heard.
So I'll believe it when they come out and say it clearly, particularly in the case of this unenthusiastic scion of the Abe-Kishi dynaasty.

Jun

Approved by ssjmod at 11:53 AM

[SSJ: 7662] Always something happening in Japanese politics!

From: John Campbell
Date: 2012/08/21

So "Abe hints at second bid for LDP presidency, alliance with Hashimoto," as the Japan Times puts it:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120821b3.html

I guess he can say that in the event, his rapid plunge in popularity turned out to be no worse than Fukuda or Asou, so why not? I think there used to be a taboo against former PMs contending, but Hashiryuu broke it, and would have won under the old rules (or with a lesser competitor than Koizumi), I suppose.

And teaming up with Hashitou . . . hilarious at first blush but it is true they both hate labor unions.

Will Hatoyama challenge Noda next?

John Campbell

Approved by ssjmod at 10:52 AM

August 20, 2012

[SSJ: 7661] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/08/20

Just a brief sidelight to this debate over Noda, rational choice, culture, etc. How many people on SSJ would have said that Koizumi was not being rational when he defied everyone in his own party (including his former faction leader Mori), public opinion polls that showed that the public was more interested in pension reform than postal reform, and couldn't directly punish the HOC representatives of his own party because they served fixed terms, but nonetheless called a snap general election?

I think this raises some issues in this debate about ex post outcomes and observers views of "rationality" as well. If Noda had implemented his goals as well as Koizumi and his actions wound up being popular with the public and reviving the fortunes of the DPJ, how many of us would say that he was not being a rational actor in retrospect? Another political science problem we share with several other social sciences : we are extremely poor at prediction but better at post-facto explanation, and often engage in "retrospective determinism" (finding what happened to be rationally explanable).

Best,
Ellis Krauss

Approved by ssjmod at 11:48 AM

[SSJ: 7660] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2012/08/20

Jun Okumura wrote:
'I'm now confused.
Really confused. There seems to be nothing close to a consensus as to what "culture" and "rational choice"
mean and what their real-world significance is. So how different is this from playing a single board game using chess, shogi, and xiangqi rules at the same time?'

I don't think I can blame Jun Okumura for being confused. I think what tends to happen within academia is that competing explanations tend to arise, but they tend to arise and develop within different disciplines and sub-disciplines that are largely institutionally insulated from one another and have little or no structural need to engage with one another's explanations - they have their own departments, journals, conferences, etc etc. So polscis, economists, sociologists, anthropologists etc can all go on their own merry way, ignoring one another. Little dialogue takes place and even when it does, it tends to take place at a snail's pace and on the margins of disciplines. There are exceptions, of course, this forum included, but they are just that, exceptions.
Personally I think that the metaphor of one board game (social science) using several sets of rules is an excellent one. It's a very regrettable situation, but at least it illustrates why institutional explanations of social phenomena have great merits!


Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SLLC, University of Manchester

Approved by ssjmod at 11:47 AM

[SSJ: 7657] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Alexander Bukh
Date: 2012/08/20

On 17 August 2012
From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/08/16


Gosh, I never thought I'd get into a spat ahout ratchoi, and its expansion to total tautology, but Alexander Bukh's suggestion that the only alternative is social constructivism stirs me.When I was a teenager I was much exercised by the debate about free will and determinism. Determinism wins of course. But not just social environmental determinism. Genes and the personalities developed (in society, yes, but in culturally highly differentiated families) are also important in making history. Some people are brave, individualistic, original and imaginative and others the opposite.
That's what makes for the fun of politics as opposed to the dreariness of political science.


I fully agree that (American style/positivist) political science is dreary and I am quite grateful to a number of material and mystical actors thanks to whom I am absolved from the the boring task of crunching numbers with the purpose of making some trivial arguments. At the same time, I did not intend to argue that social constructivism is the only alternative to rational choice theory. I would argue that social determinism is probably not too different from structural constructivism but there are other theories including (neo) Marxism, pos-structuralism, gender theory etc.....Social constructivism however has been seen as the main rival of rational choice. One of the main reason for this has been, I believe, due to the fact that the "thin" version of constructivism questions the universality of rationality but at the same time allows for a positivist analysis and as such is not that different from rational choice in terms of
epistemology.


Hiwatari sensei wrote,

"The way I see it, the difference between rationalist views (such as realists or neo-institutionalists) and constructivist views is in the analytical
framework: the former is an economics based positivist approach while the latter is a sociology based interpretive (or post-modern, if you wish).
(A)s such, the rivalry between rationalist and constructivist views is a choice of epistemology and not that rationalists can only explain material interest and constructivists non-material interests"


I agree that rational choice people usually use quantitative methods while constructivists usually engage in a qualitative and interpretative analysis but I have seen qualitative papers using rational choice and constructivist papers using quantitative methods. I do not think that the ontological premises of either of the theories necessarily make the usage of either of the epistimologies impossible. I always thought that the difference between constructivism and rational choice is much more fundamental and rests in their
respective definitions of rationality.

--
Dr Alexander Bukh

Graduate School of Humanities and Social Science, Tsukuba University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:44 AM

August 18, 2012

[SSJ: 7655] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Thomas Berger
Date: 2012/08/18

Dear List Members,

It has been a long time since I have engaged in these debates, and hence I do so with a certain degree of trepidation. In addition to being out of practice, I have also been traumatized by the fierce debates that continue to plague political science on this topic.
Nonetheless, once upon a time I did spend a lot of time and energy on the issue, so I feel vaguely obligated to offer some observations and hope they help illuminate as oppose to cloud the issues under discussion.

Both rational choice and constructivism come in a variety of flavors.
There is "thin" versus "thick" rational choice, and there is "thin"
versus "thick constructivism." There are many variants among them, and at a certain point the two paradigms even blend into each other. They also cut across disciplinary boundaries, although traditionally Anthropology has been very culturalist, sociology has been split between culturalism and rationalism, economics has been dominated by rationalism, and political science in recent decades has leaned strongly towards rationalism - as much for disciplinary as for analytical reasons.

According to James Fearon, Michael Hechter and others, thin rationalism is - precisely as Professor Hiwatari points out - simply the assumption that actors will seek to methodically pursue their goals, whatever those goals may be. Max Weber called this "ends-means rationality" by which he meant that 1) an actor has a goal, 2) he or she then considers the means that they have available to them to pursue those goals, 3) if the means to pursue the goal are lacking, the actor either finds a way to acquire those means, or they change their goals.

It is very easy to explain Noda's behavior using a thin rationalist approach. He may have goals that entail sacrificing his own and his party's interests - such as securing what he believes to be Japan's economic and military future. Alternatively, he may have failed to anticipate the costs of his actions. In either case, Noda's actions are hardly irrational. He would only be acting irrationally if because his individual psychological make-up causes him to ignore the costs of his actions (erroneous decision making due to what psychologists call "value complexity") or because he is operating under cultural-ideological pressures that have the same effect. Thin rational choice theorists tend to discount such psychological and cultural factors, arguing that most actors - especially in modern settings - are unlikely to succumb to such pressures.

Rationalism becomes "thicker" when various other assumptions about decision making are made. These include the assumption that actors maximize their utility (thus implying that - again as Professor Hiwatari notes - that utility is something that can be measured), that they value some goals over others (to use more technical language, that they rank-order their preferences), that decision making is made from the point of view of maximizing the utility of the individual (the assumption of "methodological
individualism") and ultimately, that all people who find themselves in similar situations will behave in a similar fashion. In other words, workers seek to maximize their income, companies seek to maximize their profits, voters the economic benefits they can expect under one government as opposed to another, parties and politicians to gain office, and so on.

Thick versions of rationalism allow for the construction of complex and sophisticated models that can yield insight on various social phenomena (see for example some of the interesting game theory"). They also hold out hope for finding the "holy grail" of social science - arriving generalizable statements about various social phenomena, such as when wars occur, when societies become democratic, the causes of the business cycle, etc. Unfortunately, such thick rationalist models tend to also become more and more abstruse and - in my view - removed from empirical reality. If I wanted to be really snide, I would add that thick versions of rationalism in political science allows its practitioners to ape Economics (what Gabriel Almond once called the "cargo cult" of rationalism - if we act like economics we will get the respect and larger salaries that economists are assumed to enjoy) and it creates significant barriers to entry and insulates the discipline from outside scrutiny, since only the rat-choice cognescenti can make sense of the immensely complex, mathematical models that they create.

Noda's behavior is very difficult - but not impossible
- to reconcile with thick versions of rationalism. As Ed Lincoln pointed out in his original post, Noda appears to be committing electoral suicide and guaranteeing his own removal from office. One could come up with rationalist explanations - that Noda believes that his political career ultimately will be enhanced by following his own convictions, or alternatively that he is really a conservative, not a DPJ, politician who seeks to reconstitute a right of center main stream party even though the DPJ will be destroyed in the process. Such explanations, however, are rather ad hoc in character and ultimately violate the spirit of the larger thick-rationalism enterprise.

I am tempted to say something about Constructivism and Culturalist explanations in general, but I realize that I have prattled on too long. I will just note that thin Constructivism and thin Rationalism are quite compatible with one another. Constructivists accept that people behave rationally much of the time, but argue that their goals and perceptions are powerfully influenced by norms, beliefs and values of the groups to which they belong. The economist Herbert Simon called this "bounded rationality."

Hope this helps.

Thomas Berger

Approved by ssjmod at 11:42 AM

August 17, 2012

[SSJ: 7654] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/08/17


Nobuhiro Hiwatari wrote:
> If being viewed as economically

competent by the voters is critical

> in winning an election it is perfectly rational for
competing

> political leaders to advocate and *realize* such
policies.

>Another theoretical candidate is ambitious politician
theory, which

> expects politicians to climb the party ladder by
showing his/her

> commitment to a certain policy position and winning
their support.

RK:

I do appreciate your effort to place Noda's behavior within some sort of "self-serving rational actor"
framework. However, these explanations are inconsistent with the evidence in this case.

Polls consistently showed that the voters, especially the swing voters, opposed Noda's tax hike, even those who agree that the tax must be raised eventually (raising the issue of possible voter inconsistency or "irrationality"). Moreover, the results of the 2009 UH elections showed that a tax hike hurt the DPJ and forced the eventual resignation of Kan.

As for the second argument, Kan's own fate was just another example of the fact the last several years have shown that PMs who damage their party's electoral fortunes do not last very long.

The only way to make Noda's actions consistent with these two explanations would be to assume, not just a huge miscalculation on his part, but a near-hysterical refusal to believe in what the polls were saying, and what DPJers who visited their districts were saying. To my mind, refusal to heed evidence would smack, not of rationality, but of ideology.

In any case, Noda made it very clear that he was insisting on the tax hike, not to improve the DPJ's electoral fortunes and his own tenure, but in disregard of these considerations. That was because he believed (incorrectly in my view) that passing legislation now was not just necessary, but urgent, for Japan's financial stability at some undetermined point down the road. Delay now risked disaster later. I don't always take politicians at their word, but in this case, it fit his actions. He was clearly willing to fall on his sword to pass this, and force the DPJ to fall on its sword with him. And the Finance Ministry was clearly willing to have Noda fall on his sword over their pet issue.

My own view is that a proper explanation requires a more complete model, one in which politicians care not just about power, but also about policy--just like voters care about policy and values, both interests and passions. It also requires an epistomelogical model in which politicians' judgment calls regarding what policy is "economically competent," as well as power-enhancing, are inevitably seen through the prism of paradigms, some of which are ideologically (and socially)-determined. Politicians not a separate species, limited to a Skinnerian./Benthamite positive/negative reinforcement mode. .

But my own model "preference" is outside of my question. My question was how the "self-serving rational actor" model would explain it.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:41 AM

[SSJ: 7653] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/08/17

Not being a political scientist (sorry, Yves, for deceiving you) or a scientist, I've been content having tossed the "culture crap" stink bomb to watch the rest of the debate from the sidelines, but I'm now confused.
Really confused. There seems to be nothing close to a consensus as to what "culture" and "rational choice"
mean and what their real-world significance is. So how different is this from playing a single board game using chess, shogi, and xiangqi rules at the same time?

Approved by ssjmod at 11:40 AM

August 16, 2012

[SSJ: 7651] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2012/08/16

Granted that Meg McKean or someone else can (and probably will) clarify your puzzle much better than yours truly, allow me to give a response while I'm still possessed with this (hopefully temporary but
definitely) irrational urge to stick my head out answering posts.

The way I see it, the difference between rationalist views (such as realists or neo-institutionalists) and constructivist views is in the analytical
framework: the former is an economics based positivist approach while the latter is a sociology based interpretive (or post-modern, if you wish). The difference is (I'm not sure but going out on a limb) whether the utility function is quantifiable, not whether materialistic or not, or whether one deals with interests and the other preferences. After all, the bases of the utility function is pleasure and pain, which are not materialistic. Also spatial voting theory (which derives from social choice theory), for instance,conceive preferences as a (one-, two-, or
multiple) dimensional space, which means that rationalist theorizing includes preferences.

As such, the rivalry between rationalist and constructivist views is a choice of epistemology and not that rationalists can only explain material interest and constructivists non-material interests. I have not found a case that cannot be explained by both rationalists and constructivists: its just that they entail totally different explanations based on different notions of what can be regarded as data, material,or proof. Hence, never the twain....?


Nobuhiro Hiwatari

Approved by ssjmod at 11:40 AM

[SSJ: 7651] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2012/08/16

A couple of comments, if i may

1. I detect a fundamental misunderstanding of rational choice theory. I am not sure whether I can clarify things but am going to give it a shot.

Rational choice theory is a analytical device, or a perspective, or an epistemology. It is a "theory" in terms of game theory, principal-agency theory, social choice theory, contract theory, etc. etc. It is not a "
theory " in terms of industrial organization theory, or microeconomic theory, or international trade theory, or electoral voting theory, spatial voting theory, or ambitions politician theory, or conditional party government theory, or veto power theory, or liberal institutionalism theory, or structural realism theory, or hegemonic stability theory etc. etc..
However all the latter "theories" assume interactions among rational actors with regard to specified choices and hence they all use rational choice theorizing.

2. Of course, why Noda steadfastly chose to pursue the tax hike can be explained by rational choice epistemology, only if one assumes that Noda is acting rationally. The most obvious explanation is that Noda wants to prove that he is a competent leader. This explanation is within the rubric of electoral voting theory which has proven again and again that the median voter votes according to his/her evaluation of the economy (especially in the context of U.S. Presidential elections). Hence, if being viewed as economically competent by the voters is critical in winning an election it is perfectly rational for competing political leaders to advocate and
*realize* such policies. Note that Noda is the third of the last four PMs to advocate tax hikes and that he successfully passed the bill with the cooperation of his major rivals. Why didn't Tanigaki take Ozawa's populist position? Economic voting theory can explain it in three words, "demostrating economic competence."

3. Another theoretical candidate is ambitious politician theory, which expects politicians to clime the party ladder by showing his/her commitment to a certain policy position and winning their support.
Once, you are elected either by the voters or by your college to higher office in the party or legislature, politicians tend to work hard on their pet issues, or lose the trust of their voters or their colleagues and go nowhere in their political career. The fact that ambitions politicians don't pander to public opinion but work hard to win the trust of their colleagues to reach leadership positions have been proven over and over again. Noda was elected party leader and consequently PM on a tax hike platform, if he wants to maintain control of his party (which is pretty shaky) and/or win the trust of his rivals--Tanigaki and
Yamaguchi-- in passing the bill, changing his position will mean losing control of the party and thrust of the opposition, which spells another Kan Naoto.

My bottom line is, I think you need to be versed in political science theories to explain Noda's behavior as a rational being. A crush course in rational choice "theory" just won't cut it.

Nobuhiro Hiwatari

Approved by ssjmod at 11:39 AM

[SSJ: 7650] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2012/08/16

Allow me to indulge in a probably futile attempt to clarify things.

(1) The original Katz post (according to memory) suggested that Noda's behavior seems irrational according to rationality defined by rational choice theory. My going-off-on-a-tangent addendum was that rational choice theory was not a theory of whether an actor's behavior was rational or not:
it is a theory of what happens if people interacted rationally; rationality defined in terms of the utility the actor derives from obtaining a certain goal. The value of the goal is assigned by the theorist as a postulate and has nothing to do with the actor. So, rational choice is not a theory that explains individual motives or preferences.

(2) If rational choice is not a theory of motives or preferences, it cannot be criticized or dismissed for being unable to explain Noda's behavior.
Might I add, ascertaining Noda's mixed motives is of little theoretical use unless it is applicable to other prime ministers in a certain situation, the payoffs and the situation (rules of the game) being specified by the theorist. If one assigns the payoff structure and clarifies the rules of the game and then tries to figure out what happens as a result of actor interaction, welcome to rational choice theorizing (in which, believe it or not,I don't take part).

(3) Finally, I couldn't understand what Aurelia was referring to by "personal utility (self-interest) defined in terms of a single, uniform variable." All I can say is, surely self-interest is not a synonym of selfishness and is not the opposite of societal well being or common good.

On a more positive note, recent studies by a new generation of spatial theorists (and thus in the Downsian tradition) such as Lawrence Ezrow (2010) and Bonnie Maguid (2007) have argued that it is rational for niche parties to stick to their principles, if they are willing to pay the cost of limiting their size, in the same way that it is rational for major parties pursuing vote/seat maximization (and hence power) at the cost of shifting their policy positions. Their theories have been tested mostly with West European data returning robust results. Being closer to my "thing" the impressive point about this revision of Downs' median voter theorem is the confirmation of the payoff between policy principles and vote (or seat) maximization in democratic party competition: note, however, that both are rational decisions and constitute an equilibrium of sorts when the different types of parties compete with each other. I think these studies question the claim that rational choice theory is incapable of analyzing principled actors.

Again for what it's worth and apologies if i bored your pants off.

Nobuhiro Hiwatari

Approved by ssjmod at 11:38 AM

[SSJ: 7649] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/08/16

Gosh, I never thought I'd get into a spat ahout ratchoi, and its expansion to total tautology, but Alexander Bukh's suggestion that the only alternative is social constructivism stirs me.When I was a teenager I was much exercised by the debate about free will and determinism. Determinism wins of course. But not just social environmental determinism. Genes and the personalities developed (in society, yes, but in culturally highly differentiated families) are also important in making history. Some people are brave, individualistic, original and imaginative and others theopposite.
That's what makes for the fun of politics as opposed to the dreariness of political science.

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:37 AM

[SSJ: 7648] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/08/16

Meg McKean wrote:

Ratcho followers have no trouble
explaining acting on principle. If one gets a lot of utility out of pursing principle, then a rational actor will do so. Ratch does not explain where people's preferences come from.

I want to make sure I understand you, and whether all
(most?) rational choice proponents would agree with your characterizaton of the theory.

Are you saying that rational choice theory can offer us nothing on why Noda chose to pursue the tax hike at the expense of virtually everyhing else, including his own position as Prime Minister, the electoral fortunes of his party, and his interest in other policy goals. That latter would include restarting more nuclear plants (now made more difficult by reports that a DPJ panel headed by Maehara may vow a total gradual phase-out of nuclear power); and Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (now reportedly put off indefinitely)? Are you saying that, all that ratcho can explain is that, having made this choice for some unknowable reason, Noda pursued it as cleverly (rationally) as possible?

Political leaders are constantly faced with the problem of trade-offs among different, often conflicting, goals. If rational choice theory cannot explain, let alone predict, the choices that political leaders make, how is it useful?


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report


Approved by ssjmod at 11:36 AM

[SSJ: 7647] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Alexander Bukh
Date: 2012/08/16

On 15 August 2012
From: Meg McKean
Date: 2012/08/09


Just a moment here. Ratcho followers have no trouble explaining acting on principle. If one gets a lot of utility out of pursing principle, then a rational actor will do so. Ratch does not explain where people's preferences come from. I endorse Hiwatari-sensei's comments on the fact that rational choice should guide one to focus on interactions and choices among strategies, and it accepts the preferences as whatever the actor wants them to be.

Sloppy users of rational choice (including many economists much of the
time) have trouble remembering that utility and preferences need not be materialistic. An egoist pursues the egoist's preferences but those preferences can be anything.


Apologies in advance if this turns out to be a very stupid question-I come from an International Relations background and received my academic training in the UK where rational choice is considered just one of the many theoretical approaches to states' behavior. Thus my knowledge of the rational choice theory is very basic but I always thought that the debate between rational choice and constructivism was predominantly about the nature of actors' preferences. To the best of my understanding, the former define the interests in material terms while the latter argue that interests/preferences are socially constructed as thus can be anything-depending on the nature of the social interactions through which the actors' identities and interests are constructed.

Thus I find the above definition of rational choice given by Prof McKean very confusing as it seems to identify rational choice theory with constructivism, which at least in field of IR is perceived as its main rival. If rational choice and constructivism are identical then what will be their ontological adversary -altruism?

Yours,

Alexander

--
Dr Alexander Bukh

Graduate School of Humanities and Social Science, Tsukuba University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

August 15, 2012

[SSJ: 7644] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Aurelia George Mulgan
Date: 2012/08/15

Applied to politics, rational choice argues that each category of political actor (e.g. bureaucrats, politicians, voters etc.) are motivated by rational calculations of their personal utility (self-interest) defined in terms of a single, uniform variable. Ratchos in political science define 'utility' for politicians in terms of maximising votes in order to get elected or re-elected (Anthony Downs theorised that politicians act solely in order to attain the income, prestige, and power which come from being in office). Any suggestion that politicians are significantly concerned with societal well-being or the common good, or that they are guided by fundamental ethical precepts, is generally dismissed. Indeed, ratchos have tended to reject concepts like 'public service', the 'public interest', and even 'social justice' either on the grounds that they have little, if any, meaning or relevance.

Of course it is possible to widen the definition of 'utility' to mean any type of motivation, including acting on the basis of principle, altruism, the public interest etc. etc. but in this case, the theory risks all potential significance by becoming unfalsifiable.
It would the equivalent of arguing that people act for a motive. Moreover, it would negate the central tenet of rational choice theory is that all human behaviour is dominated by self-interest.

In my view, ratcho theory cannot explain Noda's behaviour because he was acting on the basis of several different motivations (which violates the 'single uniform variable' requirement) and by both personal self-interest and considerations of the collective good (which violates the self-interest requirement): i.e. 1.
he was convinced that raising the consumption tax was the right thing to do for the economy/the budget bottom line (principle) - no matter that he had been originally convinced by the MOF - he was still convinced; 2. he wanted to demonstrate strong and decisive policy leadership to his party and to the wider national electorate; and 3. he wanted to go down in history as the politician who raised the consumption tax (a Kan-like vanity). You might be able to bend the latter two motivations into some kind of 'maximising votes' personal utility maximising explanation if you were a ratcho.


Aurelia George Mulgan

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

August 09, 2012

[SSJ: 7640] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Meg McKean
Date: 2012/08/09

Just a moment here. Ratcho followers have no trouble explaining acting on principle. If one gets a lot of utility out of pursing principle, then a rational actor will do so. Ratch does not explain where people's preferences come from. I endorse Hiwatari-sensei's comments on the fact that rational choice should guide one to focus on interactions and choices among strategies, and it accepts the preferences as whatever the actor wants them to be.

Sloppy users of rational choice (including many economists much of the
time) have trouble remembering that utility and preferences need not be materialistic. An egoist pursues the egoist's preferences but those preferences can be anything.

Meg McKean

Approved by ssjmod at 01:07 PM

August 08, 2012

[SSJ: 7638] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Aurelia George Mulgan
Date: 2012/08/08


Dear Rick,

Your understanding of rational choice theory is correct. Noda may have been acting on the grounds of principle rather than self-interest, something that ratcho's have always had a problem dealing with.
Moreover, rational choice theory leads to single-factor explanations; Noda may have had multiple motivations.


Best wishes,

Aurelia George Mulgan
UNSW, Canberra

Approved by ssjmod at 12:00 PM

[SSJ: 7635] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2012/08/08

correction

P.s In my earlier post i meant "unsolicited" comments instead of "solicited"


NH

Approved by ssjmod at 11:57 AM

[SSJ: 7634] Re: How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Date: 2012/08/08

Although probably irrelevant to the contents of this post, a few solicited
comments:

1. Rational choice theory is not a theory of preferences, but a theory of strategic interaction, meaning the results of interaction among rational individuals. Hence, it is never meant to explain things such as "PM Noda's single-minded devotion to pushing the unpopular consumption tax hike."

2. The standard notion of elected official preference is the "trinity"
theory of reelection, office,and policy, which dates back at least as far as the early Harvard political scientist V.O. Key. It's closest rival is the reelection-only view, most elegantly stated by David Mayhew. Most recent empirical studies of U.S. Lawmakers corroborate the "trinity" theory, implying that elected officials and by extension political parties face a fundamental conflict of interests (or cognitive dissonance, if you wish).

3. What rational choice can explain is the current interaction between the party leaders, which is basically a model of crisis bargaining. In this case, the responses of the leader's party contingents as well as the rival party's members matter and it is basically an informational game. The Japanese media almost abuses the term "chicken game" to describe the current situation, well, that is rational choice theory.

For what it's worth.

Nobuhiro Hiwatari
Institute of Social Sciences

Approved by ssjmod at 11:57 AM

August 04, 2012

[SSJ: 7630] How does rational choice theory explain Noda?

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/08/04

I'm curious to know how rational choice theorists would explain PM Noda's single-minded devotion to pushing the unpopular consumption tax hike.

My understanding of rational choice theory is that it borrows its methodology from economics in which actors try maximize their utility in the narrow sphere of the marketplace, and utility is defined by some fairly well-specified objective function, e.g. firms try to maximize profits, consumers try to maximize materal living standards and so will buy a $300 TV rather than a $400 one if the two are perceived to be identical. In the case of rational choice theory about politicians, as I understand it, the objective function is usually said to be to gain power by getting elected and re-elected, rising in the ranks of their party and office, and being part of a ruling party. Ideology, principles, beliefs are all laid by the wayside.

How can any of this explain Noda's actions? As a result of the tax hike and his mishandling of the nuclear restart issue, the Democratic Party of Japan is headed for a calamitous defeat. Most surveys (as well as my own personal conversations with DPJ and LDP Diet
members) suggests the DPJ would win about 100 seats if the election were held now whereas the LDP would win 200. One first-term DPJ Diet member from western Japan, a genuine reformer, bitterly told me he may need to swtich to Hashimoto's party if he wants to survive the next election. Needless to day, Noda will no longer be head of the DPJ in the aftermath of such an electoral disaster (assuming he remains PM in the run-up to it).
Whether these numbers turn out to be right or not, depends on the Hashimoto party and other factors, but I don't know of anyone who believes the DPJ will win.

That the tax hike would be disastrous for the DPJ was predictable--based on the 2009 results--even if the severity of the disaster was not. One could suggest that Noda miscalculated and thought the tax hike would be a winner for the DPJ because the party could show itself to be responsible. But everything Noda has said about "staking his life"
indicates that, whatever his calculations may have been, he was determined to push through the tax hike at all costs. And the reason is that, rightly or wrongly (wrongly in my humble opinion) he truly believed that a tax hike was the right thing to do for Japan, and that, due to fear of Japan becoming the next Greece, doing so was more important and urgent than either his own future or that of his party, and more important than other vital issues.

For example, Noda said not a word about nuclear energy until after he rammed the tax hike through the DPJ, and then he hastily cobbled together a fig leaf of alleged safety rules in order to restart the two reactors at Oi, but did it in a way that further increased distrust in nuclear power, in the government as a whole, and in the DPJ. But he did so because hiking taxes was his top priority.

So, how does rational choice explain Noda's willingness to sacrifice his own career and his party's fortunes in order to "do the right thing" as he saw it?

If one says that "doing the right thing" is now part of the objective function, then rational choice theory is basically left with saying: "he did it because he wanted to do it." That, to me, hardly seems like a contribution to either explanation or prediction.

BTW, this is not a rhetorical question on my part. I have little doubt that rational choice theorists do have an explanation for Noda's actions; I just can't figure out what it would be. I'm hoping that its advocates on the list can help me out.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:55 AM

August 02, 2012

[SSJ: 7629] Re: Culture, Alliance, Olympics

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/08/02

Addendum to my earlier comment:

If the samples provided by The Daily Show on its July
30 episode are any indication, the non-BBC, non-FT British media did, in fact, react with colorful anger.
See the fifteen seconds Between 1:45 and 2:00 here:
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-july-30-2012/london-galling.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:54 AM

July 31, 2012

[SSJ: 7627] Re: Culture, Alliance, Olympics

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/07/31

Dr. Leheny writes (July 30, 2012):

"That said, the UK's response has largely been mockery, extending not just through the papers and television news reports, but also through the comments first of Prime Minister Cameron and then of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who referred to "this guy called Mitt Romney"
in front of 60,000 people at a pre-opening rally in London.

"And this got us wondering whether this would have been possible in Tokyo. That is, when an American official says something provocative about Japan, the response is usually anger rather than mockery."

Dr. Leheny is implying that NHK announcers and commentators, unlike their BBC counterparts, would have made their anger known had these Olimpyc (not a typo; I just don't want to use the O word without permission) Games been held in Tokyo, not London. He is also implying that Prime Minister Noda, unlike, Cameron, would have dumped harshly on Romney. He is also implying that Ishihara Shintaro, unlike Boris Johnson, would have threatened to smash Romney's gourd if he ever came near the National Stadium.okay, I'll give Dr.
Leheny that one, but give me a break, we're talking about Ishihara Shintaro here. More generally, he is implying that the British tabloids did not display anger but relied solely on their sense of humor, just like their more sober high-end counterparts. (Remember that national newspapers in Japan, with their massive readerships, satisfy needs that are very different from those of FT readers.) More critically, though, he is implying that anger-an emotion-and mockery-a form of expression-are mutually exclusive.

That said, he may be on to something about the Brits, who seen unable to see anything except through the lens of irony. There was an illuminating John Oliver skit on The Daily Show around the rain on the Diamond Jubilee that lathered British irony with a heavy dose of overkill (I use the word in a non-ironic, aesthetically positive, so-was-Mark-Twain sense) American humor. So a more meaningful question might be: Would the leaders, the media, of any country other than the United Kingdom, have acted like their British counterparts?
Bonus points for imagining any other country that would have had its 80-something queen fake a parachute dive in a 007 skit for the opening ceremonies? (Putin, I'm sure would have done it, but he would have made the dive himself.)

Finally, I must remind every of you that the question is moot as far as Japan is concerned. For the kind of mishaps that marred the preparations and the opening ceremonies in London-sorry, Gill, but I cannot tell a lie--would never have happened with us Japanese stage-managing the show. Yes, we are the people that make the trains run on time. And if you don't get that, you don't "get" Japanese culture.

Jun Okumura

Approved by ssjmod at 11:52 AM

July 27, 2012

[SSJ: 7626] Culture, Alliance, Olympics

From: David Leheny
Date: 2012/07/27

Hi everyone,

Not to beat the culture thread further, but a conversation with my wife this morning about Mitt Romney's trip to the UK got me thinking a bit about what might have happened had his visit been to Tokyo.

For those of you who haven't seen the news, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, is on a three-day overseas tour to meet with American allies, and some of his comments about the upcoming London Olympics rankled his hosts and virtually everyone in the British media. You can see coverage at the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/26/mitt-romne
y-london-olympics-gaffe-live?newsfeed=true
) and the other UK papers.

Let me start by saying that I'm a bit surprised and disappointed with London's response. As an American, I find it surprising and even a bit troubling that the UK felt it could host and plan the Olympics without first checking in with us. It's bad enough that we weren't consulted about the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and look at how that turned out.
I'm not saying that having Chris Brown perform a sexier version of "God Save the Queen" or the cast of "Glee"
sing a plucky "Anarchy in the UK" would solve all of the problems of the London Olympics. For that, one would need Blackwater to handle the security arrangements and the National Health Service to be privatized and management to be turned over to Bain Capital. But certainly it would be a start. And I think that Mitt Romney -- who successfully led the Salt Lake City Olympics and who has a very busy schedule -- did something really generous to fly over to London and explain sonorously why theirs will be the worst Olympics ever. One would think a little gratitude would be in order.

That said, the UK's response has largely been mockery, extending not just through the papers and television news reports, but also through the comments first of Prime Minister Cameron and then of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who referred to "this guy called Mitt Romney"
in front of 60,000 people at a pre-opening rally in London.

And this got us wondering whether this would have been possible in Tokyo. That is, when an American official says something provocative about Japan, the response is usually anger rather than mockery. And there's no shortage of available anger against the US in Japan, from the rightists who might applaud a stinging comment from Governor Ishihara or the thousands who cheered the critical references to the United States by left-leaning speakers and artists at last week's anti- nuclear protest in Tokyo. Furthermore, there's no shortage of mockery in the Japanese press, vividly seen in the recent shukanshi reports about Ozawa's embarrassing divorce. Particularly in newspaper cartoons, that mockery does extend to American candidates.

But there's something more clearly even-handed about the way in which Romney's British critics could mock him as, in essence, a boorish dunce, and I'm not sure it's entirely easy to imagine in the case of a Japanese critique of a spectacularly ill-mannered American candidate.
Or is it? I mean, after George Bush vomited on Miyazawa Kiichi, the Japanese press had some fun with the absurdity of that, and maybe this is the same thing.
But my gut is telling me that if an American presidential candidate were to come to Tokyo and express concerns about Japan's preparedness for a major international event, the debate would largely revolve around the possibility that he's right; there would be anger from those defending the preparations, but most of that would likely be described in a sober manner, not in the enthusiastic "go back to the US" language and manner of this case. My gut has notoriously bad instincts, as anyone who has ever looked at one of my NCAA tournament brackets or watched me at a Shakey's Pizza all-u-can- eat buffet can attest, so I might be completely wrong about this.

But if I'm right, I think this is an interesting issue here for culture and politics. If one were to try to explain the UK-Japan difference, one of the first place one might turn would be to an all- encompassing national culture explanation ("Brits love to take the piss out of a critical snob," "Japanese are deferential and/or don't have satire"). And yet a political scientist might instead refer to the different power relations in the two alliances, with Japan basically having an inferior role and needing the US more than the UK does (with some combination of references to NATO, China, and Article IX). That is, the "cultural"
explanation would be something about the national culture of a country, and the "political" explanation would be something narrower and more institutional.

One point I tried -- ineptly -- to make about culture in my last post was that part of what it means to explain something as a result of national culture is to take something -- an event, a practice, a decision -- out of the vast morass of Stuff That Happens In Japan (or
whatever) and depict that as meaningfully and characteristically Japanese, and in so doing, to help to construct or at least further reproduce what we mean by Japanese Culture. But the choice of what we explain or notice isn't entirely innocent; it's shaped by cultural blinders, including ones that emanate from our disciplinary concerns, from the fabric of our everyday lives, and so forth. At least in my sense, a cultural analysis has to be in part an interrogation of what we decide to consider worthy of analysis in the first place.

Again, we don't find it terribly surprising for the most part that US- Japan relations aren't marked by the kind of mockery we see in the recent Romney visit to London. My guess is that this is because of longer-term consequences of the alliance, including the ways in which the United States is represented within Japan.
But I suspect that explanations for the difference would usually revolve around something about the way Brits are or the way Japanese are, rather than the way that the US-UK and US-Japan alliances have structured appropriate and legitimate behavior for Americans, British, and Japanese alike.
Indeed, it's the normalization of certain practices -- London's ridicule of Romney, Japan's solemn if sometimes querulous responses to the United States, not to mention American responses to both, probably more respectful toward London than Tokyo -- that seems to me to be worthy of attention in a cultural analysis.

Anyway, my main point is that I would like people to show Candidate Romney a little gratitude. As president, he would, I assume and hope, also be willing to travel to other countries to explain what they are doing wrong.

Best wishes,

Dave


David Leheny
Henry Wendt III '55 Professor of East Asian Studies Department of East Asian Studies

Approved by ssjmod at 11:51 AM

[SSJ: 7624] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/07/27

The way Ronald Dore rephrased his proposed question regarding the trade-off between missing green house gas targets and shutting down nuclear power plants seems reasonable to me. I hope a polling outfit will pick it up.

I should add that some new polling by NTV suggests that there is not at this point a clear and stable opinion majority against relying on nuclear power in the short-run. Their July poll conducted last week shows a large plurality, but not a majority, opposed to Noda's decision to restart the Oi reactors. It also shows that only a small plurality (of about 2% or within the margin of error) would oppose further reactor restarts, if the new nuclear power regulatory commission, due to be launched in September, judges those plants to be safe to operate. The difference between these two questions suggests many voters opposed Noda's decision because they thought it was too hasty and not decided by the appropriate regulatory body.

Finally, only a minority, although a large minority of 37.4%, support the zero option of shutting down all of Japan's nuclear power plants (presumably immediately).
A small plurality of 40.2% supports the option of allowing Japan's nuclear power plants to be gradually shut down as they reach their service life, and hence the option of relying on nuclear power for 15% of Japan's electricity by 2030. A mere 10.7% support relying on nuclear power for 25% of Japan's electricity needs by replacing some decommissioned reactors. In other words, pronuclear opinion has shrunk to a very marginal minority indeed, but a block ranging up to 40% appears willing to continue relying on nuclear power to a limited degree in the short-run. (That said, there is a methodological problem with this question, since Japanese respondents, when given three answer options tend to gravitate toward the middle answer). This block of voters may be taking green house gas emissions into consideration, along with energy security considerations, although without asking them we cannot know for sure. However, this group's support for running some nuclear plants appears conditional on there being a credible plan for phase out. Without that, there is good reason to think that many voters in this category would join the large zero option minority in voting out candidates who are not sufficiently anti-nuclear. And given that the zero option block is so well politically mobilized, the possibility of another wave election, this time over nuclear power, remains a real possibility.

Regarding Ron's questions about public opinion toward China, I am not doing research in that area, so I cannot make many recommendations. My main two recommendations would be to look at the annual Yomiuri poll on relations with the US and China, which is published in early December, and to loo at the Naikaku fu "Gaikou in kansuru yoron chosa" for questions related to feelings toward China.

Best Regards,

Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:50 AM

[SSJ: 7623] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/07/27

A propos questions asking about pollsters asking about suki na kuni,kirainakuni. (countries you like and those you don't like.) I've since talked to my friend who used to be in charge of the kokuminseichosa, and taught at Jochi. One day a kindly Jesuit priest colleague told him that putting such a question in a questionnaire was -- uncharitable? likely to cause unnnecessary ill-will? an invitation to racism?
poitically incorrect? --- don't know precisely what the argument was, but anyway he dropped it from the next round. Maybe that's Japan's problem, Happo-bijin while actually sleeping only with the United States.
(八方美人 a woman who looks beautiful from every point in the compass.)

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:49 AM

July 24, 2012

[SSJ: 7622] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Harumi Befu
Date: 2012/07/24

Add to your examples, Jeff, the "break-up" of the DPJ.
Groupism? Where?

Harumi Befu

Approved by ssjmod at 11:48 AM

[SSJ: 7621] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Fred Uleman
Date: 2012/07/

We (Japanese consumers) are complaining about the higher electricity charges not because they are higher charges but because we have no assurance that the additional money is being used wisely (e.g., to further the shift away from nuclear and carbon-based).

The building where I have my office is going to see higher prices very soon, and two Tepco people recently spent an hour talking with me (on behalf of the building association) about it. At the end, they mentioned that the new law mandating acceptance/transmission of solar and other sustainable-generated power will add to the bill. To which I replied, basically, "That's okay, because that's for a good cause. Money is not the primarily problem. It's what the money is used for that fuels distrust and resentment." I doubt I am all that exceptional.

- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -
Fred Uleman, translator emeritus

Approved by ssjmod at 11:47 AM

[SSJ: 7620] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/07/24

Just to set the record stright.

Paul Midford said
While I would not necessarily recommend Ron Dore's wording, especially the word "forever," asking respondents whether they are willing forgo using nuclear power even if it means that Japan misses emission targets.

The question I had suggested was

Do you realise that no nuclear for ever means that Japan will miss all the emissions targets it has accepted at climate change conferences? Would that still make it sensible to abandon nuclear power?"

I should have put "no nuclear for ever" in quotes -- i.e. gennpatsu haishi -- not missing targets for ever.

I suppose the fact that nobody has ever asked that question just shows that all those zealous campaigners who helped put global warming on the agenda from the Kyoto Protocol on, have just become too busy organizing people to turn out on Friday nights to frighten the Prime Miinister. Ahime!

While I've got his attention could I ask Paul if he knows of any accessible source for jikeiretsu figures on answers to the question. which are your suki na kuni, kirai na kuni? a propos US and China I have a feeling it was in the 5-yearly kokuminsei chosa, but I on't know whether that is still continued.

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:47 AM

July 23, 2012

[SSJ: 7619] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Gregory Johnson
Date: 2012/07/23

On Jul 20, 2012, at 5:08 PM, SSJ-Forum Moderator wrote:


From: Andrew DeWit
Date: 2012/07/20


Alex Luta wrote":


"Come fall we'll see just how anti-nuclear the Japanese public REALLY is, when they will start having to pay for their perceptually safer, heavily CO2-polluting fossil-powered electricity."

If this is the issue, why didn't/doesn't the government just say so instead of trying to scare people with the threat of shortages?

Andrew DeWit wrote:


I wonder if it's an either nuclear or fossil fuels choice...
Here we are in the midst of an
IT-energy-biotech revolution, and Noda's at work on old-style pork-barrel stimulus package rather than say a big programme of efficiency/conservation retrofits that would have massive multiplier effect in the present as well as reduce energy costs into the future Restart those nukes in Japan, and you likely blunt this country's incentives to move fast in this accelerating industrial revolution. "...
Japan's additional risk is that the incompetence of the political class in the central government leaves it inadequately incentivized to get out of this renewed reliance on gas, oil and coal as fast as possible.
Especially in the wake of Fukushima, Japan should be way out in front of the green revolution.

I can't put this half as well as Andrew has done but I agree completely. This is truly a case in which for Japanese industry and government the Japanese saying "[Being in] a pinch is a chance" really applies. They can whine and reminisce, keep throwing money away to preserve a system that is unsustainable in
seismically-challenged* Japan or they can move forward.
(*Faults are suspected near the Oi, Shika, Tsuruga, and Tomari plants and "There are also NINE faults within the grounds of both the Mihama plant and Monju reactor." My emphasis.)
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201207180073

Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 12:45 PM

July 21, 2012

[SSJ: 7618] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/07/21

Greg Johnson wrote:

"In support of my assertion that the government and KEPCO are guilty of obfuscation and dishonesty regarding the restart of the Fukui reactors, here is an article from the Chunichi shinbun indicating that there is enough capacity without the nuclear restart. .the reason is not the one they providedus, a shortage of electricity."

While I am skeptical of KEPCO and the government's shortage estimates, there is another factor that KEPCO and the government did talk about: supply security.
Even the most optimistic estimates by Iida Tetsunari and others showed supply just barely topping supply.
However, utilities normally budget large excesses in supply to deal with sudden spikes, and more importantly to deal with sudden supply disruptions. The thermal plants KEPCO and others have been using are old, and in any case subject to breakdown. Taking several of them off line for maintenance and keeping them in reserve (after all, what if one of the Oi plants has a problem and has to go off line?) is a reasonable and prudent thing to do. In other words, Kansai could have gotten through the summer without restarting the Oi reactors with stringent conservation measures, but even then they would have been "living dangerously" in the sense that one or more power plant failures or other accidents such as an earthquake could have lead to a major blackout and planned rolling blackouts for weeks after.

That said, it seems evident to me, based on polling data, that Kansai residents were willing to "live dangerously" to avoid a restart of the nuclear plants.
So the decision to restart these two plants arguably did not correspond to the preferences of the electorate.

Best Regards,

Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:34 AM

[SSJ: 7617] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/07/21

As always, Andrew DeWit has written an eye-opening and informative post about the promise of renewable power as a replacement for nuclear power and as an answer to Japan's energy security problems. Especially interesting is his estimate that the Noda administration has budgeted $25 billion for developing renewable energy and energy efficiency.

However, this does not sit very well with the subsequent paragraph that criticizes the same Noda administration for pork barrel politics. This juxtaposition almost seems intended to illustrate the saying that one person's pork is another's strategic investment. I would say the budgeting of $25 billion shows an impressive commitment to renewable energy, as do many of the Noda cabinet's other policies, including moves to separate electricity generation from distribution. While one might hope for an ideal scenario in which all supplemental budget funds would be dedicated to renewable energy, and none for new roads, we cannot expect Noda, especially given how weak his political base is now, to be able to defy political gravity. Moreover, building new roads is not necessarily always bad for the environment or energy efficiency, especially given that Japan's car market was long ago saturated. I would add that the environmental impact of driving is changing as electric cars are spreading with surprising speed (even in Norway not a day passes when I don't see at least one Nissan Leaf on the road, and often two or three). And EVs can be more than another burden on electricity production, as they can help smooth out variations in renewable electricity production by serving as an important reserve storage source.

More generally, Noda's spending priorities begs the question of the orientation of his administration toward nuclear power and energy policy. In my eyes, the jury is still out, at least until next month, but I would say that so far his administration has been more anti-nuclear in important ways than even the Kan administration. After all, despite his famous datsu genpatsu declaration, even Kan insisted that Japan needed to rely on nuclear power in the short-run. The Noda administration moved beyond that position, allowed a nuclear zero for two months, and so far has only authorized the restart of two plants.

Finally, I would suggest that what will promote the switch to renewable energy is not a decision not to restart nuclear plants in the short-run per se, but voters who punish politicians and parties that fail to commit to a credible and reasonably rapid plan for phasing out nuclear power. There are some indications that a failure to adopt a more robust anti-nuclear stance contributed to the recent defections of many DPJ members, and certainly Ozawa's new party seems to be adopting a clearer anti-nuclear stance. Given the losses that people all over Japan have suffered as a result of the Fukushima accident, not to mention the salience of the accident itself, we should anticipate that nuclear and energy policy will be the top priority for many if not most voters in the next lower house election, especially if there are credible anti-nuclear parties and candidate on the ballot.


Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology


Approved by ssjmod at 11:34 AM

[SSJ: 7616] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/07/21

Ron Dore wrote:

"Perhaps Paul Midford, citing all those polls showing how nobly the Japanese would grin and bear it if they had to pay more for non-nuclear electricity, would tell us why nobody has asked: "Do you realise that no nuclear for ever means that Japan will miss all the emissions targets it has accepted at climate change conferences? Would that still make it sensible to abandon nuclear power?"

The simple answer is that there are lots of great questions that pollsters should ask but don't. Some questions are not asked because they are beyond the pale of mainstream debate (e.g. I have never seen a pollster ask whether Japanese support using military force overseas to promote democracy and human rights), but in this case it's just a good question that no one has has apparently bothered to ask (although it is more than possible that I have just missed it). While I would not necessarily recommend Ron Dore's wording, especially the word "forever," asking respondents whether they are willing forgo using nuclear power even if it means that Japan misses its CO2 emission targets would be a good question. Given that the short-run switch from nuclear power plants to CO2 emitting thermal plants has been widely reported in the media, it is reasonable to surmise, as I mentioned in my last post, that most Japanese are prioritizing safety over environmental concerns. I also suspect many respondents would argue that radiation emmissions from nuclear plants do more damage to the environment than
CO2 emmissions (whether that is the case or not is another question).

Dwelling on the word "forever," there is certainly no reason why giving up nuclear power would mean that Japan will miss these targets forever. Even fairly conservative estimates by METI shows that renewable energy (geothermal, wind, and solar), even at current technological levels, cannot only replace the electricity produced by nuclear power, but replace Japan's current electricity production several times over. Getting to these levels is a matter of many years, even decades, but that's no where near "forever."

Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

[SSJ: 7615] Tenure-Track Position in Political Theory at the Johns Hopkins University

From: Erin Aeran Chung
Date: 2012/07/21

*Please circulate widely*

The political science department at Johns Hopkins University seeks an Assistant Professor in political theory. We are interested in candidates in comparative political theory who explore either cross-regional or cross-temporal dimensions of political thought. This includes candidates who explore comparisons between Asian, Islamic, Latin American or African thought and Euro-American theory. We are also interested in candidates who explore patterns of difference and connection between classical Greek or Roman thought and contemporary Euro-American thinkers such as Heidegger, Kafka, Nietzsche, Arendt or Foucault. Other profiles that complement strengths in our current program will also be considered. The theory field at Hopkins, ranked highly in this country, consists of faculty members who explore relays between the ontological, epistemological, ethical, and political dimensions of thought and contemporary issues of political agency, faith, law, gender, race, ecology, pluralism and cross border flows. As a small program in a small university we forge close links with members of this department in other fields as well as in other disciplines. We thus particularly welcome candidates whose work shows promise of intersecting work currently done here in global or comparative politics and who carry insights from ancient or comparative theory into engagements with contemporary issues, including but not limited to those listed above. A candidate should send us a Vita, a writing sample of around fifty pages, and letters from at least three professors.

Please apply online using Interfolio by copying and pasting this url:

http://www.interfolio.com/apply/12878

Candidates who have completed their dissertations will receive priority in our review. The department will start reviewing applications on October 1st and will continue to do so until the position is filled. Hopkins is an equal opportunity employer, and we very much welcome women and minority candidates.

Erin Aeran Chung
Associate Professor
Charles D. Miller Chair in East Asian Politics Department of Political Science Johns Hopkins University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

[SSJ: 7614] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Haddad, Mary Alice
Date: 2012/07/21

Thanks to all for this fascinating exchange about the role of culture in Japanese politics. In a shameless self-promotion, I feel compelled to mention that my new book, which was published by Cambridge this year, Building Democracy in Japan, deals with these issues as its core theme: How does a country democratize not just its institutions, but also its political culture?
The book introduces a theoretical approach that enables us to incorporate culture into our studies of democratization in a rigorous and not-so-squishy way.

To the discussion at hand, I find myself in heated agreement with both Meg and Dave, and most others writing, in thinking that culture is an important context that fundamentally influences what people believe, what they want, and how they behave. That said, figuring out what that culture is is quite
tricky: "American culture" is likely to exert very different influences over an inner-city African American youth growing up in Atlanta than it will over a composting, organic-farming, middle-class, white Seattlite. There is at least as much variation in values and behavior within a cultural grouping as there is between them. Therefore, figuring out what the salient cultural value or behavior ("habit" in Jeff's terms), that is relevant to the question at hand is no mean task. Similarly, rational choice analysis can be a very useful way to examine behavior, but only if one can figure out, a priori to the analysis, what preferences exist among the group being studied, and therefore how choices are influencing outcomes.

To digress slightly to the thread about Arab wishes for democracy, I would be very hesitant to ascribe that motivation to the behaviors that we are witnessing in horror over Youtube. My family and I spent the fall of
2010 in Syria (where my husband is from), not realizing that the country would erupt into a civil war/revolution mere months after our departure. I was not hanging out with soon-to-be rebels, or with political leaders, but rather with fairly "ordinary"
Syrians from all walks of life.

Most of the people that I encountered despised the regime. Syrians had seen their relative status in the world not just stagnate but deteriorate over the past thirty years. They could watch on their satellite TVs how the world was moving forward and they were left behind. Every aspect of life was subject to the arbitrary power of the regime and its friends--you couldn't operate a business or drive a car without paying regular bribes to goons that regularly visited.
Those who were connected to people in power got fabulously wealthy doing nothing. Those who worked their tails off trying to make an honest living were regularly harassed, and sometimes thrown into jail, because of their success.

We won't know the true answer of what the Syrians and others in the region want until people feel safe enough to answer honestly and social scientists can do some systematic research. If I were to speculate, however, I would say that many may answer that what they want is "democracy", but when pressed, they would have no real idea what "democracy" entails. What they really want is a better life. They want to be able to feel safe, live with dignity, and build a good life for themselves and for their children. That is "democracy" for them.


Unfortunately for the Syrians, we don't yet have an example of a country that has made the transition from a forty-year family run dictatorship preceded by French colonialism to a democracy. Fortunately, there are other countries that have beaten the odds. Joseph Grew, US Ambassador to Japan at the time of Pearl Harbor once wrote, "the best we can hope for in Japan is the development of a constitutional monarchy, experience having shown that democracy in Japan would never work." If Syria manages to make the long and difficult journey to democracy, it will surely take a path that will be quite different than the one that Japan has traversed. However, the fact that Japan has managed to build a robust democracy, suggests that, at least in the abstract, Syria and other Arab states might also be able to craft their own versions of states that can help people to feel safe, live with dignity, and build a good life for themselves and for their children. Certainly there are millions around the world praying for exactly that outcome.

Best,

Mary Alice

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

[SSJ: 7613] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jeffrey Broadbent
Date: 2012/07/21

Hi Meg
Thank you for your explanation of the rational choice position on the
habit-following society. I would like to probe this
issue a bit
further. You describe acquiescing to institutional routines as a choice because that yields higher utility or satisfaction to the person. Certainly one could describe that behavior as a choice, but does it really result from a conscious choice? I guess I am asking, what level of conscious cognition and decision is necessary to justify calling an action a choice? One of the famous sociological concepts is Boudieu's habitus, so named because the daily routines and the engaged mind of the doer are pretty seamlessly integrated, without much awareness of other possibilities. If a person grows up in a certain habitus and takes it for granted, can we really say that the resultant behavior is due to a rational choice? Do you see what I mean? It seems to me inadequate to explain a lack of choice as a choice.
True, someone could decide to sacrifice their job and status and quit. A Japanese friend of mine quite his salary-man job to become a Buddhist monk, and never looked back. But I think that for most people, the idea of choice is very distant from their minds. To my perspective, in most Japanese life courses compared to the US, there seems to be relatively little personal, conscious, momentous choosing by the individual. In their broad trends, the US institutions are premised on and work to force individuals to make choices all the time. But Japanese institutions work to discourage the emergence of individual choosing units. This has its parallels at the level of identity. Not to fall back on simple Nihonjinron, but still, as broad trends, I think the evidence shows that the typical Japanese identity is more embedded in the collective notion of "we Japanese" (wareware nihonjin), and the typical US identity is more preoccupied with Number One ("me").
The core element of rational-choice theory is the individual self seeking its own satisfactions. But in Japan, this individual self, while still very much present, is moderated by a stronger identification (compared with the US) with the collective "self" and behaving so that the collective good is attained even at the cost of personal sacrifice. Given all this, I have my doubts that the actual levels of non-choice can be fully explained by even your very flexible version of rational choice theory without imposing a construct that does not fit.

This lack of choosing might help us explain Fukushima.
Here's my
hypothesis: The 1955 ruling triad system, with the nuclear village as one example, includes deeply engrained habit in its roles and relationships that dampens the effect of individual rational choice; it makes group think even stronger at the top in Japan than in the US.
That groupism remains true of most elite ruling circles in Japan, such as university faculty governance councils and company boards of directors. But this habit pattern is breaking down in the political system, for instance with the election of the DPJ and the activism of the local governments in sponsoring alternative energy.
Perhaps all
this indicates a sea change in Japanese culture.

Thanks
Jeff

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

[SSJ: 7612] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jeffrey Broadbent
Date: 2012/07/21

Wow, what a wonderful, detailed, insightful report by Andrew DeWit! I had no idea that the Japanese sub-governments were investing so much in renewables!
To me, this news is a revelation. something very sensible but that I had never expected to happen.
Localities have been leading the way in the US, but now to find them doing so in comparatively centralized Japan on this massive scale is quite astounding. If you don't mind, Andrew, could you please explain a bit of the mechanics of the new feed-in tariff law? Does it provide enough incentive to small alternative energy producers to make their investments after some years pay off or even turn a profit (as is or was the case with the pioneering German law)? Is this new law a major factor in this massive investment in alternatives by localities?
Thanks
Jeff

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

July 20, 2012

[SSJ: 7611] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2012/07/20

For example, Japanese education and employment systems, probably most would agree, discourage individuals from thinking about and acting on their own preferences.
They encourage conforming to the
institutionally-determined path. The US system in contrast emphasizes personal choice all along the way, leading to considerable floundering and seeking after graduation. As a result, in Japanese society, the making of personal rational choices on self interest must occupy much be a much weaker basis of behavior and focus of mental attention compared to the US society.
And correspondingly, in Japan, the acquiescence to institutional routine, to habit, with little effort at choice, must be higher than in the US. The definition of rational-choice seems to assume that non-choice
(habit) is a rare exception in human society. Could rational-choice really lead us to this picture of Japan as a habit-following society?

-----

The above assertion strikes me as too vague and too sweeping to have much meaning. I have two young children in a local Japanese elementary school as 3rd and 6th graders and I deal with Japanese college students at three different universities. I do not see my children particularly deprived of opportunities to make personal choice. Compared to the parochial schools that educated a significant fraction of the children in the Chicago area where I grew up, I would think that my children have rather more opportunity for personal choice in a wide range of areas. I would also wonder how much real personal choice is offered in the US to poor black children in inner city schools or poor white and black children in deprived rural areas.
Judging by what I have been reading about elite American college admissions (Stevens, Creating A Class:

College Admissions and the Education of Elites and other similar works), even (particularly?) at the top end of the spectrum choice exists within narrowly defined parameters.

The college students I deal with at both the top end of the pecking order and those well below the middle of the pecking order do not strike me as being deprived of opportunities to make personal choices. The one area of choice that is much larger in the US than in Japan involves "majors" and whether you switch colleges.
Japan, like Britain, has had department based admission. In both countries, switching "majors" is exceedingly rare. Similarly, in Britain and Japan, there has historically been almost no transfering between institutions although in recent years the dumbing down of the definition of "university" in Britain has resulted in more transfers because a sector that had such mobility is now allowed to claim "university status."

The final year Japanese students I deal with seem to have no shortage of self-interest issues to deal with - to engage in shukatsu or not, to study for this or that qualification exam, to follow college with study at a senmon gakko, and more. If anything, a growing problem seems to be that being spoiled for choice, a growing fraction end up not making any real choice. Similarly, the high separation rate of new hires (generally stated as a third with three years) appears to be in part explained by young people deciding that their self interest is best served by giving up even relative secure jobs with benefits and seeking something more to their satisfaction. When I first came to Japan (1971), your "zemi" professor typically decided your career trajectory.
The pattern is long, long gone except in some niche areas.

"Japan as a habit-following society" strikes me as a prejudicial stereotype rather than a statement of contemporary social reality.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7610] Re: Fukushima and Dr. Kurokawa

From: Hiromichi Watanabe
Date: 2012/07/20

Correction.
The publisher's name is not Iwanami but
Chuoukouronshinnsha. So not Iwanami shinsho but Chuukou shinnsho.

H.Watanabe

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

[SSJ: 7609] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Andrew DeWit
Date: 2012/07/20

Alex Luta wrote":

"Come fall we'll see just how anti-nuclear the Japanese public REALLY is, when they will start having to pay for their perceptually safer, heavily CO2-polluting fossil-powered electricity."

I wonder if it's an either nuclear or fossil fuels choice. The public's rejection of the former certainly is leading to greater reliance on the latter in short run. But at the same time, Japanese central and local governments are pumping an enormous amount of money, via FY 2012 budgets, in renewables, efficiency, storage and next-generation green tech.

Don't forget that in the wake of the March 11, 2011 Fukushima disaster and ensuing restrictions on electricity supply, Japanese prefectures, large cities and other governments have sought to build local resilience and distributed energy. Their incentives include the desire to alleviate undue reliance on highly centralized power generation infrastructure, get around the monopolized utilities, enhance the capacity of local green energy innovation clusters, and maximize local SME, farmer, household opportunities afforded by the national feed-in tariff that came into effect on July 1, 2012.

But their core incentive is the fact that close to 30% of the country's power-generation capacity, nearly 50 nuclear plants, remains off-line in the summer of 2012 due to what seem pretty legitimate concerns over nuclear safety.

In order to cope with the immediate challenge of double-digit power cuts, Japan's local governments increased their energy efficiency and conservation and are deploying as much solar, wind and other renewable generation capacity as possible. The mechanisms they're using in order to achieve these ends include very low-interest loans directed at SMEs in particular, local ordinances and other regulatory changes that simplify procedures for becoming a power producer, special tax measures that enhance economic incentives for businesses to locate solar and other power-generation assemblies in the local community, and an extensive array of subsidies and direct spending that encourage efficiency and the deployment of renewable power. Some of this spending is directed to local government facilities and is used to replace conventional lighting with highly efficient LED lighting as well as install solar capacity on the roofs of public facilities such as schools and event centers.
Other spending is used to defray the costs of area businesses' and residents' purchases of power-generation equipment, energy management systems, LEDs, and other devices for increasing renewable power generation as well as decreasing demand where possible.
Total spending by Japan's 47 prefectures and 20 designated cities (cities with more than 500,000
residents) for renewable energy, efficiency, storage and related innovation in the initial FY 2012 budgets amount to USD 563 million. These figures are being increased significantly at present by a string of supplementary budgets. They were also backed up by at least USD 25 billion in central agencies' FY 2012 spending nationwide on immediate deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as investment in next-generation technology and other measures.
Moreover, the feed-in tariff was expected to cost power consumers roughly USD 2.5 billion to USD 3.8 billion in its initial year, directing these monies to renewable energy producers.

If investing in renewables and efficiency rather than restarting nukes seems absurd, then one might be eligible for a spot in the Noda cabinet, which is at present working, with the LDP and Komei, on a porkbarrel stimulus. Here we are in the midst of an IT-energy-biotech revolution, and Noda's at work on old-style pork-barrel stimulus package rather than say a big programme of efficiency/conservation retrofits that would have massive multiplier effect in the present as well as reduce energy costs into the future.
More road-work just means more cars. That Japan has plenty of room for efficiency improvement is demonstrated, in great detail, the the ACEEE July 2012 International Efficiency Scorecard:
http://aceee.org/press/2012/07/aceee-united-kingdom-top
s-energy-eff

Compare the Noda "pour on the pork and risk Fukushima 2" approach with that of the American Navy, to take just one example. The Navy adopted a new "Shore Energy Management Instruction" on July 10, 2012, one that completely revises their previous management instructions of 1994. The very ambitious goals of the Navy are animated by the concern to reduce energy consumption as well as shift to renewable energy sources. Other motives are the desire to reduce the bases' vulnerability to power outages resulting from natural disasters and accidents (ie, just like Japan's local governments learned from Fukushima). The specific goals of the new management instruction include a 50% reduction in energy consumption by 2020, securing 50% of energy from alternative sources by 2020, making 50% of shore installations net zero energy consumers by 2020, and reducing the energy intensity of operations by 30% by 2015. These objectives for shore installations include the diffusion of smart meters, smart grids, solar energy, energy management systems, and other components of the green city paradigm.
Moreover, these projects come in tandem with a commitment to securing 50% of fuel needs from sustainable biofuels by 2020. These goals have caused considerable political controversy, among conventional-energy sector supporters in Congress, over whether the U.S. Navy, and the military in general, should be involved in seeking to drive the diffusion of renewable energy sources. That the US military elite is willing to risk the criticism of congressional actors is both an indication of their level of commitment to reducing their resource intensity and increasing its sustainability as well, perhaps, as being an indication of the degree of risk they perceive in continued reliance on conventional energy as well as the undue cost of the nuke alternative. The Navy authorities are also quite explicit in their desire to be the source of demand that leverages a larger energy revolution in the American political economy (Washington, like Tokyo, being busy coddling vested interests). Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, and others frequently make reference to the fact that military demand has been critical in previous energy transitions such as from wind to coal and from coal to oil and oil to nukes as well as in the creation of the Internet, the development of global positioning systems, the innovation of flatscreen televisions, and other profoundly disruptive technologies.

Restart those nukes in Japan, and you likely blunt this country's incentives to move fast in this accelerating industrial revolution. That the US military isn't looking to nukes, in spite of intense pressure from that sector and its reps in Congress, to power their bases seems a pretty good indication of which energy options are the most promising. The US military can hardly be labelled "anti-nuke."

Japan's additional risk is that the incompetence of the political class in the central government leaves it inadequately incentivized to get out of this renewed reliance on gas, oil and coal as fast as possible.
Especially in the wake of Fukushima, Japan should be way out in front of the green revolution.

Best,
Andrew


Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

[SSJ: 7608] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/07/20

Perhaps Paul Midford, citing all those polls showing how nobly the Japanese would grin and bear it if they had to pay more for non-nuclear electricity, would tell us why nobody has asked: "Do you realise that no nuclear for ever means that Japan will miss all the emissions targets it has accepted at climate change conferences? Would that still make it sensible to abandon nuclear power?

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:27 AM

[SSJ: 7607] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Meg McKean
Date: 2012/07/20

Thanks Paul!

Just a quick explanation of the Arab example I cited and what it really comes from. I had actually planned to mention the view of American democracy in the era of pluralist scholarship 50 years ago that concluded Americans who didn't vote and didn't participate in politics were content, and only those who had an axe to grind would participate, explaining low turnout levels that concerned the researchers of the time. The problem with this view was the absence of the collective action insight -- people may well see no point in taking individual action to achieve goals that actually require massive joint action, but their inaction does not mean that they are delighted with what they take no action to change.

But I thought the Arab example was more freshly current, and we actually do know more than you might think. I've been dangerously addicted to following the Libyan and Syrian revolutions for the past year (chronicles at the level of individuals), so actually have encountered quite a good deal of evidence that democracy is really what an enormous number of these rebels want (and that goal is also the reason that ex-pats who left for political reasons have returned now to help). But I agree that it will be a while before anyone can do any systematic surveying to find out what portion of the population we might be talking about or what the content of their
definition of "democracy" might be. But it is a
terrific example of how
people won't make the effort while the goal seems hopeless and will throw their very lives into the struggle when it begins to look as if they
(collectively) might succeed. Risking death for a hopeless goal is stupid and pointless. Risking death for a goal that might be achieved (after or even because of one's death) may look worthwhile. That's exactly what countless members of the Libyan FF and the Syrian FSA say when interviewed (and they also talk about democracy vs plutocratic dictatorship too).

Jeff wondered how I might use rational choice to see the controversy over nuclear energy in Japan right now.
Only one simple quick thought about one dimension of this right now (I am on a plane to Tokyo in a few hours so I should really be packing!). The Japanese movement against restoration of nuclear power is similar to the case above -- long after individual community-based movements fought over individual plants, we now have a nationwide movement fighting against startup at each and every plant, and I suspect that's because people who have been against nuclear energy all along now feel there is a chance to stop it. This case illustrates how (a) raw preferences plus (b) observations about the actions of others (where joint action is required for the goal in question) plus (c) statistical odds of success will combine to generate choices about behavior.

I shall rejoin the conversation in a couple of days from Tokyo!

Best,
Meg McKean

Approved by ssjmod at 11:27 AM

[SSJ: 7606] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Meg McKean
Date: 2012/07/20

Hi Jeff --

Your proposal about a habit-following society seems entirely plausible to me, and if you will forgive me I'll phrase it in rational-choice terms: if people feel greater comfort (personal utility -- remember that "utils" are not solely material benefits) -- acquiescing to group pressure, to institutional routine, to passt practice, then they will place higher utility on those options , and they will more often (than people
elsewhere?) avoid the option of being the nail that sticks out. But that's a choice, rather than non-choice. Sticking to routine is a choice even if becomes very habitual.

Individuals within a society differ in the degree of change and disruption they like or dislike. It is entirely plausible that societies differ from each other in the frequency with which the iindividuals in those societies prefer routine over change, compliance and conformity over challenge.

Such observations are perfectly consistent with rational choice modeling.

Meg McKean

Approved by ssjmod at 11:26 AM

[SSJ: 7605] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: David H. Slater
Date: 2012/07/20

Thanks to Ellis Krauss for his comment on "rational choice." I think our difference is besides the point that Curtis wanted to make (which is the culture is not an excuse for doing bad things--which I think we all agree with).

But to clarify, is your point a terminological one; that Curtis' argument, with his desire to find some place where choices can be made in disregard of cultural context, is not an example of "rational choice"? That I misapplied the term to his argument? If so, what do we call such impossible scenarios where choices are made outside of cultural context?

That Meg McKean is able to reconcile choice and culture, where Curtis has to oppose the two terms, is interesting. Two very different uses of the "rational choice" label. Indeed, McKean makes choice dependent upon cultural context (or other exogenous factors), a position that is much more in line with most social science. It is only the folks like Tepco apologists who want to collapse these--not any serious academic position I know.

McKean writes: "Rational choice analysis assumes that preferences and utilities of individuals come from somewhere (exogenous to and prior to the rational choice model) and that cultural values make an important contribution to people's utility functions."


David Slater
Sophia U.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:25 AM

[SSJ: 7604] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: David Leheny
Date: 2012/07/20

Hi everyone -

I've enjoyed these exchanges. I'm sort of in the middle between David Slater and Meg McKean, in that, like Professor Slater, I don't think anyone ever makes a choice outside of a cultural framework, but I agree with Professor McKean about the ideal flexibility of rational choice theory in considering the origins of preferences.

Aside from the larger issues of whether most rational choice accounts do in fact pay careful attention to preferences that can't be meaningfully inferred from formal institutions -- like market rules or electoral systems -- I'd like to raise at least a couple of questions about an illustration that Professor McKean uses to make one of her valuable points.
>
> The study of political behavior used to conclude that
if people did
> not fight for democracy, or did not vote, or did not
engage in
> political action, they were content without it. This
conclusion was
> not informed by rational choice analysis: it was a
very simple
> finding based on superficial observations that
assumed behavior is a
> fair reflection of preferences, and many people took
it as a discovery
> about culture: people who do not fight for democracy
do not value it;
> people who have already fought for it and won do not
need to continue
> to fight for it because they have it. Since then we
have had to turn
> these views upside down. We finally know that people
can DESPERATELY
> want something (a) that they can't get on their own
without numerous
> others making the same choice (collective action
problem), and (b) for
> which they see very low odds of success and very
horrible consequences
> along the way.

> So for decades we all thought Arabs didn't want
democracy because they
> did diddly squat to get it. Now we know that
"institutional
> constraints" can include monstrous dictators who have
armies of hit
> men and a vast network of underground jails for
dissenters, and this
> can silence a population that really wants democracy
for forty years.
> what did it take for us to realize our conclusions
were absolutely
> wrong? Arabs making different choices about their
behavior, making it
> impossible to imagine any longer that they did not
want democracy.

I'm not sure I would count myself as one of the we who thought Arabs didn't want democracy -- or as one of the we who now think that "they"
do. Indeed, I think that one of the points in cultural analysis -- and this is the way I myself would use "culture," not as a thing but rather as shorthand for an interpretive approach or epistemology -- is that we have to pay careful attention to the construction of categories and the ascription of intentionality.

I don't think, for example, that all of the careful and widely read English-language scholarship on the Middle East has assumed that there's a kind of collective Arab will or predisposition toward something or another.
Countless scholars on the middle east over the past few decades have challenged the idea that there's a singular Arab perspective or position that defines behavior. Some of the best and most widely-read works on politics in Arab countries in the past couple of decades -- e.g., Lisa Wedeen's "Ambiguities of Domination,"
Marc Lynch's "Voices of the New Arab Public," Tamir Moustafa's "The Struggle for Constitutional Power" -- have instead taken it as axiomatic that specific institutions of coercion have had profound consequences for the strategic activities and identity construction of citizens themselves, with different effects in different places.
Certainly, the absence of democratic revolutions can't be taken as the absence of interest in democracy.

But I think that they'd be just as loath to take the Arab Spring as evidence that "Arabs want democracy," at least as an expression of overall collective will. The uprisings may lead to democracy or may not, but I think the assumption of many who study and write about the Middle East would be that the uprisings are, like most such social revolutions, complex combinations of social and political action directed at a number of goals, democratization being one of them but sitting alongside greater representation of religious, business, ethnic, or other interests, including in ways that wouldn't necessarily meet a textbook definition of democracy.

Indeed, I think that for many of us who think of ourselves as working with culture or approaching things using interpretive perspectives, part of the question would be about the cultural framing of "Arabs" as a group with a collective interest, as well as "democracy" as a clear goal and object of action/desire/etc. I would in fact raise the same set of concerns about the United States; put frankly, I'm not always sure how great the "American" commitment to "democracy" is, given the myriad ways in which American democracy is itself understood and Americans are defined, so that efforts to pull names from voter lists and the use of "harsh interrogation techniques" are both normalized by many who are as "American" as I as being essential to the safety and security of our freedoms and liberties. I know most Americans, if polled, would say they support democracy, but I'm not sure the system most would describe would correspond to a version that might appear in the APSR. The interesting thing is that so many things that I myself might not define as democratic would be taken so easily and unproblematically by others as being exactly that.
And that strikes me as being a cultural phenomenon, the construction of meanings by different actors (me, other
Americans) in ways that allow us to attach value and legitimacy to certain goals and actions through their framing. It certainly does, as Professor McKean suggests, mean that simple explanations of political behavior have to be dropped, but I think they also militate toward caution in the framing of questions and problems.

This, I think, gets us back to the discomfort raised by the Kurokawa comment. I don't really have a dog in the race over whether the Fukushima disaster can be ascribed to "Japanese culture" -- though it wouldn't be the first place I'd look, and actually not in my top thirty options -- but rather about the occasional framing of a certain set of practices as "Japanese" or not. Deference to authority, unwillingess to challenge others -- basically, all that stuff describes me on a bad day. Or a good one. I've no doubt that were I working at the Fukushima plant on March 11th or for TEPCO in the years leading up to it, things would have gone equally badly. So I'm less interested in Mr.
Kurokawa's comment that this came out of Japanese culture, as that's not what the report seems to indicate (admittedly, I've read less than a third of the Japanese report so far), than in the fact that that particular explanation was available to him as something that might be shared with foreign readers.
It's that reliable availability of "Japanese culture"
as a thing, the monster up on the hillside ready to come down and terrorize the townspeople (to paraphrase Mos Def), that's pretty interesting to me, as well as the fact that the easily available counter-arguments reflect not some sort of inherent risk in nuclear power but rather the individual mistakes (human error) or institutional configurations that mess up our ability to manage that risk.

Best wishes,

Dave

Approved by ssjmod at 11:25 AM

[SSJ: 7603] Re: Fukushima and Dr. Kurokawa

From: Earl H. Kinmonth
Date: 2012/07/20

As one commentator noted, the cultural argument allows the claim that nuclear power is safe as long as you do not have it in the peculiar Japanese cultural context.

I have been "amused" to see English language media (The Guardian, for
example) that has run scores of articles explaining common social phenomenon as seen in Japan (low birth rates, for example) in terms of allegedly peculiar Japanese social and cultural attributes suddenly running articles that reject the cultural explanation for Fukushima. I have suggested to students that this contradiction results because of doubts about the overall safety of nuclear power generation. If the cultural argument is allowed to stand, it is in effect saying that nuclear power generation is basically safe as long as you have it outside the peculiar Japanese cultural context. So, media that seem to revel in articles that assert Japanese cultural peculiarities suddenly discover that Japanese culture does not in fact explain what happens in Japan.

My own view is that culture should only be used to explain the residual
- what you cannot explain adequately by reliance on widely observed patterns of human behavior. I see little or nothing in Fukushima that can be or should be explained in terms of cultural elements peculiar to Japan. But, I would also like to see some awareness that if culture does not apply to Fukushima, it probably does not apply in many, many other cases where it has been used to explain events or trends seen in Japan.

I would also note that the cultural explanation given in the English language report immediately made me think of the essays in Thought and Behaviour in Modern Japanese Politics by Maruyama Masao. In explaining why Japanese leaders took Japan into a no win war, Maruyama ultimately absolves those leaders of personal responsibility placing the "responsibility" on Japanese culture in terms very similar to the Fukushima report.

Out of curiosity, I checked the age and education of the top figures in the panel that issued the report.
They are precisely of the age cohort and educational background that would have had a high probability of reading (and believing) Maruyama's supremely successful effort to absolve the "prize students" (aka "the best and the brightest") from responsibility for the "disastrous war" by ultimately placing responsibility on Japanese culture. (For a good account of Maruyama's influence on the educated elite in this age cohort, see TAKEUCHI Yo, Maruyama Maso no Jidai, Iwanami shinsho, 2005).

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:24 AM

[SSJ: 7602] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2012/07/20

Being an A.K, over the years I have followed several rounds of lively, interesting discussions about culture as an explanatory factor of events, policies, etc. in Japan.

These rounds of discussions remind me of a response of an old lady to a question in an opinion survey (not related to Japan)conducted in the US in the late 1950s (or early 1960s), regarding toleration.

In response to the often posed question, "what worries you most"? she responded" "worrying is like a rocking
chair: it gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere."

Replace "worrying" with "culture."

My advice: if you want to use culture, define it in details; in particular, distinguish between "culture"
and "tradition."

Have a pleasant, at least tolerable, summer.

Ehud Harari

Approved by ssjmod at 11:23 AM

July 19, 2012

[SSJ: 7600] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jeffrey Broadbent
Date: 2012/07/19

HI
I much appreciate Meg McKean's sensible discussion of the rational-choice perspective as a very flexible conception able to also accommodate cultural definitions of preferences and structural/institutional constraints.

I would be fascinated to hear how Meg would use this perspective to help us understand the Fukushima case.

Just a note on this definition of rational-choice. It causes me to think, well OK everyone has this potential for rationally weighing the alternatives and choosing what best suits their
preferences. But
doesn't this potential have to be socially-nurtured?
For example, Japanese education and employment systems, probably most would agree, discourage individuals from thinking about and acting on their own preferences.
They encourage conforming to the
institutionally-determined path. The US system in contrast emphasizes personal choice all along the way, leading to considerable floundering and seeking after graduation. As a result, in Japanese society, the making of personal rational choices on self interest must occupy much be a much weaker basis of behavior and focus of mental attention compared to the US society.
And correspondingly, in Japan, the acquiescence to institutional routine, to habit, with little effort at choice, must be higher than in the US. The definition of rational-choice seems to assume that non-choice
(habit) is a rare exception in human society. Could rational-choice really lead us to this picture of Japan as a habit-following society?

Thanks
Jeff


--
Jeffrey Broadbent
Associate Professor
Department of Sociology
Institute for Global Studies
909 Social Science Building
University of Minnesota

Approved by ssjmod at 11:23 AM

[SSJ: 7599] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/07/19

Alex Luta wrote":

"Come fall we'll see just how anti-nuclear the Japanese public REALLY is, when they will start having to pay for their perceptually safer, heavily CO2-polluting fossil-powered electricity."

When rates rise it is not at all clear that the Japanese public will accept the explanation that this is due to fossil fuel costs. This is first and foremost due to huge distrust of the EPCOs and regulators.
This huge trust deficit in turn largely reflects the track record of both up to now, and the lack of transparency when it comes to electricity rates.
Indeed, there are other causes behind rising electricity rates, not least of all the cost of cleaning up the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and to a lesser degree the new Feed-in-Tariff for promoting renewables.

As I have posted here in the past, in national opinion polls a large majority has answered that it is willing to pay more for electricity in order to promote the transition from reliance on nuclear power to reliance on renewables. In Kansai polls large majorities have responded that they are willing to spend more for electricity, implement stringent conservation measures, and even endure rolling blackouts in order to avoid restarting nuclear power plants. The public is thus signaling that it is willing to pay a high price for what it regards as a safer means of generating power (and that safety trumps longer term environmental concerns as well).

Finally, it is worth noting that electricity rates have been high in Japan relative to other countries for decades, including compared with countries that burn a lot of fossil fuels, so clearly there are other causes for high rates and rate increases.
Probably the biggest cause is a lack of competition among the regional monopolistic EPCOs. Therefore, perhaps the public will respond to higher rates by demanding a faster breakup of these monopolies,especially the separation of grid ownership from power generation.


Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:23 AM

[SSJ: 7598] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/07/19

I think Meg McKean has done an excellent job reminding us of the fundamentals of rational choice, and especially that culturally influenced preferences can indeed be plugged into a rational choice model, so there need not be any trade-off between them.

"If we start out with a model of what we think people want, and cannot predict their behavior, rational choice analysis HELPS us because the failed predictions indicate that our initial assumptions were wrong (about the utilities preferred by the actors or about the actual options available or about the real payoffs that the individual actors see as consequences of those
options) and send us back to the drawing board."

This is right as far as the model goes, although it is also possible that the rationality assumption itself could be flawed.
As Daniel Kahneman has shown us, the choices we make often deviate from rational choice in predictable ways.
For example, although people are normally risk averse, they often become risk seeking when trying to avoid loss (but not when seeking gains). The difference can be illustrated with the claim made during this discussion that TEPCO executives were only thinking about maximizing company welfare during their tenure and not its long term welfare. While this could be true, it is not a necessary assumption: executives might have taken risks to avoid corporate losses, all the time believing that this is in the company's long-term interest. They could have concluded by realizing that they and their families would suffer long after they left the company if they did something clearly wrong or irresponsible while leading TEPCO.
This could also reflect institutional constraints or perhaps culture at some level, and of course these could be built into a rational choice model. The main problem with rational choice is not the model itself, but the facile assumptions it encourages us to fall into.

"So for decades we all thought Arabs didn't want democracy because they did diddly squat to get it. Now we know that "institutional constraints" can include monstrous dictators who have armies of hit men and a vast network of underground jails for dissenters, and this can silence a population that really wants democracy for forty years. what did it take for us to realize our conclusions were absolutely wrong? Arabs making different choices about their behavior, making it impossible to imagine any longer that they did not want democracy."

While this could be true to a significant extent, we certainly do not "know" this to be true. Nothing that has happened in the Arab world in the past two years tells us much about the preferences of populations in these countries in the past. Moreover, this doesn't even tell us much about the extent to which Arab populations "want" democracy today versus something else. Obviously some do, but overthrowing a dictatorship and wanting democracy are, when we turn off the instantaneous media and pause to think for a moment, can obviously be very different things. People can also want democracy as a means rather than as an
ends: for promoting economic development, getting a foreign power off your back, creating an Islamic state, overthrowing and possibly repressing a minority, etc.

Again, the problem with rational choice is not the model itself, but how easily we project certain values into the model.
The model offers a ready-made narrative that makes this look plausible, but that does not mean that it is.


Paul Midford
Norwegian University for Science and Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:22 AM

[SSJ: 7597] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Greg Johnson
Date: 2012/07/19

In support of my assertion that the government and KEPCO are guilty of obfuscation and dishonesty regarding the restart of the Fukui reactors, here is an article from the Chunichi shinbun indicating that there is enough capacity without the nuclear restart.
http://www.chunichi.co.jp/s/article/2012071890094758.ht
ml

If the reason for the restart is that KEPCO can't make a profit from conventional power or that it would need to raise rates to keep paying for natural gas to an extent that would inconvenience Keidanren members, then that is the argument the government and KEPCO should have made. But the reason is not the one they provided us, a shortage of electricity.

Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:21 AM

[SSJ: 7595] Fukushima and Dr. Kurokawa

From: Ira Wolf
Date: 2012/07/19

Given the discussion of Dr. Kurokawa and the Fukushima report, I thought that those of you who are not familiar with him might find useful this link to the January 2011 cover story of the Journal of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) when they selected him as their "Person of the Year" because of his long efforts as a change agent in Japan. There are probably other writing by or about him that can elucidate his thinking more directly, but this is a start.
http://accjjournal.com/prescription-for-change/

Ira Wolf

Approved by ssjmod at 10:25 AM

[SSJ: 7594] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2012/07/19

To my regret, I don't have time to engage in this discussion as it deserves. But I would really like to plead for one or two points. First, there seem to be two discussions going on, one of which is confusing the other. The first discussion is about Kurokawa and his comments on 'culture'. The second is about whether ANY use of a/the concept of 'culture' for analysis or explanation of what happens in Japan is valid. With regard to the second, please can anyone using the term explain first what concept of culture they are defending or attacking? Without this, I for one find it very hard to find meaning in the discussion. In this respect, I applaud Jeffrey Broadbent for drawing our attention to different ways of thinking about the concept.

On the whole, I avoid the term culture because it seems to me insufficiently precise and results in this kind of 'more heat than light' discussion. And I would certainly be very cautious indeed about ideas of culture that posit it as nationally bounded or ahistorical - in fact I doubt many scholars can be found to defend such a notion these days (even though I think we have to recognise that there are often national forces that tend to shape common patterns of thinking or behaviour - such as education or media, for instance - and that habits of behaviour and thinking can be persistent over time). It seems to me much more fruitful, on the whole, to link habits of thought and behaviour to institutions of various scales and scope, rather than to nations or states. (As - I can't help saying - I tried to do in an article about education in SSJJ last year, along neo-institutionalist lines.)

Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SLLC, University of Manchester
www.manchester.ac.uk/research/peter.cave/=

Approved by ssjmod at 10:19 AM

July 18, 2012

[SSJ: 7593] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Meg McKean
Date: 2012/07/18

Hi all,

I will jump into this one on rational choice versus culture.

Rational choice analysis assumes that preferences and utilities of individuals come from somewhere (exogenous to and prior to the rational choice model) and that cultural values make an important contribution to people's utility functions. Rational choice assumes that people know what they want (this is not actually true all of the time), and that when they know what they want they pursue their preferences rather than run away from them (this seems pretty likely to most of us, right?). Rational choice makes NO assumptions about the content of people's preferences or about the universality of certain preferences -- everyone in these models is entitled to their own. The assumptions we play with in a particular model are guesses, and rational choice theorists know that. The guesses may be wrong, and we can go back and start with different guesses if we need to.
If we start out with a model of what we think people want, and cannot predict their behavior, rational choice analysis HELPS us because the failed predictions indicate that our initial assumptions were wrong (about the utilities preferred by the actors or about the actual options available or about the real payoffs that the individual actors see as consequences of those options) and send us back to the drawing board. This situation -- when people seem to choose what they do not want, or avoid what they really want -- leads us to discover institutional and cultural constraints, leads us to discover the complexities of certain choices, leads us to pay attention to the difference between the value of a payoff and the likelihood of really getting it (Bayesian strategies), and makes us appreciatae the importance of collective choice (other people may screw up my ability to get what I want because they make confounding choices).** Finally, rational choice analysis only works for fairly simple and stark choices -- it falls apart when actors are torn between conflicting preferences, and face enormous difficulty deciding which they prefer.

**This has been an incredibly valuable insight. The study of political behavior used to conclude that if people did not fight for democracy, or did not vote, or did not engage in political action, they were content without it. This conclusion was not informed by rational choice analysis:
it was a very simple finding based on superficial observations that assumed behavior is a fair reflection of preferences, and many people took it as a discovery about culture: people who do not fight for democracy do not value it; people who have already fought for it and won do not need to continue to fight for it because they have it. Since then we have had to turn these views upside down. We finally know that people can DESPERATELY want something (a) that they can't get on their own without numerous others making the same choice (collective action problem), and (b) for which they see very low odds of success and very horrible consequences along the way.
So for decades we all thought Arabs didn't want democracy because they did diddly squat to get it. Now we know that "institutional constraints" can include monstrous dictators who have armies of hit men and a vast network of underground jails for dissenters, and this can silence a population that really wants democracy for forty years. what did it take for us to realize our conclusions were absolutely wrong? Arabs making different choices about their behavior, making it impossible to imagine any longer that they did not want democracy.

Meg McKean
Duke University

Approved by ssjmod at 01:43 PM

[SSJ: 7592] Re: (no subject)

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/07/18

Mike:

You always make too much sense; kill the buzz, you know. No need to follow up on my "culture crap"
comment, I guess.

I would have gone with the Catholic clergy, and Penn State football...

Jun

Approved by ssjmod at 11:35 AM

[SSJ: 7590] (no subject)

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/07/18

Let me expand (expound?) after reading David Morris'
note.

We need to be careful to think about how people obtain culture. Surely job-related behavior is only partially influenced by schooling (in college, "bukatsu") and family. Don't we have a reasonably robust literature (e.g., Tom Rohlen's bank book, but even now examples of low-level convenience store clerks, on and on) illustrating how companies strive to inculcate norms into employees, preferably "green" to make that task easier? So we can talk about responses that are in part culture, but not necessarily "Japanese" culture (non-economists, thankfully, have already covered the ground on career and other incentives). And this culture has a lot in common with other bureaucratic organizations, militaries of all sorts, think boot camp. [My campus is abuts on that of Virginia Military Institute with its multi-month "rat line" system of imbuing newly matriculated students with the VMI culture.] Remember that the utilities are at an extreme of a closed entity with little interaction with "the"
market (whatever that is) in tightly regulated firms with regional monopolies that militate against regional job mobility. My hunch is that even utility engineering contractors, while national in scope, have "EPCO"-specific units and so likewise fail to serve as much of a check (and in any case are far removed from executives, who focus on the regulatory interface).

I can provide tales of how the "Detroit 3" of GM, Ford and Chrysler were also highly isolated -- far less true today -- with virtually no mid-career hiring from outside the industry, an overwhelmingly promote-from-within system and over time with fewer and fewer at the top having either hands-on sales or hands-on manufacturing experience. These firms each developed their own culture, IT and other specialized consultants (and parts suppliers) who worked with two or more could compare and contrast them, from how meetings were conducted and whether that was where decisions were made, to dress code, on and on. There was some commonality across firms, too, all the senior people were part of the Detroit Athletic Club and various charities. Now individuals in these firms were certainly "American" in some vague sense, but what mattered on the margin (pardon my economics jargon) was this internal culture, which reflected what it took inside the firm to get things done and what it took to get promoted (the two were not the same thing!).

I think I posted a query on NBR many months ago, but what are the "keireki" of the top people? -- none from the operational side, right? We can probably find other ways in which these firms are idiosyncratic. Ditto other firms -- every firm in every country! -- Honda with engineers at the top, other firms with a stronger representation "eigyo" (sales) types, others (Toyota until the coup that put Toyoda Akio at the top) where bureaucrats had come to dominate. KFC and McD's with their separate training systems.

So to reiterate: culture, yes, but not "Japanese"
culture.

mike smitka
washington and lee=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:33 AM

[SSJ: 7589] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jeffrey Broadbent
Date: 2012/07/18

Correction: in my last comment, I meant culture "from the outside in"
not "from the inside out."

Approved by ssjmod at 11:33 AM

[SSJ: 7588] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jeffrey Broadbent
Date: 2012/07/18

What a great discussion on the relation between culture and political-economic decisions!
Of course, the diversity of our views shows that the social sciences have no consensual definition of what culture is, how it acts, how to
measure it, or what it causes. The object is vague
and subtle, but
yet somehow does exist. Thinking of culture as creating motivation that then leads to behavior does not lead us to answers in the Japan case, because most Japanese chafe bitterly under their rigid institutional constraints; many would even throw them off if they could, but lack alternatives. In general, this motivational model of culture has been challenged. In some sociological circles it has been replaced or supplemented by a notion of culture "from the inside out,"
that is as behavior informally enforced by constant social pressure and habit.

If we look at culture instead as a set of relational norms that are in place and provide the only mutually-known way of life, like a common language, we may gain some traction both in theory and in the Fukushima case. Research comparing networks among organizations in Germany,the US and Japan involved in the formation of public policy (in this case, labor policy, with data collected in 1989) found that the Japanese polity is thoroughly penetrated and organized by networks of long-term reciprocity, mutual aid. In comparison, such reciprocity networks are virtually absent in the German polity and only present among labor organizations in the US polity. In the Japan case, the reciprocity networks culminate in the state agency mandated to handle this policy field, the Ministry of Labor Labor Politics Bureau. These reciprocity networks channel the flow of information.
Political contention is outside this network and centered in political parties, which are also marginal to the reciprocity network (for Japan analysis, see Broadbent, 2000, Policy Studies). The fact that so many organizations are linked to specific others in a centralized hierarchy of reciprocity quite mirrors Nakane's notion of the "vertical society"
(tate shakai). The reciprocity network pattern only
works between
acknowledged particular others; it is not generalized.
It may have its source in strongly reinforced norms of particular reciprocity, stemming back to village society. It can be called an informal institution, or a habitual framework for relating to particular recognized others. Others outside the network matter much less to decision-makers.

If we apply this model of very particular reciprocity-information networks to the Fukushima case, does it gain us any
traction? Here
is one interpretation. Up until the DPJ victory in 2009, the dominant power configuration had been the
1955 system with its ruling triad of ministry, business and LDP. Following the reciprocity network model, within this elite, the core was the ministry-business nexus that produced (socially constructed) what passed for policy-related knowledge and filtered out inconvenient information.
The nuclear
village perfectly follows this model. What Kan did as PM, storming into the Tepco offices, broke the normative channels of reciprocity-information flow. It was an assertion of political leadership highly unlikely for a PM under the old
triad. His action
illustrates how crises can inspire agency that will challenge and sometimes break old institutions. Does this hold water, folks?

Given the difference in normative relational patterns, the German and US polities would probably have produced very different channels of reaction to a crisis of this kind, perhaps leading to different outcomes. It would be useful to follow through this thought experiment, but space prohibits its development here.

If this reciprocity network model is correct, it then follows, how malleable is it to reform? The Yoshida Report from APARC at Stanford makes a number of excellent suggestions for institutional change that would reduce the chances of Japan, should it continue on the nuclear path, producing another Fukushima in the future. These include a governance change -- an independent nuclear regulatory commission, and a market change--breakup of the regional electric power monopolies to introduce full competition into the system. From the standpoint of institutional systems design to reduce risk, having more independent check points in the nuclear governance and market system as suggested would seem to be a universally-applicable fix. But as of yet, consonant with the deep structure, very few if any such independent agencies yet exist in Japan. How malleable is this system to change? Beyond the universal pressures from business organizations that do not want to be regulated and want to retain market-fixing advantages, does the deep reciprocity-information network add a lot more inertia and resistance to change? To instill beneficial institutional change, will it require special strategic thinking cognizant of the deep reciprocal structure in Japan?

Comparison to the US clarifies the differences. The US in contrast is a society of spot-contracts, of alliances of convenience, where politics make strange bed-fellows. The US Constitution enshrines the separation of powers. But even on this individualized relational field, supposedly independent regulatory agencies (i.e., SEC, NLRB,
NRC) seem to degenerate over time into capture by the businesses they are supposed to regulate. That is one reason why libertarian conservatives might oppose government regulation, it can become corrupted and ineffective. Their solution is a freer market that allows more competition, but that provides no solution to collective goods problems like nuclear meltdowns and other pollution either.

Ultimately, perhaps the only source of sufficient power to cause change lies in the Japanese people. It was only their national uprisings, blockading factories, electing reform minded politicians and instituting national lawsuits, that brought about the 1970 Pollution Diet with its far reaching restrictions on industrial pollution (Broadbent 1998). If a similarly powerful movement erupts against nuclear power, it will have the potential to bring about significant institutional reform such as proposed by the Yoshida report and beyond.

--
Jeffrey Broadbent
Associate Professor
Department of Sociology
Institute for Global Studies
909 Social Science Building
University of Minnesota

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

[SSJ: 7587] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Alexandru Luta
Date: 2012/07/18

This is regarding Greg Johnson's comment regarding whether the Ooi restarts had anything to do with actual shortages. His comment below:

"But suddenly, amazingly, after
starting only 1 of, 14 is it
? nuclear power plants, in the midst of a heat wave but with the peak of summer heat still to come, KEPCO apparently has not a 10% shortage but a surprisingly large surplus of electricity, so much that it is planning to shut down up to 8 conventional combustion powered electrical plants (see the link below).
http://osaka.yomiuri.co.jp/e-news/20120707-OYO1T00340.h
tm?from=main1
Clearly an electricity shortage was not the reason for the restart."

It should be pointed out that the article linked to mentions that Ooi
3 has a capacity of 1.18 GW, placing KEPCO's maximum capacity after the restart at 24.21-24.66 GW range.
That means that if power demand rises to that value KEPCO theoretically will be able to meet it and no outages occur.

Naturally, we live in the real world, so any sensible power utility wants to have excess capacity lying around to avoid brown-outs or worse if an unforeseen demand spike occurs. (This happens more often than you'd think. Britain is said to have experienced a massive spike during some footie world cup because the entire nation got up at once at half-time and put the kettle on to brew tea.) Demand projections are at
20.8-21.7 GW, says the article, so the math checks out for the usage rate of 84-89% (the article rounds to 85-88%).

Now, there are power plants and power plants. The 8 conventional plants mentioned by Mr Johnson are said in the article to have 3.84 GW of capacity, paling in comparison to the one nuclear reactor restarted at Ooi.
Take the 8 away and you get a maximum capacity figure roughly in line with demand projections.

The article does not mention how long these plants will be offline, i.e. if this is done for routine checks or not, and neither does it discuss how KEPCO will make up for the very likely supply shortfall.
Neither does it mention what KIND of power plants these are, e.g.
coal-fired ones typically used for baseload power or gas-powered ones that come on _under regular conditions (i.e. all reactors running)_ only during times of peak demand.That's ultimately sloppy journalism.
And the reason why sloppy journalism is bad in this case is because it does not mention that Japan has been firing all the conventional plants for months now to make up for the lost nuclear capacity. It is eye-wateringly expensive to run a peakload gas-fired plant all the time, because of the variable fuel costs.
Combustion needs to take place constantly because: No fuel, no power! And said fuel, i am sure that everybody on this forum will agree, needs to be bought against hard cash from abroad. Conventional power plants essentially burn money. Meanwhile, all the nuclear power plants gathering dust are loaded with fuel that's been bought and paid for already, awaiting political decisions to take them back online so that they can produce power and practically negligible variable costs.

As i said, the article itself does not mention what kind of plants these 8 were, nor how the potential supply-side shortfall would be met. But there is indeed plenty to at least suggest that KEPCO made a rational business decision that it (and its large-scale customers buying power at liberalized prices) was probably gagging for for months now. Frankly, i am not quite sure that under a completely liberalized electricity market the Japanese Main Street would have been all too upset about this, either. Come fall we'll see just how anti-nuclear the Japanese public REALLY is, when they will start having to pay for their perceptually safer, heavily CO2-polluting fossil-powered electricity.

None of the above is to suggest that obfuscation and mendacity Mr Johnson mentions does not exist in the Japanese nuclear sector in general, or that the Ooi restarts are shining examples of good governance. But the particular evidence tabled here points to something far less nefarious.

Sorry for the length.

Alex Luta,
PhD Cand,
Tokyo Institute of Technology

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

July 17, 2012

[SSJ: 7586] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/07/17

Gregory J. Kasza wrote:

>If we want to know why a certain pattern of public
policy took root,
>for instance, we should ask the policymakers what they
were
>thinking...if those policymakers themselves respond
that cultural
>values have shaped a particular pattern of
policymaking, then a
>cultural reading may be in order.
>
Asking policymakers why they did X, Y or Z may be the worst thing one can do. Would anyone trust TEPCO's explanations of its actions? Would anyone trust Lloyd Blankfein's explanation of why he had Goldman issue securities based on "liar loans," an apparent violation of securities law for which no one has been indicted?
Policymakers are "supposed" to give certain
explanations: in America, CEOs say their purpose is to enhance shareholder value; in Japan, they say the firm is run for the benefit of the employees (and sometimes other stakeholders); and the USSR was, of course, the workers' state. Is not the distinction between tatemae and honne part of "Japanese culture."

No one denies that culture plays some role, but, in this or that particular instance, is it 60% of the explanation or just 5%?

If culture is to be considered a primary factor in some pattern of behavior, a couple patterns should prevail:

1) That pattern is consistently different in Japan than in other countries. When faced with the same set of circumstances, Japanese consistently respond differently than people elsewhere. Is TEPCO's action any different than cover-ups, falsification of records, and disregard of safety issues by corporations all over the world when they face weak government regulation or when there is "regulatory capture"
(the explanation Kurokawa gave to Japanese)? Is its patterns of self-serving actions any different from those of corporate and governmental bureaucracies all over the world under all sorts of different social and economic systems?

2) That behavior pattern is stable over time. Japan in
2010 should resemble Japan of 1940 or 1840 more than American of 2010. Whether we ask about political systems, how a marriage partner is chosen, family arrangements, economic institutions, savings rates and income distribution, taste in food and music, etc. etc.
etc., does anyone think that is true? I've made a habit of asking 25-year-old educated Tokyo women whom they resemble more in their hopes and frustrations and sense of self: their counterpart in New York or their grandmother. They invariably say their NYC counterpart.

Often the cultural explanation is itself a tool of social control; at one point, Japanese were told that they like to save partly to raise the savings rate, which was low in the post-WWII years.. The Finance Ministry now says that tax cuts won't work because "we Japanese like to save and so wouldn't spend the money,"
even as Japanese household savings rate plunged from nearly 25% in the early 1970s to 15% in the mid-1990s to 2-3% today (less Americans who "culturally like to spend").
Workers are told they have company unions because "we Japanese" believe in groupism and harmony, rather than the fact that such unions give workers less bargaining power visavis employers.

How is TEPCO's behavior any different from the allegation by a US general investigating the Osprey crashes that he was pressured by his superior to find "pilot error" to replace his original finding of mechanical failure? This is an extremely serious allegation and yet, in "google news" I cannot find anything about any investigation by military or civilian authorities to get to the bottom of it. See http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/01/air-force-gen
erals-clash-on-osprey-crash-012211w/
and
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201
207160061 and I'm told NHK is about to get into the act on this story. How is this different from NISA's behavior vis-a-vis TEPCO? I also find almost nothing about this in the US press. So, we may have the reversal of the usual pattern: a story originating in the US later becomes picked up and made big news by the Japanese press, causing the US press to pick up on it.
Who knows? The Japanese press coverage might even spark a Congressional investigation.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

[SSJ: 7585] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Krauss, Ellis
Date: 2012/07/17

To David Slater:

Without getting into the whole debate over culture again, may I just point out that your assumption that anyone who rejects a 'cultural approach' must be a rational choice advocate is a complely erroneous one.
Either you are assuming this wrongly or you are categorizing as 'rational choice' falsely every non- cultural argument.
Best regards,
Ellis
Ellis S. Krauss
Professor,
Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies University of California, San Diego

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

[SSJ: 7584] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Robert Dujarric
Date: 2012/07/17

Interesting post about the flaws of a capitalist culture. But a look at the unlamented Soviet Union, various non-market autocracies, and human history for the last three thousand + years demonstrates we're looking at universal flaws that are surely not limited to capitalist societies.

Robert Dujarric
Temple University Japan

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7583] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/07/17

"...why did Kurokawa have two different forewords: one for foreigners blaming Japanese culture and one in Japanese talking of regulatory capture?"

Psst, Dr. Kurokawa, Dr. Kurokawa... Rick, I don't think he's following this thread right now. In the meantime, though, if you need to make an informed guess, there are a few facts that might be of help:

1) The English summary came out at the same time that the Japanese language main report and summary did, which under normal conditions defies the know laws of physics.

2) The foreword is not the only difference between the two texts. In fact, the website (http://naiic.go.jp/) now has the following disclaimer (in Japanese):

"Incidentally, as already indicated in the English version Executive Summary, this report was complied in Japanese, so if there are any discrepancies between the Japanese and English versions, the Japanse version is the official text."*ed. LOL*

3) The text of the English-language foreword--okay, "Message from the Chairman"--has the look and feel of a document crafted from the near-though-not-quite ground up by a native-English speaking, professional writer rather than a straight translation from a Japanese language document.

I leave you all to connect the dots.

"And why is that discrepancy not itself more of an issue within Japan?"

I'm pretty sure that the national news and political news desks and their kisha club folks don't read the Guardian. So maybe you should just be a little more patient and wait for the Asahi/Togo-Masakosama boomerang, which appears to be happening with the piece from Mr. Nakai, the Asahi correspondent in New York.
But then, I don't think it's a big deal in the first place--so Kurokawa vented? meh--but maybe it's just me.
I'm just glad that I made my assertions about some facts around the documents stick.

BTW I'm very happy and reassured that we've come to a mutual agreement on our little argument. What I can't get over, though, is one specific reason the full report gives why TEPCO didn't build that seawall. It wasn't the money. In an otherwise not very favorable report for TEPCO at that. Just goes to show, facts are usually stranger than the truth.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

[SSJ: 7579] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: David H. Slater
Date: 2012/07/17

Curtis wrote: Culture does not explain Fukushima.
People have autonomy to choose; at issue are the choices they make, not the cultural context in which they make them. If obedience to authority is such an ingrained trait in Japan, how then is it possible for a group of Japanese to write a report that not only questions but lambasts authority, anything but an example of reflexive obedience? The culture argument is specious.

There seems to be a sort of conceptual muddle here, one, between culture as a moral excuse for certain untoward actions, and culture as a shaper of behavior; and two, the impression that individual choice functions in some rational choice world outside of cultural context, or that the two are opposed in some way.

One: Let's suppose a KKK Grand Wizard claimed that they killed based on their belief in Christianity. Well, no one would be denying that religion influenced their behavior just because some Christians did not go around lynching, that is. provided some counter-factual. We might say that their belief in Christianity does not justify their actions, or that this was a perversion of some true Christianity, but we would not imagine them unrelated.

Second: to my knowledge, no individual has ever made a single choice outside of any cultural context, so I guess we do not have much data on that rational choice fantasy. Moreover, I cannot imagine any formulation of "culture" that precludes individual choice--indeed, it is through choice (and individual action more
generally) that cultures develop and change. (To the extend that the report suggests culture somehow absolves individuals form the moral consequences, it should be challenged, of course.)

To say that the strategic invocation of "Japanese Culture" does not excuse the gross neglect of duty or common sense or what-have-you is fine--and clearly true. It does not follow that culture does not shape, influence and structure the choices that individuals make.

David Slater
Sophia U.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

[SSJ: 7577] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Greg Johnson
Date: 2012/07/17

>From: Robert Eberhart
>Date: 2012/07/12

>Thus, its is inappropriate and unreasonable to find
fault in the confused but ultimately reasonably successful efforts in the wake of an incredible disaster. The failure, if we can find one, is more likely in the lack of anticipation of the disaster and thus no practiced responses. But that failure seems human to me - not uniquely Japanese.

I agree wholeheartedly. But it is appropriate and reasonable to find fault in what ultimately has turned Japanese public opinion against nuclear power, the relentless obfuscation and mendacity of the Japanese
government and nuclear power industry. Here's a
recent example. The prime minister said that not restarting two nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture that lie nearly at sea level on seismically risky ground surrounded by potential landslides and connected to the rest of Japan by a narrow land passage and a small fishing port was necessary to preserve Japanese livelihoods. Sengoku Yoshito said not starting them
would amount to mass suicide. KEPCO warned of power
shortages of 15% in its service area. Once the restart was decided, KEPCO's estimated shortfall instantly fell to 10%. The restart of one plant produced a dozen or more alarm-sounding glitches and was even menaced by an invasion of jellyfish. But suddenly, amazingly, after starting only 1 of, 14 is it ? nuclear power plants, in the midst of a heat wave but with the peak of summer heat still to come, KEPCO apparently has not a 10% shortage but a surprisingly large surplus of electricity, so much that it is planning to shut down up to 8 conventional combustion powered electrical plants (see the link below).
http://osaka.yomiuri.co.jp/e-news/20120707-OYO1T00340.h
tm?from=main1
Clearly an electricity shortage was not the reason for the restart.

Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:07 AM

[SSJ: 7576] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Gregory J. Kasza
Date: 2012/07/17

I agree with much of the criticism of a cultural interpretation of Japan's lack of preparedness before the Tohoku tsunami disaster. But not all of it.

1. Not all cultural interpretations embrace the romantic nonsense of nihonjinron. I suspect that Mr.
Kurokawa had some very specific matters in mind when he made his comments. Let's not toss aside his remarks until we learn more about what he has to say.

2. The fact that this or that Japanese individual did not behave according to a cultural stereotype is irrelevant to the validity of cultural explanations.
The solitary individual is never the unit of analysis in culture studies, and no one to my knowledge has ever claimed that every person in any large group of people shares identical cultural values.

3. The fact that examples of corporate irresponsibility can be found in all societies does not signify that culture is irrelevant to their analysis. In some cases, culture may not matter, but in others, it may matter a great deal, though perhaps in different ways from one culture to another.

4. In some social arenas, a stronger sense of corporate or group solidarity seems to prevail in Japan than in most other industrialized societies. Admittedly, the use of culture to explain a particular event like the TEPCO disaster does not seem very useful - to repeat, cultural studies are meant to explain patterns of behavior, not individual instances. Nonetheless, if one reflects upon the importance of social networks in the explanation of voting behavior in Japan, or the way in which protest movements organize primarily around local communities there rather than national interest groups, there do seem to be some patterns of behavior that support the standard cultural portrait. Kurokawa is not the first person to suggest that certain aspects of the government-business relationship might fit that portrait as well.

We all constantly warn our students to avoid cultural stereotypes. In particular, I urge them not to assume that culture necessarily provides the real insider's understanding of social phenomena, as many of them seem to think. If we want to know why a certain pattern of public policy took root, for instance, we should ask the policymakers what they were thinking, not assume that they acted upon some generic understanding of Japanese culture. But I also advise that if those policymakers themselves respond that cultural values have shaped a particular pattern of policymaking, then a cultural reading may be in order. After all, if the authoritative decision-makers claim that they have acted according to certain cultural expectations, culture in that area may indeed be the inside story.

Rather than condemn Mr. Kurokawa for embracing a cultural reading of the TEPCO catastrophe, might it not be more interesting to find out precisely what he had in mind, and to find out how many of Japan's top bureaucrats, politicians, and business people share his cultural reading of things? Their answers might constitute an interesting cultural fact in itself.

Granted, to impose a cultural stereotype upon a population of 130 million people in a modern society is absurd. But it seems equally absurd to assume that cultural values are distributed evenly across the world's many societies and ipso facto useless as tools of social analysis.

Greg


Prof. Gregory J. Kasza
Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures Department of Political Science Indiana University Bloomington

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

[SSJ: 7575] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Michio Nitta
Date: 2012/07/17

According to my source who has knowledge about Dr.
Kurokawa's way of thinking, the Japanese culture story is his personal opinion or dogma even before the report. The question is why it was made possible for him to express his personal opinion at a forum where he was supposed to represent an organization. I have seen this kind of uncontroled behavior several times under DPJ governments.

I also downloaded the report and checked some parts of it (no time to read through), and found that it is well written in analyzing institutional and organizational problems regarding nuclear energy regulation systems.
It has no reference to the cultural determinism Kurokawa version. But I feel that it should have pursued more about responsibilities of individuals who were in the position of doing something to prevent the disaster. Those individuals could have done many things even under an unhealthy or suppressing institutiona settings.

Michio Nitta
Kokushikan University

Approved by ssjmod at 11:05 AM

[SSJ: 7573] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Michael A. Witt
Date: 2012/07/17

Dear colleagues:

I have been following the battle over cultural arguments and Fukushima with some interest. I do not know enough about the details to make a judgment call on what culture had to do with the catastrophe, nor do I know why the English foreword brings up culture while the Japanese does not.

But it seems to me that there is a certain tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater in just declaring cultural explanations to be "crap."

There is a whole, huge, scientific (!) literature on culture (commonly defined as the social construction of
reality) and its impact on issues such as management (which is arguably an important part of the Fukushima mess). If you search for names such as Hofstede, Schwartz, or House on Google Scholar and follow the citations, you will see thousands of works linking cultural traits to specific outcomes. Obviously, these pieces can be debated, but that is true for all social science works, and in many cases, the empirical work on these matters draws a tighter connection between cause and effect than we see in political science.

There is also plenty of theory on culture, institutions, and outcomes in some parts of economics (e.g., Douglas North) and sociology (e.g., Berger & Luckman, Fligstein, Redding, Whitley). For North, for instance, culture becomes part of "intentionality"
behind the evolution of institutions. Indeed, in the context of Fukushima, one might well ask why the institutions and organizations evolved in the way they did and whether something like a "Japanese" social construction of reality had something to do with it.
(And again, I do not know the answer. But the question is legitimate.)

As I said, one can debate these arguments and findings, for all kinds of reason. But we should be careful not to dismiss them out of hand just because culture has been a taboo for most of political science (leave alone most of modern economics).

All the best,


Michael

--
Prof. Michael A. Witt, Ph.D.
INSEAD, 1 Ayer Rajah Avenue, Singapore 138676, Singapore
http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/personal/
mwitt/research/index.cfm

General Editor, Asian Business & Management

Recent and Forthcoming Books:
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Approved by ssjmod at 10:54 AM

[SSJ: 7572] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
Date: 2012/07/17

In response to Ellis Krauss,

I have never said that broad cultural explanation in the form of 'Japanese do what they do because they are Japanese' is valid. For example, statements made by right-wing Nihonjinron authors are often nonsensical.
When I write academic articles, I analyse factors such as institutions, incentives to and power struggles among relevant actors and so on to explain political, economic and social phenomena without relying on any cultural argument.

However, what I am saying is that dismissing culture and national difference completely is problematic. For example, 'dango' such as price rigging prevalent in the Japanese construction industry can be explained mostly by factors of agency and structure. However, I wonder if this kind of corrupt relationship as a result of these factors cannot be considered as part of Japanese 'corporate culture'. Japanese corporate decision-making system such as 'ringi' can also be considered as part of Japanese corporate culture (also as institution or
structure) in contrast to more top-down decision making often seen in American companies.

And how about 'social norms'? I wonder if they can also be considered part of national culture or characteristics (such as more solidaristic norms seen in Scandinavian social welfare and more individualistic norms seen in American social welfare in particular). I am also interested in how anthropologists perceive culture (I conduct research on comparative/international political economy myself).

Culture may be a product of the combination of many factors mentioned above but it also affects agency and institutions. I understand that it is not easy to define culture in a specific manner and have culture as an explanatory variable in academic research but 'social norms' approach may be related to cultural aspects.

In the case of Fukushima, I think most things can be explained by institutional and agency factors such as the close relationship between the government and TEPCO (regulatory capture, amakudari, incentives to relevant actors and so on). But I wonder if this kind of 'corrupt' relationship has nothing to with 'culture'
that was created by many factors such as public policy, politics, economic incentives, education and so on. The case of the 'convoy system' of the Japanese financial crisis in the late 1990s, where bureaucrats tried to hide or downplay the existence of a huge amount of non-performing loans, is also similar.

I think we can acknowledge, instead of dismissing completely, the existence of national and regional culture, difference and characteristics as well as common global phenomena at least, if not necessarily as
an explanatory variable in academic research.

*******************************************************
***********************
Dr. Hiroaki Richard Watanabe, D.Phil. Oxford, MA Yale Lecturer, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

http://www.shef.ac.uk/seas/staff/japanese/watanabe.html
http://www.wreac.org/people/WREAC-People/Core-Researchers/Watanabe%2C-Hiroaki-Richard/details

Approved by ssjmod at 10:54 AM

July 13, 2012

[SSJ: 7570] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/07/13

I hate to keep repeating myself, but the question
remains: why did Kurokawa have two different forewords:
one for foreigners blaming Japanese culture and one in Japanese talking of regulatory capture? And why is that discrepancy not itself more of an issue within Japan? I found a piece on this in the English-language Asahi
(http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/analysis/AJ2
01207120045),
datelined NYC July 12. Can anyone tell me its prominence in the Japanese-language version and whether other Japanese-language publications are picking up on the discrepancy?

Jeffrey Broadbent wrote:

> But it is also interesting to compare it with those
made in studies of
> technological risk management by Charles Perrow and
others....The
> explanation, as I recall it, is that the technology
was so complex
> that it made human operational error highly likely.


With all due respect, while this is undoubtedly part of the story, to me it underplays the pivotal role of conflicts of interests. Your statement leaves us to infer that, even if TEPCO had done everything reasonable to counter foreseeable problems, in the end, accidents will happen. There is a big difference, in my view, between unavoidable human error and foreseeably bad decisions made to protect vested interests. And there would have been a big difference between the severity of the results--and of public reaction--had TEPCO taken all the required preparations. The fact is that TEPCO was repeatedly warned to improve preparations in case of an accident--including a warning of the need for a higher sea wall by the plant manager at Fukushima--and repeatedly stonewalled. And, in the face of this stonewalling, NISA repeatedly crumbled.

The English summary of the Kurokawa report
(http://www.nirs.org/fukushima/naiic_report.pdf) goes through some of this stuff on pgs. 26-28 "Was the Accident Preventable?"

A March 24 piece in Asahi
(http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affair
s/AJ201203240031)
reports that NISA refused to compel the utilities to take safety measures that NISA deemed necessary because it was "concerned that it could pave the way for lawsuits disputing the soundness of the design of some reactors." This is based on internal documents from
2010 released to the press under the Information Disclosure Law. Since when is it NISA's business to protect utilliies from lawsuits? Its job is supposed to be protecting public safety.

I read somewhere--but cannot find it now--that the government never required the utilities to have contingency plans for a complete loss of electric power.

> Even in
> a well run management system, at many points in
design and operation,
> both manufacturers and operators have to make
decisions about how much
> risk to allow in the production of a social benefit,
in this case,
> electricity.

True, but TEPCO and other utilities are incapable of making this judgment call. That's putting the foxes in charge of the hen house.
Company executives compare the certain downside of spending $1 billion today versus the small likelihood of a catastrophe on their watch.
Remember, it is not TEPCO per se making these decisions; it is the individual executives in charge of TEPCO for a few years. What is needed is a fully independent, powerful regulator that can make this judgement.
Mistakes will be made--and the danger of regulatory capture remains a big one--but mistakes are very different from the bias of compamy executives. As the old legal maxim says: no one can be a judge in his own case.

We don't know how high a seawall a truly independent regulator would have recommended. We do know that Japan lacked such a regulator, that TEPCO was warned by its own plant manager to build a higher wall, and that a higher wall was built at Onagawa and there was no disaster there.

What is required are institutional checks and balances.
I remember former Citibank CEO John Reed saying that, at a well-run bank, there should be people with the job of saying yes to loans and other deals, and a separate group of risk managers whose job it is to say "no."--and that these two groups of people should not be going out for drinks after work.

The analogy between Fukushima and the financial derivatives crisis is
perfect: powerful vested interests preventing proper regulation. In another example, CEOs paid in stock options in the US tended to take much bigger risks and suffer much bigger losses than those paid in cash and in outright stocks.

Fukushima was, to a large degree, a case of preventable and, now, correctable, institutional failure, not an unforeseeable natural disaster nor excessively complex technology nor Japanese culture. As the Kurokawa report put it:

> In spite of the fact that TEPCO
> and the regulators were aware of the risk from such
natural disasters,
> neither had taken steps to put preventive measures in
place. It was
> this lack of preparation that led to the severity of
this accident.

[snip]

> There were many opportunities for NISA, NSC and TEPCO
to take measures
> that would have prevented the accident, but they did
not do so. They
> either intentionally postponed putting safety
measures in place, or
> made decisions based on their organization's self
interest- not in the
> interest of public safety.
> Following the implementation of new regulations in
other countries,
> discussions were held about revising the guidelines
to include a
> scenario where the AC power source was lost. The
discussion also
> included reviewing the reliability of existing DC
power sources.
> Unfortunately, these talks did not result in any
revision to the
> guideline or the regulations, and at the time of the
accident no
> serious consideration had been given to a scenario
involving loss of
> AC power to the plant.


Again: why one explanation for the foreigners and another one for Japanese?

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

[SSJ: 7569] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Krauss, Ellis
Date: 2012/07/13

To respnd to Hiroaki Richard Watanabe:

I have to disagree with you: the people who do the most " stereotping" are those who persist in the vacuous 'cultural' argument. This approach says nothing more than "the Japanese do what they do because they are
Japanese"-- duh! Of course, but hardly an explanation for anything! Yes, different attitudes and behavioral traits may be differently distributed across different populations but unless you can connectt a particular subgroup to a particular incident then saying this is hardly an explanation either. Finally If there are particular attitudes and traits in a particular subgroup involved in an incident these may be because of socio- economic incentives of rhat group and not because of a national characteristic, as Gerry Curtis points out. Sorry, cultural explanations are simplistic, usually vapid, and obscure more than they enlighten.
Best regards,
Ellis
Ellis S. Krauss
Professor,
Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies University of California, San Diego

Approved by ssjmod at 11:05 AM

[SSJ: 7567] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Damon Robinson
Date: 2012/07/13

There was a flurry of news articles last winter stating that even amidst the fallout the Japanese government was cooperating with the nuclear industry to increase exports of nuclear technology to other countries. To me, it makes complete sense that they would emphasize the expressly "Japanese" aspects of the disaster, whether it be the propensity for earthquakes/tsunamis as compared to other regions, or amakudari and other social structures that led to compromised safety standards and bad decision making. That way, even if the industry at home is ultimately destroyed, it does little damage to the lucrative market abroad being cultivated to take its place. Looking at Uniqlo, Rakuten, etc, it seems that many Japanese companies are beginning to give a greater importance to markets abroad than home...

I do question whether Japan's closer neighbors/targets (Korea, China, Russia, Vietnam), would rely on the English documents over the Japanese, but my guess is that this sort of cultural spin was certainly targeted for the European and South American markets.

Damon Robinson
Washington University in St. Louis c/o '11

Approved by ssjmod at 11:03 AM

July 12, 2012

[SSJ: 7566] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/07/12

"As any bureaucrat (or, in the case of Jun, former bureaucrat), or commission chairman knows, the forewords and executive summary are what deadline-pressed reporters are going to cite and therefore what the vast majority of the population will hear as the take-home message."

As any journalist (or, in the case of Rick, a...
journalist), or editor knows, you never cite the foreword, in Japan at least, because it's the chairman's message and is not signed by the entire committee. I did check the Yomiuri just to be sure, and it specifically cites from the main text of the executive summary.

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/politics/news/20120705-OYT1T00
537.htm

Actually, it may have been, like summaries for most government reports, an administrative, not executive, summary. And given the production process, it's unlikely that the commission members ever read it, even after the public release. (In fact, there are rough spots in the main text that lead me to wonder... no, say it ain't so...) Notwithstanding, Still, that's still a lot of pages for reporters to read before the deadline, no? Near impossible, even for speed readers, no? (Keyword: embargo. And most likely another,
micro-summary.) And if it's an English language summary, there's an even greater chance that it's an administrative summary, to which Dr. Kurokawa affixed a somewhat different foreword. I'd be extremely surprised to hear that any of the other commission members except, maybe Ambassador Oshima, ever read that summary; you can be sure that the Japanese media could care even less, except for its boomerang effect.

One last thing. I don't buy the "Cultural Crap" myself, but if you read the report--I had to read part of it, and it'll be surprisingly good reading for you if you enjoyed the O.T. (use you imagination and the human drama bubbles up between the lines)--you'll see that Japan was miles, say three miles, behind Europe and the United States in taking severe accidents seriously, and the report gives surprisingly good details on what appears to be TEPCO's curious mix of what I think is hubris and fear of public sentiment. (You'll be surprised to know why TEPCO didn't build that seawall), as well as NISA's weakness in the face of TEPCO stonewalling (which when you think about it is worse than the "collusion" that is making the rounds of the commentariat, or so Dante would say). Is that cultural?
Or, to put it another way, does it help any to use that word to explain why Japan (or more specifically, TEPCO as the primus inter regional monopolies), as it turned out went wrong? But I can see why Dr. Kurokawa, with his ten best years spent in the US medical academia, vented.

That's it for now. Have a nice weekend.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:03 AM

[SSJ: 7564] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Robert Eberhart
Date: 2012/07/12

I want to thank Prof. Broadbent for his lucid comments.

As we study Japan carefully in our program, we find very often that phenomena is often blamed on culture and it is indeed the ultimate cop-out as Geral Curtis recently noted, and devoid of explanatory power.

I may also add that there is an excellent description of the events at Fukushima that are fact based and written by Dr. Kenji Kushida at APARC. They are illuminating and is extremely well written and dispassionate, although I am sure we can discuss
differing views about its conclusions. The offer a
refreshing contrast to Kurokwa's political report. You can find it here:
http://aparc.stanford.edu/publications/23762/. It is
well worth reading.

I also want to note two things that Dr. Kushida's report makes clear even though they are not emphasized in his report. First, business managers and pilots (at
least) will certainly not expect a smooth and perfect response by any organization, in any country, to a disaster. For example, the proper recovery from a spin in an airplane was developed over decades. No one would be able to invent the proper response while first encountering an actual spin. It must be anticipated, a response learned, and the response practiced. The fog of events, order plus counter-order, is common in all unpracticed emergencies is a well known and understood phenomenon. Thus, its is inappropriate and unreasonable to find fault in the confused but ultimately reasonably successful efforts in the wake of an incredible disaster. The failure, if we can find one, is more likely in the lack of anticipation of the disaster and thus no practiced responses. But that failure seems human to me - not uniquely Japanese. I challenge us to find many well known articles calling for TEPCO to prepare for a 9.2 quake and a 12 meter tsunami before the event. Notably, TEPCO's top management was not hired fight nuclear disasters but to navigate rate structures, capital formation, and consistent operation. They failed in many ways, but they are humans and we should adjust our condemnation appropriately.

Second, Dr. Kushida's report makes clear that individual operators with knowledge of the particular power-plant were contractors, not regular TEPCO employees. For years, there has been a rich commentary that reliance on contractors will have this effect - that is, the loss of operational level skills inside the firm at the critical action points. What was needed at the time were bottom level operators who knew where the emergency equipment was - not TEPCO's CEO. This is just some chickens coming home to roost. And it is true is all countries - examples abound.

Again, I congratulate Prof. Broadbent and commend Dr.
Kushida' article. Let's leave this cultural explanation cop-out far, far behind.

Best Regards,

Robert Eberhart

Approved by ssjmod at 11:01 AM

[SSJ: 7563] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Hiroaki Richard Watanabe
Date: 2012/07/12

Naoko Shimazu states in her Guardian article that 'Bringing out the "made in Japan" argument is not helpful. It panders to the uniqueness idea and does not explain, but rather reinforces, existing stereotypes.
Moreover, the supposedly Japanese qualities that the report outlines, such as obedience, reluctance to question authority, "sticking with the programme" and insularity, are not at all unique to Japan, but are universal qualities in all societies'.

Although I understand her argument and all societies share these qualities more or less, she cannot say that Japan (or any other country) is the same as the rest of the world. There is difference in degree among countries in these aspects. I think the supposedly Japanese qualities she mentions such as reluctance (or
difficulty) to question authority are more problematic in Japan than many other countries. This depends on pesonal perception but If you spend your childhood in Japanese schools and work in Japanese companies (I have both experience), you would feel strong pressure (or even social norms) to follow these qualities (unless you do not mind being considered a 'maverick' or worse ostracised, bullied or sacked from a job). We cannot forget that so-called culture or national qualities are often created (or imposed) by education and politics/public policy. As you can see from the Guardian photo of Chairman Kurokawa bowing deeply when he submits his commission's report even though the report criticises authority, Japanese people are often obliged to show respect to authority (or senior people) in public (not in private, though).

Shimazu concludes her article by stating 'Putting a cultural gloss on the critical investigative report sends a confusing message to the global community - particularly when it comes from a country that is a world leader in technological sophistication.'

I would say that she also commits an error of stereotyping Japan by mentioning Japan's technological sophistication. Although Japan excels some areas of technology, there is also an abysmal degree of technological backwardness (often in financial transactions but also others) such as ATM services (not yet 24/365 service in most cases) and online shopping (you are often required to have a 'Japanese' credit card and there is virtually no debit card in Japan despite the existence of J-debit, which is not compatible with foreign transactions). Overall, I find Shimazu's article is very academic and boring (as often found in academic comments on Nihonjinron) and quite
superficial.

*******************************************************
***********************
Dr. Hiroaki Richard Watanabe, D.Phil. Oxford, MA Yale Lecturer, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

http://www.shef.ac.uk/seas/staff/japanese/watanabe.html
http://www.wreac.org/people/WREAC-People/Core-Researchers/Watanabe%2C-Hiroaki-Richard/details

Approved by ssjmod at 11:00 AM

[SSJ: 7562] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jeffrey Broadbent
Date: 2012/07/12

It is indeed significant that the Kurokawa commission report, while insisting that the disaster was "man made", still in its English translation attributed ultimate blame for the accident to Japanese culture and not individuals or organizations--but not in its Japanese version. In the Financial Times, Gerald Curtis strongly rebuts this cultural argument, saying that in any cultural context, people still make choices
with consequences. He compares Tepco's decision to
ignore government recommendations to strengthen disaster protections to the financial meltdown on Wall Street, also due to a rejection of due safeguards. In response to the Kurokawa report's specific attribution of the disaster to a Japanese cultural tendency for corporations to protect their own immediate interests above public welfare, Curtis concludes ironically, "in that case, we are all Japanese." In other words, the corporate self-protection tendency is a product of universal tendencies of social organization, not anything particular to Japan. This is a very interesting and logical argument with a lot of validity.

But it is also interesting to compare it with those made in studies of technological risk management by Charles Perrow and others. Perrow shows that Three Mile Island came within minutes of a total meltdown that would have had Chernobyl and Fukushima-like consequences. His student did a similar study of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. The explanation, as I recall it, is that the technology was so complex that it made human operational error highly likely. Even in a well run management system, at many points in design and operation, both manufacturers and operators have to make decisions about how much risk to allow in the production of a social benefit, in this case, electricity. With nuclear power, the consequences of error magnify enormously, so it is a very high-stakes game. And the degree of risk is magnified by the context in Japan-an earthquake and tsunami prone geography. The only way to totally eliminate the risk would be to not use the technology, and this may be the path Japan chooses. But this argument about the inherent difficulties in managing risky technology indicates that the disasters are not only the result of collusion and corporate self interest,which undoubtedly contributed heavily to the disaster. The disasters are also the result of the inherent risks of the technology, and the attendant difficulties and costs of risk management. These risks become especially poignant when the public need for the resource -- in this case electricity that has become the very basis of modern civilization -- is so great. This poignancy of the risk is further exacerbated by the risk of the major contending source of electricity, oil. Oil-poor Japan has been severely buffeted in the past by sudden oil price rises from politically-volatile Middle East.
That oil vulnerability and how to reduce it has been another kind of risk that Japanese leaders have had to weigh in making power source decisions.

In this light and with these uncertainties, it may be not just the desire to protect the corporation, but also the desire to use a trusted technology to keep the electricity flowing and to avoid rate hikes, that could have driven Tepco's reluctance to invest so much in further protections. The complexity of needs and risks could lead to wishful thinking by managers that minimized their assessment of the risk. This is not to excuse the collusion and mismanagement and also poor design (such as putting the backup generators on the ground floor). If it is to continue on the nuclear path, Japan desperately needs an independent nuclear regulatory commission. But even this may be no solution. Unfortunately, such commissions often end up getting captured by those they are supposed to
regulate. Perhaps the only real long-term solution
for Japan is a massive drive to develop and deploy safe alternative sources of electricity based on wind, sun, geo-thermal and tidal power.

Jeff Broadbent
Author, Environmental Politics in Japan (Cambridge U Press, 1998)

Approved by ssjmod at 11:00 AM

[SSJ: 7561] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/07/12

Jun Okumura wrote:

> So Kurokawa wings it with two very different
forewords and they both
> become "the report"? Does either one actually have
anything to do with
> the the substance of the main text? Let's hear from
someone who
> actually bothered to read it.

As any bureaucrat (or, in the case of Jun, former bureaucrat), or commission chairman knows, the forewords and executive summary are what deadline-pressed reporters are going to cite and therefore what the vast majority of the population will hear as the take-home message.

What is the evidence that Kurokawa "winged it"? Has any member of the commisison claimed that Kurokawa distorted the message of the report?
When Kurokawa addressed the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, he repeated the same message, speaking, not as an individual, but as the chair of the commission.

The question remains: why one story for the foreigners and quite another for Japanese? Have any of the major Japanese media commented on the discrepancy, and, if so, what are they saying?

Personally, I find Kurokawa's message to the foreigners--"Had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident, the result may well have been the same"--to be very offensive.

First of all, as you and I agreed just a couple weeks ago over a sushi dinner with several others before my talk at Temple University in Tokyo, a similar disaster was prevented at the Onagawa nuclear plant because one determined former Tohuko EPCO VP insisted on a higher seawall, (see
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20
120319p2a00m0na020000c.html).
And Fukushima plant manager Yoshida, one of the few heroes in this story, asked for a much higher seawall at Fukushima way back in 2007, but was turned down by TEPCO execs. So, Kurokawa's slur on the Japanese people is blatantly untrue.

Secondly, if you buy Kurokawa's story, then all nuclear plants in Japan should be shut down because no Japanese can be trusted to run them properly.

Thirdly, it the primary culprit is Japanese culture, that semi-absolves the real individuals who make the actual mistakes. It's akin to Wall Street execs claiming the 2008-09 meltdown was an unforeseeable, unpreventable once-in-a-century crisis like a hurricane.

And, yes, I do admit that my jet-lagged brain has downloaded the 80-page English summary but has not yet read it. That's why I only commented on the gap between the two forewords, not on the substance of the report, except for my citations from Asahi.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 10:59 AM

[SSJ: 7560] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/07/12

So Kurokawa wings it with two very different forewords and they both become "the report"? Does either one actually have anything to do with the the substance of the main text? Let's hear from someone who actually bothered to read it.

Approved by ssjmod at 10:58 AM

[SSJ: 7559] Re: Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Ian Reader
Date: 2012/07/12

Naoko Shimazu wrote a good piece on this same subject in The Guardian the other day too:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/06/fukushima-report-disaster-japan?INTCMP=SRCH

Ian Reader
University of Manchester

Approved by ssjmod at 10:57 AM

July 11, 2012

[SSJ: 7558] Telling foreigners Japanese culture caused Fukushima

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/07/11

Incredibly, the Diet-appointed Kurokawa commission on the Fukushima nuclear disaster blamed it on Japanese culture. But only in the English translation, not in the Japanese version, which correctly called it a man-made disaster caused by, among other things, "collusion" between regulators and TEPCO, which led to a "collapse" in the watchdog functions. "There were many opportunities for taking preventive measures prior to March 11," said the report. An Asahi summary of the report (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affair
s/AJ201207060088) says:

> The final report pointed to delays
in responding to new anti-quake

> guidelines for nuclear plants in 2006. TEPCO
estimated it would
cost

> 80 billion yen ($1 billion) to construct sea barriers
and other

> reinforcements to safeguard the plant following
revised
calculations

> about the threat to the facility from earthquakes and
tsunami.

>

> But in the end, only limited steps were taken.

>

> NISA officials also did nothing, having concluded
that TEPCO was
in a

> better position to judge what important work needed
to be done and


> when.

>

> The final report also scoffed at TEPCO's argument
that the tsunami


> was so off the charts there was no way it could
anticipate a
disaster

> of that magnitude.

>

> In fact, at an April 2007 meeting between NISA and
electric power

> companies, discussion centered on the possibility of
tsunami

> exceeding all expectations striking coastal power
plants. Concern
was

> voiced about damage to reactor cores if that
happened.

>

> Those same concerns were shared at a similar meeting
the year
before

> between NISA and the utilities, while memories of the
late 2004

> tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean were still
fresh.

>

> The Diet commission's report said the exchanges
between NISA and

> electric power companies seemingly went nowhere. It
also noted
that

> the long delays in implementing safety steps created
a host of

> problems.

>
In other words, the disaster was the result of specific, correctable errors, including the lack of wall separating regulators from regulatees, and TEPCO's refusal to heed warnings about a tsunami and to spend
$1 billion (how much of a rate increase would this have caused, and what is the cost of not having done the proper thing?).

Yet, in the English-language version, we get a different, more fatalistic picture (see .http://www.nirs.org/fukushima/naiic_report.pdf, pg. 9)

> What must be admitted - very
painfully - is that this was a disaster

> "Made in Japan." Its fundamental causes are to be
found in the

> ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our
reflexive
obedience;

> our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to
'sticking
with

> the program'; our groupism; and our insularity.

>

> Had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who
bear
responsibility

> for this accident, the result may well have been the
same.

Gerry Curtis wrote a wonderful rebuttal to this nonsense in the Financial Times
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/6cecbfb2-c9b4-11e1-a5e2-
00144feabdc0.html#axzz20EnzZZ6K

What strikes me so much is the contrast between the cultural explanations aimed at the gaijin and the lack of them in the Japanese version. When Kurokawa spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club, the reporters reportedly grilled him on this difference (see
http://www.shisaku.blogspot.com/) but I don't know the substance of what happened. What I also don't know is to what extent, if any, the Japanese language press has pointed to this difference. Anyone with info on this?

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:36 AM

June 04, 2012

[SSJ: 7501] Re: Japanese politics these days

From: Fred Uleman
Date: 2012/06/04

I suspect Noda is just running out the clock.
But by going back and forth between the LDP and Ozawa, neither of which wants to dance with him, he has covered himself regardless of whether (a) the tax increase cannot be passed or (b) the DPJ splits.
And in the bargain, he diverts a lot of media attention away from his decision to approve restarting the nuclear plants even though there is no real regulatory agency, even though there are only interim safety standards of convenience, and even though the industry only has plans and no reality to meet even those why-not-for-now standards.

FWIW
- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -
Fred Uleman, translator emeritus

Approved by ssjmod at 01:03 PM

[SSJ: 7500] Re: Japanese politics these days

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/06/04

John Campbell writes:

"Am I missing something?" (2012/06/02)

I think that The Japan Times is missing something. Such as, any idea what the arithmetical possibilities of Noda getting his tax bill through the upper house without LDP (or, far less likely, Komeito) help are like.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

June 02, 2012

[SSJ: 7497] Japanese politics these days

From: John Campbell
Date: 2012/06/02

I am in Brooklyn NY for a month and feeling a bit out of it at such as lively time in Nagatacho. Any forumites want to talk about such things? For starters, from this morning's Japan Times:
>
> Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's hand has apparently
been forced by his failure to persuade former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, his biggest internal foe, to soften his opposition to the contentious plan at a meeting Wednesday, pushing him to step up his efforts to win the LDP's backing in the Diet.

Am I missing something? I thought Noda had been trying to get the LDP to talk about taxes directly these many months, and the LDP kept saying, only in the Diet.
More generally, the press always seems to have Noda being forced to do this and that, while it seems to me he has been making the running since he came into office.

Probably I am missing something . . .

John Campbell

Approved by ssjmod at 11:09 AM

May 11, 2012

[SSJ: 7454] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/05/11

Nice! I am now giving Paul Midford five units.


Approved by ssjmod at 12:34 PM

May 10, 2012

[SSJ: 7450] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/05/10

PM: " Responding to Jun Okumura's point about not betting when the odds are against him, is that because I want to bet on 5 reactors restarting, instead of 4, or because he has changed his estimate of the likelyhood of even 4 restarting?"

JO: "Did I give any indication that I was backing off from my bid of 4 reactors? (I'll later respond to other points raised in this forum, but not today.)"

More for the sake of betting lunch with Jun Okumura than winning per se, I accept a bet for lunch in Tokyo regarding the possible restart of 4 reactors this calendar year, based on the conditions previously laid out.

I will respond to Jun Okumura's other points later.

Cheers,

Paul Midford


Approved by ssjmod at 10:46 AM

May 07, 2012

[SSJ: 7440] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/05/07

James David Brown writes:

"If I understand correctly, Jun Okumura would like me to provide examples of energy projects that have been developed by Japan and Russia but subsequently scuppered by the countries' poor political relations."
(2012/04/24)

That would be nice, but I'd be more than happy to settle for a half-way credible report-no anonymous 2-chan rants or unsourced blogposts-that indicates that Russia hardened its position towards Japan regarding any existing or potential energy projects or that Japan hesitated to move forward on any such projects due to the Northern Territories issue. In the meantime, the following are a couple of reasons why Japan's uptake from Russian gas fields is not higher than it actually
is:

1) Russia is a difficult place to do business in,
particularly in the strategically and politically sensitive mineral extraction industry. Japanese firms have been burned before by the unpleasant mix of resource nationalism and lack of rule of law. Places like Qatar, Australia, and Borneo has offered far more predictable and conducive business environments.
2) The Japanese economy stalled in the 90s and the
aughts, keeping energy demand down and diminishing the need for new LNG sources.

Japan obviously has needed (and is securing) additional LNG since 3.11, but I suspect that Japanese businesses and government authorities will wait till the domestic nuclear picture (i.e. how many come back online) and the global natural gas outlook (e.g. the near future of unconventional gas) comes into better focus before making decisions regarding additional overseas commitments.

I retract my comment about Russia not caring. That was careless of me. Words have domestic repercussions in Russia, particularly with the Putin regime looking more vulnerable than it has ever been. And there could be more occasions in the future with potential for comments from Japanese officials that invite similar responses from the Russian side. That said, the pro-US defense hawk Seiji Maehara's Golden Week visit to Russia indicates that the DPJ very much prefers a soft power approach to the Northern Territories issue.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:45 AM

May 06, 2012

[SSJ: 7439] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/05/06

Paul Midford writes:

"Regarding 'numbers' on renewable energy, I am also not quite sure what he means." (2012/05/01)

A quick search failed to turn up the wind power numbers from METI to which Paul Midford refers, but there are even larger wind power capacity estimates from the less business-friendly Ministry of Environment in this March
2011 report
(http://www.env.go.jp/earth/report/h23-03/chpt4.pdf).
Specifically, the report gives capacity estimates of
1.3 TW for land and 1.6 TW for sea for a total of 2.9 TW, which is almost twice as high as the low end of METI's 1.5-1.9 TW range. However, for land, the MOE report whittles down potential capacity to 0.28 TW due to a number of legal and practical obstacles. Most of this capacity-0.27 TW-becomes economically feasible at a 20-year, 20 yen/kWh feed-in tariff (FIT) arrangement if manufacturing and installation costs can be reduced from current levels by 50% and 20% respectively. No legal or social constraints are considered for sea, but only 0.14 TW in capacity potential remains available under the same cost and FIT assumptions. Still, this gives us 0.41 TW, vastly more than the 0.05 TW in nuclear power capacity that was available before 3.11.
The gap is significantly overstated, though, since capacity potential is calculated on the basis of rated output, and the average wind speed in most the potential areas is well below commonly used rated output. A post-3.11 Asahi Shinbun article (2011/04/22) used 24% for average wind power output, while METI used 85% for average nuclear power output in its most recent energy outlook. If we round those numbers out to 25% and 75% respectively, we would get annual outputs that put the 0.41 TW in wind power capacity potential at a par with 0.14 TW in nuclear power capacity. Too put it another way, wind power, under the MOE best-case scenario, could provide more or less all the electricity that Japan consumes.

So far, things look good for wind power. However, there are complications. First, there are enormous variations in wind power output, some of it predictable (ex.
seasonal cycles, morning and evening calms), some of it less so (ex. typhoons). That means that a massive network of storage systems (0.41 TW minus some measure of consumption would be a conceptual starting point for calculating necessary capacity) will be necessary to make use of all the output. Needless to say, that cost is not accounted for in the MOE report. We could avoid this problem for the most part by keeping wind power capacity somewhere below maximum demand. I don't have enough information to put a number on that capacity, but assuming that gas turbine power plants can be turned on and off seamlessly within a nationwide smart grid, I suspect that it would be more in the neighborhood of current nuclear capacity than that of the 0.41 TW wind power potential, with a corresponding output of roughly 1/10 of total electricity output.

Second, the potential capacity on land exists mainly in Hokkaido and, to a lesser extent, Northeast Honshu. The distribution is less skewed at sea, but the more productive areas lie overwhelmingly in offshore Hokkaido. Exploiting these resources to their full potential would require significant investment for high-voltage transmission systems and 50/60 Hz conversion systems in order to match supply and demand.
That's another cost not accounted for in the MOE report. However, this problem should also be largely, possibly completely, resolved by keeping wind power capacity down at the level suggested above.

I mostly follow the politics of electricity, and it has taken me too much time just to read the MOE report, apply what knowledge I had or was readily available to me, and lay out my thoughts in a way that hopefully illustrates what I meant when I sought "numbers." I'll leave the meaning of global exajoules for someone else to consider. I also did not address the possibility of wind power "exports," since I could not imagine a scenario in which neighboring countries would willingly subsidize Japanese wind power generation. In the meantime, though, I'd like to sign off with the following paradox:

"The longer the nuclear shutdown continues, the less the wind and solar power installed over the coming decades will be."

Approved by ssjmod at 11:44 AM

April 29, 2012

[SSJ: 7430] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/29

" Responding to Jun Okumura's point about not betting when the odds are against him, is that because I want to bet on 5 reactors restarting, instead of 4, or because he has changed his estimate of the likelyhood of even 4 restarting?"

Did I give any indication that I was backing off from my bid of 4 reactors? (I'll later respond to other points raised in this forum, but not today.)

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

April 25, 2012

[SSJ: 7425] Management of decision-making process on nuclear in Japan

From: Alexandru Luta
Date: 2012/04/25

I was wondering if i could bring to this forum's attention the post that i contributed to the blog of the Association of Finnish Energy Producers on the way the Japanese authorities are managing the ongoing discussion on nuclear power here in Japan.

If you feel that the post is worth mentioning, i would be glad to see it distributed to the other members of this mailing list. I hope it will be able to stimulate a discussion, as there are no doubt lots of points where my argument could be refined.

The post can be found by clicking on the following
link:

http://www.ydinreaktioita.fi/ydinvoima-2/japanese-gover
nment-shooting-itself-in-the-foot-on-nuclear-restarts

Best,

Alex Luta,
Ph.D. Cand.,
Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

[SSJ: 7423] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/04/25

Thanks to Philip Shetler Jones for his comments on US "dual use." But don't think the real issue is dual use or not, but rather "spin off" or "spin on," i.e., whether like the US you invest heavily directly in military hardware and then hope/try it "spins off" into the private sector for other uses; or, like Japan, you invest in commercial use technologies and then "spin on" into military uses.

Best regards,
Ellis

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

April 24, 2012

[SSJ: 7418] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: philip shetler jones
Date: 2012/04/24

Reading this thread, I had a nagging sense that I had seen other reports of use by the United States of its old missile hardware for its space program. A quick perusal of google seemed to back this up. It seems the 'dual use' is not such an original issue.
See this link:

Recycled Missiles Tapped to Launch Satellites The United States is tapping an arsenal of decommissioned nuclear missiles to put science satellites into orbit.

http://news.discovery.com/space/rockets-missiles-scienc
e.html

I like this quote in particular -
"What is neat is that what was once a military weapons system is now a peaceful use of government assets. It's the whole idea of turning 'swords into plowshares,'"
said Barron Beneski, spokesman with Orbital Sciences Corp., which holds an Air Force contract to transform retired nuclear missiles into Minotaur space launch vehicles.


Also that the old missile type in question were called 'Peacekeeper'.
Philip Shetler-Jones

Approved by ssjmod at 12:06 PM

[SSJ: 7417] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Brown, James David
Date: 2012/04/24

If I understand correctly, Jun Okumura would like me to provide examples of energy projects that have been developed by Japan and Russia but subsequently scuppered by the countries' poor political relations.
However surely the whole point is that, if the territorial dispute and negative mutual perceptions are indeed the problem, many such projects will not even have reached the drawing board.

As for his suggestion that "we [the Japanese] don't have to take a softer line on the territorial dispute because the Russians, unlike the South Koreans with regard to Takeshima, could care less about what we think about it.", I'm afraid I can't agree. In fact, I think there are strong indications that the Russian political elite takes an active interest in changes in the Japanese government's position vis-a-vis the Southern Kurils/Northern Territories. In particular, a great deal of attention is given to language use. For instance, the predominant view in Russia is that the recent deterioration in Japanese-Russian relations was caused, not by President Medvedev's Nov. 2010 visit to Kunashir/i, but by Japanese leaders' resort to uncompromising and confrontational rhetoric. This trend is seen as having begun with PM Aso's use of the term 'occupation' to describe Russia's presence on the islands when speaking in parliament in spring 2009.
Similarly, it is notable that there were a number of articles in the Russian press at the beginning of March
2012 on the perceived significance of the DPJ's decision to abandon such language, opting to replace 'illegal occupation' with the softer sounding 'held without legal basis.' More generally, I think this interest reflects a broader current concern within the Russian elite to improve relations with Japan so as to attract investment to the Russian Far East and help counterbalance China. In this regard, it is worth noting Putin's comment in March that 'We very much want to close completely this territorial problem with Japan, and want to do so in a way that is acceptable to both countries and to the peoples of both countries.'
(my own quick translation).

James Brown

Approved by ssjmod at 11:03 AM

April 23, 2012

[SSJ: 7413] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/04/23

Many thanks to Aurelia for her incisive post about the political uses of the term "missile" versus "rocket."
Of course she is right that the term missile can be used to discredit the launcher. However, what struck me watching NHK international is that when India launched a projectile last week it was also described as a "missile," which it obviously was (India said so), but that NHK seemed almost to celebrate its launch, playing upbeat background music among other things.
The announcer stated that this "ICBM," once developed and deployed, could hit Beijing or Shanghai.
Strikingly, NHK did not mention that it can almost certainly hit Japanese territory as well (while the North Korean missile tested the other day is not being developed to hit Japanese territory, and probably could not be used to target Japan). In terms of Japanese foreign policy and regional international politics none of this is surprising, but the contrast with how North Korea's launch was covered is nonetheless striking.

Ellis' interesting post referring to an Iranian satellite launch, and a US State Department claim that Iran, like North Korea, violated a UN resolution by using ballistic rocket/missile technology to put it in orbit is also striking. I am in no way an expert on Iran or the Middle East, but from my vantage point it seems that while there is wall-to-wall coverage of Iran's nuclear program, its rocket/missile/ICBM program has been all but ignored (I had barely even heard of their satellite launch before reading the post). Why is the reaction to Iran's rocket/missile program so different than the reaction to its nuclear program, and especially relative to North Korea's rocket/missile program? It doesn't seem that any country responded to the Iranian launch in the way the US, Japan, and South Korea responded to North Korea's recent launch, or its
2009 launch.

It is also striking that while Iran's nuclear weapons development program is emphasized, it seems that North Korea's nuclear program has almost been down-played. I remember when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006, the Japanese and US governments expressed open skepticism about whether the test had actually occurred or been sucessful. Although there was less skepticism expressed after the 2009 test I still get the impression that the test was somewhat downplayed, again especially in comparison to the possiblity of Iran even gathering the means to build a nuclear weapon, much less to actually build one.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 11:58 AM

[SSJ: 7412] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/04/23

Jun Okumura wrote:

"Sorry, I only bet when the odds are in my favor. And I'll look at Paul Midford's renewable numbers when he produces them."

Responding to Jun Okumura's point about not betting when the odds are against him, is that because I want to bet on 5 reactors restarting, instead of 4, or because he has changed his estimate of the likelyhood of even 4 restarting?

Recent evidence certainly seems to suggest that a restart anytime soon will be difficult. I saw some polling data on NHK international this weekend that helps to explain why restarting the Oi plant is proving to be so difficult. In Oi 54% favor restarting, versus 37% who oppose. So local subsidies and employment probably explains this degree of support, although the level of opposition is far from small. However, in surrounding communities 62% oppose restarting plants, versus 32% who support. Given that a large majority of Japanese believe surrounding communities should also have a voice, as revealed in last week's Asahi poll, and it becomes clear why it is hard for Noda administration to convince even the governor of Fukui, not to mention the governors of Shiga, Kyoto and Osaka to go around. The Noda administration also has to worry about the possibility of retrospective voting if they push this issue, with one report I saw recently suggesting that even Maehara might lose his Kyoto electoral district to a challenger from Hashimoto's party.

Regarding "numbers" on renewable energy, I am also not quite sure what he means. If he means my point that Japan has no shortage of renewable energy resources, I already mentioned the Statoil estimate about deep water wind off Boso peninsula. METI puts Japan's wind power resources at between 1500 and 1900 GW (although I am not sure if that includes the new area of deep off-shore). By comparison total current installed electricity capacity is 280 GW. I would also mention a
2008 study that put total global energy consumption at
425 exajoules per year, with 2008 technology capable of delivery 1600 exajoules of solar power, 600 exajoules of wind power, and 500 exajoules of geothermal power.
(See DeWit and Tani 2008: 287).


Best,

Paul

Approved by ssjmod at 11:57 AM

[SSJ: 7411] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/23

The thread started by Earl Kinmonth's question "Does anyone know whether there was an explicit government directive to Japanese media to insert the phrase "it's really a missile" into every single (and I mean every
single) reference to the DPRK satellite launch?"
(2012/04/16) raises a couple of questions to which I offer my own two bits.

I assume that Kinmonth is invoking "an explicit government directive" in jest, given the often testy and sometimes adversarial relationship between government and the media. For such an act would surely become news fodder by itself, and not in a nice way for the administration. However, there actually seems to be more than a half-truth here. Remember that the mainstream media are still organized into mostly autonomous reporters' clubs with vastly superior access to official information from the public institutions that they are attached to. (BTW this prerogative has been eroded significantly under the DPJ regime. There's great value here, I think, for skilled political science quants that have plenty of time on their hands.
Alas, I am not, and do not.) The role of the reporters'
club system is magnified around an event such as the North Korean launch, where much of the information relevant to the reporters is emanating from the institutions to which they are attached-in this case Prime minister's Office, MOD, or MOFA-by way of press briefings, post-ups, and bulletins. Under the pressure of deadlines, it would not be surprising for the reporters (and their editors) to report now and ask questions about definitions and terminology later.

Of course you can usually rely on Sankei to lean to the right and Asahi to the left as far as substance is concerned, but in the case of North Korea, there is a national near-consensus that North Korea is the pits and anything that it does must be evil. (I won't bore you with my explanation of the cause.) So of course it's a "missile" test. Again, I believe that there's a (little less than) half-truth here, to North Korean claims that it's a peaceful satellite launch. Even if it had been successful, the Kimplausible regime's effort may have looked pathetic to us, but it would have had significant domestic juche propaganda value, or at least must be seen that way by North Korean policymakers. I think that the strategic (and domestic
propaganda) value of a nuclear weapons delivery system far outweighs that of the propaganda value of a satellite in orbit, but there is no doubt in my mind that the North Koreans are working on a dual use system.

The other question is: How do the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program and events around it drive Japanese defense spending? As for total defense spending, not much.is the way I see it. Despite all the talk around North Korea and the rise of the Chinese military, Japanese defense spending has more or less steadily declined in terms of share of GDP since the mid-nineties. But progress in the North Korean program appears to have had a significant effect on the allocation of the defense budget. Specifically, it was instrumental in convincing the initially reluctant Japanese government to sign on to the ballistic missile defense program. This meant that funds that may have been spent on, say, naval vessels to patrol the EEZ and keep watch on the Senkaku Islands went to BMD R&D and deployment, a turn of events that should have pleased the Chinese, even if they've never shown it.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:56 AM

[SSJ: 7410] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/23

Sorry, I only bet when the odds are in my favor. And I'll look at Paul Midford's renewable numbers when he produces them.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:55 AM

[SSJ: 7409] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/23

Since James David Brown offers no examples for his suggestion, I will leave it to people who better understand the global, regional, and national market for natural gas, Japanese government support for overseas energy projects, Russian governance issues, and the history of the bilateral relationship USSR/Russia-Japan (I think that I've forgotten anything, but never mind) to make up their own minds about them. Actually, it would interesting and useful work to produce such a paper.for a fee. As for his conjecture that "[w]ith Japan now suffering an energy crisis,. Japanese policymakers may becompelled to more actively pursue relations with Russia in the energy field, even if this means taking a softer line on the territorial dispute", yes, of course, as with all relations in the energy field with all gas producers, including Canada and the United States. But we don't have to take a softer line on the territorial dispute because the Russians, unlike the South Koreans with regard to Takeshima, could care less about what we think about it.

I apologize to James David Brown for having been sarcastic when I mentioned that Japan is not a command economy, but I remind everyone that I did it to emphasize the point that one had to disaggregate Japan into its various actors to begin to understand and explain an issue of any complexity.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:55 AM

[SSJ: 7408] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/23

I see that I forgot to respond to the last point in the
201204/12 comment from Richard Katz, where he says that force majeure "seems to me like a big can of worms that TEPCO would want to leave unopened."

I'm not a lawyer either, but I don't see any additional damage to the bottom line since we don't have punitive damages in principle. Criminal negligence? It's already theoretically not impossible to hypothesize about taking up the case of the two TEPCO workers at Fukushima-daiichi who drowned. But that means that the authorities would have to figure out what to do about the rest of the 3.11 victims. In any case, the threshold for invoking force majeure appears to be higher than for avoiding negligence.

Addendum, over.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:54 AM

[SSJ: 7407] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/23

Here is my response to the 2012/04/16 post from Richard Katz in response to my 2012/04/12 response to a question in his 2012/04/12 comment, "Why didn't Japan apply a cap? The reason, I've been told, is that to put in such a cap would be to admit the possibility of accidents; and the nuclear village did not want to admit that possibility", which he has moved on from in his latest comment. Good. Now:

Rick writes:

"As for the compensation cap, in the latest Oriental Economist, former Toyo Keizai editor Yoshisuke Iinuma
writes:

'For its part, the MOF feared that compensation would become the government's responsibility, creating a huge financial burden. Thus MOF Vice-Minister Eijiro Katsu and other bureaucrats made the rounds, telling politicians the two things that it was essential to avoid. First, a cap on TEPCO's compensation responsibility, which would mean that its hidden debts would become the government's responsibility, due to political pressure to help the victims. Second, TEPCO's legal bankruptcy would shift its compensation responsibilities onto the government.'

So, MOF appears to believe that there is no cap, despite the Y120 mandate for insurance and the provision that I cited above. That's why I say it's ambiguous to me."

This story jibes with what the media is telling us about what MOF's concern is and essentially says that the government would be stuck with the bill anyway if TEPCO's liability is limited, by cap or "legal bankruptcy"-an assessment with which I concur. But "legal bankruptcy" runs the gamut from simple liquidation to various forms of restructuring, just as it does in the US and, presumably, most of the known capitalist world. So TEPCO could go legally bankrupt, force most stakeholders to take a cut except, among others (if I remember correctly from some classes that I took too many years ago) tort claimants. And the government could make the same arrangement to compensate nuclear disaster victims as it has wound up doing-stuck with the bill in the sense that it is the guarantor of last resort and pays opportunity costs unless it gets its paid-in money back with interest-with the crucial difference that the government's burden would be eased to the extent that other stakeholders (pensioners, banks, bondholders,
etc.) have to take haircuts. That sounds like a better deal for the government (but not for the shareholders if they see their equity cut back, potentially to zero). However, such an outcome could have done serious harm to the Japanese financial system while the Japanese economy was struggling to recover from the Earthquake while withstanding the shockwaves from the financial crisis; if avoiding that would wind up benefiting financial institutions (and TEPCO pensioners), that was going to be the price to pay for saving the financial system from systemic failure (shades of the Bush and Obama administrations, and the EU). Or so MOF might have reasoned. In any case, the government's best intentions could have been thwarted by a lawsuit, much more likely if TEPCO went into bankruptcy, that successfully forced an Article 3 declaration; hence the arrangement that wound up being installed. (Note that I've significantly expanded and in the process modified my original comment. Note also that I have so far not responded here to what appears to be Rick's emphasis on the ambiguity of the cap. Yes, he's right, which, if you come to think about it, is the basis of my considerations as well.)

Finally, one point in Rick's narrative, where he says:

"As for the series of financial injections under the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, I've seen press reports--which could be wrong--that TEPCO is obliged to pay back that money from future profits. But the specifics here are also unclear to me, especially if the govt turns that injection into 2/3 ownership of common shares. By the way, the act also says that, in case of bankruptcy, victims stand in line ahead of other creditors like banks"

I've looked through the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund Act (Act No.94 of 2011) but I haven't found anything in there to that effect. (Of course the money obviously can only be used to pay damages. I'm not sure how that would be secured in the case of bankruptcy, but it would not be difficult to create legal devices to do just that without any specific legal provisions. In any case anyone needs to know, just ask the authorities.) The Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage (Act No. 147 of 1961) does say that the
120 billion per establishment insurance/guarantee money must first go to the victims. Of course, as a non-lawyer, I stand ready to be corrected.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:53 AM

April 20, 2012

[SSJ: 7400] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Fred Uleman
Date: 2012/04/20

It is interesting that there has been a spate of dire forecasts that Japan's economy may fall out of the top tier. Some of this is demographic, but the point is to focus attention on the need for vigorous economic growth, and hence the need for lots and lots of electricity, and hence the over-riding need to restart the nuclear power plants despite safety concerns.

- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -
Fred Uleman, translator emeritus


Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

April 19, 2012

[SSJ: 7397] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/04/19

For those of you interested in space technology in context of Asian IR, may I recommend Saadia Pekkanen's
work:

1. book on space policy reviewed by Foreign Affairs http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67195/saadia-pek
kanenpaul-kallender-umezu/in-defense-of-japan-from-the-
market-to-the-military-in-space-pol

2. United States Air Force Space Command (USAFSC) of this book as well.
http://www.avia-it.com/act/editoriali/Editoriali_marzo_
2011/In_defense_of_japan.pdf


3. an interview she did with NBR on Asia's military space politics.
http://www.nbr.org/research/activity.aspx?id=173

Also the work on Japan-DPRK relationship and on the use of threat in Japan by Chris Hughes.

Best regards,
Ellis
************************************************
Ellis S. Krauss, Professor,
School of International Relations and Pacific Studies University of California, San Diego

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

April 18, 2012

[SSJ: 7396] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Peter Matanle
Date: 2012/04/18

Readers of this thread may be interested in the recent publication by the Economist intelligence Unit.

EIU (eds.) (2012) Powering Ahead: Perspectives on Japan's Energy future.
http://www.managementthinking.eiu.com/powering-ahead.ht
ml

Cheers.

Peter

Approved by ssjmod at 12:37 PM

[SSJ: 7395] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Aurelia George Mulgan
Date: 2012/04/18

Thanks to Paul for pointing out the key difference between testing a missile (for either offensive or defensive military purposes) and launching a satellite.
The point might also be made that all missiles are rockets (a generic term), but it is questionable whether all rockets are launched for the purpose of developing a missile capability.

To add to the discussion about terminology: 'missile'
is a loaded term in which a contestable political judgement is implicit. It tries to short-circuit political argument by simply applying a tendentious label. Other examples are 'terrorist', 'research whaling', 'land improvement', 'self-defence', let alone the different names given to contested territory (eg.
the Falklands versus the Malvinas, Senkakus versus Daioyutai etc.).

All governments and political players use these terms to suit their own political purposes, but what is disturbing in the Japanese case is how the media uniformly and uncritically follows suit (in all the Japanese examples I have given above). One wonders whether in this respect they are simply propagandising agents for the government.


Aurelia George Mulgan
Professor
School of Humanities and Social Sciences University of New South Wales Canberra, Australia http://www.eastasiaforum.org/author/aureliageorgemulgan/

Approved by ssjmod at 12:37 PM

[SSJ: 7394] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Peter Matanle
Date: 2012/04/18

A question for technologists.

Is it possible to determine dispassionately if a satellite rocket does or does not use ballistic missile technology? By that I mean, is it possible ever to launch a satellite into orbit on a rocket whose parts and technologies could never contribute to a ballistic missile programme, whatever the intentions of the government agencies involved?

Surely every single rocket that manages to get a satellite sized object into the outer atmosphere in some way or another could be assessed by a biased and politically motivated analysis as potentially contributing to a ballistic missile programme, whether or not such a programme actually exists.

Cheers,
Peter

Approved by ssjmod at 12:36 PM

[SSJ: 7393] Job opening: Hokkaido University

From: Philip Seaton
Date: 2012/04/18

Dear Colleagues,

Hokkaido University has placed this advertisement on the JREC site for a non-tenured associate professor position in the Research Faculty of Media and Communication.

http://jrecin.jst.go.jp/seek/SeekJorDetail?fn=0&ln=1&id
=D112040583&ln_jor=1

The job is advertized as mainly an English teaching position, but we are keen to encourage applications from people with research profiles in area studies (Japanese/Asian studies, American/British studies etc
etc) or media studies, providing they have English teaching experience.

The closing date for applications is 21 May. Inquiries may be made to me directly at this email address.

Philip Seaton

--
Dr Philip Seaton, MA (Cantab), MA, DPhil (Sussex) Associate Professor, Research Faculty of Media and Communication, Hokkaido University

Webpage: www.philipseaton.net

Approved by ssjmod at 12:35 PM

[SSJ: 7392] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/04/18

By the way, when Iran put a satellite (successfully) into space in February of this year, the following was part of a news article about it:

"Iran developing ICBM capability
Navid was launched into orbit by a missile launch-vehicle called Safir, or Ambassador. The IRNA said Safir has 20 percent more launch power compared to earlier versions Iran used to launch satellites into orbit.
According to an Iranian website Irannuc.ir, Safir is a ballistic missile launch vehicle and can be converted into use for launching intercontinental missiles. The Washington Post reports U.S. State Department officials have confirmed this claim, saying the technology used in launching Safir rocket was "critical" to developing long-range ballistic missiles. The U.S.officials also say Iran's action violated a 2010 U.N. resolution prohibiting Iran from conducting launches using ballistic missile technology."

Read more:
http://digitaljournal.com/article/319001#ixzz1sMPLxr4q

Best regards,
Ellis
************************************************
Ellis S. Krauss, Professor,

Approved by ssjmod at 12:35 PM

April 17, 2012

[SSJ: 7391] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Kyle Cleveland
Date: 2012/04/17

Was Sputnik a satellite or a missile? Or...
drumroll... both?

Approved by ssjmod at 12:33 PM

[SSJ: 7390] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Sam Jameson
Date: 2012/04/17

>From: Robert W. Gordon, Esq.
>Date: 2012/04/16
>
>
>Well, a "missile" justifies (among other things) a
>multi-billion >dollar purchase of Lockheed Martin's
F-35 jetfighters, >notwithstanding >funds needed to rebuild the Tohoku area.
>
>Mere "satellite launch vehicles" aren't as "sexy"
>or as politically useful.
>
>But to answer your question, some media here in the
>South are calling it simply a "rocket".
>
>R.W.G.
>
I recall seeing on TV news in Japanese in Tokyo reports from Japanese reporters in North Korea saying that North Korean officials had pointed out to reporters taken to the scene of the launching that the "rocket:"
was SMALLER than a rocket that would have to be used to launch a weapon.
Japanese reporters also mentioned prominently in their news on Jong-un's appearance in Pyongyang Square that the rocket in the parade that passed the reviewing stand was BIGGER that the rocket that exploded in the launch attempt.
Sam Jameson

Approved by ssjmod at 12:32 PM

[SSJ: 7388] Re: A couple of reasons why theelectricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/04/17

FYI: The San Onofre Nuclear Plant, about 35 miles from my house, has been closed for a few months following discovery of leaks and eroding tubing in one of its steam generators. A second steam generator has now been discovered to have unusual wear and tear in its tubing as well. The steam generators were installed in a refit a few years ago and were made by Mitsubishi. There is an ongoing investigation as to the cause of the degeneration of the tubes.

Best regards,
Ellis
************************************************
Ellis S. Krauss, Professor,

Approved by ssjmod at 12:16 PM

[SSJ: 7387] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/04/17

Briefly, I saw much the same commentary on CNN, Sky TV, and the BBC: North Korea says it's a satellite launch but Western countries accuse North Korea of actually testing a missile. The dominant commentary everywhere I've looked has claimed that there is little difference between testing a missile and putting a satellite into orbit. However, I would disagree in one respect.
Putting a satellite in orbit is not the same thing as delivering a warhead because the latter requires a reentry vehicle (RV), and RV technology is by no means trivial. First, an RV has to re-enter the atmosphere at an appropriate angle and speed, and with a heat and stress endurance so that it does not burn or break up.
Second, an RV with a warhead is not a meaningful weapon unless you can aim it and control its re-entry sufficiently so that it can actual hit an intended target on the ground.

Yes, Japan's H2 rockets have also been seen as potential ICBMs in discourses about Japan possibly going nuclear or being supposedly a "screw-driver's turn away" from having a nuclear weapon (an exaggerated analogy for sure). One important difference, however, is that an enacted UN Security Council resolution forbids North Korea from launching rockets/missiles, although North Korea argues that is an illegal infringement of its national sovereignty (any nation in that position probably would make the same claim).

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 12:15 PM

April 16, 2012

[SSJ: 7386] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Fred Uleman
Date: 2012/04/16

Like many other media, the Asahi newspaper did an opinion poll over the weekend. Theirs got 1779 valid responses (58% of the people asked). Some of the interesting results (in rough translation):

The Noda administration has said there are no major problems with restarting the Oh'i power plant, which is currently down for regularly scheduled maintenance. Do you agree?
Yes: 28%
No: 555

Do you trust the interim safety standards the government has set as prerequisite to restarting nuclear power plants?
Yes: 17%
No: 70%

The government and power companies have put out electricity supply-and-demand forecasts. Do you trust them?
Yes: 18%
No: 66%

Do you think the local communities' approval should be required before restarting nuclear power plants currently shut down for regular maintenance? Or do you think the government should decide this?
Local community approval needed: 88%
Government should decide: 8%

(Asked of the "local government approval needed 88%) When you say "local government," do you mean the towns and prefectures where the power plants are? Or do you include other towns and prefectures in the vicinity?
Where the plants are located: 13%
Include others in the vicinity: 83%

Do you favor gradually phasing out nuclear power?
Yes: 73%
No: 16%

Do you think the Noda administration is working to wean the Japan off nuclear power?
Yes: 19%
No: 61%

This is only one set of results, but I doubt it is much different from the others. For what it is worth.
- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -
Fred Uleman, translator emeritus

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

[SSJ: 7385] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/04/16

A propos eneergy from Russia/North China/North Korea.
I'm told by a knowledgable friend that with newly developed cable transmission techinques, Japan's tapping of (vast??????) clean hydro energy becoes technically and maybe economically feasible,


Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

[SSJ: 7384] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/04/16

My day job is letting up a bit, so I can rejoin this debate to a limited extent.

Jun Okumura responded to my bet proposal on the restart of 10 reactors by the end of the year by proposing 4 instead. I would respond by suggesting that we split the difference and bet on 5 reactors.

Regarding the claim that Japan suffers from a shortage of renewable energy resources, I would argue that this is a myth. Japan has plenty of geothermal, solar, and wind energy resources. The wind fields off the Boso peninsula are among the richest in the world and could make Japan a net electricity exporter, without even considering geothermal or solar. The technology for Japan to fulfill all its electricity needs with renewables exists today, although it is worth noting that wind and solar technology have both been improving rapidly, hence the rapidly falling prices for electricity generated by both. The same goes for storage technology (pump storage, which is an old technology, or flywheel storage, which is a new technology but already commercially used), and smart grids that can deal with fluctuations in power demand and production by the minute, second, or mili-second, rather than by the hour. Nonetheless, even with today's technology both are achievable. However, generating all of Japan's electricity from renewables would take decades, large investments, and most importantly, the political will to do so. Renewables, most notably solar, can help cover shortages during peak summer demand in the short-run, but in terms of overall energy consumption, renewables, currently a bit under 2% of electricity production, are a long term, not a short-term, solution. Whether and when this will happen depends on marshaling the political will (although advocates have strong public support at their
back) and investment, not on technology or resource availability.

On restarting nuclear power plants in the short-run, Asahi Shimbun published a poll today that shows 55% oppose restarting the Oi reactors, versus a mere 28% who support restart. This is broadly consistent with a Yomiuri poll from February that found 53% opposing restarting reactors in general, but more than another February Nikkei poll that found 43% opposed and 41% supporting restarting the reactors. I had not trusted the Yomiuri poll because it did not ask about stress tests, but only "regular inspections."

The Asahi poll also shows why a clear majority now opposes restart: a whopping 70% do not trust the government's safey standards for nuclear plants (versus 17% who do). This result probably helps explain the Noda cabinet's move to put off a final decision on restarting the Oi plant until at least mid May.

Crucially, the Asahi poll found that 66% do not believe government and EPCO estimates about electricity demand and supply (versus 18% who do). The latter is not so surprising, not only because pessimistic estimates about short-fall have proven to be wrong up to now, but also because independent analysts have been poking holes in these estimates. KEPCO estimates a level of electricity demand for this summer that has not been reached for 4 years, and it excludes non-KEPCO sources of electricity, most notably the considerable generating capacity of private companies.

In sum, as I pointed out in several earlier posts (and Gregory Johnson recently echoed), the Japanese public's opposition to nuclear power does not reflect comparatively strong fears of radiation, but new underlying attitudes about nuclear power following the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident, an accident that converted majority support for nuclear power into majority opposition. We are still seeing the ramifications of these new attitudes play out in measurable opinion.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7383] Re: It's Really A Missile!

From: Robert W. Gordon, Esq.
Date: 2012/04/16

Well, a "missile" justifies (among other things) a multi-billion dollar purchase of Lockheed Martin's F-35 jetfighters, notwithstanding funds needed to rebuild the Tohoku area.

Mere "satellite launch vehicles" aren't as "sexy"
or as politically useful.

But to answer your question, some media here in the South are calling it simply a "rocket".

R.W.G.


Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7382] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Brown, James David
Date: 2012/04/16

My suggestion is that political difficulties between Japan and Russia, which of course include the dispute over the Southern Kurils/Northern Territories, have impeded the development of trade in energy. This clearly does not mean that there are no joint projects whatsoever. Japanese companies are involved in Sakhalin
1 and 2, and around 3% of Japanese oil and 8.6% of LNG already come from Russia (EIA figures). This, however, would seem to leave a great deal of scope for further imports.

With Japan now suffering an energy crisis, my conjecture is that Japanese policymakers may be compelled to more actively pursue relations with Russia in the energy field, even if this means taking a softer line on the territorial dispute. Jun Okumura notes that Japan does not have a 'command economy.' I take his point. However, with a resource as strategic as energy, governments almost always play a leading role and major energy deals are often signed at an intergovernmental level.

James D.J. Brown

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

[SSJ: 7381] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/04/16

Jun Okumura wrote:

Note that the Act on Compensation
for Nuclear Damage (Act No. 147 of 1961) may not have a cap on corporate liability but does have specific provisions that clearly anticipate the possibility of significant accidents: 1) 120 billion yen financial backstop for each establishment (not unit, so this has been another incentive for adding units to the same site); 2) government assistance when the liability exceeds the capacity of the utility in question; First, thanks for the correction/clarification. That's part of what makes SSJ so helpful.

Regarding point 2, the conditions of government assistance seem to be ambiguous, at least to me, despite the apparently clear words of the act. The act
(http://tinyurl.com/85y9rua) says that:


"Where nuclear damage occurs, the Government shall give a nuclear operator .... such aid as is required for him to compensate the damage, when the actual amount which he should pay for the nuclear damage pursuant to Section 3 exceeds the financial security amount [Y120 billion] and when the Government deems it necessary in order to attain the objectives of this act.
2. Aid as provided for in the preceding paragraph shall be given to the extent that the Government is authorised to do so by decision of the National Diet."


So, the aid is not automatic. The Diet must approve it, and the act does not specify what conditions, if any, the government can attach to such aid. Nor does this Act make clear (at least to me) the utility's liability if the Diet refuses to authorize the aid.

As for the series of financial injections under the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, I've seen press reports--which could be wrong--that TEPCO is obliged to pay back that money from future profits. But the specifics here are also unclear to me, especiallly if the govt turns that injection into 2/3 ownership of common shares. By the way, the act also says that, in case of bankruptcy, victims stand in line ahead of other creditors like banks.

As for the compensation cap, in the latest Oriental Economist, former Toyo Keizai editor Yoshisuke Iinuma
writes:

"For its part, the MOF feared that compensation would become the government's responsibility, creating a huge financial burden.
Thus MOF Vice-Minister Eijiro Katsu
and other bureaucrats made the rounds,
telling politicians the two things that it was essential to avoid. First, a cap on TEPCO's compensation responsibility, which would mean that its hidden debts would become the government's responsibility, due to political pressure to help the victims. Second, TEPCO's legal bankruptcy would shift its compensation responsibilities onto the government."

So, MOF appears to believe that there is no cap, despite the Y120 mandate for insurance and the provision that I cited above. That's why I say it's ambiguous to me.

Jun continued:

"and 3)
potential government declaration of force majeure, in which case the government will shoulder all responsibility once the 120 billion backstop is exhausted."

Edano long ago said that declaring force majeure was politically impossible. It would also raise a potential legal argument. TEPCO claims the culprit was the tsunami. But smart lawyers could easily argue that the culprit was TEPCO's failure to heed the advice of Fukushima plant manager Masao Yoshida who, years earlier, had urged a higher wall and had specifically cited the 869 tsunami. Had TEPCO built a higher wall, as was done at Onagawa, most of the damage would not have occurred. So, it was a foreseen risk against which TEPCO took no action. In such a suit, could a judge declare TEPCO negligent. If so, what would be the ramifications? I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me like a big can of worms that TEPCO would want to leave unopened.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:27 AM

April 14, 2012

[SSJ: 7379] Re: SSJ: 7312] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Gregory Johnson
Date: 2012/04/14

I may have missed some comments on this issue and apologize for any redundancy. It seems clear that opposition to nuclear power in Japan is not from a latent excessive fear of radiation. Opinion polls show opposition growing in the months after the fiasco and support beforehand. People became increasingly aware of the relentless and compulsive prevarication and obfuscation by the Japan's nuclear power industry and its bureaucratic and political supporters. The fiasco itself could have been much worse and could get worse still. I don't think anyone has mentioned that Fukushima Daini narrowly avoided a meltdown, according to its manager.
(http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120209007089.htm
) Tokai also experienced external power loss and was saved because one of the three backup generators for cooling and two of three seawater pumps continued to function. A recent storm was enough to disrupt a fuel pond cooling system at Onagawa. They apparently have no automatic backup system even now. Fukushima Daiichi continues to experience breakdowns and leaks in its cooling and nitrogen injection systems. Much less water than expected was found recently in the #2 reactor at Daiichi, which means it is going someplace other than where it should. The computer simulation stress tests are like putting more icing on a rotten cake. "The whole process being undertaken is exactly the same as that used previous to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident, even though the accident showed all these guidelines and categories to be insufficient,"
Hiromitsu Ino, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo, said"
(http://washpost.bloomberg.com/Story?docId=1376-LYG9UU6
K50XS01-1E5G2M8SGT6I5CH8EBOB2BTGQH) Little has been done except for computer simulations. Portable generators have been placed near reactors. On TV, I saw generators on four trucks parked under a steep hill behind a reactor. A landslide that wiped out one generator would likely wipe out all four. And it was unclear how fuel would reach the generators if the road to the isolated facility were blocked by a natural phenomenon or fleeing residents. The government is now trying bully its way back to the only condition its politicians are capable of imagining, business as usual. Japan has not experienced a significant reduction in power generation as far as I've read. The government seems more worried about the political implications from people waking up with no nuclear generators running and finding that their lights do go on. It's not so much afraid that there will be shortages as that there won't be and citizens will deem nuclear power to have been an unaffordable luxury. The government excitedly displayed its civil defense alert system and publicized military preparations leading up to Friday's North Korean launch, repeatedly warning a decidedly calm populace not to panic. Its message seemed to be "This time we'll protect you." Its failure to issue an alert or provide information until long after the liftoff and unplanned splashdown was a worldwide TV news item hardly inspires confidence that the government and bureaucracy are capable of protecting citizens in an emergency. Its management of nuclear power to date and response after the Fukushima fiasco invites concerns that protecting citizens is not its first priority.
Greg Johnson

Approved by ssjmod at 11:42 AM

[SSJ: 7378] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/14

No one has offered a counterargument to my 2012/04/10 comments, so I will assume that my criticism of Ellis Kraus's excerpt of Amory Lovins on renewables has been generally accepted and move on. In the meantime, Andrew Dewit offers his thoughts (2012/04/13) on the potential effect of devolution on "smart green energy," which I assume to mean wind and solar power, and electric power management. First, I would be very much interested to hear anyone's views on whether or not a superprefectural entity would be more representative of and more responsive to to the needs and desires of the residents of any municipality within its jurisdiction than the national government currently is. Second, I would like to see properly sourced documents regarding the potential for wind and solar power within the power grid at various scales. Barring a viable mass storage solution, massive subsidies, or a drastic change in lifestyles, wind and solar power will need large grids supported by reliable power sources, and that means lots and lots of fossil fuel and/or nuclear power plants. And does anyone know what the Pentagon is projecting for solar and wind power with regard to the electricity consumption of the US military?

Approved by ssjmod at 11:41 AM

[SSJ: 7377] It's Really A Missile!

From: Earl Kinmonth
Date: 2012/04/14

Does anyone know whether there was an explicit government directive to Japanese media to insert the phrase "it's really a missile" into every single (and I mean every single) reference to the DPRK satellite launch? Especially in NHK newscasts the constant repetition of this phrase, became almost surrealistic.
In some news casts there was only a few seconds separating one "the North Korean satellite really a missile" from the next repetition of "the North Korean satellite really a missile."

Does anyone know whether South Korean media used this peculiar expression?

Is there any intrinsic difference between satellite launch vehicles and "missiles" other than payload and where they are pointed?

I'm not a rocket surgeon as George Bush would have said, but it seems to me that the Japanese H-IIB could easily be used as a "missile" if the Japanese were so inclined. Indeed, if my foggy memory serves me, when the Japanese space program started, there was opposition from the left in Japan because it was seen as leading to the development of "missile" technology.

Is there anything noteworthy in and of itself about a "missile" being used to launch a satellite? Again, if foggy memory serves me, the US launched a number of satellites for both military and non-military purposes using vehicles that in other incarnations were called "ballistic missiles." Indeed, I seem to recall that the first "scientific satellites" launches (and
attempts) were done by US military agencies.

I'm not trying to defend the Workers' Paradise, but it seems to me that there was an inordinate amount of hyperventilation in the local media, especially NHK, and I have to wonder how spontaneous it was.

EHK

Approved by ssjmod at 11:41 AM

April 13, 2012

[SSJ: 7376] Re: A couple of reasons why theelectricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Krauss, Ellis
Date: 2012/04/13

Thanks, Ron for asking, and John for responding about my first book, JAPANESE RADICALS REVISITED (Berkeley:
U. of California Press, 1973). John's memory is excellent both about Apter's book and mine. I used the late Kazuko Tsurumi's data on a sample of 1960 activists to survey and interview them 10 years later and found that the myth that all former activists convert and become conservatives who join big companies was a myth. The latter happened to those who weren't really Zengakuren radicals but only were mobilized intermittently because of the 1960 Treaty crisis. The hardcore Zengakuren activists generally went into publishing, academia, journalism etc and generally continued their left-wing beliefs except without going to demonstrations. A few stayed in the movement even as adults.
Best regards,
Ellis
Ellis S. Krauss

Approved by ssjmod at 12:40 PM

[SSJ: 7375] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/13

James David Brown writes:

"I find it a bit hard to credit though that ""Japanese policymakers" have never let "politics" get in the way of a good commercial deal with Russia, especially when the deal involves energy security." Surely the inseparability of economics and politics has been a touchstone of Japanese policy towards the Soviet Union/Russia over the years. Should Tokyo wish it, there must be considerable scope for increasing energy imports from Russia." (2012/04/13)

Brown, of course, does not have to believe me, but I do believe that he should produce a counterexample for people following this thread. After all, that's all he needs to do to prove me wrong; he only has to refute a negative. To aid his cause, I am providing the following set of words for him to google: "East Sakhalin gas oil Japan". If there's need for more, "siberian oil pipeline Japan" would also be useful.

In passing, I note that he has not denied that by "politics" he means the "Northern Territories." I also think that he should disaggregate "Japan", since it does not have a command economy.

Approved by ssjmod at 12:37 PM

[SSJ: 7373] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Brown, James David
Date: 2012/04/13

Thanks for the reply. I find it a bit hard to credit though that ""Japanese policymakers" have never let "politics" get in the way of a good commercial deal with Russia, especially when the deal involves energy security." Surely the inseparability of economics and politics has been a touchstone of Japanese policy towards the Soviet Union/Russia over the years. Should Tokyo wish it, there must be considerable scope for increasing energy imports from Russia.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:59 AM

[SSJ: 7372] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricityhas kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Steve Hoffman
Date: 2012/04/13

NIMBY is generally a pejorative term -- but it seems that there are legitimate environmental questions and concerns surrounding fracking, which does appear to be an environmentally destructive process.


Steve Hoffman, Ph.D.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:59 AM

[SSJ: 7371] Re: A couple of reasons why theelectricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: John Campbell
Date: 2012/04/13

Coauthor was Suwa; the theory in Against the State was about how violence may be necessary for democracy, sort of Jefferson's tree of liberty needing blood line.
I thought that was kind of interesting, whatever one's sympathies, but anyway the virtue of the book is that it is a first-rate decision-making narrative case study on the government side of the Narita story, as well as being surely the best thing in English (I wouldn't know about in Japanese) about what being a radical entailed.


Unless I have forgotten something of Ellis's many writings, the reference is to his book Japanese Radicals Revisited, which was about the 1960 crowd; he was revisiting them because Kazuko Tsurumi wrote a book about them earlier, if I remember correctly. He found the same people and wrote about their lives and views ten years after.

jc
__________________________
>From John Creighton Campbell
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
University of Michigan
Visiting Scholar, Institute of Gerontology Tokyo University jccamp at umich.edu

Approved by ssjmod at 11:58 AM

[SSJ: 7369] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Andrew DeWit
Date: 2012/04/13

> From: Ron Dore
> Date: 2012/04/11
>
>
> Mike Smitka is bang on as usual. He should take a
week to go see the
> line-up in the battle over restarting the reactor In
Osaka. He'd get a
> great paper out of it.
> One thing about the Japanese nimby battles these
days, as I reflected
> seeing all those spare policemen at Narita, is that
the Japanese
> version of such situations is no longer complicated
by helmet and
> scarves and gerabo-wielding Chukaku teenagers -- or
ex-teenagers.
> Who was the political scientist, David XY who wrote
an, I thought
> absurdly sympathetic, book about these people at
Narita?

The line-up over restarts includes Japan's most innovate finance and IT capital together with a new wave in politics that's making serious headway in decentralization and smart deregulation. Thanks to Osaka Mayor Hashimoto, regional blocs are firming up in Kansai, Kyushu, Shikoku and etc and getting ready to take over the METI, National Lands and Min of Environment regional bureaus. Those are the first 3 of
16 central agencies' regional sections to be up for decentralization. They are also key to organizing a smart, green energy shift at the regional level, accelerated by policies like the comprehensive feed-in tariff and robust green city programmes.

The utilities, with their centralized power infrastructure and business models, naturally hate all this and claim the sky will fall. The megabanks, Keidanren and MOF seems just as desperate to preserve the status quo and the utilities' revenue streams. PM Noda was dreaming about being the second coming of Koizumi with a consumption-tax election, but is waking up to find himself standing on what looks a heck of a lot like the wrong side of history with the old guard and their concentrated benefits-diffused costs in a protracted war over energy-policy.

By way of comparison, a bipartisan stream of Americans are trying to go renewable and smart through the Pentagon and its 750-plus bases, federal politics being dysfunctional and too much of the private economy dominated by vested energy interests:
http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/ElectricPower/6168116

So Japan's fight over restarts seems a wee bit bigger than a Narita rerun. Maybe it's a little more like exactly 20 years ago this summer when Keidanren and MOF fought off PM Miyazawa and protected the corrupt status quo in the financial economy.

The reformists might lose this time again, but personally I'm sure happy as hell to be here and able to watch this unfold. This country rocks.


Approved by ssjmod at 11:56 AM

April 12, 2012

[SSJ: 7368] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/12

Richard Katz writes: "Why didn't Japan apply a cap? The reason, I've been told, is that to put in such a cap would be to admit the possibility of accidents; and the nuclear village did not want to admit that possibility." (2012/04/12)

I'm not a time-travelling mind reader, but my guess is that they never anticipated any liability on the order of Fukushima-daiichi because they never anticipated anything like 3.11. Note that the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage (Act No. 147 of 1961) may not have a cap on corporate liability but does have specific provisions that clearly anticipate the possibility of significant accidents: 1) 120 billion yen financial backstop for each establishment (not unit, so this has been another incentive for adding units to the same site); 2) government assistance when the liability exceeds the capacity of the utility in question; and 3) potential government declaration of force majeure, in which case the government will shoulder all responsibility once the 120 billion backstop is exhausted.

Incidentally, point 3) has intrigued me from the beginning. I'm sure that the TEPCO board would never dare bring an administrative suit to force the government to make the declaration, but Steele Partners, for instance, could seek poetic justice on the Japanese power industry and make money on the side by bringing a shareholders lawsuit to force the board to act. Note also that a court-appointed receiver might have to seek said relief as part of its fiduciary duties. If I'm right, then this would be a plausible reason why the government would not choose formal bankruptcy as the means to force other stakeholders to make more concessions.

Also from Rick:

"Nuclear power has never been able to stand on its own in the US market. Like other sources of energy, including oil and gas, it is heavily
subsidized."(2012/04/12)

But what isn't? Coal? Firewood? Seriously, America's energy subsidies don't look very OECD-y to me. More to the topic at hand, is anyone aware of any recent studies that line up the subsidies and penalties for various energy sources on a single scale with the methodology clearly laid out? Preferably on Japan, but any country will do if it lets me get my hands on a plausible and transferable scale.


Approved by ssjmod at 11:14 AM

[SSJ: 7367] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/12

I shouldn't be PUI but what the heck, it was a good day, all things considered.

James David Brown writes:

"Taking into account this economic argument in favour of gas (as well as the threat that LNG supplies from the Middle East may be disrupted by a crisis over Iran), is it likely we'll see Japanese policymakers be compelled to set politics aside somewhat and seek to import more energy from Russia?" (2012/04/12)

Assuming that "Japanese policymakers" means "Japanese government" and "politics" means "Northern Territories", "Japanese policymakers" have never let "politics" get in the way of a good commercial deal with Russia, especially when the deal involves energy security. If you have any doubts, just ask anyone at JBIC or NEXI. Any hitches that have occurred were the kind to be expected when you're dealing with a petro-state (as opposed to an emerging economy).


Approved by ssjmod at 11:13 AM

[SSJ: 7366] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ehud Harari
Date: 2012/04/12

Do you David Apter and coauthor?

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

[SSJ: 7365] Re: A couple of reasons why theelectricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/04/12

Yes, Thanks Ellis, David Apter, a charming fellow who died a couple of years ago, I discover. Perhaps I was being a bit harsh when I said "absurdly"
sympathetic to the chuukaku and their rivals whose name I've forgotten, but Dave never got over the boyish enthusiasm for changing the world that he caught at Berkeley when he was teaching there in the late 60s. He wrote a great book on Ghana,though. Incidentally, I've been puzzling over the "gerabo" in my note, the sticks that the students used on the police. And realised that it should be gebabo -- from the German gebalt.
But didn't Ellis write a book about those times?


Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:12 AM

[SSJ: 7364] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/04/12

I'll echo what Rick Katz said on natural gas in the US.
I have heard that from a nuclear-sympathetic specialist in the US (an ex-nuclear submarine naval engineer), from questions at a government briefing that Arthur Alexander and I did shortly after 3/11, and from my mom's hometown, where a showcase "clean" coal project
-- CO2 sequestration, to be built in an open-pit mine, the whole 9 yards ["everything"] -- got cancelled.
Capital costs are lower, and natural gas is
(comparatively) cheap despite NIMBY opposition to fracking and pipeline capacity issues.=


Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

[SSJ: 7363] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Brown, James David
Date: 2012/04/12

Taking into account this economic argument in favour of gas (as well as the threat that LNG supplies from the Middle East may be disrupted by a crisis over Iran), is it likely we'll see Japanese policymakers be compelled to set politics aside somewhat and seek to import more energy from Russia? I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts.

James

James D.J. Brown PhD,
University of Aberdeen

Approved by ssjmod at 11:11 AM

[SSJ: 7362] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/04/12

> Who was the political scientist, David XY who wrote
an, I thought
> absurdly sympathetic, book about these people at
Narita?

I believe the book Ron Dore was thinking of is:

Against the State: Politics and Social Protest in Japan

by David E. Apter

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.
Best regards,
Ellis
************************************************
Ellis S. Krauss, Professor,

Approved by ssjmod at 11:08 AM

[SSJ: 7361] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/04/12

I agree with Ellis that economic forces are the main thing preventing the oft-heralded, but never arriving, "nuclear renaissance" in the US. One minor quibble, John Rowe, the "nuclear guy" who is CEO of Exelon, the top nuclear operator in the US, gave this speech three days BEFORE Fukushima. He said:

> "[Natural gas] is the probable
source of supply for any new

> generation that we might build.natural gas is 50-60%
the price of
new

> nuclear, it's cheaper and much cleaner than new
coal.its cheaper
than

> wind and much cheaper than solar. Natural gas is
queen right now.it

> is going to be the dominant source of energy for
electricity, on
the

> margin, for the next 10 and almost surely for the
next 20 years. It

> simply is more economic than all the alternatives and
is likely to
be

> so for every year within a 20 year period...Up until
2 or 3 years

> ago, I simply could see no alternative to a major
nuclear
resurgence

> at some time, but as we look at a world with
relatively slow growth

> in demand for electricity, wind that actually works,
solar that has

> gone from 40 cents per kilowatt-hour to 20 cents.you
do begin to

> envision that there may be a more complex technology
base out there

> that might be economically competitive with nuclear
and socially

> thought to be preferable."

Nuclear power has never been able to stand on its own in the US market. Like other sources of energy, including oil and gas, it is heavily subsidized. One major form of subsidy is loan guarantees by the federal government; private capital markets simply will not finance new nuke plants without government guarantees.
Secondly, since the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, nuclear utilities have a cap on the amount of compensation they have to pay for any nuclear accident. Anything above that level will be covered by either a hike in utility rates or else federal government spending to pay to compensation. This is because the nukes could not get private insurance coverage without such a cap. BTW, Japan did not authorize any such cap and now it faces a dilemma over TEPCO. Why didn't Japan apply a cap? The reason, I've been told, is that to put in such a cap would be to admit the possibility of accidents; and the nuclear village did not want to admit that possibility.

I suspect that the nuclear subsidy in the US is a lot less than that given to oil and gas, but it still shows that nuclear energy could not make it in the private market. From an economist's standpoint, such subsidies would be justified if there were big gains to society that were not captured in market prices ("positive externalities" in the jargon). For example, lower health costs and fewer premature deaths because of the absence of the kind of pollution produced by oil and gas and coal. But in the post-Fukushima era, that argument, even if true, is not persuasive.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:07 AM

April 11, 2012

[SSJ: 7360] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/04/11

Mike Smitka is bang on as usual. He should take a week to go see the line-up in the battle over restarting the reactor In Osaka. He'd get a great paper out of it.
One thing about the Japanese nimby battles these days, as I reflected seeing all those spare policemen at Narita, is that the Japanese version of such situations is no longer complicated by helmet and scarves and gerabo-wielding Chukaku teenagers -- or ex-teenagers.
Who was the political scientist, David XY who wrote an, I thought absurdly sympathetic, book about these people at Narita?

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:07 AM

[SSJ: 7359] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/04/11

I need to read David Aldrich and others on siting, but the magnitude of the bribe is surely a function of the political structure in which bribes were offered, and the sheer intransigence that "ojii-san" can exhibit when it pays so well. Of course it helps when there are organized opposition groups who need to be convinced to go along, the bad cop / good cop story. Different political systems will constrain the ability to hold out in different ways.

An example, based on logic rather than a specific case
study: when the rules for opening large store laws in Japan were changed in the mid-1990s to put in hard-and-fast approval deadlines, the game changed and stores got built. Before the local level could procrastinate and procrastinate in hopes of negotiating a better deal, with multiple players there would always be those who'd say "let's wait another month and see if they sweeten the pot" and it would be hard for proponents to dispute what had surely worked several times already. (Of course those wanting to procrastinate would include those who never wanted the store to be granted permission.) With a hard deadline, at some point those who aren't fundamentally opposed have to say aye / nay. There are insider accounts of labor negotiations in the US that convey this logic well, a settlement would never be reached until the last hour even when the final agreement was in line with informal discussions months earlier that took place outside of the negotiation room. There's even one example with the added twist that both sides would very quietly agree to a short strike so that they could cover their backsides (United Auto Workers leaders and GM labor negotiators could then both "sell" the deal to their respective clienteles as "the best they could get" when membership and management had expectations that were not in line with the people at the bargaining table).

mike smitka

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

April 10, 2012

[SSJ: 7358] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/10

I thank Ellis Kraus for bringing to our attention the Foreign Policy essay by Amory Lovins, which shows that Japan is not the only country that has been providing massive subsidies to the nuclear power industry (2012/04/07). Perhaps we might have gone down a different path, or at least come down this path differently, if we had had the ability to foresee what the relative costs and availability of the various energy sources would be. But we didn't, and Lovins'
argument tells us little about what we should do with the nuclear power plants in operation or nearing completion. In fact, if cost were the only concern, I'm sure that Lovins would agree that the power plants should be fired up or finished as soon as possible.

And since we are discussing Lovins' essay (or rather, the excerpt therefrom), there are a few things that need some 'splainin'. First, Lovins mentions that coal-fired power plants are not being built in the United States because they are too expensive. Yes, but compared to what? Not renewables, that's for sure. In fact, US utilities have access to cheap pipeline gas, whereas we in Japan must use expensive LNG, which makes coal the cheaper option for us. Second, Lovins writes:
"Investors are shunning their high costs and financial risks in favor of small, fast, modular renewable generators." Maybe, but I suspect that investors in the US are putting even more money into gas-fired power plants. And Lovins doesn't mention that the allure of those "small, fast(?), modular renewable generators" is vastly enhanced-in fact for the most part generated-by their own set of subsidies, explicit and implicit.
Finally, though this is a trivial point, Japan has one nuclear power unit near completion and another one with substantial groundwork completed, so not all plants under construction had been bought by "central planners" at the time of the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster.

Amory Lovins does provide an interesting piece of information about nuclear power in the United States, but he does so as part of a cleverly crafted but what I judge to be deliberately flawed pitch for renewables (for which Japan, alas, is climatically poorly situated). Japanese EPCOs can tell him what happens when you bend the means to serve your ends. And that's the post-3.11 takeaway that anyone can appreciate, regardless of what their views are on energy and the environment.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:06 AM

April 07, 2012

[SSJ: 7353] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/04/07

Japan might want to consider this from a very good article, "A Farewell to Fossil Fuels, " by Amory B. Lovins in FOREIGN AFFAIRS (March/April 2012), pp. 140-141:

"Choosing electricity sources is complicated by copious disinformation, such as the myth that nuclear power was thriving in the United States until environmentalists derailed it after the March
1979 Three Mile Island meltdown. In fact, bad economics made orders for nuclear power plants in the United States fall by 90 percent from
1973 to 1975 and dry up completely by 1978. Indeed, soaring capital costs eventually halted nuclear expansion in all market-based power systems, and by 2010, all 66 reactors under construction worldwide had been bought by central planners.
Even after the U.S. government raised its subsidies for new reactors in 2005 to at least their construction costs, not one of the 34 proposed units could attract private capital; they simply had no business case….

After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, John Rowe, chair of Exelon (the United States’ biggest nuclear power producer), pronounced the nuclear renaissance dead. In truth, market forces had killed it years earlier.
New coal and nuclear plants are so uneconomical that o⁄cial U.S.
energy forecasts predict no new nuclear and few new coal projects will be launched. Investors are shunning their high costs and financial risks in favor of small, fast, modular renewable generators."

Best regards,
Ellis
************************************************

Approved by ssjmod at 11:04 AM

April 06, 2012

[SSJ: 7352] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/04/06

In reply to Rick Katz

It maybe a Kahneman effect, but I was so irritated by Rick's dismissal of Mueller whom he hasn't read and whom I consider one of the most clear-headed political scientists in the United States that I may have broken our record of friendly dailogue by being ruder than I should.

On Chernobyl, At the time of the 2005 report, as Mulller said, 50 or so certain deaths were reported.
The report said that there might eventually be
4,000 deaths, most of them still in the future after 20 years, without saying how many life-shortening years that implied, but stressing that the psychological effects of not having accurate informtion about how much physical damage they might have received was causing more distress than the physical effects themselves. The next year, on the 20th anniversary of the accident, the DG of WHOissued a statement, primrily intended to evoke bigger contributions for the reahabiliation activies, made the same point about information and the psychological effects, but for unclear reasons -- he did not report any new investigations -- unpdated the 4,000 estimate to 9,000.
I still think that Rick's giving the larger numbers without sceptical exmination of their basis is "feeding Japan's nuclear phobia".

To Paul Midford who says that the nuclear phobia had receded by 1960, as revealed in public opinon surveys supporting neculear generation, I was talking not only about feelings of fear/epectation/indifference/towards
nuclear generation or nuclear weapons in general, but specificlly about nimbyism. Not in my back yard. It is without doubt that the "bribes" that were /had to be?
offered to local communitie to accept nculear generation sites, were far greater than in France or Britain or Korea.

Anyway, the disaaster of eternal hatsuden haishi (no more nuclear
generation) seems not as probable as I have predicted in previous postings.
The Noda government has bestirred itself and may get a generator back working in Osaka next month.

Ron Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:04 AM

[SSJ: 7351] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/04/06

Mary Alice Haddad writes:

".The total change in CO2 emissions from energy consumption in Japan by sector 1990-2009 Total= +0.03% change

Sectors that increased their emissions:
Waste 14.1%
Transport 5.4%
Residence 26.9%
Offices 33.6%
Energy industries 16.2%

Sectors that decreased their emissions:
Industrial Processes -30.4%
Manufacturing -19.9%
.
It is very clear that the building sector, both household and offices, is the area where the greatest improvements can be made. Since improvements in this area are relatively cheap and easy, as others have pointed out, it is somewhat startling that more has not been done." (2012/04/04)

A comparison of 1990 and 2009 emissions is misleading because the 2009 figures reflect the massive downturn in economic activity triggered by the 2008 financial crisis. All sectoral CO2 emissions took hits, but industrial sector emissions, which decreased marginally between 1990 and 2007 but with significant fluctuations that most likely resulted from fluctuations in economic activity, plummeted in 2008 and 2009. Here's a graph
(http://www.jccca.org/chart/chart04_05.html) from a reputable source. I found the corresponding manufacturing (and mining) production figures from another reputable source (http://www.meti.go.jp/statistics/tyo/iip/result-2.html
), which according to my casual guesstimate suggest that somewhat less than half-1/3?-of the emissions reductions in manufacturing over the 1990-2009 period resulted from efficiency gains loosely defined as reduction of emissions over value added. (I'd be happy to come up with firm numbers for the right money.) Likewise, the even greater drop-off in industrial processes emissions appears to be largely attributable to the decline in cement and blast furnace steel production.

Still, those were real savings, and the same thing can't be said for offices and residences. But if it ain't happening, maybe it's a little premature to assume that "improvements in this area are relatively cheap and easy". In fact, current household and office consumption reflects lifestyle changes that may not be easy to reverse. (Fellow Tokyo denizens who managed to work through this winter wearing a coat and typing with tipless gloves will know what I'm talking about.) Housing and building stock do not turn over that quickly, and retrofitting must make economic sense for homeowners and institutional bean counters. (Nothing is "cheap" if you lose money on the deal.) Finally, proprietary occupants and landlords face very different incentives when it comes to capital costs and operating expenses.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:03 AM

[SSJ: 7350] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/04/06

In reply to Ron Dore:

Having engaged in friendly dialogue with Ron Dore for years, both on listserves and offline, I must say I am taken aback by the tone and the false accusations in Ron's posting. Let me reply (I apologize for the length caused by extensive excerpts from articles).

Ron falsely accuses me of "feed[ing] the nuclear phobia" by "misquoting the WHO report about Chernobyl."

This is completely untrue. Ron cited a book which, unbenownst to him did, in fact, mislead people about the WHO report by only mentioning the initial 50 deaths of workers and completely omitting WHO's projection of
4,000 eventual deaths (a projection later upped to 9,000). In response, I:
* pointed out the misquote by that book, quoted the secondary source cited by its author (who couldn't be bothered to use primary sources for a book published by an academic press)
* inputted the direct quote from WHO
* inputted WHO's comment that its projection was far smaller than some of the scenarios put out by the anti-nuclear crowd (which, from what I've seen, range from a couple hundred thousand deaths to a million)
* included URLs so that people could judge for themselves, and
* noted that even 9,000 deaths over a few decades is equal to just two years of deaths of coal miners in China due to mining accidents and a tiny fraction of the 2-4 million people, mostly in poor countries, who (and the thousands of people in the rich countries) who die of respitory diseases caused by oil, coal, cow dung, etc.

I don't know why Ron, who is usually more accurate and more gracious, sent the false "misquote" accusation in my direction.


RD wrote:

I don't know why Richard Katz...
persists in his charge that what people call the "nuclear viillage" (presumed to be people interested only in making money or protecting their backs) are the true villains behind the catastrophe."

What I actually said was that the nuclear village's history of lies and deceptions have created the distrust that prevents the nukes from being restarted.
Turning Aesop on his head, they were the boys who not only cried sheep but denied that wolves even existed:
i.e. what the Funabashi Commission called the "twisted myth" of "absolute safety."

Consider just two examples of deception.

1) TEPCO falsifies records; METI takes two years to act after whistleblower leaks finally emerge in the press


"Asahi - September 3, 2002
TEPCO heads to roll; inspections start

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) president and chairman said Monday they will resign over a long series of cover-ups that has forced emergency inspections of cracks around the company's nuclear reactors. President Nobuya Minami, 66, will step down in mid-October while Chairman Hiroshi Araki, 71, will resign at the end of this month. Minami on Monday did not attempt to defend the company's long-running system of faking repair reports about faulty equipment in three TEPCO nuclear plants....

TEPCO's announcement of the resignations follows allegations that TEPCO's cover-ups continued until last year and that more than 100 employees, including executives, were involved. TEPCO, the nation's largest utility, said it plans to shut down the potentially faulty reactors from this week to late October for emergency checks involving government inspectors. They are the Unit 4 reactor at the Fukushima First Nuclear Power Station, as well as Units 2, 3 and 4 at the Fukushima Second Nuclear Power Station. The company has already said it would shut down the Unit 1 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station in Niigata Prefecture. "


"Nuclear Fuel September 2, 2002
TEPCO's Plutonium Program on ice

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco)....management had consistently misrepresented inspection findings by consultant General Electric Co. (GE) at numerous reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa and Fukushima sites for over a decade.

But observers said that statements attributed to METI thus far-including reports that whistleblowers had provided METI key information beginning in 2000 and that the agency had been working with Tepco management to resolve discrepancies in inspection reports since then-suggested that METI itself may be subject to scrutiny as to whether it colluded with industry in not taking legal action sooner and not making known to the public, parliament, and prefectural safety authorities that reactors which were routinely operating had filed falsified or incomplete inspection findings regarding damaged core components."

Was anyone even indicted, let alone jailed?

and 2) NISA fails to upgrade regulations to protect TEPCO from lawsuits

"NISA was aware of nuke plant weaknesses, but failed to revise regulatory laws, Asahi, March 24, 2012

The government's nuclear watchdog was aware of the vulnerability of some of Japan's reactors a year before disaster struck the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, but it did not take action. Specifically, it chose not to seek a revision of laws requiring operators of plants to draw up additional safeguards against a severe accident, according to records obtained by The Asahi Shimbun...The records were obtained under the Information Disclosure Law.

Experts say the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant last year could have been less severe if Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, had been required to install safety steps stipulated by law.

NISA and the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization, a government-affiliated body, discussed efforts to improve preparedness at nuclear plants for a severe accident...One proposal discussed was to require operators to strengthen containment vessels, install equipment to contain nuclear fuel in the case of a meltdown and beef up the ability of emergency equipment to withstand major earthquakes. But the NISA was reluctant to push it due to fears the revision could give rise to lawsuits over design failings of some reactors that had been permitted to operate."

Ron Dore wrote:

"Taking a bet on the once in a thousand years tsunami not arriving, and putting the reserve generators underground were clearly mistakes, but I am prepared to believe that they were honest mistakes in the kind of risk assessment that anybody buildiing infrastructure has to make, not the result of knowing deception."

I myself raised the possibility that this was a reasonable decision based on their knowedge at the time in my March 27 post on Scenarios A, B, and C. In my April 2 post in which I cite Fukushima plant manager Yoshida's 2008 recommendation of a higher seawall to protect against Tsunamis--a proposal rejected by TEPCO--I didn't say TEPCO was either reasonable or unreasonaable; I'm not qualified to judge. What. I wrote was: "I have no idea how a truly disinterested group of experts would have assessed Yoshida's argument."

The main point is that TEPCO should not be the one that making these life or death decisions. It cannot be objective about the evidence. It has a history of falsification on safety issues as well as the unconcious biases that Nobel laureate Kahnamen says exist at most corporations. Letting it make these decisions is like letting Goldman Sachs design the rules for financial markets.

What is needed is a truly independent agency whose sole mission is safety, not agencies conflicted between two
bosses: nuclear promotion and nuclear safety. It needs to recruit and build up a staff that is able to prevent "regulatory capture" by the very interests it is supposed to oversee.

Lest there be any further misunderstandings, let me repeat myself: however dangerous and risky nuclear power it, it remains (so far at least) a lot less deadly than the other presently available alternative:
fossil fuels. Most authorities don't believe renewables or other alternatives will be ready for commercialization on a mass scale for a couple decades.

That said, nuclear could be made a lot less risky than it is. It is certainly possible that the Fukushima disaster might have been prevented had the corporate-government culture around nuclear power been different. The failure of Japan's nuclear village even to admit that risks can be reduced, its history of cover-ups, and repeated failure to make remedial steps is one of the main reasons that nuclear phobia has risen to such heights. Why would anyone expect the Japanese people believe assurances coming from exactly the same people who have lied to them so many times before? To claim that criticism of the nuclear village is feeding nuclear phobia is exactly the attitude that has produced such distrust. The stricter the controls over the nuclear village, the greater the possibility of a reduction in nuclear phobia.

I hope that future postings will be more civil. That is indispensable to the SSJ's ability to serve as a Roundtable.

Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:02 AM

April 05, 2012

[SSJ: 7347] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/04/05

Ron Dore wrote:

"The nuclear phobia was not recently been created. It has been there ,not entirely without reason, since it was first created by American bombs, first on Hiroshima and then, for experimental purposes, on Nagasaki. That is why there was so much local opposition to the siting of every nuclear station and the quid pro quo had to be that much greater than in, say, a France or a Korea."

I am too busy with my day job right now to really participate in this discussion, but on this small point I want to note that this is simply not the case. In the 1960s there was some lingering distrust of nuclear power that resulted from the use of nuclear weapons on Japan. By the 1970s, however, this had been overcome and around 70% of Japanese favored expanding the use of nuclear power to generate electricity, making the Japanese public one of the most, if not the most, pro-nuclear publics in the
world. Japanese public opinion slowly turned against
nuclear power over the ensuing decades, but that was the result of 3 Mile Island, and much more so Chernobyl, Tokaimura and various coverups in the nuclear industry in Japan. Take a look at Daniel Aldrich's book, Site Fights, for more on this.

Nonetheless, as late as April 2011 Asahi's poll showed 50% of Japanese still favoring the use of nuclear power. The loss of majority support for nuclear power and the emergence of anti-nuclear plurality/majority has come since then.


Best Regards,

Paul

Approved by ssjmod at 11:52 AM

April 04, 2012

[SSJ: 7346] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Fred Uleman
Date: 2012/04/04

Without, I think, indulging in what Dr Dore has referred to as the blame culture, we are right to question the actions of industry-government players and to want to err on the side of caution.

The actions of industry-government players? What, for example?
For example, agreeing that successful completion of two-part stress tests is prerequisite to restarting any reactors and then wanting to restart them after completing just the first part. (And note that the tests were conducted by the industry players and approved by what are widely perceived as captive government players.) What happened to part two? Why is this suddenly irrelevant?
For example, moving to adopt "zantei" safety standards. What does this "zantei" mean? Basically, they are interim standards -- interim meaning "we have no idea what the standards really should be so we are going to adopt these for the time being." And once these standards of convenience have been adopted and there are no life-threatening accidents reported, it is safe to assume "the time being" will be a very long time indeed.

Coupled with this indecent haste to get the reactors restarted, there has been an indecent back-burnering on creating an independent regulatory body, bringing the electoral system into line with the constitution, and doing some of the other things that many see as more pressing than getting back to nuclear business as usual.

"Trust is," they say. "Why?" we say.

- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -
Fred Uleman, translator emeritus

Approved by ssjmod at 11:51 AM

[SSJ: 7345] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Haddad, Mary Alice
Date: 2012/04/04

On the topic of energy efficiency, I thought I'd share a few statistics. These come from a Keidanren report, "Keidanren's Action on Global Environment", a hard copy of which was handed to me during some interviews there during June 2011.

The total change in CO2 emissions from energy consumption in Japan by sector 1990-2009 Total= +0.03% change

Sectors that increased their emissions:
Waste 14.1%
Transport 5.4%
Residence 26.9%
Offices 33.6%
Energy industries 16.2%

Sectors that decreased their emissions:
Industrial Processes -30.4%
Manufacturing -19.9%

The other extraordinary figure in the report is that Japan has dramatically reduced its final disposal industrial waste. In 2009 it was 89% below 1990 levels. This is largely because of rising reutilization rates, which are now above 50%.

It is very clear that the building sector, both household and offices, is the area where the greatest improvements can be made. Since improvements in this area are relatively cheap and easy, as others have pointed out, it is somewhat startling that more has not been done.

Best regards,
Mary Alice

Approved by ssjmod at 11:50 AM

April 03, 2012

One argument that (again) completely disappears from the discussion is the relative cost of nuclear energy. I have no particular reason to distrust the studies showing that statistically, even a nuclear accident like in Fukushima causes fewer deaths than

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/04/03

"The current nuclear phobia in Japan is a direct result of exactly that sort of deception by the government and utilities in Japan."

Says Richard Katz

I don't know why Richard Katz, having fed the nuclear phobia by misquoting the WHO report about Chernobyl, persists in his charge that what people call the "nuclear viillage" (presumed to be people interested only in making money or protecting their backs) are the true villains behind the catastrophe.
The nuclear phobia was not recently been created. It has been there ,not entirely without reason, since it was first created by American bombs, first on Hiroshima and then, for experimental purposes, on Nagasaki. That is why there was so much local opposition to the siting of every nuclear station and the quid pro quo had to be that much greater than in, say, a France or a Korea.

Taking a bet on the once in a thousand years tsunami not arriving, and putting the reserve generators underground were clearly mistakes, but I am prepared to believe that they were honest mistakes in the kind of risk assessment that anybody buildiing infrastructure has to make, not the result of knowing deception.

To charge them with the latter is "blame culture"
scapegoating, in which Rick is joining 95% of the Japanese media.. The officials who ought currently to be attacked are the provincial governors who won't risk their political futures to press for restarting the generators, and the Minshuto politicians and the demoralised officials of Meti who are half-hearted about pressing the governors.


Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:48 AM

[SSJ: 7341] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Mark S. Manger
Date: 2012/04/03

One argument that (again) completely disappears from the discussion is the relative cost of nuclear energy.
I have no particular reason to distrust the studies showing that statistically, even a nuclear accident like in Fukushima causes fewer deaths than running coal power plants. In fact as long as people bathe in the Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture for its "health benefits," I think the worries about radiation are slightly... hypocritical=


Approved by ssjmod at 11:48 AM

[SSJ: 7339] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/04/03

Ron Dore wrote [regarding Mueller's book]


"We all tend to be more impressed by statements of non-refutable facts that provide arguments for our gut-feelings, but "deceptive misreporting" is going a bit far. Let me say ...that my own gut feeling is that the present level of nuclear phobia in Japan is disastrous..."

When someone cites WHO as saying that there were only
50 deaths from Chernobyl and leaves out its projection of 4,000 additional deaths, that is deceptive. The current nuclear phobia in Japan is a direct result of exactly that sort of deception by the government and utilities in Japan. The authorities told people that there was no risk, and then reportedly refused to make needed improvements because that would look like an admission of defects in the past and raise questions about remaining defects, or because they would lead to lawsuits. So, naturally, now that there has been precisely the kind of catrastrophe that people had been told was impossible, no one believes any current assurances of safety from the same people who deceived them in the past. The friends of nuclear power in Japan turned out to be its worst enemies.


Ellis Krauss wrote:

"A tsunami that big had not been prepared for because no one predicted an earthquake that big and such a tsunami hadn't occurred for 1000 years. Do you prepare for a once/1000 year disaster? Possibly but hard to blame authorities for not spending taxpayer money on an occurrence so rare.

The nuclear power plants are quite a different issue."

But this is the same reasonable-sounding argument tthat was used for not spending far less money to build a higher seawall to protect Fukushima: "because no one predicted an earthquake that big and such a tsunami hadn't occurred for 1000 years." Cf. Mike Smitka below.
I suspect the real difference is cost. How much would it cost--and what would be the consequences--of building a high seawall all along the coast. What would it cost to protect one nuclear facility?

Had the higher wall been built, as it was at Onagawa, Fukushima would not have been a catastrophe. I've seen back and forth evidence on how many experts warned TEPCO that they should build such a wall, and regarding TEPCO's own internal documents and discussion on this issue. Wikipedia, citing a Mainichi article no longer on the web, says that:


"In 2007 TEPCO did set up a department to supervise all its nuclear facilities, and until June 2011 its chairman was Masao Yoshida, the chief of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. An in-house study in 2008 pointed out that there was an immediate need to improve the protection of the power station from flooding by seawater. This study mentioned the possibility of tsunami-waves up to 10.2 meters. Officials of the department at the company's headquarters insisted however that such a risk was unrealistic and did not take the prediction seriously."

Did Yoshida or anyone else ever present their findings to NISA or other government agencies, or leak them to the press? I don't know. But I do know that TEPCO leaders have no ability to look objectively at something that will surely raise costs today for an eventuality that seemed extremely likely not to occur during their lifetimes. Nor did the governement agencies promoting nukes. I have no idea how a truly disinterested group of experts would have assessed Yoshida's argument. However, in talking about his investigation committee, Funabashi has complained that, even among academics, too many have ties that interefere with objective judgment.


Mike Smitka wrote:


"So if the last previous large tsunami
was over 1,000 years earlier -- and records were from a different part of the coast -- then do you really build that into your scenarios [for Fukushima]?"
So, you seem to be arguing that, even in hindsight, this was a reasonable decision given what people knew at the time, my scenario A. It would be interesting to know how many experts outside of the utilities or government agencies, or outside of Japan, now agree with that assessment.


MS continues:
"2. The disaster was because several backup systems failed, if it was only the tsunami then there wouldn't have been a problem."

My understanding is that neither the government nor TEPCO ever designed a back-up plan in case all electric power went out because the government said that it was not necessary. They asserted that it was impossible for the all power to be lost. Hatamura talks about this in interview cited below (not the part I excerpt).

MS continues:
"...Yet as incompetent as the TEPCO management may be, short of making different design decisions in the mid-1960s, it doesn't look as though a greater degree of competence could have made a difference."

"Again, if a plant is soon to be decommissioned, how much retrofitting do you want to do, particularly if it leads to shutdowns in the interim?"


Consider this scary information from an interview with Yotaro Hatamura, the head of the government-created investigation committee: http://tinyurl.com/7bwx5e5

"After the Chuetsu earthquake of 2007, it was learned that the fire-suppression pipes at the nearby nuclear power plant had burst and were unusable. A determination was made [by TEPCO for Fukushima] that those pipes needed to be properly integrated into the building, which was done.
As the same time that those pipes were being built, I believe that someone came up with the idea that since a system of fire-suppression pipes was being built, it also made sense to build the system so that it could be used as an emergency cooling system as well.
If that had not been done, you could have brought firefighting pumps; you could have brought anything if there had not been a system of pipes in the building, nothing could have been done to cool the plant.
[If this system had not been installed] Without a doubt, a massive accident would have occurred. You wouldn't have been able to cool the reactors. What would have happened? The pressure vessels would probably have ruptured. The containment vessels would also probably have ruptured. . Had that happened, the resulting damage would have been many times that of Chernobyl, an unimaginable disaster that would have made the eastern part of Japan totally uninhabitable."

So, it was total serendipity. A far worse catastrophe was avoided only because there happened to be an earthquake in 2007 that alerted TEPCO to a problem that they hadn't thought about, and they were able to retrofit it in time. I don't know whether other experts agree on Hatamura's estimate of the potential severity of the damage compared to Chernobyl. But it does seem that a greater degree of competence would have made a difference--and did make a huge difference--and that retrofitting was not only possible but that enough was done to prevent a far, far worse catastrophe.


MS continues:

"We should remember too that the Onagawa plant was hit harder both in terms of the initial shock and the subsequent tsunami but did not experience problems."

Only because one man insisted on building a higher seawall and, unlike Yoshida at Fukushima, he happened to prevail. See Mainichi at http://tinyurl.com/7kgd3tz


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:44 AM

[SSJ: 7338] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/04/03

For electric vehicles, 10 years is too soon to be feasible, merely because of the ramp-up time.

With a company-level design cycle of 8 years (since engineers can only work on so many vehicles at the same
time) and a 3-year gap before the last of models already under development would hit the market, it would be around 2015 before the first of the "new"
vehicles would arrive in any volume, and 2023 before most vehicles being made were electric (or any other "new" drivetrain). A similar time horizon comes from looking at supply chain issues, many, many plants would have to be built to produce batteries and motors in the requisite volumes. With vehicle lives of (say) 8 years
-- the figure is over 10 years for the US for passenger cars, even longer for commercial vehicles -- it would thus take until sometime around 2025 and probably longer before most of the "parc" (vehicle fleet) was electric.

But then you'd need lots of new electric generating and transmission capacity, and the infrastructure at the local distribution level to handle the recharging demands (more / larger transformers -- if you pay attention, there are lots of transformers, it's not a trivial issue -- and potentially new wiring, because the current draw from large numbers of households recharging overnight would far exceed the capabilities of what's in place). And I suspect (to understate
things) that it will be harder for the next several years to site new power plants than it was in the recent past, nuclear or otherwise.

A related challenge is that, depending on the market, it's not clear electrics are the way to go. Brazil has lots of natural gas and ethanol (given the relatively low cost of using sugarcane bagasse). Vehicles there are already tri-fuel: CNG (compressed natural gas), ethanol, petrol, and the transition among fuels is seamless to the driver: you pull into a refueling station, and fill up with whatever is cheapest. It turns out the sensors already in the engine & exhaust system can sense what proportion of gas/ethanol is in the tank, merely by using software run on the engine control unit, and adjust the air mix and so on automatically. Switching over from the gas tank to a CNG tank and vice-versa is also seamless, and the same engine / exhaust system can handle it, with very modest up-front adaptations, particularly seals and tubing that is robust to the different solvent characteristics of the three fuels. (Retrofitting after the car is built is however a pain.)

So Japan could mandate a switchover to electrics tomorrow (assuming away political issues in today's Diet!!), but vehicle manufacturers would still face a commercial imperative to continue developing and producing vehicles using "legacy" and newer alternative fuel systems (diesel combined with rapid start-stop looks better and better, emissions are now lower than for a gasoline engine).

Of course if the facilities discussed are small enough, then those using it could be "taxed" by forcing them to be early adapters of the Leaf and the succeeding generations of electric vehicles (Mitsubishi Motors has one in production, if I understand the timing). By 2020 it looks like a much larger range of such vehicles will be available, presumably at a lower price, even without a specific mandate, since it seems reasonable that manufacturing costs will in fact continue to fall. So ... maybe given the time frame for actually putting ventilation in place. A modest bet, and not an unreasonable one, to hope that a mandate on users would substitute for building such ventilation -- and that such a mandate would be quite cost-effective and (because users would pay the cost) fair. But the electric grid issues remain, if the total "parc" of electrics becomes substantial.

mike smitka

> ... another 10-15 years ... Why aren't we assuming we
can mandate that
> any vehicle that wants to use the facility has to be
electric ...

Approved by ssjmod at 11:44 AM

April 01, 2012

[SSJ: 7335] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/04/01

Helmut Kostreba wrote:


>"The other thing that raised my eyebrows was that even
though some 30
>to 40 % of Japan's electricity was produced throught
nuclear power
>plants, the country is still running even though
virtually all plants
>have been closed."


Japan has depended on nukes for 25-30% of its electricity in recent years. Part of the answer is that demand for electricity is down from normal levels because manufacturing--which uses almost 30% of electricity--is still down 14% from Dec. 2007 peak and because GDP is still down about 4% from late 2007 peak.
In 2010, before the disaster, electricity output was still down almost 9% from the 2007 peak. In addition, utilities have plugged in a whole bunch of generators that run on oil or LNG or coal (some of them quite old), and in the final quarter of 2011, nukes still provided 10% of total electricity.

This summer, when all (or virtually all) of the nukes will be off-line, will be more of a test. But the real test of how well Japan can do without nukes will come when GDP and industrial production get back to peak levels and then try to grow from there.

I also suspect that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit on the conservation side. Almost a third of electricity is used for lighting.
How much of that usage could be reducd by installing motion detectors?

On the anecdote side, I happened to be in Tokyo just before Christmas.
Near one of the newish luxury hotels in Roppongi, Dubai World sponsored a spectacular light show that must have taken an entire nuclear plant to run. Then, there was the METI building, where officials were doing penance.
Before 3/11, I recall going down a hall with great motion detectors. The hallway was fairly dim, but as you walked down the hall, a moving column of light paved your way. After 3/11, all the bulbs had been removed. One had to navigate using the light coming into the hallway from the offices.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:30 AM

March 31, 2012

[SSJ: 7334] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricityhas keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/03/31

Richard Katz writes, a propos of my citing John Mueller's arguing that the effects of Chernobyl were not as bad as usually described:

I assume that Ron has cited Mueller completely. If so, then Mueller has engaged in exactly the sort of deceptive misreporting that I decried in an earlier post, whether it comes from the pro- and anti-nuke side.

Look: we all tend to be more impressed by statements of non-refutable facts that provide arguments for our gut-feelings, but "deceptive misreporting" is going a bit far. Let me say (some would say "confess") that my own gut feeling is that the present level of nuclear phobia in Japan is disastrous and that unless they get those reactors restarted soon, the cost to the Japanese people via the costs to the economy are going to be pretty high.
Not to mention global warming which all Japan's environmentalists used to be so preoccupied with. (I gather that the reason I was sacked as a columnist by the Tokyo Shinbun after 22 years was that I said this in a column last
fall.)

So, I read with a different eye from Rick the WHO report which I am grateful to him for leading me to. I take off my hat to him as a digger out of sources.

First, one thing about the expected eventual total of 2,200 deaths from radiation,(most of which were still in the future 20 years later) they do not seem to have estimated how premature those deaths would be: how many life-years lost.

Other bits of the report which struck my eye were:

"This was a very serious accident with major health consequences, especially for thousands of workers exposed in the early days who received very high radiation doses, and for the thousands more stricken with thyroid cancer. By and large, however, we have not found profound negative health impacts to the rest of the population in surrounding areas, nor have we found widespread contamination that would continue to pose a substantial threat to human health, within a few exceptional, restricted areas."


"About 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children and adolescents at the time of the accident, have resulted from the accident's contamination and at least nine children died of thyroid cancer; however the survival rate among such cancer victims, judging from experience in Belarus, has been almost 99%.
Most emergency workers and people living in contaminated areas received relatively low whole body radiation doses, comparable to natural background levels. As a consequence, no evidence or likelihood of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found, nor has there been any evidence of increases in congenital malformations that can be attributed to radiation exposure.
Poverty, "lifestyle" diseases now rampant in the former Soviet Union and mental health problems pose a far greater threat to local communities than does radiation exposure.
Relocation proved a "deeply traumatic experience" for some 350,000 people moved out of the affected areas.
Although 116 000 were moved from the most heavily impacted area immediately after the accident, later relocations did little to reduce radiation exposure.
Persistent myths and misperceptions about the threat of radiation have resulted in "paralyzing fatalism" among residents of affected areas."

That paralyzing fatalism is the real threat, not just around Fukushima number one but in Kasumigaseki and Nagata-cho too. Rick is right in his earlier posts about the low probability of the reactors restarting.
I gather that in the Cabinet and the jikan-kaigi preceding them which thankfully have been restarted, the lone voice calling for serious efforts to restart the reactors is that of the foreign office which needs to live up to its international treaties about exchange of nuclear knowledge and materials. Meti is completely demoralised and does nothing but apologise for the failure of its safety agency.

And if Noda wants to do it, he would really need to get serious. Nuclear nimbyism was overcome in the original siting decisions by what some would call bribes -- promises of magnificent sports ground, assembly halls, new hospitals, rebuilt schools etc. -- but which I would call a reasonable payment for accepting a risk in the general public interest. But what can the government do to persuade the over-agitated local communities to accept restarting in these days of financial stringency and the predominance of the "bridges to nowhere" mythology? A tough job, but they should at least try.

One more quotation from the report if I may claim the moderator's indulgence for what is already an over-long message,

The report labels the mental health impact of Chernobyl as "the largest public health problem created by the accident" and partially attributes this damaging psychological impact to a lack of accurate information.
These problems manifest as negative self-assessments of health, belief in a shortened life expectancy, lack of initiative, and dependency on assistance from the state.

"Two decades after the Chernobyl accident, residents in the affected areas still lack the information they need to lead the healthy and productive lives that are possible,"

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:41 AM

March 30, 2012

[SSJ: 7333] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Fred Uleman
Date: 2012/03/30

Richard Katz writes:
"That still leaves us with the question: as bad as nuclear power may be, is it worse than coal or oil?"

Which leave me with the question:
Why are we only comparing nuclear to coal and oil?

At a recent community planning meeting, there was talk of needing to provide extensive ventilation for the underground public-transportation bus and taxi areas.
However, this is still in the planning stage, and the facilities will not exist for another 10-15 years earliest. So I wondered, aloud, why we are assuming these vehicles will be burning gasoline or something else that gives off toxic emissions? Why aren't we assuming we can mandate that any vehicle that wants to use the facility has to be electric or otherwise so as to not need extensive ventilation? The current state of technology is only the current state of technology, not the eternal state of technology.

- -- --- ---- ----- ---- --- -- -
Fred Uleman, translator emeritus

Approved by ssjmod at 11:40 AM

[SSJ: 7332] Re: Why Noda is pushing for a tax increase

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/03/30

To Arthur Alexander,
I'm gradually learning. I didn't know that the banks already separated the to-be-held to maturity JGB's and their JGBs as trading assets. I think Ogata's idea, (not mine: I only borrowed it) was to try to increase that 3-5% by not requiring them to mark those held-to-maturity bonds to market.

What you are saying about the Krugman recipe is in effect that a lilly-livered unwillingness to stay the course when there's a mere hint of run-away inflation is an inherent and ineluctable characteristic of all central bankers. Well, you may be right. Ron Dore


Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:39 AM

[SSJ: 7331] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Peter Cave
Date: 2012/03/30

The issue of the insulation of private homes, mentioned by Helmut Kostreba, is an interesting one. I have never noticed any literature on this topic (not that I have searched for it), nor have I seen the topic raised in the media. In the UK (where the insulation of private homes also leaves a lot to be desired) it is a major topic of awareness, and the subject of government incentives, even if a lot more might be done. I wonder what the situation in Japan is, and if list members happen to know of any studies on the topic (this is just casual interest, not serious research on my part, I should say).

Peter Cave
Lecturer in Japanese Studies
SLLC, University of Manchester
Samuel Alexander Building
Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL
United Kingdom
www.manchester.ac.uk/research/peter.cave/=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:38 AM

[SSJ: 7330] Re: SSJ: 7312] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Knittel, Siegfried
Date: 2012/03/30

To Ellis Krauss:

The tsunami last year had a height of 18m in Onagawa but in 1896 30m because the earthquake was very slowly so the wave got higher. Of course it happened only at the Sanriku coast. Look at the tsunami history of Tohoku you can see, tsunami happens ca. every 80years.
The last one happened 1933. Former METI Minister Kaeida said last year in a question from journalists at the FCCJ in Tokyo the government knew about the possibility of an earthquake over 8 in Tohoku.

Best

Siegfried Knittel

Approved by ssjmod at 11:37 AM

[SSJ: 7326] Does U.S. Pacific Policy Need a Trade Policy?

From: Tracy Timmons-Gray
Date: 2012/03/30

NBR has just released a new commentary by Edward Gresser (ProgressiveEconomy) that explores the arguments behind including a trade element in the U.S.
shift toward the Asia-Pacific. A link to the full briefing and a summary are below:
"Does U.S. Pacific Policy Need a Trade Policy? And if So, Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership the Right One?"

By Edward Gresser, ProgressiveEconomy

Link: http://m.nbr.org/HjfTuP

SUMMARY

The United States has made a renewed commitment to engagement in the prosperous and dynamic Asia-Pacific region. This engagement, termed a "pivot" or "rebalance" toward the region, upgrades U.S. strategic, economic, and diplomatic ties.

In this NBR Expert Commentary, Edward Gresser
(ProgressiveEconomy) explores the question of whether U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific should include a trade component.

Setting the stage for discussion at NBR's Engaging Asia conference on April 18, Mr. Gresser argues that while the United States' shift toward Asia requires a trade policy, the Trans-Pacific Partnership in its current form may not be the right strategy, due to its limited size and other causes for concern.

Link: http://m.nbr.org/HjfTuP

RELATED EVENT

Engaging Asia 2012 - April 18 - Washington, D.C.

NBR will host a half-day conference on "Strategies for a Shift toward the Asia-Pacific" to provide high-level expert insight on the key elements that the United States must consider in order to sustain its focus on Asia, with a special emphasis on the role of Congress.
Event highlights will include insights from Congressman Charles Boustany, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, trade expert Edward Gresser, and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Barbara Weisel.

Learn more at http://m.nbr.org/GIhEkW

RSVP to Sonia Luthra at NBRdc@nbr.org.

Tracy Timmons-Gray

The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR)

Seattle, WA

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this e-mail in error please notify the NBR system manager. If you are not the named addressee please notify the sender immediately by e-mail and please delete this e-mail from your system. If you are not the intended recipient you are hereby notified that disclosing, copying, distributing, or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited.

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Approved by ssjmod at 11:34 AM

March 29, 2012

[SSJ: 7325] Re: SSJ: 7312] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/03/29

On Rick Katz's A, B or C:

I won't letter ...

1. Older plants were designed with the expectation (perhaps with a wink and a nod) that they would see 40 years of active life; the damaged Fukushima plants were that generation. So if the last previous large tsunami was over 1,000 years earlier -- and records were from a different part of the coast -- then do you really build that into your scenarios? Ditto an M9.0 earthquake, when there were none of that size in Japan's recent history (though in fact the shock itself did not cause particular problems).

Building a house in a 100-year floodplain is clearly a bad idea, since there's a high chance of a flood within the 50-year time horizon that builders use in the US, but how about a 500 year floodplain? That's older than the northern European settlement. I think it's not at all unusual to find whole towns that are in "potential"
floodplains for which there is no written "historical"
record of a flood.

2. The disaster was because several backup systems failed, if it was only the tsunami then there wouldn't have been a problem. It was also that the plant was knocked off the grid, and not just because of a downed line, but multiple landslides and downed lines that meant they needed 11 days to reconnect. I think that was also outside the engineering scenarios. Hindsight is tricky, but disaster analysis means that the next disaster will be due to a different string (not
individual) series of unanticipated events. We don't make the same mistakes, but neither are we prescient.
[But when it comes to coal mining, we do see skimping on safety, repeatedly -- there are too many mines and it is too easy to delay and (if necessary) pay off inspectors. Yet as incompetent as the TEPCO management may be, short of making different design decisions in the mid-1960s, it doesn't look as though a greater degree of competence could have made a difference:
there was simply no way to cool the reactors, given the chain of events, and very limited ability to prevent the hydrogen explosions.]

3. I would curious as to the damage assessments to the newer plants at Fukushima. They happened not to be operating....so this is purely curiosity. My vague recollection is that they had different backup systems.
We should remember too that the Onagawa plant was hit harder both in terms of the initial shock and the subsequent tsunami but did not experience problems. If I read this correctly, each new plant was better, but older plants (especially much older plants) near the end of their operating lives were not retrofitted.
Again, if a plant is soon to be decommissioned, how much retrofitting do you want to do, particularly if it leads to shutdowns in the interim?

Now this is rehashing some ground, but I think it is a useful reminder given Rick's note on the psychology of decision-making under uncertainty (and particularly in the face of long odds), and on the "simple"
cost/benefit and other tradeoffs that underlie engineering decisions, since budgets are always finite.


mike smitka=

Approved by ssjmod at 11:33 AM

[SSJ: 7324] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/03/29

I received a private response to my latest post of the three (A, B and C) scenarios for the cause of the Fukushima disaster, C being conscious deception and avoidance of foreseen and recommended safety changes.
As I said in the posting, there is a lot of C, but many of the press narratives write as if this were 90-100% of the problem. I'm raising the possibility that it's just, say, 50% of the problem and, say, 40% of the problem may come from scenario A, i.e. people doing everything reasonable but things going wrong because not every problem can be anticipated or dealt with in a cost-effective manner. As I said, no one is complaining that corruption caused the deaths of 20,000 or so people from the tsunami because the government paved over rivers instead of building high seawalls all along the coastline.

I've been told by a senior official in the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission that a Fukushima-type disaster would be impossible in the US because of a difference in reactor design. Are they right? I have no idea. And, if they are, maybe it will be a different type of disaster. Or none at all.

So, we may have to accept that nuclear accidents are going to occur and we can only reduce their frequency and severity. It would be interesting to hear from political scientists ideas on how to reduce the conflicts of interest that lead to scenario C and how to reduce the unconscious biases that lead to scenario B and from nuclear experts on how to reduce the problems that emerge from scenario A.

That still leaves us with the question: as bad as nuclear power may be, is it worse than coal or oil?

Ron Dore wrote:

>

> "John Mueller's book Atomic Obsession, OUP 2010
deserves to be
better

> known

>

> Basing himself, apparently, on Peter Finn in the
Washington Post,
11

> March 2005 and Wade Allison, Fundamental Physics for
Probing and

> Imaging, OUP 2006, he writes the following:<

>

> "An exhaustive study by eight United Nations
agencies, completed
some

> 20 years after the event, of the effects of the 1986
Cheernobyl

> nuclear melt-down.....The accident, which lofted a
huge amount of

> radiation into the atmosphere, resulted in the deaths
of less than
50

> people, most of them unprotected emergency workers.
Thyroid rates

> among children were raised, but almost all of them
were treated

> successfully and only nine died..."


I assume that Ron has cited Mueller completely. If so, then Mueller has engaged in exactly the sort of deceptive misreporting that I decried in an earlier post, whether it comes from the pro- and anti-nuke side. What Finn actually wrote
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2
005/09/23/AR2005092301846.html) was:

> "The discussion has been stoked by
a major new report from eight U.N.

> agencies that concluded the accident has caused fewer
than 50
deaths

> directly attributable to radiation. The U.N.
scientists predicted

> about 4,000 eventual radiation-related fatalities
among 600,000

> people in the affected areas, including plant
personnel, emergency

> workers and residents."


I had referred to 6,000, but that was a mistake of memory. In its initial 2005 report
(http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38
/en/index.html), WHO and other other agencies wrote:

> "Among the more than 200,000
emergency and recovery

> operation workers exposed during the period from
1986-1987, an

> estimated 2,200 radiation-caused deaths can be
expected during
their

> lifetime."

> "The international experts have estimated that
radiation could
cause

> up to about 4,000 eventual deaths among the
higher-exposed
Chernobyl

> populations, i.e., emergency workers from 1986-1987,
evacuees and

> residents of the most contaminated areas.

> "The report's estimate for the eventual number of
deaths is far
lower

> than earlier, well-publicized speculations that
radiation exposure

> would claim tens of thousands of lives."


Then, a year later, WHO upped the estimate to 9,000 (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr20
/en/index.html)

9,000 deaths would be the equivalent of the deaths from two years of coal mining in China and a tiny fraction of the estimated 2-4 million people who die around the world, mostly in poor countries, due to air pollution from current energy sources.

The rich countries have spent a lot of money to reduce those premature deaths and there are some estimates that the net economic gains outweigh the costs (due to reduced health care costs, extra years of work by those who would have died prematurely, etc.) But there are still thousands of deaths from fossil fuel-caused pollution every year, not to mention non-lethal illnesses.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

March 28, 2012

[SSJ: 7323] Re: Why Noda is pushing for a tax increase

From: Arthur Alexander
Date: 2012/03/28

A few comments by another economist:

Expectations: It was Paul Krugman in 1998 who re-awoke the idea of the liquidity trap at zero interest rates and the means for climbing out of the trap. ("It's
Baaack: Japan's Slump and the Return of the Liquidity Trap," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 2:1998.) The basic idea was that expectations had to shift until people believed that prices would start to rise. The main issue was always how to change expectations. The BOJ at the time has a simple response: We can't do it, no one can do it, no one would believe us if we said otherwise.

Krugman called for very public commitment to high inflation for as long as it took, with concurrent increases in the monetary base. The main problem with this advice is that it was not credible; as soon as things turned around, the central bank would end its policy. Although no central bank took this particular advice, the role of central bank commitment in modifying expectations has been a lesson now learned.

The very difficult problem is what kind of policy can a central bank put into effect and how can it credibly commit itself to this policy such that it changes price expectations and prices. This problem has produced a number of PhD dissertations over the past 15 years.

We see the Fed and BOJ developing new ways of saying that they are in it until things turn around. As has been noted by others, simply pumping out money, by itself, is not very effective. However, when a long-term, believable commitment is added to the mix, there does seem to be an effect from quantitative easing.

To Ron Dore's idea of separating held-to-maturity assets from the others. Banks now do this on their balance sheets. However, the held-to-maturity bonds and other assets are only a small part of their holdings, about 3-5% in the megabanks. The rest are called "trading assets."

Arthur Alexander

Approved by ssjmod at 11:32 AM

[SSJ: 7322] Re: SSJ: 7312] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Peter Matanle
Date: 2012/03/28

In response to Richard Katz's extremely thoughtful application of Daniel Kahneman's theories in behavioural economics to the Fukushima disaster, readers might also be interested in the following article by John Downer in the American Journal of
Sociology:

Downer, J. (2011)"737-Cabriolet": The Limits of Knowledge and the Sociology of Inevitable Failure, American Journal of Sociology, 117 (3): DOI:
10.1086/662383.

Abstract
This article looks at the fateful 1988 fuselage failure of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 to suggest and illustrate a new perspective on the sociology of technological accidents. Drawing on core insights from the sociology of scientific knowledge, it highlights, and then challenges, a fundamental principle underlying our understanding of technological risk: a realist epistemology that tacitly assumes that technological knowledge is objectively knowable and that "failures"
always connote "errors" that are, in principle, foreseeable. From here, it suggests a new conceptual tool by proposing a novel category of man-made
calamity: the "epistemic accident," grounded in a constructivist understanding of knowledge. It concludes by exploring the implications of epistemic accidents and a constructivist approach to failure, sketching their relationship to broader issues concerning technology and society, and reexamining conventional ideas about technology, accountability, and governance.

Cheers.

Peter

Approved by ssjmod at 11:31 AM

[SSJ: 7321] Re: SSJ: 7312] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/03/28

To Richard Katz:

Thanks for interesting posts deriving from Kahneman's work and the 3 possible "blame scenarios." But I think they confuse the tsunami with the nuclear problem at Fukushima. A tsunami that big had not been prepared for because no one predicted an earthquake that big and such a tsunami hadn't occurred for 1000 years. Do you prepare for a once/1000 year disaster? Possibly but hard to blame authorities for not spending taxpayer money on an occurrence so rare. After all the largest earthquake in the US occurred in 1811 in Missouri (so large it rang churchbells in Boston!). One there can occur more frequently than once/1000 years yet you don't see US government spending a lot of money preparing for another one there.

The nuclear power plants are quite a different issue.
Placing several together like Fukushima was irresponsible and reckless and placing them that near the coast can also be criticized. Then the TEPCO-government relationship etc. So I think your scenarios may have to be re-written to have separate ones for the tsunami and the nuclear disaster and the outcomes may be different in these cases.

Best regards,
Ellis
************************************************
Ellis S. Krauss, Professor,


Approved by ssjmod at 11:29 AM

[SSJ: 7320] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: sheila cliffe
Date: 2012/03/28

I agree, Ellis.
The heat in most public buildings is just unbearable.
Sheila.
Resident of Tokyo.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

[SSJ: 7319] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Helmut Kostreba
Date: 2012/03/28

Hi all

In continuation to Ellis' anecdote I think this applies in all sorts of ways to Japanese home and office energy efficiency. Many of the private homes are badly insulated and heating is mostly done with stand up electrical devices or the air-conditioning unit. That same energy inefficience applies to the summer and keeping rooms cool.

What surprised me when I experienced this was that people were quite aware of this shortfall, but did not seem to have any intentions to make a few energy saving changes. I wonder if this has to do mostly with the fact that a large majority of people live in rented accommodation with no intention to stay there for terribly long.

The other thing that raised my eyebrows was that even though some 30 to 40 % of Japan's electricity was produced throught nuclear power plants, the country is still running even though virtually all plants have been closed. From a technical perspective I would love to know if this was because there was a substantial over capacity in the past, do the Japanese have a remarkably efficient backup or have they really been saving 30 to 40% in energy consumption.

Best regards

Helmut Kostreba
UHH, student

Approved by ssjmod at 11:28 AM

[SSJ: 7318] Re: Why Noda is pushing for a tax increase

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/03/28

To Ron Dore with a nod to Rick Katz:

1. I'm not sure that the capital goods story works so well -- manufacturing is a much smaller share of the Japanese economy. Now if one includes mansion and office buildings as capital goods, then there's more wiggle room. The big swings ca. the Lehman Shock were inventories, not capital goods.

2. It really doesn't matter that the BOJ gets \1 trillion of JGBs in terms of the economic impact. Since under Ron Dore's scenario they're not "in the market"
shifting the supply and demand for bonds, then the fact that the BOJ would indeed buy bonds doesn't affect anything. Now the question is what people & firms do when they receive the \1 trillion. Is there some sort of multiplier effect, or do we have only the normal direct impact of government expenditures? The answer at the moment is the latter, because nominal interest rates are already zero.

3. Now Ron Dore is clear that this is a hypothetical -- I misread him. Would \1 trillion be enough to do anything? Japan's GDP is roughly \500 trillion, and there's over a 1% gap between potential GDP (reflecting idle physical and human production capacity). So \1 trillion helps, the more so if spent quickly. But it's still a modest amount relative to the gap. How about \10 trillion? -- I think that's the order of magnitude.

4. Economists of course talk about changing expectations. That's not so hard to do when the economy has tailwinds behind it, as in 1974: PM Tanaka's fiscal stimulus, with both the US and the European economies growing strongly going into the first oil crisis, meant that commodities of every sort were booming in price, and Japan already had double-digit inflation in May 1973, while the first of the big OPEC price hikes wasn't until June. Convincing Japanese in 1974 that inflation might rise a lot was not hard.

This time around -- the past 15 years -- nothing that the government has done has generated expectations of inflation, even though the sorts of increases in the monetary base would in the days of High Monetarism have been associated with wild inflation. (By High Monetarism I'm thinking ca. 1980 when Paul Volcker at the US Fed actually focused on "the" money supply.)

5. Yes, a chain saw is a good way to get rid of frustrations. Despite going through two full tanks of gas this morning, my hearing seems fine. It's my reading ability that suffers...and I have a hard time claiming age as an excuse. And as it happens #1 son was down with a fever, but he was supposed to be digging post holes for building flower beds for my other half...

mike smitka

PS: I've uploaded relevant graphs to my blog, contributions to GDP change and the composition of swings in investment, both for 2000Q1 through 2011Q4.

http://japanandeconomics.blogspot.com/2012/03/recent-gp
d-and-investment.html

Approved by ssjmod at 11:27 AM

March 27, 2012

[SSJ: 7317] Re: SSJ: 7312] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/03/27

Continuing with what I've gleaned from Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow" as it applies to Fushishima (sorry for the length):

Typically, after a crisis, there will be some expert who pops up and says: here is this piece of information that would have given you proper warning if only you had listened. This was true after Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Fukushima, etc. Sometimes, this is legitmate, sometimes not. Intelligence agencies have to pore over tons of data. They have to decide what data is important to look at and which is not.

So, that raises the question of what caused the disaster at Fukushima. Were the utilities and government agencies acting on a reasonable assessment of risks, and making a reasonable cost-benefit decision about the needed height for a seawall against the tsunami? After all, higher electric rates have negative effects. One cannot prevent all bad outcomes. I've seen no one blame the authorities for not building a seawall high enough to block the tsunami--even though 30,000 people died.

So, do we have scenario A or B or C?

A) They made a reasonable decision, which happened to turn out wrong because the tsunami was much higher than almost every expert said was remotely likely. If 99 experts say you only need a 6-meter wall and one guy says you need 11 meters, was it unreasonable to built the 6-meter wall because the cost is significantly less?

B) The authorities were unconciously biased against seeing the risks. If they build the higher wall, that is a sure cost now. But the possible event they are spending money to prevent is not only remotely possible in the long-term, but even more unlikely to happen on their watch. In such circumtances, Kahneman says, experiments show that even experts regularly undervalue the cost and probability of the rare event and overvalue the cost of prevention. B is worsened by the psychology of groupthink that makes dissent tough.

B) They were corrupt deceivers who deliberately turned a blind eye to the risks, and who consciously deceived the public as to the risks.

Which is worse? Which is more correctable?

If the answer is A, it is hard to see how one can correct this. We'd have to accept that, if we want nuclear power, accidents are going to occur from time to time. On the other hand, B and C might be correctable if there were a tough independent watchdog whose sole mission were safety rather than promoting nuclear power. Or if there were more opportunities and a more accepting environment for dissent among the advisory groups. People would rather believe in C because it implies some correctability. In addition, people like to assign blame when disasters occur (look at JFK assassination conspiracy theories). So, C has been the dominant narrative in the press, even if A and B are also present. If we accept B and C, we might have to accept that corruption and conflicts of interest and groupthink will always occur and so, once again, nuke accidents are going to occur from time to time.

I think there are elements of all three at work here.
Even though there were a couple experts who pointed out a very high tsunami near the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in 869, most experts didn't go back that far. So, they said a 6-meter wall was enough. A disaster was avoided at the nearby Onagawa plant only because one man, a former Tohoku Electric VP, insisted on a 14.8 meter wall while everyone else said 12 meters was enough and was less expensive. Luckily, this one man prevailed, but he could just as easily have lost the fight and we'd have had an even worse disaster (http://mdn.mainichi.jp/perspectives/news/20120319p2a00
m0na020000c.html).

As for scenario C, we have a history of falsification of reports at TEPCO, reports of a number of official groups (including TEPCO's own advisory group) advising a seawall twice as high as what they had, reports of a number of incidents in which authorities refused to undertake measures to reduce risks that they knew existed. For example, Asahi reported that, in 2010, the "watchdog" Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) decided that there were some flaws in the nuke design that needed to be corrected. But, in the words of Asahi, NISA "shied away from tougher regulations, concerned that it could pave the way for lawsuits disputing the soundness of the design of some reactors."
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs
/AJ201203240031

Yoshisuke Iinuma, former editor-in-chief at Toyo Keizai wrote in The Oriental Economist:


The pro-nuclear faction was overly
assertive about the safety of Japanese
nuclear plants, and reluctant about safety reforms and plant replacement. They were even more negative about the introduction of further safety regulations because they feared that the public would react: "If plants can be made safer than they are now, doesn't that mean there were flaws in the first place; how many more flaws remain?"
That reminds me of how the Finance Ministry stifled precautions or admissions on the non-performing loan problem, even sometimes ordering bank executivies to engage in illegal cover-ups, according to court testimony of the bankers who were prosecuted

In the case of Fukushima, knowledge was hidden even after the crisis. Even if one grants the authorities'
excuse that they were trying to prevent panic, the fact is that their dishonesry worsened the distrust and anxiety. When you keep "crying sheep" when there is a wolf, people won't believe you even when it really is a sheep. Polls showed only 12% of people believed Noda's statement that the Fukushima plants had acheived cold shutdown. All this has made it difficult to speak rationally about the benefits and risks of nuclear power compared to the genuinely available alternatives.

And while scenario C is undoubtedly true, is it the whole story? Or are scenarios A and B being given less weight than they should be given?

I have no answers. But I've learned from Kahneman that framing the questions correctly is the beginning of wisdom, even for experts.


P.S. to Ron Dore, among all the competing schools of economics, I don't know of one that thinks you can stimulate investment by raising interests rates, especially to to a prohibitive 5-6% real rate. On the contrary, that's what central banks do to stall an overheating economy.


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:26 AM

[SSJ: 7316] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/03/27

Rick writes:

"In the debate between Paul Midford and Jun Okumura on the likelihood of a restart of nukes this summer, I'm with Paul. I believe much fewer than 10 nukes will be reopened this summer; it is possible that none will be re-started." (2012/03/27)

He may be far more optimistic than I am. Remember, I am only betting that four units will be restarted by the end of the calendar year. His unfalsifiable comments make it difficult to determine where he stands, but he could be ready to bet that my four units will be restarted as early as this summer.

Note that there were two variables in play in the betting proposals; the number of units restarted, and the duration of operation for the restarts. Rick is now adding the summer/year's end variable to the discussions. I'll merely state my belief that it's a pressing issue that will have both short- and long-term ramifications on Japan's electricity outlook.

Rick also writes:

"I think the level of distrust of the government is so high that it will take quite a bit of time--and perhaps a couple summers of shortages-before people buy Jun's reasonable-sounding solution." (2012/03/27)

"People" don't have to, the "local governments" have to, and they have a somewhat different set of priorities. You see, we are looking at different levels of human behavior. Ultimately, public opinion is just "opinion." It's important, but I think that it's necessary to look at the decision-making process in making forecasts/reading tea leaves.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:25 AM

[SSJ: 7315] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ellis Krauss
Date: 2012/03/27

A bit of an anecdote to the nuclear power question. I'm in Tokyo now and have been for the last 9 days. Every public building is woefully OVER-heated despite the energy crunch and supposed conservation efforts of private citizens. Midtown in Roppong in Tokyo is one example. So was every other public building we have been too. There is still margin for cutting back energy usage even if all nuclear plants are closed down. FYI.

Best regards,
Ellis
************************************************
Ellis S. Krauss, Professor,


Approved by ssjmod at 11:25 AM

[SSJ: 7314] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has keptflowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/03/27

The World Health Organization estimate of the number of people who died from Chernobyl is about 6,000 (though it could be much higher);

Writes Rick Katz

John Mueller's book Atomic Obsession, OUP 2010 deserves to be better known>

Basing himself, apparently, on Peter Finn in the Washington Post, 11 March
2005 and Wade Allison, Fundamental Physics for Probing and Imaging, OUP 2006, he writes the following<

an exhaustive study by eight United Nations agencies, completed some 20 years after the event, of the effects of the 1986 Cheernobyl nuclear melt-down.....The accident, which lofted a huge amount of radiation into the atmosphere, resulted in the deaths of less than 50 people, most of them unprotected emergency workers.
Thyroid rates among children were raised, but almost all of them were treated successfully and only nine died. The UN study concludes that even in the longer term, cancer rates may rise among the affected population by less -- possibly far less -- than one percentage point. In addition there was no spike in fertility problems or in birth defects.

Ron Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:24 AM

[SSJ: 7312] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/03/27

In the debate between Paul Midford and Jun Okumura on the likelihood of a restart of nukes this summer, I'm with Paul. I believe much fewer than 10 nukes will be reopened this summer; it is possible that none will be re-started. I think the level of distrust of the government is so high that it will take quite a bit of time--and perhaps a couple summers of shortages--before people buy Jun's reasonable-sounding solution because they won't believe that it's a truly independent agency and won't trust the enhanced safety measures.

I'm reading a terrific book by a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics and helped found the school of Behavioral Economics. It's called "Thinking Fast and Slow" and the author is Daniel Kahneman. It's written for the intelligent layman. His insights shed a lot of light on the Fukushima disaster and the reaction to it.

Kahneman's simple insight--which corrects the strict rationality assumption of mainstream economics--is that, in certain circumstances, people (including
experts) systematically make irrational errors and show consistent biases. Losses like are felt far more intensely than equal gains, e.g. a $100 loss in the stock market influences follow-up behavior far more than a $100 gain. Fukushima was a huge loss.

Here's one experiment that shows the irrational bias.
For certain kinds of cancer surgery produces better long-term survival rates than radiation, but the short-term risks are higher. So, in one experiment, doctors were divided into two groups and asked to answer yes or no to one of two scenarios:
a) The one-month survival rate is 90%.
b) The one-month mortality rate is10%.
Of the doctors asked question A, 84% of doctors said yes. Of those asked question B, just 50% said yes.
But the two results are exactly the same! Just one is posed in terms of survival and the other in terms of death. And these are doctors, the experts on whom we to make a rational suggestion about our best option.
That's pretty scary.

So, the negative effect of Fukushima is felt very intensely. Added to this is what Kahneman calls the "cascade effect." When an event is constantly in the news, people feel is far more intensely than they otherwise would.

That brings us to people's responses to the notion of re-opening the nuclear plants. One of the first things we are taught in economics is that when you are asked whether X is good or bad, the proper response
is: compared to what?

If you ask people how they feel about nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima or about reopening the nuke plants--especially in light of articles about the deceptions of the utilities and government agencies--of course the feelings will be highly negative. But now
ask:
compared to what?

The World Health Organization estimate of the number of people who died from Chernobyl is about 6,000 (though it could be much higher); I don't know if there was any detectable increase in deaths from Three Mile Island, and we'll have to see about Fukushima. On the other hand, 4,000 coal miners die every single year in mining accidents in China (about 40 die in a typical year in the US). Across the world, 2-4 million people die each year from air pollution mainly caused by various forms of energy, from coal to cow dung to oil. 99% of these deaths are in non-OECD countries where anti-pollution measures are regarded as too costly. That leaves perhaps 10-20,000 or more deaths in the rich countries (I'm trying to pin down numbers now), not to mention non-lethal illnesses. So, as bad as nuclear power may be, is it worse than other forms of energy that are currently available? But these pollution deaths are not making headlines; Fukushima is.

Of course, there is the economic damage and the possible rendering of an entire region of Japan uninhabitable. Clearly, the real cost of nuclear power than conventional estimates suggest. There is a reason that private firms won't insure nuclear plants without big gov't subsidies.

People's emotions in Japan may change depending on how much they have to sacrifice due to the nuke shutdown and how directly those sacrifices are tied to the nuke shutdown. If the linkage is not manifest, the impact will be less.

There is another lesson from Kahneman. Since Egyptian times, people have traced the high water mark from floods and built seawalls, etc. on the presumption that no flood will be higher than the highest ever recorded.

The fact that they've repeatedly been wrong has not changed the pattern.
Just as the TEPCO people did for the tsunamis that they counted going back centuries (but not enough centuries).


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:22 AM

March 26, 2012

[SSJ: 7311] Re: Why Noda is pushing for a tax increase

From: Ron Dore
Date: 2012/03/26

Replies to Rick and Mike:
While Mike is deafening himself with his chainsaw, let him forget both Arrow's theoretical impossibilities and the practical impossibilities of Japanese cowardly stasis politics, and think "what if" for a bit.

My scenario is certainly the one Rick gives as number 3. But first let me set out two general assumptions.
1. The route to normal 1-2% inflation can be via alarming fears of hyperinflation, as it was 1974-1979 2. Output gaps (recessions) usually begin in the capital goods sector and recoveries also begin in the capital good sector. That's what makes the recovery of optimism and animal spirits leading to investment on the part of firms with a low level of indebtedness and a readiness to borrow at 5-6% real interest rates so important.

Anyway Rick's third scenario is as follows.


SCENARIO 3: The MOF adds Y1 trillion to the deficit; the BOJ creates new money which it simply hands over to the MOF so it can pay its bills. It gets no JGBs in exchange.

RESULT: A zero increase in the gross debt of the MOF and a zero increase in the NET debt owed. The increase in the monetary base is Y1 trillion. The operation prevents the increase in the fiscal deficit from pushing interest rates upward.


The reasons why I think on the contrary that, combined with other measures.
it could push interest rates upwards.
1. Particularly if Ogata's idea was also implemented and the accounting laws require firms to report separately the JGBs they hold to maturity (booked at face value) and those they hold for trading purposes (booked to market) the liquidity of the bond market would shrink and unloading on the part of the 5% foreign owners would have a greater effect. I cannot think that such a shocking departure from the principles of sound finance as to print money without auctioning bonds would fail to hit Japan's reputation on Wall Street and the City hard. I don't know what proportion has to be sold off to bring interest rates to 5-6%, but I think nervous bankers at home and abroad would supply it.
2. With simultaneous announcement of a %5 inflation target and a shove to wages, a fortiori.
3. We were talking about a notional trillion deficit.
Mike says he thinks Ron Dore is saying "don't try cutting the deficit now, however much you think an increase in sales tax will eventually be necessary"
Absolutely, and if the response to the attempt to start inflation is soggy, increase the deficit.

If I were at home I would work off my frustration at the world's irrationality by getting my son to start up my chainsaw which I no longer have the pull to do, and go and cut down an innocent sapling, but the sensible alternative seems to be bed.
Ron Dore

Ronald Dore

Approved by ssjmod at 11:21 AM

March 25, 2012

[SSJ: 7309] Re: A couple of reasons why the electricity has kept flowing despite the nuclear shutdowns

From: Jun Okumura
Date: 2012/03/25

Hello, folks.


Re Paul Midford's comments:

"My point is that if it's a decision between going back to something like business as usual and no operation at all, then no operation at all is more likely to prevail than if several communities are asked to gaman for a few months to prevent a power crisis this summer."
(2012/02/28)

My point is that if it's a decision between continuing to run the power plants year-round under more stringent safety standards enforced by an independent authority, and enhanced safety measures and no operation at all, then the former is more likely to prevail, so there will be no need to ask several communities to gaman for a few months to prevent a power crisis this summer.

Let's agree that it's a matter of opinion for now.

"But that begs the question as to why the loss of these economic interests hasn't caused the plants to restart already?" (2012/02/28)

The short answer is I can't be sure. I believe that it is counterbalanced at least for now by fear, which is where not only the ongoing stress tests but also more stringent safety standards enforced by an independent authority and enhanced safety measures come in. That's work in progress, and the risk tolerance of host governments varies. As for the economic bite, only part of the tax revenue (nuclear fuel tax, if my memory serves me correctly) disappears when operations stop temporarily (and Fukui has managed to partially shield itself from that, a practice that I suspect will become more popular in other host prefectures) and the one-off hit on real estate tax revenue will come only when the un-depreciated portion of the power plant must be written off because of premature (5/6ths under Paul Midford's bimonthly summer base-load scenario?) decommissioning. As for the inspection boom, remember that the power units must be inspected as they go offline. The next round of inspections will be delayed, though, which will mean that some local economies will lose more than a year's worth of inspection bumps. But the governor has the feeling of other, less beneficent constituencies to consider, I'm sure.

"Given that large numbers of Japanese have been personally or economically affected by the Fukushima accident, politicians can assume that nuclear policy will be on the minds of voters when they next go to the polls. If the referendum movement succeeds in Kansai and Kanto, then it will likely have a direct impact on policy." (2012/02/28)

Yes, and strongly anti-nuclear voters have a choice between the Social Democratic Party or the Japan Communist Party. Mayor Hashimoto looks likely to win a lot of seats in the Kansai area if he manages to field enough candidates (they will be on their own as far as campaign financing is concerned) and he has been highly critical of nuclear power, so let's see if he can field them in Fukui. As for the referendum movements, I'll believe it when I see it.

"If I were to bet Jun Okumura lunch, it would be something like the following: Assuming no new war in the Middle East, by the end of this calendar year less than 10 reactors will have restarted with operational authorization of less than 100 days (i.e. losing the bet would mean 10 or more reactors restarting with authorization for 100 days or more). I would add that 10 or more reactors restarting with authorization of more than 100 days would represent something approaching a return to pre 3-11 normal." (2012/02/28)

That leaves a huge no-man's land where no one wins, which gives the lie to "i.e." Look, I'll take four reactors, regular schedule. Anything less, say three reactors restarted under regular one year-plus schedules with the rest of the 54 reactors on your two-month peak-load schedule, and you win.

"What has changed is the public's perception of the possibility of accident-free nuclear power, of the Japanese government's crisis management abilities, and most importantly of its ability to effectively regulate nuclear power to prevent accidents before they happen (think of all the ignored warnings regarding tsunami preparations). This shift in public attitudes is comprehensible, coherent, and arguably even a rational and essentially a reasonably reaction to the new information received over the past year." (2012/03/05)

With a small tweak or two, I can subscribe to this assessment entirely, which is why I can comfortably sign on to a five-year horizon before talk, if any, on plans for new power plants can resume. (I have no views one way or other on the ones already under construction until the new safety regime settles in.)

As for renewables-and here, I am no longer solely addressing Paul Midford's comments-Paul Scalise has laid out the requisite markers and I don't see any arguments anywhere on this thread so far that gets us there by, say, 2030. If there's anything that makes sense to me, though, it's solar farm/hydrocarbon conversion plant complexes in Saudi Arabia, since it kills two problems with one big stretch of year-round
sunshine: yield and storage. But I'm not an engineer, so I'll leave it to other people to figure out what the commercial break-even point is going to be in the next ten, twenty years.

And finally, on a point which has even less to do with Paul Midford's comments, Richard Katz (2012/03/15) when he writes:

"It doesn't help anyone reach a reasonable policy course when so many people on opposite sides play fast and loose with the facts to support their point."

Let me state for the record that I agree with him in the abstract and mostly likely in the specific.

Approved by ssjmod at 11:18 AM

March 24, 2012

[SSJ: 7308] Re: Why Noda is pushing for a tax increase

From: Richard Katz
Date: 2012/03/24

Ron Dore wrote:

> I beg to differ from 'Rick Katz on
2 points. He says there is no

> difference between

>

>

>

>> (a)the government running a fiscal
deficit....auctioning an

>> eqaivalent

> amount of JGBs.... BoJ takes a similar quantity of

>> them out of circulation in the name of quntliitative
easing...
(b)

>> MoF simply paying its bills with yen it orders

> BoJ to print...

>

> The difference is that the BoJ adds more JGBs to its
balance sheet
in

> the one case, and reduces the percentage of
outstanding BoJs held

> privately.

>

I'm not sure I understand your point, but let me suggest three different scenarios. I think you are suggesting the difference between scenario 1 and 3. As background, keep in mind the important distinction between the GROSS debt of the govenment versus the NET debt owed by the government to the private sector. It is the latter that raises the possibilty of fiscal crisis. Recall that any profits made by the BOJ (including when the MOF pays it interest) go back to the MOF. So, for the MOF to owe the BOJ is the government owing money to itself.

SCENARIO 1: The MOF adds Y1 trillion to the deficit; it sells Y1 trillion JGBs to the private sector; the BOJ buys those Y1 trillion yen worth of JGBs by creating new money.

RESULT: a Y1 trillion increase in the GROSS debt of the MOF but ZERO increase in the NET debt owed by the government to the private sector. The increase in the monetary base is Y1 trillion. The operation prevents the increase in the fiscal deficit from pushing interest rates upward.


SCENARIO 2: The MOF adds Y1 trillion to the deficit; it sells Y1 trillion JGBs directly to the BOJ which the BOJ pays for by creating new money.

RESULT: Same as in Scenario 1: a Y1 trillion increase in the GROSS debt of the MOF but ZERO increase in the NET debt owed by the government to the private sector.
The increase in the monetary base is Y1 trillion. The operation prevents the increase in the fiscal deficit from pushing interest rates upward.


SCENARIO 3: The MOF adds Y1 trillion to the deficit; the BOJ creates new money which it simply hands over to the MOF so it can pay its bills. It gets no JGBs in exchange.

RESULT: A zero increase in the gross debt of the MOF and a zero increase in the NET debt owed. The increase in the monetary base is Y1 trillion. The operation prevents the increase in the fiscal deficit from pushing interest rates upward.

In all three scenarios, the increase in the net debt is zero; the increase in the monetary base is the same Y1 trillion; the fiscal stimulus is the same, and in all three operations the BOJ action prevents an upward spike in interest rates. And, because the fiscal action should add to both real and nominal GDP, the ratio of net debt to GDP will DECLINE.

Since net debt is the pivotal issue for fiscal stability and because the fiscal and monetary stimulus are exactly the same in all three scenarios, I maintain that there is no difference in the impact on either real growth or inflation. Since deflation began in the mid-1990s, the key to the ups and downs of inflation/deflation has not been the money supply, but the "output gap," i.e. the gap between what GDP could be at full employment and full use of physical capacity and what actual GDP is. So, in all three cases, the anti-deflationary impact from fiscal stimulus and keeping down interest rates is the same.

A useful paper on this theme is Bernanke's 2003 speech in Tokyo at
http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2003/2
0030531/default.htm. I don't agree with everything he said, but I do agree with his proposal of a compact between the MOF and BOJ and what it would do.


> What effect that has on the
propensity to unload JGBs and raise

> interest rates I am not clever enough to work out.

>
In the first round, I don't see why it would cause anyone to unload JGBs or raise interest rates. Since the BOJ is buying JGBs, that increases their price, making them more attractive to private investors. The same action pushes interest rates downward, not upward.
When the BOJ announced its recent monetary ease, including increased purchases of JGBs, that pushed rates down.

Eventually, if the action helps to improve real growth and lower the output gap, that whould reduce deflation and bring about inflation. The question is what comes
first: does inflation rise first and then nominal interest rates rise later? If so, that would LOWER"real" (i.e. inflation-adjusted) rates. Or would bond investors demand an inflaton premium in anticipation of eventual inflation down the road? In that case, nominal rates would rise first and inflation later; that would RAISE real rates. The history over the past decade shows that, despite the explosion in government debt and in the money supply, 10-year bond rates have been lower than at almost any time in the past dozen years. So, I think combined MOF-BOJ stimulus would raise inflation first and nominal interest rates later.


> Secondly, I find it hard to
believe that if the government declared

> that it was going to expand the monetised deficit
until inflation

> reached 5%, and shortened the revision period for the
minimum wage
to

> ensure wage cost push, it would fail to lead to a
sell-off of JGBs


> and a rise in interest rates to the zone where
monetary policy
starts

> to be effective and isn't just pushing on a piece of
string.

>

>

If I understand you correctly, you seem to be saying that a rise in interest rates is a good thing because it would return Japan to the zone where monetary policy can be effective. I think that is confusing the cart and the horse. The key thing is to end the "output gap"
and restore normal (1-2%) inflation, and that will lead to a rise in nominal interest rates. The horse is the closing of the output gap and the return to inflation.
The cart is the rise in nominal interest rates.

As far as announcement effects go, there is absolutely no evidence that they have had any impact on behavior in Japan during the period of deflation. Announcement effects can add to the potency of monetary policy when a country has normal inflation. Monetary policy works very differently in a normal situation from one in which there is deflation and rate are at, or virtually at, zero.

By the way, on Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran an oped by me under the title "How Japan Blew Its Lead in Electronics." For subscribers, it's at
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304636404
577297621752245682.html?mod=ITP_opinion_0. In the Asia edition, it's at
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304724404
577297102672086074.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopBucket


Richard Katz
The Oriental Economist Report

Approved by ssjmod at 11:17 AM

[SSJ: 7307] Re: Why Noda is pushing for a tax increase

From: Smitka, Mike
Date: 2012/03/24

Further to the dialog between Rick Katz, Ron Dore and others.

I think Ron Dore's latest post continues to confuse fiscal policy with the means by which it is financed.

One key is that until there is some inflation, a 0.0% nominal is still positive in real terms (firms have to pay with revenue earned in the face of declining prices).

So how to get there? No evidence that increasing the money supply will do it, whatever particular technical means and definition of money one uses -- it hasn't worked the past 15 years, it's not working now in the US.

So we must turn to other policy tools, including fiscal policy ("don't try to cut the deficit" is one way I read Ron Dore's post) and direct tools (mandate higher wages). The focus thus needs to be on which (if any) such tools might be both effective and politically feasible. I can come up with a very long list of things that I think would work (and often have positive side effects).

Here is my list of those politically likely: ().

That said, the stalemate in the Diet makes policies that move in any direction hard to envision. That's not so bad, because it also lowers the likelihood that the Diet moves in the wrong direction. Stasis prevents "effective" fiscal policy in the form of a near-term tax increase, too.

An issue not made explicit so far is that it's not just an issue of credibility, it's one of credibility in the face of time inconsistency. It's easy to promise easy money until (say) 2015, or until inflation hits 5% (also years away). Given the continued buildup of national debt, is it reasonable to think that MOF / the Diet will really stick to that if the economy shows signs of recovery? So it's not just a generic distrust, but a fundamental inability of any government (not just
Japan!) to commit future legislatures and monetary policy boards to a policy chosen by their predecessors.
To echo the above, it's impossible to mandate that later governments stick to the wisdom of their predecessor's policies, and it's also impossible to mandate that later governments stick to the follies of their predecessors.

mike smitka

PS on bond holding: I don't see this as having an impact on monetary policy, but it would better highlight the level of risk in the financial system from an increase in interest rates, and could permit an accounting rule that banks wouldn't need to recognize capital losses on bonds that they have declared they would hold to maturity. That would mean that banks wouldn't face a hit (or as big of a hit) to their capital adequacy requirements. (Cf. time inconsistency
above: tax penalties could be used to turn this particular loophole into the eye of a needle, unlike in the case of legislatures.)

PPS Time to mention Kenneth Arrows two impossibility
theorems: first, in the 1960s he did the math for an invisible hand economy and showed that the requirements are too stringent to be relevant: any economy is fundamentally broken (this is generally referred to a proof of the existence of a general equilibrium, but that's an extreme utopian interpretation of his result, and 60 years of further work by PhDs in math hasn't been able to get around Arrow's list of impossible assumptions). Second, and familiar to political scientists, he showed that no set of rules provides a stable decision mechanism in a political context. So there's no set of rules that guarantee either an economy or a polity work well. As you might infer, it's a bright summer day here in the mountains of Virginia, it'll hit 30ºC today. I can't ponder this in the darkness of mid-winter! The downside: I'm out the door now for quality time with my chainsaw, a couple hectares of my woods still to be "weeded" of trash trees so the good ones can breath.

Approved by ssjmod at