2015年2月25日水曜日

Dogs and Demons

Recently I finished reading Dogs and Demons by Alex Kerr. Kerr writes about what he calls Japan's "cultural malaise". While Kerr talks at length about government corruption and ineptness, outdated laws and ways of thinking, failed policies, problems in the educational system, the stagnant Japanese film industry, and the Japanese government's lack of true "internationalization", at its core, Dogs and Demons is a criticism of the Japanese culture itself. Japan's government and citizens, he says, are both stuck thinking like people in a developing country in spite of the fact that Japan has long since caught up to other economically advanced nations. Modern Japan is a land of extremes that is more accurately portrayed in anime (Japanese-style cartoons) and manga (comic books) than it is by the rest of the Japanese film industry.

To a certain extent, I find his observations of the government's relationship with big business to be interesting and perhaps mirroring in many ways the relationship between government and big business in the US. Japanese bureaucrats provide themselves or retired bureaucrats with nice contracts for work in industries that they once regulated is similar to how former bankers have become Treasury Secretaries in the US. The Japanese government's level of corruption and intervention in the economy is perhaps more advanced, but I get the feeling that the US will follow a similar path in the future. There are some influential people like Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman that advocate that the US government increase spending on infrastructure spending using large amounts of debt, so Americans may see the US become a construction state like Japan in the future.

Just the local government letting people know that this nature trail going up Mt. Ponpon is made of concrete.

Although I appreciate the information and opinions he provides when it comes to government corruption, bad policies, etc., while reading Dogs and Demons I often felt that he was probably exaggerating certain aspects like the extent to which the government has paved the countryside with concrete. Of course, I have not traveled extensively around Japan, and I have not had a chance to feast my eyes on something like the Orochi loop highway in Yokota, so I haven't really formed a strong opinion on the matter. I have done some traveling around the Kansai area and even to Kagoshima by Shinkansen, so I have had a chance to see the Japanese countryside, but although I have at times felt that it was a bit ugly, it never seemed to appear the way Kerr portrays it in his book.

Power lines in Kyoto.
 

This picture was taken in Kyoto, near Kinkakuji.
I have to also strongly disagree with his proposed solutions to problems. Given that I am an anarcho-capitalist, it's not surprising that I would disagree with Kerr when he proposes that the Japanese government change their zoning laws to neatly divide certain regions into agricultural land/residential land, rather than allow people to have farms in the middle of residential areas. Instead, I would advocate getting rid of the zoning laws altogether and letting the market decide the best use for different kinds of land. Then again, I'm a bit of a nut!

I'll write more in-depth on what Kerr wrote and give some of my thoughts as well. At this point, I'll say that it was informative, but there are some disagreements I have with Kerr.
コメントを投稿