It can happen here...

I have always looked to the UK, specifically the 1950's-1980's UK, as an example of what can happen to a country where it takes its position for granted, when it retreats into its shell, when the primary concern of the population is 'security' rather than growth. And I still think it is the closest example, and a clear sign of what can and in my opinion already is happening.

But there is another example out there. Japan. Today.

In 1991, economists were predicting that Japan would overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2010. In fact, Japan’s economy remains the same size it was then: a gross domestic product of $5.7 trillion at current exchange rates. During the same period, the United States economy doubled in size to $14.7 trillion, and this year China overtook Japan to become the world’s No. 2 economy.

Takeaways from this? Even the greatest can fall. Oh yeah, and China is not on a path to unlimited growth - though I think growth is more limited by population in the end - and they do have a fair ways to go on that in the long run, in the short run I think we might see some years of Chinese stagnation.

Read on for excepts from the NYT article:

The original Asian success story, Japan rode one of the great speculative stock and property bubbles of all time in the 1980s to become the first Asian country to challenge the long dominance of the West.

But the bubbles popped in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and Japan fell into a slow but relentless decline that neither enormous budget deficits nor a flood of easy money has reversed. For nearly a generation now, the nation has been trapped in low growth and a corrosive downward spiral of prices, known as deflation, in the process shriveling from an economic Godzilla to little more than an afterthought in the global economy.

Now, as the United States and other Western nations struggle to recover from a debt and property bubble of their own, a growing number of economists are pointing to Japan as a dark vision of the future. Even as the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, prepares a fresh round of unconventional measures to stimulate the economy, there are growing fears that the United States and many European economies could face a prolonged period of slow growth or even, in the worst case, deflation, something not seen on a sustained basis outside Japan since the Great Depression.

Many economists remain confident that the United States will avoid the stagnation of Japan, largely because of the greater responsiveness of the American political system and Americans’ greater tolerance for capitalism’s creative destruction. Japanese leaders at first denied the severity of their nation’s problems and then spent heavily on job-creating public works projects that only postponed painful but necessary structural changes, economists say.

“We’re not Japan,” said Robert E. Hall, a professor of economics at Stanford. “In America, the bet is still that we will somehow find ways to get people spending and investing again.”

Still, as political pressure builds to reduce federal spending and budget deficits, other economists are now warning of “Japanification” — of falling into the same deflationary trap of collapsed demand that occurs when consumers refuse to consume, corporations hold back on investments and banks sit on cash. It becomes a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle: as prices fall further and jobs disappear, consumers tighten their purse strings even more and companies cut back on spending and delay expansion plans.

“The U.S., the U.K., Spain, Ireland, they all are going through what Japan went through a decade or so ago,” said Richard Koo, chief economist at Nomura Securities who recently wrote a book about Japan’s lessons for the world. “Millions of individuals and companies see their balance sheets going underwater, so they are using their cash to pay down debt instead of borrowing and spending.”

- Yeah. So basically, what is saving the US, and what the economists are counting on, is that we are a bunch of aggressive over-spenders who will never back down and decide "Gee, I really can't afford that BMW right now, and I do like my nice house." So... in other words, what economists are counting on is that all of the tenancies which landed us in this recession will also mean that we will be the first out of it.

I guess you don't set transatlantic crossing records without going full steam ahead....

1 comment:

  1. Just like the slow take supply of property in the UK, buyers and sellers remain cautious making the market fairly static. Good thing that stimulus programs such reduction in VAT, interest rates and banking bailout helped homeowners to be in-control in the recession period.