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‘Happy go lucky’ Australia now adrift in Asia

August 23rd, 2013 · 3 Comments

Australians used to call themselves “the lucky country,” after the title of a 1960s’ best-seller saying how farming wealth had allowed Australia to create a stable, prosperous and fairly egalitarian society.  But today’s minerals wealth seems to have worked in reverse, to create a nation prone to quick fixes, whimsical political changes, flip-flop foreign policies and crazy economic strategies. From the sober lucky country we move to the feckless happy-go-lucky country.

Japan’s leaders must see the need for sustaining a fiscal Big Bang

February 1st, 2013 · 4 Comments

With Japan’s stock market surging even before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled his plans for economic stimulus, we would have expected the usual anti-stimulus critics to be silent, at least for a while. But no. Already we hear the usual complaints — more printing of money, more public debt, more baramake (waste) and so on.

Economics of austerity don’t add up

August 30th, 2012 · 9 Comments

Do Europe’s budget-cutting austerity-minded planners understand simple math? They say they have to embrace austerity policies to reduce excessive national debt. But those policies inevitably cut tax revenues more than they cut spending. National debt increases rather than decreases. Worse, recovery from the economic downturns they create then forces them to ease the original spending cuts. So the national debt situation gets even worse. Japan during its two decades of economic stagnation was the poster-child model for this economic folly in action.

Fact-checking Japan’s critics.

May 16th, 2012 · No Comments

The better U.S. media now use fact-checkers and truth meters to debunk outrageous claims by politicians. Maybe Japan should do the same toward its critics. High on the truth-meter treatment list would be the never-ending claims that Japan is a racist society. One of the more egregious was the claim by the Dutch journalist, Karel van Wolferen, who once wrote that special schools existed to make sure that returnee children be “re-molded” into good, obedient Japanese.

Europe’s potion is now its poison with China inheriting the benefits.

February 17th, 2012 · 16 Comments

Today’s lecture is on the sorry state of that dismal science called economics. Hands up, economists who foresaw the Lehman collapse in the United States. OK, I see a few hands out there. Now hands up, those who also foresaw the eurozone crisis? Not so many, it seems.

North Korea’s Khrushchev.

January 11th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Scenes of Pyongyang citizens wailing the death of “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il remind us how easily dictatorships can manipulate public opinion. But are the rest of us so immune to similar manipulation?

Japan’s economic morality play.

October 26th, 2011 · 3 Comments

World attention focuses on the problems of the Greek economy — no doubt with a large helping of schadenfreude added: There, but for the grace of God, go the rest of us is the thought.

A contrarian view of how ‘austerity’ bleeds Japan

March 4th, 2011 · 9 Comments

With the Standard and Poor’s downgrading of Japan’s long-term credit rating from AA to AA minus, the focus even more is on how the economy can get out of its current deflationary quagmire.

Debating the Optimistic versus Pessimistic Views of China

January 18th, 2011 · 4 Comments

First a few personal facts. My involvement with China goes back to the early sixties as a diplomat in Hongkong where I was learning Mandarin. For a while I served as China desk officer in Canberra’s foreign affairs ministry. Then during Cultural Revolution days I finally got to China, by organizing an Australian pingpong team (over Canberra’s opposition).

The North Korea conundrum

December 3rd, 2010 · 2 Comments

North Korea bombards the South Korean held island of Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea, killing and wounding a number of people there. The hawks call for the strongest possible response. The pundits warn of another Korean War.

Origins of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

September 24th, 2010 · 2 Comments

In the 1960’s the Japanese rightwing had a problem. The leftwing was arguing strongly that Japan’s postwar economy badly needed access to the markets and raw materials of China, North Korea and the Soviet Union if it was to survive (in prewar years it had depended heavily on China and the Korean peninsula for both).

A tall poppy is cut down: Gillard could bloom awhile.

July 20th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Strange things happen to Australian prime ministers. One (Harold Holt, 1966-67) disappeared while swimming near a Melbourne beach; speculation says he may have been eaten by a shark.

Media vultures circle Japan’s P.M.

May 27th, 2010 · 11 Comments

In Brazil they tell the story of the small-town TV crime reporter who gained fame and scoops by arranging crimes himself. He could then rush out and interview the victims well before rivals. But eventually his scoops caught up with him and he ended up in jail.

U.S. base problem drags on.

March 25th, 2010 · 4 Comments

The loud dispute over the future of the U.S. Marine Air Station at Futenma, Okinawa, is puzzling. Even U.S. officialdom agrees that this base causes enormous inconvenience to the residents of Ginowan city who are forced to live alongside. Plans to have it moved have been around for years. But to where?

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