The Fall of Japan

Japan used to be the world’s economic success story. Now, after a decades-long slide, its own government officials are saying that Japan no longer has a “first-class economy.” According to this article, its woes include too much government regulation, declining productivity, stagnant innovation, and. . .

the petering out of the population. Japan has the world’s highest proportion of elderly people and the lowest proportion of children.By 2050, population decline will have reduced economic growth to zero, according to the Japan Center for Economic Research. Seventy percent of the country’s labor force will have disappeared.

You know something else? Some business educators, using their old notes and research from twenty years ago–are STILL hailing Japanese management techniques and saying that we need to emulate them.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • WebMonk

    A lot of the business management techniques are to be emulated! JIT, continuous improvement, and kanban have genuinely and drastically changed business and manufacturing for the better. Those are all “Japanese” methods which businesses all over the world have adopted to their benefit. (actually most of those ideas didn’t originate from Japanese, but the Japanese businesses certainly latched on to them first)

    It’s the social and financial policies of their government that has driven the Japanese economy into where it is today, not their business practices.

  • WebMonk

    A lot of the business management techniques are to be emulated! JIT, continuous improvement, and kanban have genuinely and drastically changed business and manufacturing for the better. Those are all “Japanese” methods which businesses all over the world have adopted to their benefit. (actually most of those ideas didn’t originate from Japanese, but the Japanese businesses certainly latched on to them first)

    It’s the social and financial policies of their government that has driven the Japanese economy into where it is today, not their business practices.

  • Eric

    Their Management techniques are fine. Last I checked Toyota is still beating Detroit while having one hand tied behind its back by the Home Island’s economy.

    What they need is some family planning. You know, like plan on having one.

    Population decline is probably what is driving their management. A stable population covers up many economic inefficiencies.

  • Eric

    Their Management techniques are fine. Last I checked Toyota is still beating Detroit while having one hand tied behind its back by the Home Island’s economy.

    What they need is some family planning. You know, like plan on having one.

    Population decline is probably what is driving their management. A stable population covers up many economic inefficiencies.

  • http://www.HempelStudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    Their business practices killed the Japanese family. Women don’t want to marry absent men. They work all of the time there. Child-rearing is left completely up to the woman, who probably also has a job. Their business environment is the most anti-family in the world probably! I wouldn’t have a family if I were in that situation.

  • http://www.HempelStudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    Their business practices killed the Japanese family. Women don’t want to marry absent men. They work all of the time there. Child-rearing is left completely up to the woman, who probably also has a job. Their business environment is the most anti-family in the world probably! I wouldn’t have a family if I were in that situation.

  • David Thompson

    Canadian author and columnist Steve Heyn, a recent guest lecturer at Hillsdale College, wrote similarly of the economic situation in Canada. “In conclusion, I’m not optimistic about Canada for various reasons—from the recent Chinese enthusiasm for buying up the country’s resources to the ongoing brain drain—but also for a reason more profound. The biggest difference between Canada and the U.S. is not that you crazy, violent, psycho Yanks have guns and we caring, progressive Canucks have socialized health care, but that America has a healthy fertility rate and we don’t. Americans have 2.1 children per couple, which is enough to maintain a stable population, whereas according to the latest official figures, Canadian couples have only 1.5. This puts us on the brink of steep demographic decline. Consider the math: 10 million parents have 7.5 million children, 5.6 million grandchildren, and 4.2 million great-grandchildren. You can imagine what shape those lavish Canadian social programs will be in under that scenario, and that’s before your average teenage burger-flipper gets tired of supporting entire gated communities and decides he’d rather head south than pay 70 percent tax rates.” For the full article go to http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis.asp.

  • David Thompson

    Canadian author and columnist Steve Heyn, a recent guest lecturer at Hillsdale College, wrote similarly of the economic situation in Canada. “In conclusion, I’m not optimistic about Canada for various reasons—from the recent Chinese enthusiasm for buying up the country’s resources to the ongoing brain drain—but also for a reason more profound. The biggest difference between Canada and the U.S. is not that you crazy, violent, psycho Yanks have guns and we caring, progressive Canucks have socialized health care, but that America has a healthy fertility rate and we don’t. Americans have 2.1 children per couple, which is enough to maintain a stable population, whereas according to the latest official figures, Canadian couples have only 1.5. This puts us on the brink of steep demographic decline. Consider the math: 10 million parents have 7.5 million children, 5.6 million grandchildren, and 4.2 million great-grandchildren. You can imagine what shape those lavish Canadian social programs will be in under that scenario, and that’s before your average teenage burger-flipper gets tired of supporting entire gated communities and decides he’d rather head south than pay 70 percent tax rates.” For the full article go to http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis.asp.

  • The Jones

    You know, the Chinese have the largest growth of any economy in the world. They’re growing and average of about 13% A YEAR. Why don’t we take a lesson or two from the totalitarian iron fist. Talk about an economic stimulous-or-else plan!

  • The Jones

    You know, the Chinese have the largest growth of any economy in the world. They’re growing and average of about 13% A YEAR. Why don’t we take a lesson or two from the totalitarian iron fist. Talk about an economic stimulous-or-else plan!

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Just because something appears to be working does not mean its good (or capable of lasting).

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Just because something appears to be working does not mean its good (or capable of lasting).

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    There are at least three topics going on here; manufacturing methods, statistical process methods, and business culture in Japan.

    Personally, I’m all for 5S, JIT, and Kanban–it more or less frees the factory from the tyranny of the steam engine and returns things to the good habits of craftsmen of centuries past. The error is when we pretend that this is something new, rather than basic good sense in operating a workplace instead of a warehouse.

    Business culture; I’m torn. Sarah’s right that it’s hell on families. The energy that we (should) spend on our families is too often spent on business colleagues in Japan. I love interacting with Japanese businessmen, because they value the relationship, not just the dollar or yen. At the same time, sometimes their families go through Hell for it.

    Statistical control; this is where our gracious host is strongest, as the Keynesianism with which Japan is afflicted (and arguably reduces its birth rate) is born of the desire to statistically control the macro-economy. The birth of those complex macro-economic models is the same as the origin of a lot of business models.

    I personally like the model of the craftsman, myself.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    There are at least three topics going on here; manufacturing methods, statistical process methods, and business culture in Japan.

    Personally, I’m all for 5S, JIT, and Kanban–it more or less frees the factory from the tyranny of the steam engine and returns things to the good habits of craftsmen of centuries past. The error is when we pretend that this is something new, rather than basic good sense in operating a workplace instead of a warehouse.

    Business culture; I’m torn. Sarah’s right that it’s hell on families. The energy that we (should) spend on our families is too often spent on business colleagues in Japan. I love interacting with Japanese businessmen, because they value the relationship, not just the dollar or yen. At the same time, sometimes their families go through Hell for it.

    Statistical control; this is where our gracious host is strongest, as the Keynesianism with which Japan is afflicted (and arguably reduces its birth rate) is born of the desire to statistically control the macro-economy. The birth of those complex macro-economic models is the same as the origin of a lot of business models.

    I personally like the model of the craftsman, myself.

  • WebMonk

    Let’s separate the business and manufacturing methods from the business and societal values. Most businesses here in the States have instituted some form of the “Japanese” business methods of JIT, 5S, Kanban, etc. Some do it well, others don’t.

    But even those who do it really well don’t automatically have the driven, workaholic attitude that many Japanese have. That’s much more of a cultural thing than a business method thing.

    I work in a company that tries very hard, and is quite successful, in achieving a CMMI5 level of performance. (That’s a variant of 5S) We don’t have anywhere close to the same sort of workaholic culture that the Japanese culture has. That sort of work-before-family attitude has virtually nothing to do with their management practices. Rather the work-before-family attitude colors how they implement their management and work practices.

  • WebMonk

    Let’s separate the business and manufacturing methods from the business and societal values. Most businesses here in the States have instituted some form of the “Japanese” business methods of JIT, 5S, Kanban, etc. Some do it well, others don’t.

    But even those who do it really well don’t automatically have the driven, workaholic attitude that many Japanese have. That’s much more of a cultural thing than a business method thing.

    I work in a company that tries very hard, and is quite successful, in achieving a CMMI5 level of performance. (That’s a variant of 5S) We don’t have anywhere close to the same sort of workaholic culture that the Japanese culture has. That sort of work-before-family attitude has virtually nothing to do with their management practices. Rather the work-before-family attitude colors how they implement their management and work practices.


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