A Prelude to Another Energy Economics: My Bet is on Japan to Remain in the Winners' ClubProfessor Ferdinand E. Banks
March 22nd, 2014
I know Japan, though not as well as I should. As a professor of energy economics I gave two greatly appreciated lectures in that country, while much earlier I delivered hundreds of brilliant but unfortunately unappreciated lectures/harangues to infantry soldiers, mostly in Camp Majestic (near Gifu), but also in wonderful Kobe, and at the live firing ranges close to the base of Mount Fuji.
I don't believe however that I spent a day in that country without wondering why those good people decided to challenge the United States of America, even after my company commander, Lieutenant Smith, explained it to me in one simple sentence. According to him, as a veteran of the war in the Pacific, "The key was the F-word", by which he meant fanaticism. Further elucidation was provided by my very intelligent platoon leader, Lieutenant Garza, who one day stated that a Japanese corporal in smelly underwear was the equivalent of a foreign soldier with a Marlon Brando sneer on his lips, and a collection of medals on his breast, assuming that he had the right kind of equipment in his hands, and also at his back.
For individuals like my good self, fanaticism can often be a beautiful thing, especially if it is accompanied by generosity and a sense of humour. In the silence of my lonely room, to which I returned after being expelled from engineering school for poor scholarship, it was a simple matter for me to figure out what I needed to write the books and obtain the guest professorships that have offended so many of the Swedish academic elite. But that doesn't explain why I am prepared to wager a very small fraction of my humble income that Japan will eventually move at a faster pace. That they will reclaim or solidify their place in the winner's circle/club.
The most important thing working in Japan's favour at the present time is the structure of their population. According to a recent Bloomberg Business Week, Japan is growing older too fast. There is a diagram in the same publication which shows India, Egypt, Columbia and Mexico as the four countries with the smallest fraction of their population over 65 years of age, and in the (Bloomberg) 'jumbo' position the diagram shows Japan, Germany, Italy and France (where the latter was tied with Spain). In other words, implicitly, because of what somebody has interpreted as a shortage of nimble brains and hands, the last four are supposed to be going to Hell in a hurry.
An extended outburst of stupidity is in the accompanying discussion. To quote the Bloomberg expert responsible for this 'contribution', "to offset labor shortages, Japan has begun easing immigration requirements for highly skilled workers. So far the program has fallen short of its modest target: under a quarter of the 2000 professionals it sought have come to work in Japan".
The core of this stupidity consists of writing or believing or having anything to do with that kind of thinking. The Japanese educational system can produce all the "professionals" needed by that country! Moreover, the truth is that an overwhelming majority of the Japanese don't want foreign 'workers' in their country, highly skilled or not. What they want is for their political masters to stop playing the fool, and to reproduce the economic miracles that I repeatedly told my international finance students about before I decided to concentrate on energy economics - miracles that I mentioned briefly in my international finance textbook (2001). In a short but brilliant lecture that I attended a few weeks after starting my three year 'tour' at the Palais des Nations (in Geneva, Switzerland), my colleagues and myself were informed that Japan's development plans were generally regarded by economists in that noble structure as a role model for industrialisation and economic progress.
Moreover, in the near future there will be thousands - or tens of thousands - of brainy engineers roaming the streets of India, Egypt, Columbia and Mexico begging for work before their valuable analytical skills are dissipated by idleness. Instead, imagine being a qualified engineer or technician who, after e.g. arriving at Kobe's airport, proceeds to an apartment on or near one of the sensual hills in that exotic city. That sort of experience is very definitely in the same class as marching down one of the main thoroughfares of Kobe in the direction of the swinging 'Motimachi' (sic), returning from a long day of training for the next American war. It was exactly what was needed to make a young man think that there might be some justice in this old world of ours after all, despite being told by the Dean of Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology (in Chicago) that he was hopeless.
I'd also like to mention something that the editors and journalists of the Bloomberg Business Week, and many other publications, are probably incapable of understanding. Technology, economics and geography are capable of working magnificently in Japan's favour, assuming of course that their navy doesn't pay another early-morning visit to Pearl Harbor. Although I doubt whether those academic careerists who are sincerely devoted to mediocrity in teaching and research will get the message, for a country the size of Japan, they have all the people they need...thank you very much. And similarly, globally, the problem in the long run - and maybe even sooner - is not going to be too few people, but too many.REFERENCES
Banks, Ferdinand E. (2014). Energy and Economic Theory. Singapore, London and New York: World Scientific.
______. (2001) . Global Finance and Financial Markets: A Modern Introduction. Singapore, London and New York: World Scientific.
Professor Ferdinand E. Banks
March 22nd, 2014
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