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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:32 03/09/2007
Debate: Comment (July 22, 2003)

Comment on Professor Inoki's Article, "The New Century Demands Japan's Spirit of Capitalism"

Michael Layous (University of Southern California, Los Angeles)

Prof. Inoki's opinion refers to the global changes in the world as countries continue to open their borders to free trade. Accordingly, Japan is expected to follow suit in order to cooperate with global norms. While Japan has not been the most stubborn of the East Asian countries regarding a transformation to a free market, it certainly has not been the most willing to change tradition.

Inoki emphasizes that change must occur. He feels that Japan's future growth will not be spurred by greater technology, but by the human ability to innovate and create through greater knowledge. What he specifically fears is that the perspectives of the Japanese population are not in the proper mindset. By achieving significant growth over the past twenty-five years, Japanese inhabitants now appear to be content with their quality of life, no longer feeling the pressure as they did in the past to further revolutionize. "People's satisfaction level regarding their daily lives has fallen in accordance with the regression of the economy." While Inoki stresses to the Japanese population that they must rediscover their "zing", they must simultaneously remember to maintain proper ethics.

I do agree with some aspects of Inoki's argument. It is important that Japan continues to further its level of education in order to increase the population's general level of knowledge. By doing so, it will give individuals the opportunity to freely state their economic/political viewpoints, and compare their perspectives with other's opinions. This environment would provide the proper surroundings for the increase in innovation and creativity to occur.

However, I feel that some of his opinions regarding the psyche of the average Japanese inhabitant are erroneous. It is completely false to assume that as a person becomes wealthy, he or she will lose their work ethic, or no longer possess the same "zing". From history, we see that human nature will normally lead one to want more. People in everyday walks of life do not simply ease up on efforts because slight success has been achieved. Inoki continues to express that because goods can now be attained at overall cheaper prices, the Japanese population has further reason to work less. Again, I disagree. As hinted at later in the paper, jealousy is apart of human nature. As history shows, the upper class often sets trends in a society. However, as more and more people catch on to the trend (no matter the class), people feel the need to purchase/start a greater trend. In other words, despite the fact that the Japan population possesses a greater quantity of goods now than in the past, certain individuals will continue to strive at work in order to attain an even greater standard of living.

Additionally, Japan does not altogether have to open its borders. It's "slowly but surely" approach to transformation has proven to be quite beneficial to environment of Japan. Stringent traditionalists have been able to grudgingly realize the benefits of open border policies. Meanwhile, the rest of the world seems content with Japans gradual improvement. Therefore, while the global world would like Japan to reform many of its market policies, it does not "demand that" Japan do so.

Returning to the topic of education, it is the ultimate solution to Inoki's worries. Education alone will "plant the seed" and provide the natural "zing" for life. By offering the population an array of opportunities and challenges, people have the advantage of naturally discovering their niche in life. Presently, Inoki states that the youth of Japan lose hope in their lives as now that the dismal chances of opportunity are clearer. Inoki attributes this to the increase in technological communication. Hopefully, in the future, Japan can view their improvements in communication solely a positive light.

Lastly, Japan need only analyze the history of the United States to rejuvenate its optimistic approach to their economy. When the United States was first formed, people were in a similar situation as Japan today. While the United States possessed much more natural resources, their drive in the hopes of achieving a greater standard of living could easily be exemplified by observing the efforts of the Japanese population the past fifty years. To assume that the majority of United States citizens continue to pursue their daily lives and careers with the same "zing" as in the past would be false. Accordingly, Japan cannot be expected to maintain the same exertion which it has exhibited. However, in the same manner that the United States continue to produce individuals accepting nothing less than a "greater standard of living", Japan can be assured that it will continued to be blessed with intelligent, hard working individuals. This is provided Japan makes great strides in its education system.

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