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Japan's Policy Trap: Dollars, Deflation, and the Crises of Japanese Finance
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Japan's Policy Trap: Dollars, Deflation, and the Crises of Japanese Finance [ペーパーバック]

Akio Mikuni , R. Taggart Murphy

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Until quite recently, the Japanese inspired a kind of puzzled awe. They had pulled themselves together from the ruin of war, built at breakneck speed a formidable array of export champions, and emerged as the world's number-two economy and largest net creditor nation. And they did it by flouting every rule of economic orthodoxy. But today only the puzzlement remains --at Japan's inability to arrest its economic decline, at its festering banking crisis, and at the dithering of its policymakers. Why can't the Japanese government find the political will to fix the country's problems? Japan's Policy Trap offers a provocative new analysis of the country's protracted economic stagnation. Japanese insider Akio Mikuni and long-term Japan resident R. Taggart Murphy contend that the country has landed in a policy trap that defies easy solution. The authors, who have together spent decades at the heart of Japanese finance, expose the deep-rooted political arrangements that have distorted Japan's monetary policy in a deflationary direction. They link Japan's economic difficulties to the Achilles' heel of the U.S. economy: the U.S. trade and current accounts deficits. For the last twenty years, Japan's dollar-denominated trade surplus has outstripped official reserves and currency in circulation. These huge accumulated surpluses have long exercised a growing and perverse influence on monetary policy, forcing Japan's authorities to support a build-up of deflationary dollars. Mikuni and Murphy trace the origins of Japan's policy trap far back into history, in the measures taken by Japan's officials to preserve their economic independence in what they saw as a hostile world. Mobilizing every resource to accumulate precious dollars, the authorities eventually found themselves coping with a hoard they could neither use nor exchange. To counteract the deflationary impact, Japanese authorities resorted to the creation of yen liabilities unrelated to production via the largest financial bubble in history. The bursting of that bubble was followed by massive public works spending that has resulted in an explosion in public sector debt. Japan's Policy Trap points to the likelihood that Japan will run out of ways to support its vast pile of dollar claims. Should the day come when those claims can no longer be supported, the world could see a horrific deflationary spiral in Japan, a crash in the global value of the dollar, or both. The effects would reach far beyond Japan's borders. Mikuni and Murphy suggest that a reduction in Japan's surplus must be accompanied by a reduction in deficits somewhere else --most obviously through far-reaching shifts in the American economy.


"An important new book..." --Hugo Restall, The Asian Wall Street Journal, 10/25/2002 "Winner, 2002 Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishing Award for Economics" -- Award "... a provocative new book." --John Thornhill, Financial Times, 11/18/2002 "[The book has] many astute... observations about the Japanese economic and political system." --Richard N. Cooper, Foreign Affairs, 5/1/2003 "many astute and sometimes provocative observations about the Japanese economic and political system." -- Foreign Affairs


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As Japan enters its twelfth consecutive year of economic stagnation, it has begun to dawn on the world that something peculiar is going on. 最初のページを読む
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星1つ で最も参考になったカスタマーレビュー (beta) 5つ星のうち 4.2  8 件のカスタマーレビュー
17 人中、16人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。
5つ星のうち 5.0 Manufactured Problems 2002/12/5
By Michael J Matuschka - (
Akio Mikuni & R. Taggart Murphy have produced an excellent critical piece on the multiple troubles that Japan now finds itself, as well as realistically outlining how the elites are still very much unaware of the full consequences of their actions, and indeed inaction. This book also raises a number of interesting indepth parallels in Japanese history, illustrating that Japan has been in similar waters before and like the past, cannot adapt and change policy before disaster causes havoc. It is furthermore explained that, like all previous merchantile and/or socialist regimes, Japan's production capacity approach to trade is of little use unless profits and risk management are approached seriously. There is some hope for Japan, but the authors wisely find that Japan's war production approach (which is indeed ancient), coupled with its ministerial fiefdoms (whom act like warlords of old.....and control things like banks and until recently the Japanese equity markets), weak liberal democratic structures, non-guilded unions, and lambish populous, coupled with a mountain sized foreign (US$) currency reserve, {which as they argue convincingly, cannot ever really be swapped for would destroy Japan (and cause much angst elsewhere)}, all need fundamental revision. Fundamentally, this book highlights the enigma of Japanese power. It should be read along with books like Cartels of the Mind (Ivan Hall); Japan's Big Bang (Declan Hayes); Dogs and Demons (Alex Kerr);The Enigma of Japanese Power (Karel van Wolferan); and Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (Herbert P. Bix). Having lived in Japan for four years, I would highly recommend this book.
1 人中、1人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。
5つ星のうち 4.0 Useful study of Japan's slump 2009/1/12
By William Podmore - (
Akio Mikuni, president of Japan's leading bond-rating agency, and R. Taggart Murphy, a professor at Tsukuba University, relate how Japan, the world's second largest economy, became trapped in deflation.

Japan is the world's top creditor nation with huge holdings of bonds, equity, loans and foreign investments. It has vast trade and current account surpluses with most countries in the world. The floating exchange rate is supposed to adjust automatically to prevent such payment imbalances, but these are now far greater than they ever were under the fixed rate system.

In the 1980s, Japan's landowners and speculators used huge real estate and equity market bubbles to take wealth from the working class. In the early 1990s, the bubbles burst, and the largest pile of non-performing loans ever seen buried much of Japan's banking system. Every monetary and fiscal policy failed, including a 72-trillion-yen reflation and bank bail-out package in 1998.

During the US state's postwar occupation of Japan, it had seized control of Japan's currency. As the authors point out, "No matter how much capacity you have accumulated, no matter how many claims you have the theoretical right to exercise, unless you control the currency of your international trade, investments, and finance, you are at the mercy of those who do control that currency."

So Japan accepts payments for its exports, and returns from its investments abroad, in the dollar. It keeps its ever-growing hoard of dollars in the USA, which transfers buying power to the USA, funding, for example, Silicon Valley. The US state's control of the yen is the key to the dollar's strength, allowing the USA to depend on imports and to run huge trade and current account deficits. It also fuelled the US bubbles in credit, bonds and equity markets.

Japan has paid a huge price for this special relationship with the USA, because the dollar has lost two-thirds of its value against the yen since 1972. Now the falling dollar is hurting Japan even more.
21 人中、14人の方が、「このレビューが参考になった」と投票しています。
5つ星のうち 2.0 Not scholarly enuf; too alarmist; conspiracy minded? 2003/1/8
By A_2007_reader - (
This book is not up to Brookings Institute standards, perhaps that explains the forward written by the Brookings chief, where he says the books 'conspiracy' theme is interesting, to deflect criticism that the book relies too much on secondary sources.
Basically the premise is old news: Japan runs a current account surplus because it refuses to import and only exports, which creates a weaker than normal yen. The dollar surplus then has to be either invested overseas (hence the Japanese overpay for US investments), or plowed into assets by JP banks to avoid the yen from being strengthened. But that this is part of a 'conspiracy' is not really fleshed out. The book relies too much on secondary sources. And it is not clear to me that the currency imbalance is the root of Japan's ills (this is the central premise of the book). Note that Japan import/exports are only 10% of the GNP, (not unlike the 15% in the US), and thus the lack of demand in JP from the remaining 90% of the GNP is perhaps the real cause of the 10 year recession there. Also other Asian countries do the same thing as JP (namely, keep their currency weaker than it should; ration credit; restrict labor mobility and labor wage rates); how do their economies escape the JP trap of recession? Can it be that other reasons are at fault for JP's demise, such as JP is getting older? These issues are not discussed.
Basically the book is a 20 page white paper made into a several hundred page book, and the tone is too 'alarmist'. The most interesting points are made when discussing politics, and how the Ministry of Trade decides who is going to live or die vis-a-vis the 'walking zombie' companies. Of course the same things happened in the US (credit rationing until the 1970s; bank failures in the late 1980s, where the government decided which banks were to be taken over; and a merchantilist philosophy of keeping the dollar strong, which keeps inflation low in the US but results in the mirror opposite but also dangerous problem as in Japan--current account deficits, or living beyond your means).
5つ星のうち 5.0 Fantastic book! 2012/1/15
By Kenneth - (
This book seemingly answers a lot of question I had about the Japanese governmental system. For example, how could a functioning government have 5 different prime ministers in 4 years. Furthermore, this got me thinking about China as well.

Anyways, this book is excellent. I enjoyed the detail in which the authors explained the intricate web that exists between the Ministry of Finance (MOF), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Shogunate past, and the various other bureaucratic organizations. The detail about how the liquidity trap works and the benefits the U.S. reaps from the Japanese policymaker's addition to the American currency is also telling.

I look forward to reading Red Capitalism by Carl E. Walter in the future to learn about Chinese monetary policy. I believe China's system will be similar to the Japanese system as portrayed in this great book. I think in the long run both of their respective policies are tenuous at best.

5つ星のうち 5.0 Interesting Read 2008/11/1
By Mwaa - (
I've only read half of the book for about a month now. I'm sLOWLY digesting the information. Quite a good read and interesting to note the author wrote, " The current account surplus [of Japan] will probably keep expanding until the world collectively cannot run.... Or else until the surplus buries the Japanese economy under an avalanche of deflationary dollar claims that can neither be exchanged nor redeemed."

Interesting to note Japan is now bailing out the US for some 50 Billion US dollars . Their neck is on the line for sure.

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