Argentina vs Japan – Which Road To Choose (Video by Simon Whistler)

Argentina Vs Japan – Which road to choose (Video by Simon Whistler)

Comments by Charles Sulka

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In this short VisualPolitik video Simon Whistler examines developments in two countries — Japan and Argentina — which could hardly have taken more divergent courses. Over the past century the two countries have quite literally switched positions in economic terms, with the first being last and the last being first, so to speak. It is a fascinating story, with many lessons to teach us. When all is said and done, however, we need to ask ourselves if Whistler might have missed something. Maybe a number of things?

In addition to Whistler’s observations, we should also consider ….

1. Japanese are Asians, and Argentinians are a mix of Hispanic & indigenous peoples. It is a well established fact that the Japanese, like all Asians, have a higher than average IQ. On the other hand, Central and South Americans’ IQs are average at best — generally much lower than average. Intelligence plays an important role in determining a people’s fate.

2. Japanese have a superior work ethic. Teamwork, dedication, hard work, and long workdays are the cultural norm for Japanese. Japanese are known for working 12-hour work days, even today, when you would think the citizens of the world’s richest nation (it’s a fact) could relax and take it easy.

3. This is not to say that the Argentinians are lazy. But Argentinians are nowhere near as industrious as the Japanese, it’s as simple as that. Argentinians, like many Hispanic cultures, do not have the same work ethic as the Asian peoples. The ‘manana’ attitude permeates Spanish culture (in other words, procrastination abounds.) Moreover, in Hispanic cultures, the middle of the day is a period of rest — businesses shut down, work stops, government offices close the doors. Everyone enjoys a period of rest, or ‘siesta.’ Similarly, evenings are periods of social activity and relaxation.

Hispanic peoples never work late, and they don’t start that early in the morning, either. Then they take a break from all this hard work during the middle of the day, the most productive time. Let’s face facts: these folks just don’t get much actual work done. It’s a cultural thing.

Does genetics play a role? We’ll get to that ….

4. A life of ease can result in a people becoming over-indulgent. One theory is that the Argentinians have been spoiled by the good life (their economic success) while the Japanese were inured to hardship and suffering, and were willing to make great personal sacrifices for the good of society that the Argentinians were not. This, too, is a cultural thing. Genetics does play a part.

5. The two cultures have totally different values. Spanish men are playboys. The only thing they take seriously is themselves. Japanese men are corporate slaves, automatons, married to their jobs. Who would you expect to fare better in the long run?

6. Argentina had experienced massive foreign investments which resulted in phenomenal growth. Foreign investors eventually demand their pound of flesh, extracting exorbitant profits from their investments in the nation’s economy. Losing control of the economy to outsiders and paying extortionate sums to foreign investors are not problems that afflict the Japanese.

7. The Japanese people were inured to hardship from the war. Argentinians were not impacted by the war in the same way, as that country was neutral and played no part in the conflict except to profit from the war. The Japanese, as a people, have embraced an ethic of foregoing immediate reward for the long-term benefit of the society as a whole. Such self-sacrifice was (is) not a central feature of Argentinian society.

[This is always the problem resultant of massive foreign investments from financiers and profiteers — the real danger from foreign investment. The nation did not make it on its own through hard work and good management, but was artificially buoyed up by speculators.]

8. Argentina’s wealth of natural resources was exploited by foreign firms, often with the citizens of foreign countries being duped into paying for it all through tax-subsidized government programs. It is interesting that Argentina was one of the world’s largest producers of precious metals … virtually all of which has been expropriated by the rich and powerful, the investor class and international financiers. The corrupt politicians lived lavish lifestyles, the foreigners were enriched, and the Argentinian people, trapped in wage-slavery and hardship, were exploited by what can only be thought of as first-generation neocons — capitalist pigs, to use a quaint but not inappropriate term.

9. Argentina is a case study in the empty promises of neoliberal economic thinking. Massive foreign investments fueled speculation and financialization which led to the impoverishment of the Argentine people at the hands of international capitalists. Under the neoliberal economic model the same selfishness and short-term thinking that is destroying America (and indeed all of the West) today was first used against the Argentine people. Argentina was the first major test of globalization, internationalism, financialization after the colonial era. The corrupt government sold out the nation to foreigners, just as the neocons and free traders have sold our their home nations everywhere in the world.

[Nowhere is the damage from this betrayal more evident than in America today.]

10. Japan has a much more equal distribution of wealth and income; it is not polarized by the divide between rich and poor as are South American countries (with the USA now fast taking the lead in inequality!) Argentina, and, indeed, all of Central and South America, have long struggled under unjust distribution of wealth and income inequality. This entrenched malaise is perpetuated by a totally corrupt ruling class … and a dependence upon foreign capital.

11. Japan has the highest savings rate in the world. The Argentine workers have barely enough to survive; of course they cannot save or invest. This leaves the nation totally at the mercy of foreign financiers and their minions. This again is a direct result of massive foreign investment and the corrupt ruling class it engenders. The Japanese, by contrast, are scrupulously honest. Corruption is virtually non-existent in Japanese society. The Japanese leaders adhere to a strict code of honor; the Argentinian ruling elites, not so much.

Who would you expect to fare better in the long run?

In Simon Whistler’s inimitable style this video grabs the viewer’s attention, promising a truly enlightening educational experience. Everyone is looking for enlightenment … and here Whistler promises to lead us to understanding not just one but two failing economic models in only a few minutes. However, what is proffered as a thoughtful examination of the issues is really a superficial and fallacious comparison of two totally dissimilar countries — dissimilar economics, dissimilar politics, dissimilar cultures, dissimilar histories. In reality this is nothing more than a clever propaganda piece extolling the (hypothetical) virtues of neoliberal economics. This piece is based on a logical fallacy, where the writer’s preconceived opinions are ‘deduced’ from the misleading examples and limited evidence provided. The charts and graphs do add considerably to the experience. It is quite pleasant to watch, as is Whistler himself. But the actual content is, well, BS.

To be clear, this video is not BS in the sense that the information and statistics are untrue; the facts are not in question. It is Whistler’s fact-free conclusion which is BS.

This video is useless; it is superficial and propagandistic, offering little real insight while promoting neoliberal economic principles. (And the whole world has seen how well neoliberal economics is working.) Not only does it not convey the reality of the situation, it leads to a totally erroneous conclusion.

Whistler concludes by advocating more of the same neocon nonsense: tax cuts, austerity, balancing the budget, privatization. Rather than blather on about the important lessons to be learned from this story, it would be more useful to enlighten people about the real causes of Argentina and Japan’s respective economic, political, and social problems. Argentina, once the world’s richest country, is now number 62 on the list, and falling fast. (Cue the IMF financial raiders; it’s time to offer Argentina a ‘bail-out’.) Japan is the world’s richest country (for now) but faces a bleak future, as its economy is stagnant and even that looks to be unsustainable.

What are the facts? Globalization has run its course. Mercantilism will not save Japan’s economy. More neoliberal economics is not the answer to the economic problems of either country.

What lessons can we learn from an examination of Argentina and Japan? Consider points 1-11, above. The real cause is globalization, neoliberal economics, corruption in politics, and so-called free trade. Whistler has it all wrong.

One solution that might benefit both countries comes to mind. It is known that Japan is trying desperately to attract foreign workers with an ambitious temporary worker program. At the same time, Argentina is suffering a depression caused by neoconservative politics which has resulted in massive unemployment and economic collapse. What if Japan were to offer temporary jobs to residents of Argentina? The earnings from their jobs in the world’s richest nation (Japan) would allow the refugees from what is fast becoming one of the world’s poorest nations (Argentina) to at least support their families back home. There could be a real benefit from the cultural exchange, too: the Japanese would show the Argentinians the value of hard work, while the Argentinians would show the Japanese how to relax. Imagine the Japanese workers going home every day at mid-day for siesta.

What do you mean you don’t think so? Admittedly, it is hard to imagine. But you never can tell ….

If such a cultural shift were to occur in Japan, there could be other benefits. Japanese housewives, who never see their husband because the men work day and night, would no doubt enjoy the company of their husbands during the day, when they weren’t exhausted. This could lead to romance being rekindled (honey, would you like a massage and a little sake to help you relax?) leading to a sudden surge in the birth rate. Gentrification from a falling birth rate is a serious problem in Japan, a nation of women who are lonely, frustrated, and unhappy, with no way out, as divorce is looked upon with disfavor in conservative Japanese culture.

This could have major consequences for the island nation. If Japan could get its birth rate up, it would not have to import so many temporary workers.

(chs 06-20-2019 1914 -0500)