Will Japan Rearm?

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 14 2013 9:46 AM

Will Japan Rearm?

159265626
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference in Tokyo on Jan. 11, 2013.

Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images.

Yuka Hayashi's article about Japan's top general calling for a big increase in military spending is a valuable reminder that there's essentially zero tension between the view that Shinzo Abe may pursue the kind of expansionary fiscal and monetary policies that get Japan out of its funk and the view that Abe is basically a retrograde conservative nationalist.

The fact of the matter is that for all the various theoretical arguments bandied about, the big real-world examples of depression-fighting policies mostly come from wars. In fact, Japan itself led the industrialized world out of the Great Depression by abandoning the gold standard and engaging in a military buildup associated with its effort to invade China. Nazi Germany devalued and rearmed. The United States under Franklin Roosevelt got a mini-recovery by ditching the gold standard but then tipped back into recession in 1937 under the force of fiscal and monetary contraction. But our own pre-World War II rearmament got us out.

Advertisement

The problem with this strategy—beyond the obvious one that an actual war in East Asia would get tons of people killed—is that an arms race could lead to a lot of expansion in economic activity without necessarily making people much better off. Here in the United States we clearly could mobilize millions of currently unemployed workers to drastically increase our production of tanks and military aircraft. And the workers themselves would feel a lot happier with jobs and paychecks. But producing extra tanks and bombers is much worse than mobilizing people to produce things people would actually want to use.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.