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Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

Summary:
Today, I have several commitments in Tokyo and then a long flight so I decided not to try to finish Part 4 of my Q&A – Japan style series and will post the final part on Monday. For today, you will have to be content with some photos from the current trip to Japan and some comments. But who are those business-suited people in Tokyo wandering around in the mornings picking up garbage (see below)? Normal transmission resumes on Monday. Tokyo lecture, November 5, 2019 It is clear that MMT is a talking point in Japan and there are many different interests who are pushing it into the political and economic debate. On Tuesday, I gave a presentation at the Japanese Diet and attended a reception afterwards with various government members. Here is a photo of the audience in Tokyo at the Diet

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Today, I have several commitments in Tokyo and then a long flight so I decided not to try to finish Part 4 of my Q&A – Japan style series and will post the final part on Monday. For today, you will have to be content with some photos from the current trip to Japan and some comments. But who are those business-suited people in Tokyo wandering around in the mornings picking up garbage (see below)? Normal transmission resumes on Monday.

Tokyo lecture, November 5, 2019

It is clear that MMT is a talking point in Japan and there are many different interests who are pushing it into the political and economic debate. On Tuesday, I gave a presentation at the Japanese Diet and attended a reception afterwards with various government members.

Here is a photo of the audience in Tokyo at the Diet (Parliament) where I presented a symposium on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. The event was a ‘sell out’ (well over 300 attended) and the audience included Members of the Japanese Parliament, Cabinet ministers, advisors, bureaucrats and the general public.

Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

A full video of the presentation will be available soon and I will post a link.

A 1 hour press conference followed with all the major agencies involved.

Reuters Japan wrote about it in this report (November 5, 2019) – 消費増税、3度目の誤り=MMT理論のミッチェル教授が都内で講演 – which roughly translates to “Consumption tax hike – the third error according to Professor Mitchell at an MMT Lecture in Tokyo”.

The article did not report very faithfully what I actually said but did get the following points right:

1. Government fiscal policy is not financially constrained for a currency-issuing government.

2. Raising the consumption tax rate in Japan will have a negative impact on the economy, similar to previous tax increases.

3. Professor Mitchell described MMT as “a lens-like framework for understanding macroeconomics …”

4. If a country issues its own currency and is not at full employment, there are no (financial) restrictions on fiscal spending. He explained that such fiscal spending is possible until there is a tight supply and demand situation in the real economy and price pressure enter the picture.

5. Professor Mitchell stressed that current mainstream economics cannot explain the current state of developed economies such as Japan.

6. He criticised the Green New Deal terminology and suggested what was really at stake was a government funded framework to ensure that the pain of adjustment was shared across all sectors and communities. If there is a Just Transition framework as the focus then the climate issues, which depend on human agency, will be addressed.

Here is another picture from the Diet Room as my host Professor Fujii was doing the introductions.

Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

I want to thanks Professor Satoshi Fujii who organised the events (and logistics) and his graduate student team who helped make the event, the press conferences, photo sessions and reception dinner work smoothly.

Special thanks to Numajiri for escorting me around Tokyo.

Special thanks to Eric (Nyun) for his tireless work promoting MMT in Japan and Chie for all her help.

Kyoto, November 4, 2019

I attended a lovely lunch with the – Rose Mark Group – in Kyoto on Monday which was followed by a workshop on MMT. Many of the questions that I have been answering in my blogs this week came out of this interaction.

They are a leading progressive anti-austerity movement in Japan.

I will post the video link when it is ready for release.

The room was at capacity and the interaction was productive.

Here is a photo we took together before the workshop.

Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

The next photo was the product of a bit of humour at the workshop.

The projector for the workshop needed to be raised and one of the organisers was carrying around Randy Wray’s book on MMT and decided it was a perfect wedge. I told the audience that I was going to tell tales (-: So Randy! Guess what, there has been a productive use found for your book!

But with all those inserted coloured tags, you can also see devotion to study!

Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

The next photo was at the vegetarian lunch before the event. There is a strong Buddhist tradition in this area of Kyoto and the traditional vegetarian food is excellent and provided to be consistent with my own dietary preference, for which I was very grateful.

I was asked to make a 3 minute introduction and I stressed the importance of building global MMT-anti-austerity networks. I hope that the Rose Mark group reach out to the MMT groups in other countries (GIMMS, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, etc).

And I hope those groups reach out to Rose Mark and start building the global anti-austerity, pro MMT coalition. Strength in numbers.

Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

I want to thank the Rose Mark team – Professor Matsuo Tadasu, Professor Park Seung-Joon, Akiko Oisi, Minako Saigo, Noriko Kawai and all the rest of the Ritsumeikan University and Rose Mark team for their help and hospitality.

Kyoto, Saturday, November 2, 2019

I presented an MMT workshop at Kyoto University to a good group of academics and post graduate students.

Here is a photo of the room about 30 minutes before the session began.

There will be a video of this session as well.

As in the other Kyoto event, the presentation was consecutively interpreted which is a pretty tough gig. You continually lose the flow of the narrative and keep wondering where to stop so the interpreter can do their part.

The presentation at the Diet in Tokyo was simultaneously interpreted which is a lot easier. One just has to speak more slowly than usual and make technical terms very clear.

Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

Thanks to Kyoto University (and Professor Fujii) for hosting this event and the hospitality they extended to me.

Other activities

Yesterday, I did a range of media interviews including a long session with a TV documentary series – The Capitalism of Greed – that is produced by NHK (the national broadcaster in Japan).

That program will air in early January with Japanese sub-titles I believe.

It was great interview because it went broadly into the history of economic thought and right through to the development of MMT and then onto specific policy issues relating to Japan and how I constructed them from an MMT perspective.

The other 7 odd interviews were pretty standard – rehearsing the fears that MMT was an out-of-space plot to destroy the world. But we got through them just fine and I will be interested to see how the mainstream press renders the answers.

At the reception last night at the Diet, I met a number of senior government members of the Diet including some Ministers and we were able to have a frank discussion. There is clearly a rift in the ruling coalition and one Member indicated that the MMT group within the government was growing in size.

There is a lot of energy around pushing the agenda and I was happy to play a small part in it.

The range of people I met was diverse in political terms and while some progressives might think it wrong to discuss MMT and policies with more conservative interests, my view is that education is a powerful tool and if the progressive side wants to expand in size then it has to by definition recruit dissidents from the other side of the fence.

I was doing by hardest as an MMT recruitment officer.

The other point I would make is that the more conservative interests helped book the Diet facilities for two days to allow the presentations and press work, including the TV recording and was able to get me into the top levels of the Japanese government to talk about MMT in a casual and effective environment.

Anyway, there are now plans afoot for another speaking tour over a longer period in the new year. I will make those plans public when they are consolidated.

And outside of work

I saw some ancient places and drank fine green tea in beautiful tea houses like this one at Arashiyama, which is a short train trip from Kyoto. We made it a longer train trip because we boarded the express train instead of the local train at Nijo and it didn’t stop at Saga-Arashiyama as we planned. So we saw a bit more of the countryside than originally intended but that included some beautiful gorges in the mountains near there.

Anyway, this was nice time.

Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

And, while I was out running in Tokyo yesterday, up around the Yotsuya station and Sotobori Park, I came across a large group of men and women (mostly men) dressed to the ‘pins’ in business suits (men with ties etc), wearing white gloves and green vests (with a cement company sign on the back).

They were carrying huge plastic garbage bags in one hand and a extension hand for picking up things in the other and they were wandering around picking up every bit of paper and other rubbish they could see. They were in parks, around the local station, and in the streets.

I decided not to take a too-closer up photo of the group (didn’t want to be rude) but snuck a rear shot of one of the stragglers and here it is (from afar).

I have sought information on who these people are and am awaiting a response.

But the cities are spotless compared to Australian cities and this is one reason. But who are these characters?

Some reflections on my time in Japan while I am too busy to write

By the way, both in Kyoto – along the Kamo river; and in Tokyo – around the Akasaka Imperial Property (outer boundary) and the Imperial Palace circuits – are brilliant places to train.

Normal transmission returns on Monday but in-between will be the hardest quiz I can think of.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Bill Mitchell
Bill Mitchell is a Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band – Pressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band reformed in late 2010.

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