by liberal japonicus
We found an area of common ground here with the question of Black Friday and obviously, we can't have that.
My alternate take on Black Friday is that it is like my students who think they can learn the material covered in a semester (or more!) of English by spending the last day or two studying. They can't, because almost all the classes I teach are skill based, and it would just be like the guy training for a marathon waiting until the week before to start hitting the road.
I think one can contrast Black Friday with Japan's approach to consumption, which seems to be a seamless, year-round effort. Sure, there are spikes (the periods after workers get twice yearly bonuses, year end and mid year present giving (oseibo and ochuugen) and a number of other events), but it is not all or nothing. Also to be noted is the custom of giving omiyage. It is the constant buying, giving, consuming, and having to do it all over again that seems to have saved the Japanese economy, or at least kept it with a faint pulse, when similar conditions in other countries have ended up in social unrest. This isn't to say that there are not serious problems here, but this discussion between Paul Krugman and Martin Wolfe probably sums it up
The conversation turns to the Japanese crisis of the 1990s. In retrospect, I suggest, the Japanese seem to have managed the aftermath of their crisis quite well.
He agrees. “What we thought was that Japan was a cautionary tale. It has turned into Japan as almost a role model. They never had as big a slump as we have had. They managed to have growing per capita income through most of what we call their ‘lost decade’. My running joke is that the group of us who were worried about Japan a dozen years ago ought to go to Tokyo and apologise to the emperor. We’ve done worse than they ever did. When people ask: might we become Japan? I say: I wish we could become Japan.”
Krugman expands on that a bit here. And while I guess he's thinking about employment policies, I have to think that the consumption ethos makes a difference as well. In the US, everyone wants everyone else to cut corners and run a lean operation. This, via LGM, is an example of how everyone is supposed to cut every bit of fat out of the operation. However, this doesn't apply on Black Friday, which is like some dionysian festival where you get to do all the things you aren't supposed to do during the rest of the year.
At least, that's what Black Friday looks like from here. Sure, it's disgusting and embarassing, but it's that way because it concentrates it all into a day of shopping. People would be a lot better off if it were distributed throughout the year.