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November 25, 2012


LJ, the day after Christmas is another big shopping day. As for fat-cutting, you're right, we only want the fat cut that we don't rub on ourselves. Endgame? Obesity is terminal, eventually.

Obesity is terminal, eventually.

as is starvation.

When I look at Japanese demographics, I doubt they're much of a role model. There's a reason Japan is investing a lot in developing android geriatric nurses...

There's a certain tension between long term and short term policies. The example I give is of somebody skateboarding down a long, steep, twisty mountain road, with no way of stopping short of a deliberate crash.

The trip is fun and exciting, and the crash painful. But the crash is also inevitable, and every second you put it off you're picking up speed. Short term optimization says, keep enjoying the ride. Long term says, crash as soon as possible, while it's still survivable.

And you'll always have somebody insisting the ride can last forever...

as is starvation.

One motivates, the other sedates. Either way, the party cannot continue as is.

Either way, the party cannot continue as is.


Either way, the party cannot continue as is.

What we have right now is not my idea of a party.

Are we talking party in the sense of 'fun event' or 'political group'?

My state Washington passed an initiative legalizing marijuana on the same day that we passed an initative legalizing gay marriage. Shortly after that this message appeared on my facebook feed:

Leviticus 20:13 "if a man lays down with another man he should be stoned". Apparently we have been interpeting the Bible wrong for many years.

What has this got to do with Black Friday? Nothing except there's an additional item to buy for the party.

There's a certain tension between long term and short term policies

I'll take Climate Change for $1,000, Alex.

In my opinion, Black Friday is very important as it is first and foremost a chance for ladies to shop and buy Christmas presents. This shopping is good in and of itself, but also guys can then stay back at the house and talk about politics while drinking beer and perhaps playing cards. All in all, the shopping stimulates the economy while allowing guys to hang out and compare notes on various matters of national interest. In most circles this is defined as a win-win-win.

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to.
(Leslie Gore)

Everybody Must Get Stoned (Bob Dylan)

Brett, Japan does have a unique demographic situation, but my point is that consumption patterns in Japan, as baffling as they remain to me, seem to help alleviate some of the economic problems that have caused problems in other countries. I'm not sure if younger people are going to keep up with the same kind of patterns (already ochuugen is fading rapidly, and I imagine oseibo will be following close behind), but there is something that is markedly different than what the stories about Black Friday seem to tell me.

I did the Black Friday thing, but only to get my kid a pair of cowboy boots that were marked down to $20. Seems like a lot of effort to save $30, that.

But I bought myself a plinking rifle at Bass Pro Shops right after, so all is right with the world. It's something I've been wanting for a while.

My first gun, that. Here's what I (as a guy who has never, ever purchased a firearm in Florida or anywhere else) found surprising: you have to clear FDLE for every single purchase event. Which for me, meant that I had to wait until noon or so to pick up my gun. If I ever buy another gun, even if it's later on the same day, I have to go through the whole clearing FDLE thing again. Seems as if that could be better executed.

I think that applies to all firearms behind the counter, including handguns (which are also subject to a 72-hour waiting period). What's (apparently) not subject to any restrictions whatever? Muzzle-loaders. You can buy a muzzle-loader off the shelf, along with all of the accessories to make it go boom. This is not a ball-shooting musket; this is a rifle that shoots aerodynamic bullets with relatively high accuracy.

So, go figure. Maybe it's a rate-of-fire thing.

But if shopping were spread out all year when would people find time to work all three jobs?

What about Cyber Monday?

Noahpinion is the most prominent mainstream econblog to focus on Japan

But that is not apparently where I just read a more optimistic analysis of Japan's "demographic problem" Where, darn it. The article does mention that Korea and China may be even worse, and like lj says in the main post, says that where we see a problem, Japan has found a solution. I hope I'm back.

Okay, found what I read, and it isn't enough.

Basically, a lot of the world is saying "we don't have enough jobs and consumption" and still saying "Japan doesn't have enough workers"

Answer partly lies in automation, a decline or leveling of consumption, and vast accumulated wealth. Do older populations need new houses and mass transit? Japan will not only be ok, but can be a model, as lj says in the original post.

But in order to really address this, I need to do more reading.

Well, Japan might not need more houses, as it's population starts it's impending decline, but geriatric nurses? Gonna need a lot more of those.

True, automation is the real answer, and I wasn't joking about android nurses. (Who will probably be available in catgirl maid models, I expect.) But things will get extremely ugly if the automation doesn't kick in quick enough. It's quite possible, after all, that the minority of young people won't want to all be employed in that capacity.


I don't mean to pander to further derailing this thread......but,

I see the bullshyters are out about Japan's demographic "time bomb". Let's take a little time out. These are the same people who will harangue you about the 'crisis' of Social Security, invoke 'infinite time horizons', screech about 'deficits' being out 'biggest problem' and fling poo about the national debt's 'burden' to our descendants. On each of these issues, they are utterly and extremely incorrect.

Why would you trust anything such people have to say about anybody's future?

Look. Japan's geriatric bulge will pass because, you know, old people die. A declining birth rate means fewer people. This will relieve high population densities, alleviate overcrowding, free resources for other uses, help preserve the environment, etc. Naturally, the thought of future Japanese realizing the benefits of lower real estate prices is disturbing to the point of coronary thrombosis.

Automation, you might realize if you took even one second to think about it with a scintilla of common sense would imply more leisure, or gasp! free up more labor time to care for others. This, too, is a future simply too horrible to contemplate.

We won't even bring up the matter of fewer workers being in a position to negotiate a bigger piece of the economic pie. That could induce panic, possibly suicide.

Back to the topic, L.J., I'm not sure what you're getting at here. You point strikes me as, er, oblique. Perhaps a bit more explanation is in order. As always, thanks.

No worries, bobbyp, my initial thought was that it just seems that the pattern of consumption is different here, which has allowed Japan to basically survive a decade of no growth, but similar conditions seem to have caused rioting in the streets in the EU and might do the same in the US, a thought provoked by the coverage of Black Friday. If I were to make an analogy, it's that eating too much every day may be bad, but it is not as bad as trying to pack all that in during one meal. Which seems to be the case now, especially in discussions of how Black Friday sales figures are interpreted by the market.

Now, that may tie into the demographic shift, where young people aren't having kids, Japan is not opening its borders and old people are dying and Japan may be on its way to creating a different kind of society, but my original thought was simply current consumption patterns. Sure, people getting old creates new markets, and how companies manage those new markets is a, but not the, key point. I'm not sure if Japan can be a model, as Bob suggests, but there are some points worth considering. But it is striking that for all the rest of the world, it is we don't have enough jobs and consumption, but for Japan, they don't have enough your people, so how the hell can you still think of consuming? Funny, that.

Brett seems over the moon that there might be some sort of societal disruption here, but I'm not seeing it. I'm not sure what I am seeing, and whatever it is, it seems to be nothing new, as the 1964(!) Life photo essay indicates. I've been here over 20 years, and I'll be here the rest of my life, but I make no pretense that I will ever understand the place.

"Look. Japan's geriatric bulge will pass because, you know, old people die."

Right, and if I jump off a skyscraper, my "acceleration bulge" will pass because, you know, I'll come to a stop when I hit the ground.

I don't think there's much doubt that, fifty years hence, there will be a land mass there, with people living on it. And, yes, all those old folks are going to die eventually anyway. That doesn't mean that what goes on in between couldn't be very nasty, if the automation doesn't catch up in time with the declining labor supply, so that there's somebody or something taking care of them once they can't take care of themselves.

Which does tend to happen for a while before people die.

That doesn't mean that what goes on in between couldn't be very nasty

Amazingly enough, sometimes folks find ways of dealing with problems without resorting to being "nasty" to each other.

It's not a given, but it is always an option.

And, amazingly enough, sometimes they don't.

I really pray the automation works out, I do. But a generation of Japanese, by selfishly failing to have nearly enough children to replace themselves, have created a situation where, if the automation doesn't work out, the few children who WERE born are going to have the choice of either spending all their efforts supporting a huge number of old geezers, or living for their own sakes, and letting the geezers rot.

That's not a situation the geezers were smart to create.

You ever stop to think that old age pensions and social security, and all those programs to support us in our old age on the backs of children who aren't necessarily related to us, have made of the next generation a commons? And so set us up for a tragedy?

And, amazingly enough, sometimes they don't.

Yeah, so it behooves us all to make sure they do. Otherwise, we shoot at each other.

Fnck that, sez I. But if you really want to take it to the mat, I know how to shoot a gun, and if it comes down to it, I will do so.

But it would be really, really, really stupid for it to come to that. So let's not be stupid.


And so set us up for a tragedy?

OT for sure, but the "tragedy of the commons" is pure and utter horseshit.

In economics, the tragedy of the commons is the depletion of a shared resource by individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one's self-interest, despite their understanding that depleting the common resource is contrary to their long-term best interests.


The tragedy of the commons is what happens when you don't have government.

"The tragedy of the commons is what happens when you don't have government."
Which is not supported by your link.

But a generation of Japanese, by selfishly failing to have nearly enough children to replace themselves

That's really great. I mean, the Japanese, by selfishly allowing women more freedoms (though I guess they came at McArthur's behest) were asking for it. And not getting pregnant at 18 or 20 but waiting until 27 or later. Their self-absorption knows no bounds.

Which is not supported by your link.

No, it's supported by the actual history of the enclosure movement, which is what inspired the argument in the first place.

And it's supported by the thinness of Hardin's logic in the Science piece.

And it's supported by the historical meaning of what a "commons" is.

The basic tenet of the tragedy of the commons is that some folks will abuse the common resource by making more than their share of use of it.

In fact, in the actual history of how common resources were used, this basically did not happen, *because the use of the common resource was regulated*.

The hypothetical behind Hardin's argument does not, historically, rise beyond the hypothetical.

The places where we see serious depletion of "common" resources are places where there is no effective governance.

And I put "common" in scare quotes because in the absence of effective governance, you *do not have a commons*.

The "tragedy of the commons" does, in fact, describe a tragic situation, but that is caused by the resource in question being NOT, in fact, a commons.

Thank you russell.

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