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A short introduction


As most readers of our Reality cracking section know, many essays there are directed against advertisement and our 'consumistic' habits.
Simply stated, there's a lot of money being made and a lot of power being gathered by the people that promote useless consumerism, and this determines a GREAT part of the reality we live in. We pay for it in gradually limited economic mobility, pollution, threats to our health and a declining standard of living, as measured by the things that really matter.

Now, see what I found for you: you'll read below a delightfully intriguing little piece of reality... this has been published TODAY (6 October 1998) on the financial times...
I really don't need to add much... after all you are supposed to be reversers, therefore enjoy! (and reverse!)

Hey, this is not taken from the Economist, but from the "Financial times" (on line edition). You'll find both following articles at
http://www.ft.com.

red_ball

Japan's antidote to depression ~ 6 October 1998

By Paul Abrahams in Tokyo

	Milton Friedman would be amused. The Nobel prize
winning economist, who once joked that the fastest way to boost money
supply was to throw dollar bills out of helicopters, may soon see a
variant of this idea put to the test.

The Japanese government said yesterday it was considering plans to
hand out 30,000 (130) gift vouchers to every one of the country's
125m inhabitants.

The government is also considering a "Happy Monday" scheme, which
would turn an increasing number of Mondays into holidays in a bid to
persuade consumers to go shopping instead of going to work.

These are desperate times in Tokyo, as the government seeks to head
off what some economists believe is an imminent depression.

Yesterday, the Nikkei average of 225 leading shares fell another 2 per
cent to 12,948, its lowest since January 1986. Today, the government
is set to cut its forecast for gross domestic product this financial
year to minus 1.8 per cent. A few months ago, it was predicting 1.9
per cent growth.

The economics of the gift voucher scheme are perhaps a little more
rational than those of Friedman's free dollar bills. Like more
orthodox methods of stimulating an economy, such as printing money or
cutting taxes, recipients of the dollar bills could choose to save the
benefit rather than spend it immediately. But because the vouchers
would have a limited shelf life, people would have to spend them
quickly, giving a fast, if ultimately illusory, boost to the economy...

And here another article on this same matter:
A yen for spending ~ 6 October 1998

In most places handing out wads of crisp new notes is a fine way to
get things moving. But not in Japan. The government there is so
desperate to revive the economy that it is looking for a way to force
people to spend the cash as well. Its latest idea is to give Y30,000
($223) gift vouchers to all Japanese inhabitants, with an expiry date
by which they must be spent. The plan sounds bizarre, but does have a
certain logic.

None of the Japanese government's measures for fiscal reflation is
working. Its plans for a massive infrastructure boost are being
thwarted by an unenthusiastic response from local governments, which
are already over-indebted. And in a country where infrastructure is
already well-developed, any new spending that does happen may boost
demand, but will do little to improve the economy's long-term growth
potential.

The tax cuts being introduced, meanwhile, will probably end up in
people's bank accounts (or, more likely, under their mattresses),
rather than being spent. The reasons are not hard to understand.
Prices in Japan are stable or falling, so that little is lost by
deferring consumption. Job insecurity is growing. And individuals
approaching retirement are increasingly concerned about the shaky
state of the life assurance industry.

Faced with these constraints, handing out money which people are
forced to spend straight away could be the only way to achieve a quick
fiscal boost.

The policy may prove administratively impossible. But even if it could
be done, it would fall well short of a panacea. The main effect would
probably be to change the timing of consumption, as people brought
forward their spending plans. After the vouchers were used up,
spending could quickly fall back.

And the scheme is too small to counteract the deflationary forces in
the Japanese economy. It might produce a boost of 0.7 per cent of
gross domestic product. But the International Monetary Fund estimates
that the Japanese economy is now running at about 8 per cent of GDP
below full capacity. The painful process of bank restructuring, if it
ever gets going, can only make matters worse in the short term.

The voucher idea is not crazy, and could help provide a much-needed
short-term stimulus to a rapidly deteriorating economy. But it needs
to be part of a much more substantial macroeconomics policy, including
large-scale monetary expansion by the Bank of Japan. And for the
economy to return to a reasonable long-term growth path, there is no
alternative but for Japan's politicians to tackle the structural
reforms that the country needs.

So, the consequence, as I see it, is that we are entering a funny (if scary) future of 'obligatory' consumerism. Instead of trying to find an exit from an economic crisis that is evidently INHERENT to the way the society works through a long overdue re-thinking of this same society and its basis and aims, we are hurrying towards the absolute Paradox: "People don't want to buy crap? My Godness, we are doomed! Let's find out methods to compel them to buy said crap".
The rationale behind all this being apparently that the overall gains by the industry (from subsidies, political control through lobbies, overpriced products, workers firing and so on) are of such enormous amplitude that giving people free vouchers to buy their products will nevertheless increase these overall gains even more (unless you'r nav enough to believe they or their political puppies would really give out money for free :-)
Therefore the really scary question is: what they will come out next? (once this pathetical schema too will have failed):
Compulsory presence in the mall for at least two family members from 8:30 to 10:30?
Tax reductions for heavy consumerists ("Stakhanovian" buyers in parade)?
Compulsory attendance of TV-advertisement for kids and adults?
Salary paid in time-limited vouchers (so that people HAVE TO spend it)?

And, pray, why are these (allegedly) "free" vouchers not rather given to some of the undernourished people in the third world? Wouldn't you think that the 4/5 of almost-starving poors would better know what to do with it than the 1/5 of consumistic drilled citiziens of the 'affluent' societies?
The answer is quite simple: the 'poors' won't get it because it is not a matter of spending, it is a matter of WASTING.
In fact the 'poors' would spend the same amount of money, yet they would (unless they have been massively brain-washed) spend it on more essential things, and not on useless products and gadgets.
Apparently we are already so deep buried inside this "stupidity production cave" that the powers that be can solely come out with an artificial boost of useless consumerism as only solution to their own-made manifest crisis. Ah! Ah! Poor old Karl will get quite some itches in his Londoner grave: He who laughs last laugh best! (Yet there's not much to laugh, come to think of it :-(

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