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  • 00:00:02,040 --> 00:00:04,260 Every January, more than 10,000 economists

  • fly somewhere in America for the conference of the American

  • Economics Association.

  • This year it was in San Diego, which was fun,

  • because it was very easy to tell who was a San Diegan

  • and who was an economist.

  • The conference is also a way to figure out what

  • economists are worried about.

  • This year they looked west across the Pacific Ocean,

  • and they worried about something they call Japanification.

  • It's a funny term, and some people

  • don't even like to use it because it

  • has more than one meaning.

  • It can be a shorthand for what happened

  • to Japan over the last two decades

  • - slow economic growth, low inflation,

  • and extremely low interest rates for a long time.

  • Those three facts don't give you a complete picture of what's

  • actually happening in actual Japan,

  • but they do terrify macroeconomists.

  • And so Japanification is more often used as a way

  • to point out that these things could or will

  • happen to everyone else.

  • I think "Japanification" is a useful term,

  • and I think what it really says is that Japan is the preview

  • movie for the whole rest of the world,

  • especially in terms of demographics.

  • So if you think about the percent of population

  • that's over age 65, what that does to consumption,

  • what that does to inflation, what that does to labour force

  • participation.

  • In Japan, the population is ageing.

  • And in other developed economies,

  • populations are ageing, too.

  • Here's what that means.

  • When you have a larger percent of the population over age 65,

  • you necessarily have a lower percentage of people working.

  • And what that means is you have a lower

  • level of demand in the economy, and that impacts inflation.

  • Inflation impacts interest rates.

  • And when we have a low, what the Fed would call r-star,

  • or that neutral interest rate, when that is lower,

  • you have less policy space to act,

  • and you need to enact other policy frameworks in order

  • to effectively deploy monetary policy when growth slows

  • or when there's a recession.

  • The reason economists in San Diego were worried about Japan

  • is not because Japan is a terrible place to live.

  • Life expectancy, for example, is higher in Japan

  • than in the US, the UK, Canada, and Germany.

  • It's well higher than the average

  • across all high-income countries.

  • But when populations get older, interest rates decline,

  • inflation declines, and that makes

  • it harder to do monetary policy the way

  • we always used to - by raising and lowering interest rates.

  • So economists worried about Japanification

  • don't think that Japan, the place, is a catastrophe.

  • They're worried that their own central banks won't

  • have any room left to cut interest rates,

  • as happened in Japan.

  • This is Ben Bernanke, the former chair of the Federal Reserve.

  • He gave a keynote in San Diego.

  • He basically said that if interest rates get

  • too low in the US, as they are in Japan, when

  • the next recession hits, the Fed might

  • have to get more creative.

  • I think the Fed and other central banks

  • are caught in a very difficult position here, because

  • on the one hand, they can't announce too loudly

  • they have no tools left, because part

  • of the magic of central banking is

  • to pretend that you have a bazooka behind your back

  • that you can bring out and to prevent expectations

  • from disintegrating and falling.

  • So it's magic.

  • Maybe "Japanification" is the wrong word,

  • because actual Japan is actually a nice place to live.

  • And in one important way, it's a better place

  • to live than the United States.

  • We'd prefer not to call our problem "Japanification."

  • Because?

  • Because Japan does not have the problem

  • that widening inequality is leading

  • to the stagnation of people's incomes

  • in the middle of the income distribution,

  • while people in the top are growing or improving

  • their situation very rapidly, whereas that's the situation

  • in the United States.

  • Ben Bernanke's worried about what

  • low growth will do to monetary policy,

  • particularly when a recession hits.

  • That makes sense, because he was in charge of monetary policy

  • the last time there was a devastating recession.

  • But low growth and low interest rates

  • don't just have monetary consequences.

  • They have political consequences.

  • And the irony of using the word "Japanification" is that what's

  • happening to Japan, low growth, may

  • be a harder problem for Washington

  • to solve than it has been for Tokyo.

  • Now what's the main difference between us and Japan?

  • I would say the difference is that in the United States,

  • as in many other industrialised countries,

  • inequality is widening very rapidly.

  • This means that if our rate of growth

  • overall is very slow, as it is, and if inequality rising means

  • that most of the fruits of that slow growth

  • accrue to people who are already at the top of the scale,

  • then the broad bulk of the population

  • is not doing very well.

  • California is a nice place to visit, certainly

  • in January when you're coming from Boston or Chicago

  • or Frankfurt or the kinds of places economists tend to live,

  • nicer in January than, perhaps, Tokyo even.

  • But what's happening in Japan, low growth,

  • may be even scarier right here in San Diego

  • on this side of the ocean.

00:00:02,040 --> 00:00:04,260 Every January, more than 10,000 economists

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米国のエコノミストはなぜ「日本化」にこだわるのか|FT (Why US economists are obsessed with 'Japanification' | FT)

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    Courtney Shih に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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