Some Truth in a Rap




Yesterday was Human Rights Day. Universal Declaration of Human Rights was announced on 10th December 1948. When it comes to human right, people are prone to think that it belongs to Africa and South Asia, connecting it to an image of the poor. Of course, this should be kept in mind: 83.2% of people in low income-countries (taken up mostly by African and South Asian countries) are living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. Far away from the ideal that all men are created to be equal, the UN and the government should take measures to alleviate such a difference.



Problems of human rights, however, pervade rich countries as well, transformed into discrimination against immigrants. France is one of the countries where an indelible rift emerges between the native and non-native. The latest rate of immigrants’ employment published by OECD ranks France 31th out of 34 EU countries (2015). Only 57% of them find their jobs. Additionally, over 30% are categorized to be poor, while 13% of the native French. There is a huge economic disparity among ethnic groups in France. Ethnic minority’s indignation comes out in various occasions. For example, music.



Music, especially a rap, is in vogue among ethnic minority in France. Rap mainly had spread over suburbs (unlike UK or US, suburbs in France are mainly a place for poor people to live in) and been sung by a lot of immigrants who lived there, since it was propagated from United States in 1990s. Therefore, a rap is more or less associated with ethnic minority in suburbs with low-income and poor education. Generally, a curse, vulgarity, slander against the society are included in lyric of a rap, so some politicians call for regulation of rap, and a few musicians were arrested for promulgating radical ideology.



However, is rap entirely bad thing? This answer must be no. It plays a part in ameliorating structure of the society, because rap is constituted by some truth. Messages that a rap conveys are chiefly divided into three parts: (i) against capitalism and elimination (ii) against racial discrimination and police (iii) distrust and building people’s mindset, as Chikako Mori shows in her book “Suburbs of Elimination and Resistance” (2016). Rappers decry the hierarchy that society favours only the rich, not the poor. They resent discriminatory treatment by white people or police, and get isolated to make sure their identities in their songs.



A rap they made is based on their own experience, not always good events, with almost no exception. Its lyric is a fact. Therefore, people need to interpret the underlying messages rappers sent at least. Otherwise, the future when human rights are all secured would never come true. About 200 years ago, Declaration of Human Rights (Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen) was made in France. Comparing that time, the situation has improved, but not sufficiently. Rap can tell what lacks.



“Intouchables”, a famous film in France, presented us with clues of integration. It depicts life of Philip, a disabled billionaire, and Dolis, a black immigrant from poor family in a suburb, caring for him. As story goes, they build good relationships because Philip does not suspect that Dolis is a bad guy. Yes, not only Dolis, but also all immigrants will not be bad guys. They are just struggling to defy the odds and express themselves under discrimination. If some of them look like a rogue, they might just don’t know how to get on in the world. Such understanding will form good relationships. I do not know if human rights problem can ever be completely uprooted, but I am absolutely sure that the continued efforts to build good relationships with ethnic minority, can overcome a great deal of it.




参考文献:森千香子, 2016 「排除と抵抗の郊外」東京大学出版


Openness over Cover-up



(写真:真珠湾 Pearl Harbor) 


Learning from failure is a platitude when faced at blunders. A failure is deemed important because the experience of it provides clues to succeed and propels improvement. Most people may agree with that opinion, but it is a quite different topic from being actually able to learn from it. Fear to be stigmatized forces people to cover up their mistakes rather than to confessing their faults and learning from them. As people get older, the inclination is more likely to take place.



Some recent news revealed ware ascribed to the desire to avoid criticism. As for Mitsubashi Motars Co., the company concealed the real fuel expenses and showed up as if their cars would be so economical. Mitsubishi Motors Co. went into big deficit. The mechanism also worked there in that reluctance to face the shame of failure keeps people from admitting their mistakes, ending up with a much bigger loss.



The Prime Minister Abe is going to visit Pearl Harbor in Hawaii at the end of this month, and meet Mr. Obama there, which aims to solace the victims who were killed or injured by the assault in December 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor triggered the Pacific War that had lasted till 1945, when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. The pacific war should have been ended earlier, because the tide of the war was turning against Japan in a few years. However, Japan did not, so the number of victims had grown to be approximately three millions. Why did not Japan, the top of Japanese government at that time, make a decision to quit the war?



The reason can be as mentioned. The desire to evade opprobrium delayed the time of decision. Actually, the top of the Japanese government assented to a plan to strike back against America before surrender, intending to make a treaty in favorable way. Yet, the plan faltered as the situation went worse, and eventually it was finished by atomic bombs. This was one of the psychological strategies not to admit their fault, which ironically aggravated it as a result. That strategy dominates over period.



How can we fix a habit of covering up fault? One solution is to change a system so that people can easily confess their fault at very early stage. There may be place of trial and error, and research. TOYOTA, a giant in car industry, has one interesting custom: Employees speak up their mistakes in meeting at the end of day. Since the practice took root, its profits have proliferated. Openness to failure spurs people to improve themselves. Failing is never unwise. Not learning from failure is unwise. 




No More Work




Karoshi, death by overwork, is a unique form of death in Japan. Many people passed away, with 283 people’s death considered to be karoshi in 2015. 93 workers out of them committed suicide. Perhaps, the figure is underestimated due to a strict recognition by the government, so the actual number may be more. Last month, a female worker in Dentsu, a Japanese advertising giant, killed herself over a diabolical treatment in the workplace, such as colossal amount of work and abused authority by her bosses. Her extra worktime was reported over 100 hours a month. The prime minister Shinzo Abe attempts to reconstruct the life-work balance with the hope that karoshi like her case will never happen again, but uprooting overtime work will be full of trials and tribulation.



Why do not people control labor time? One reason is an assumption that working long hours deserves of praise. Japanese companies and employees believe that long time commitment to their work is a sign of hard work or loyalty. In fact, the longer people work, the more likely they are to get promoted in Japan. Therefore, employees expect that their managers would favorably take doing overtime into consideration. In contrast, other countries like U.S. or European countries regard working long hours as low productivity, signaling negatively. This difference in thinking makes labor situation worse in Japan. Additionally, Japanese are apt to feel sorry for leaving their office early because it looks as if they saddle their work on others, which may be a contributing factor of this phenomenon.



Japan’s lifetime employment system also makes it difficult to reduce labor time. Companies do not feel free to dismiss their workers even in tough times. Or when the amount of jobs increases, they have to force them to work overtime, instead of recruiting new employees. This is the case with employees’ side. Under the lifetime employment system, they have difficulty transferring to another job because there is no guarantee that another one is paid similarly after a dropout. Even if they feel uncomfortable to work long hours, it will be formidable to make decision to leave. The key in controling time of work will be how to make labor market more flexible. 



The Japanese working style above does little for the economy and workers. Low productivity originated from overtime work does not contribute to the economic development, rather to exacerbating people’s life. Instead of working overtime, let us think how to enhance labor productivity within a limited time. This is what Mr. Abe is thinking about. Of course, it is not easy task, because situations of overtime work varied from work to work. Track drivers, for example, have no choice but to work long hours for living. The government should make guidelines for restricting overtime work that differs according to types of jobs, as soon as possible because “Life is a far more important than any other job” as Mrs. Takahashi, mother of the women in Dentsu who committed suicide, said after her daughter’s death. We will never make the same mistake again.




Fate U.S. Will Face





Two days ago, Donald Trump was elected at the 45th president of the United States. The unexpected result are transformed into a pervasive anxiety about the future. Judging from the number of votes obtained by Mrs. Clinton, which outscored that of Mr. Trump, millions of people are terribly shocked to hear the news. Among those are a lustrous singer in the U.S. like Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga. Miley Cyrus said that she would leave the U.S. if Donald Trump won, reproaching him for ribald speech. After he won, Lady Gaga put up a board saying “Love Trumps Hate” in front of the Trump Tower, and expressed her animosity toward him. Words of disappointment will never be stopped.



Mr. Trump boasts of his first priority as U.S. and American. His policies are inconsistent and inscrutable in many fields, but this priority is coherent, which attracted advocates for protectionism or nativism. As a result, those people, especially the white, voted to Donald Trump and led him to win. His radical and emotional remark towards immigrants or globalization allured more people than it infuriated. Unfortunately, democracy is king in the society. The election will never be done again, so let us think about the future after he becomes the president.




Roughly speaking, there is two dangers: economy and diplomacy. Mr. Trump hates globalization as if it hampered American prosperity, and panders to the lower paid and the white, who thought by themselves that their jobs are stolen by a growing number of immigrants. Economically thinking, there is, however, no reason to denounce globalization, an efficacy of which is already proven by a research (quoted from The Economist on 29th Sep 2016): “A study of 40 countries found that the richest consumers would lose 28% of their purchasing power if cross-border trade ended; but those in the bottom tenth would lose 63%.” Shunning open economy means doing harm both consumers and workers, including the low paid and white people. Definitely, free trade accelerates competition and innovation by firms, which contributes to economic development that gets more people well-off.

大まかにいうと、彼の政策には2つの危険性がある。経済、そして外交分野である。トランプ氏はグローバル化アメリカの繁栄を邪魔をするものだとして嫌悪している。これにより、移民によって仕事を奪われたと考えている低所得層の白人から票を獲得したわけであるが、経済的に考えればグローバル化は好ましいものである。英紙The Economist(2016年9月29日付)によると、自由貿易の排除により被る被害は、高所得者よりも低所得者の方が大きくなることが分かっている。皮肉にも、彼らは自らをより貧困に陥れる道を選択してしまったわけである。



Another flaw is diplomatic policy. Mr. Trump underestimates the menace of China. China has built a fortress in South China Sea, aiming dominance over East Asia in military sense. Donald Trump’s attitude to it was insufficient to alarm China, and said “It is very far away. And they’re already built.” He does not intend to undertake a role of “Police of the World” in his tenure of office. China would go further in the control over Asia if nothing was done. Mr. Trump looks too steadfast only to America, which is also seen in his speech like U.S. First. America should be more aware of its threat, otherwise balance in the world will be demolished in the next decade. Additionally, he loathes Muslims or Mexican to exercise influence over United States, and mentioned rejection of accepting immigrants and withdraw from NAFTA, a pact of free trade in the North American countries. Whatever happens, the relationships around the U.S. will be worse, and it will fetter his diplomatic plan.



Economics hates a jingoist, but favours a cosmopolitan. This is true of diplomacy. Donald Trump should amend his plan for the better. Otherwise, a bad scenario would await him. He would face great challenge in the areas of economy, diplomacy and others. At the end, I would like to say one thing to him: “Don’t be too selfish, be magnanimous!” United States is one of the greatest countries in the world, so I think it can make it.



参考:The Economist on 29th Sep 2016 


かつての日本はどこへ? -日本経済停滞の一つの原因-

Why the Japanese Economy Stagnates?




Japanese economy is staggering. The GDP of Japan declined from the second place to the third with China outperforming. Japan used to be the leading country in world that was so eminent in robotic technology that it exemplified the ideal to other countries. Yet, Japan has relegated its position even in that area, and is no longer the leading country. As for productivity, good indication of economic growth, the index shows lower than most of other OECD countries. What is the cause of this phenomenon? What makes Japan degrade?



The main reason is lack of free competition. Superstar companies like SoftBank, LINE, or Google take over the market, and impede other companies to enter. In Japan, entries are more formidable. As for  TV industry, only a few companies are qualified to use radio waves and dominate the market. If the radio waves are distributed properly thorough the auction, it will have great impact on Japanese economy, but the present situation results in broadcasting relatively low-quality programmes by TV giants. Competition in Japanese market fares badly in spurring people to start new businesses because high entry barriers built by giants call startups for more costs than usually needed, and they try to exclude them out of the market thorough price controlling like predatory pricing.



Looking at this reality, the prime minister Shinzo Abe announced that it is essential for Japanese economy to facilitate free competition, with the hope that more startups can enter the market smoothly. New businesses or firms presents our economy with a lot of benefits in terms of employment and productivity, which are the unanimous concept for every economist. At present, small- and medium-sized firms under the age of five account for approximately 10% in Japan (National Statistics), which scores lower than other developed countries.



According to a questionnaire, many startups have trouble employing and dismissing people, mainly because of Japanese notion of employment that guarantee the lifetime service and promotion by ages. Once people get into a company to work, they do not have anything but to work permanently for the same company because it is the optimal choice to get well-paid.



A handful of startups never boost the economy and raise productivity substantially. Thus, more should be done for entrepreneur. The government would need to build the environment where every entrepreneur can think it is relatively easy to enter a certain market. The key in ensuring Japanese economic revival will be startups.



Is Abenomics No Longer a Good Thing?




It has passed around 4 years since Shinzo Abe was elected in 2012 as the prime minister. After the inauguration, he pledged to boost the Japanese economy, which had suffered from the depression at that time. Mr. Abe named it as Abenomics, with “three arrors” containing monetary easing, fiscal pragmatism and structural reform. To his mind, those arrows would dispel the anxiety about deflation. However, many people doubt about whether Abenomics plays its part. The efficacy is controversial even today.



On June 1, 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to push back the consumption tax hike from April next year to October of 2019, contrary to his remark in 2014 not to delay the consumption hike anymore. There was an apprehension that the households would spend less on their consumption and as a result, the economy would shrink precipitously, whilst the inconsistency in what he said versus what he did might been seen as a sign of the setback of Abenomics.



Some indexes go in the opposite direction. Consumer prices and the number of workers have been risen gradually since Abenomics took place. This accomplishment deserves praise. The increased consuming power will flow to profits of Japanese companies and labor force increase will make firms churn out their products, which could push up GDP.



Firms in Japan, however, are reluctant to invest their profits, trying to hold them back even if they earn more or the BOJ, Bank of Japan, lend them money at a minus interest. Contrary to the aim, the government borrows much from the bank in order to stimulate the economy additionally thorough ways like public expenditure. Will it really arouse the firms’ willingness to invest and purchase at last? I do not know.



In conclusion, Abenomics performs in its favour, but the extent is less satisfying than hoped. Several newspapers featured cutting corporation tax on small and medium-sized businesses yesterday. Theoretically, the decreased cost of production triggers its amount by companies, yet reality sometimes belies anticipation as it once. Even so, I hope that those attempts mentioned will bolster economy and Japan can lift itself up out of the spiral of deflation.