FREELY Israel a role model for
Japan By Takahiro Miyao
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The phrase "economic miracle" used
to be associated with Japan in the postwar period.
But no longer, as the nation has now been
undergoing more than two decades of stagnation and
deflation. That has been nothing but a nightmare
for many Japanese who have been working so hard
for themselves, for their companies and for their
nation for so long.
Needless to say, there
have been numerous attempts to turn
things around in Japan,
from stimulus policies (fiscal spending, zero
interest and quantitative easing), structural
reforms (privatization, deregulation and
market-opening), political changes (from the
conservative Liberal Democratic Party to the
Democrats' rule), and so forth for the past decade
or so. But nothing seems to have worked, and the
situation has been getting worse not only
economically, but also politically and socially.
Some economists are still arguing that
there have not been enough stimulus policies
applied to help the economy out of the doldrums.
Such an argument sounds hollow now that Japan
appears to be completely trapped in the vicious
circle of economic, social and demographic decline
and shrinkage with a rising yen and mushrooming
public debt, especially in the aftermath of the
massive earthquake and tsunami as well as the
serious nuclear accidents in 2011.
the government is turning to austerity rather than
stimulus measures, resulting in yet another round
of political reorganization, and possibly more
In the meantime, as if it were
a mirror image of Japan, one small nation has
rapidly emerged to the forefront of the world
economy since the 1990s, after having experienced
a "lost decade" of economic chaos in the '80s.
This country looks just like a small start-up
company, miraculously hitting a jackpot of success
in a turbulent business environment.
nation is Israel, which is called a "start-up
nation", taking over the phrase "economic miracle"
from Japan, as explained by Dan Senor and Saul
Singer (Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's
Economic Miracle, 2009). Also, as pointed out
by Jonah Lehrer in his recent best-seller book
(Imagine: How Creativity Works,a 2012), "in
the last decade, Israel has produced more
successful high-tech start-ups than Japan, India,
Korea and the United Kingdom."
to these authors, Israel's economic success for
the past two decades is primarily due to its
risk-taking entrepreneurship in high-tech and
information-related sectors, backed by sound
banking and advanced military technology. And its
tremendous success in entrepreneurial efforts
seems to come from some special characteristics of
the Israeli people and society, namely, "a
relatively unusual combination of flat (not
hierarchical), nurturing (not assertive) and
individualistic (not collectivist)" traits.
These seemingly contradictory traits may
be needed for success in combat situations in the
military as well as in start-up activities in the
economy (Senor and Singer). Also, the mandatory
military service seems to help different kinds of
people mingle with each other, leading to new
ideas and innovation (Lehrer).
interesting is the fact that those traits,
especially the combination of flatness and
individualism, is almost non-existent in Japan,
which is still dominated by the combination of
hierarchy and collectivism, at least at major
corporate and public organizations.
there is a strong tendency for the Japanese to
stay in their own "comfortable" group of
homogeneous people, and to avoid "uncomfortable"
situations by mingling with heterogeneous people
from various backgrounds. No wonder Japan is known
as the least entrepreneurial of all advanced
Then, the question is whether
it is too late for Japan to learn from Israel or
any other country for that matter. Probably it is
for Japan as a nation. But certainly it is not too
late for some Japanese individuals or Japanese
What they should do, perhaps,
is to move out of Japan to start their business or
whatever activities they wish to do in a new
environment similar to that in Israel.
only hope for Japan as a nation is to let these
people and businesses go abroad and succeed in
whatever they do outside of Japan, and then to
benefit from their successes by making use of
Japan's connection with them, just as successful
Israelis and Jewish people overseas benefit Israel
through various connections and interactions.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online
feature that allows guest writers to have their
click hereif you are interested in
contributing. Articles submitted for this section
allow our readers to express their opinions and do
not necessarily meet the same editorial standards
of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.
Takahiro Miyao is Emeritus
Professor, University of Tsukuba, and Visiting
Professor, Akita International University,