Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Japan vs. China: What makes societies succeed?

A namesake — a U.S. economics professor also called Gregory Clark — has caused waves with a theory that says the 18th century U.K. Industrial Revolution was due to heredity creating superior genes.

In those days, he says, disease and poverty kept lower-class families small. But the upper classes had big families that survived. This allowed population quality to improve, to the point where factories could be created and staffed with efficient workers. Unlike say India or China, Britain was not overwhelmed by the Malthusian pressures of uneducated masses.

As a theory it is at least an improvement on the Protestant ethic theory, which confuses results for causes. Protestantism did not create the ethic that led to the progress of the north European societies. The north European people created Protestantism because it matched the progress-creating ethic they already had.

In any case neither theory explains the second Industrial Revolution — non-Protestant Japan's amazing industrial progress. Japan may have relied initially on production technology imported from the West. But it soon moved beyond that. And how are we to explain the economic miracles we are about to see in China, and to some extent India, not to mention Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea in between?

With both Britain and Japan history, not heredity, was the key. Both were isolated enough from the main centers of civilization to be able to create strongly feudalistic societies. These societies in turn created the values needed for early industrial and social progress.

Feudalism is usually seen as harmful to progress. But that is like arguing that adolescence is harmful to adulthood. Left to themselves, feudalistic, village-based societies develop naturally such important values as frugality, practical inventiveness, a cooperative work ethic, workplace attachment, a liking for making things (monozukuri) and instinctive cohesion. From there they can move easily to creating a national economy based on factory production. Ideas, ideologies and technologies borrowed from more advanced civilizations nearby helped this progress. But they were never dominant.

The many and oft-noted similarities between the Japanese today and the British as they were are one result — the emphasis on politeness, orderliness, cleanliness, punctiliousness (yes, British trains also once ran on time), basic trust and honesty, instinctive rules of behavior, and democracy. The fact that both were island nations is sometimes given as a reason. But that does not explain the very similar values found in continental Germany and much of the rest of north Europe. Here too we find the same history of feudalistic progress, with ideas and ideologies imported. Germany left feudalism much later than Britain, which explains its continuing manufacturing superiority. Similarly with Japan.

Which brings me to China and India. Few would argue they have an addiction to orderliness, perfectionism and so on. But their progress today is real. One reason is that the byproducts of Western and Japanese industrial progress — manufacturing technologies especially — can now be borrowed or bought. And progress today also requires what I would call intellectual skills such as economic planning, information and financial management, intelligent investment decisions and so on.

The problem with these older societies is that in the past they were too "intellectual." They left true feudalism millenniums ago to create advanced civilizations that emphasized bureaucracy and scholarship and looked down on manual labor. If you had to make money you did so through cerebral activities such as trading and speculation. The elite had little interest in manufacturing or farming. Hence their subsequent decline.

But as they declined, labor became cheap. The elite classes may have disliked working with their hands. But they were smart enough to realize they could make a lot of money employing people to make things, initially for export. Foreign investors showed them the way. And the more factories they opened the cheaper it became to produce even more things thanks to external economies. Profits snowballed.

Meanwhile, back in Britain and to some extent Japan, the inherited feudal ethic has been unraveling, to be replaced by an unstable populism and half-baked intellectualism. If it was genes that created the Industrial Revolution, they have certainly disappeared now. Britain today is a manufacturing wasteland. The other Anglo-Saxon societies have not fared much better; their efforts to replace manufacturing with financial industries have been a disaster, as we saw in the recent financial crises and half-baked efforts to recover.

Meanwhile, China is becoming a model for all of us in the skill of its banking policies and economic planning.

The other Gregory Clark is right in a sense: As societies mature, the best and the brightest do tend to come to the top. But that was always much more likely to happen in societies older and more mature than Britain or Japan. Spend some time debating politics, diplomacy or business with the elites of these older societies and you will discover that we Anglos still have some way to go.

Our Japanese friends have even further to go. Their efforts at diplomatic and economic planning can be painful at times. Nor is it just the Chinese and Indians that shine.

From south Europe and Latin America, across the Middle East and on to Korea (a product largely of Chinese civilization), we find sophisticated leaders often able to run rings around our best and brightest. Or to put it another way, Tony Blair and George W. Bush would not shine in comparison.

True, some of these older societies may still be struggling industrially. Yet they can provide managers for top international companies. Their diplomats are astute and technicians skillful; India and South Korea are now information industry leaders. One-third of the Silicon Valley population is said to be Chinese, Indian and Korean. Top U.S. graduate and business schools are heading the same way. Meanwhile, Japanese numbers are falling.

The Japanese still have little interest in serious postgraduate study. Like the British a century earlier, they prefer practical to intellectual skills. One good result is they retain some manufacturing superiority in areas requiring perfectionism and attention to detail.

Recent emphasis on monozukuri as a source of national pride is also relevant. Strength in the applied sciences also makes up for a weakness in the basic sciences. But on the world stage today, it is China's and India's breakneck progress that draws attention. Skills in anime and manga seem weak in comparison.

日本対中国 何が社会を成功させるか
 私と同姓同名人 アメリカの経済学教授でもうひとりのグレゴリー・クラーク が、18世紀の英国の産業革命は、より優れた遺伝子を創り出した遺伝の働きで発生したという学説で波紋を広げている。
 理論としては、この説は少なくとも、プロテスタント倫理説 原因と結果を逆転させて の改善にはなっている。プロテスタント主義は北ヨーロッパ社会の進歩を導いた倫理を創っていない。北ヨーロッパ人にプロテスタント主義が生まれたのは、彼等がすでにもっていた進歩を生み出す倫理にそれがマッチしたからである。
 いずれにしろ、このどちらの説も第二の産業革命を説明できない つまり非プロテスタントである日本の驚異的な産業発展。日本は最初こそ欧米から入った生産技術に依存したかもしれない。だが日本は程なくそれを越えて進んだ。また今中国で、そしてある程度インドで、またその間の台湾、シンガポール、韓国はいうまでもなく、起こりつつある経済的奇跡をどう説明すべきか。
 今日の日本人と昔の英国人との類似点が多く見られまたよく指摘されるのは、そのひとつの結果だ 例えば、礼儀正しさ、秩序の尊重、清潔感、時間厳守(そう、英国の列車も昔は時間通りに走っていた)、基本的信頼感と正直さ、本能的な行動ルール、民主主義といった価値観の重視。両国とも島国であることが理由として挙げられることがある。だが、これだと、大陸にあるドイツや他の北ヨーロッパの多くの国々に見られる非常によく似た価値観を説明できない。これらの国もまた、外国から導入したアイディアやイデオロギーで封建制的発展をした同じような歴史を持つ。ドイツは英国よりかなり後から、封建制を抜け出した。ドイツで製造業の優位が続いているのはこれで説明できる。日本も同様だ。
 そこで、インドと中国である。これらの国の人々が秩序好き、完ぺき主義などという特性を持つという意見はほとんど聞かない。とはいえ、今日彼等が発展をしている事実がある。一つの理由は、欧米や日本の産業発展の副産物 とくに製造業の技術 が、今では借りたり買ったりすることができるという点である。また他にも、今日の発展は知能的スキルとでも呼びたい経済計画策定、情報・金融管理、知能的な投資決定、等々のスキルも必要とされる。
一方、英国に目を転じれば、また一部日本でも、引き継がれてきた封建制の倫理が崩れつつあり、不安定なポピュリズムや中途半端な知能主義に置き換えられようとしている。産業革命を生んだものが遺伝子だったとしたら、それらはもう消えてしまった。英国は今日、製造業の荒地である。他のアングロサクソン社会もそれよりあまりよいとはいえない; 製造業を金融産業に置き換えようとする彼らの努力は、われわれが目前にしている今日の金融危機やそれを修正するための生煮えの努力を見てもわかるように、失敗に終わった。
もう一人のグレゴリー・クラークはある意味で正しい: 社会が成熟すると、ベスト&ブライテスト(超エリート)が頂点に立つ傾向がある。だがこのことは、英国や日本よりさらに古いより円熟した社会において、常により顕著に現れやすい現象だった。これらのより古い社会のエリートたちと政治、外交、ビジネスなどを討論してみれば、われわれアングロサクソンはまだまだ遠く及ばないと発見するだろう。
たしかにこれらのより古い社会の一部はまだ産業の面で苦闘中かもしれない。だが彼らは一流世界企業にマネージャーを提供できる。彼らの外交は巧妙で、技術者は一流だ; インド・韓国はいまや情報産業のリーダー。シリコンバレーの3分の1は中国・インド・韓国人が占めるといわれる。アメリカの一流大学院やビジネススクールでも同じことが起こっている。一方日本人の数は減っている。