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  • Back when I was still learning Japanese, I used to turn on the news at night

  • so I could try to up my language comprehension skills.

  • After work, I'd turn on the tv, I'd sit down with my dinner and I'd just try to parse out

  • whatever the newscaster was saying.

  • One night, after the weather and the perp walks and the general BS, they brought on an interview

  • that I actually understood.

  • For the first time, I understood a full Japanese conversation.

  • Or, at the very least, a single back and forth.

  • The interviewer was a government minister and the newscaster turned to him and said:

  • With our population declining, and our economy stagnant we really only have two choices.

  • We can either build better robots or we can let in immigrants.”

  • And they turned to each other and laughed.

  • The minister repeated the word back to him.

  • Immigrants.

  • And they laughed.

  • Today's story is about Japan, and if I'm being honest, it's also about America.

  • But more than that, it's about those damn immigrants.

  • To the anti-immigration crowd, Japan is often treated as the example country.

  • As the place where they are doing it right.

  • Which to me is kind of funny.

  • Because it essentially means that they're praising their ideological enemies,

  • and it's not even actually true.

  • But in that misunderstanding, I think we can see a highlighting of one of the biggest problems

  • in politics around the world today.

  • Which is that identity is no longer supported by its natural, economic backing.

  • People are so quick online to send an angry tweet that I don't think they are really looking at

  • what they are saying.

  • And it's going to blow up in all of our faces.

  • So to explain, I want to focus on Japan.

  • Let's start with the good.

  • Japan is an economic miracle.

  • And not just for the successes of its post-war boom, but also the successes of its bust.

  • Over the past 27 years, the Japanese economy has only grown at less than a 1% rate annually.

  • That's less than a 1/3rd that of the United States.

  • That's the lowest of any modern industrialized nation.

  • And yet, Japanese workers haven't fallen behind.

  • They've made just as much money as their American counterparts,

  • and if you exclude the top ten percent of earners, they've overtaken them.

  • When presented in the form of total assets, they're actually nearly double.

  • 96,000 to 50.

  • And it isn't just a lack of frivolous spending.

  • Despite being hyper-capitalist on paper, you wouldn't be far off to call Japan socialist.

  • After all, what is socialism if not what they've achieved here?

  • They divide their wealth incredibly well.

  • Better than virtually any other country on the planet.

  • Especially countries this size.

  • They have a near one-party state and yet, it still invests back into the economy

  • to the point that their unemployment rate remains below 2%.

  • The dream of any capitalist nation.

  • They've got an incredibly successful form of universal healthcare, one which genuinely concerns itself

  • with the long-term health of its citizens, and in turn they're among

  • the longest lived people on the planet.

  • Income inequality is among the lowest on earth.

  • Japan has less than a third the poverty rate of the United States,

  • and also a third of its uber-wealthy.

  • In this being case defined as having assets under ten thousand and over a million, respectively.

  • Infant mortality, literacy rates, homelessness, crime rates, and so much more

  • are the envy of the world.

  • The only problem is, without growth, all of this is unsustainable.

  • And they know it.

  • So let's look at the bad.

  • To maintain their system, Japan has seen an eye-watering 236% debt-to-GDP ratio.

  • And while much of the money has been taken out in publicly held yen, and is therefore more easily managed

  • than that of the foreign held debt, it will still be their own undoing.

  • The amount of interest paid per year is staggering, and yet another cause of their economic stagnation.

  • To put it simply, they need more workers.

  • They need more jobs.

  • And they need more wealth.

  • People cannot get an annualized salary increase if there's no money to increase it with.

  • You can't employ 98% of your workers if you don't have the money to pay them.

  • So, immigrants.

  • But before I say more about Japan, I want to take a little swipe at the US.

  • Because they're the ones that I find to be spreading the most misinformation

  • about the immigration issue right now.

  • I want to split the concept into three categories, intentional immigrants, illegal immigrants, and refugees.

  • Because they're all different, and have entirely different effects on the economy.

  • And in turn, from a purely economic standpoint, the people supporting them should be rather

  • easy to delineate.

  • But they aren't.

  • Let's say you're a socialist.

  • By which I mean that you believe workers in your society should be taken care of first and foremost.

  • You believe that unemployment should be low, union should be strong, and wealth should be

  • relatively equally divided.

  • Ok.

  • Well, then there is one group that you should support.

  • Intentional immigrants.

  • Statistically, at least in the West, an intentional immigrant will cause more wealth

  • than a locally born person.

  • They have a higher rate of entrepreneurship, and create more jobs than they fill in.

  • In turn, they are a great source of tax revenue.

  • They have, to put it simply, a positive effect on the total growth rate, unemployment

  • and overall worker pay.

  • The other two, however, not so much.

  • At best, their positive effect is questionable, and for it to work to the local people's benefit

  • entirely depends on how strong the system's desire is to spread that wealth.

  • Much like shipping jobs overseas.

  • It can work, but it's a much harder sell with many more pitfalls and an easier target for animosity.

  • Certainly, they cause growth, but growth to what end?

  • In effect, it becomes a moralistic choice.

  • Almost an ideological one.

  • However, if you're an ardent capitalist, the opposite tends to be true.

  • Illegal immigration and refugees are good.

  • They're desirable.

  • You want them just as much, if not more, than the others.

  • You want completely open borders.

  • Again, talking economically.

  • Because the more workers you have vying for a job,

  • the lower the value of the individual worker applying for it.

  • They raise the GDP because they work for less, which means more profit, which means more capital,

  • and in turn while the average goes up as a whole, the individual worker gets less per year.

  • The more people you can add to your system, especially people who are legally incapable

  • of taking advantage of the national excesses, the better.

  • Scabs ruin unions, so you'd have to be a pretty dumb rightist to be opposed to more scabs.

  • But in America, as elsewhere in the West, the political parties have found a way

  • to completely disassociate these economic realities from their respective brands.

  • Obama tried incredibly hard to curb illegal immigration.

  • He just did it quietly.

  • Because his voters would have disagreed.

  • Yet conversely, Trump employs thousands of illegal immigrants, only stopping when he's caught.

  • He obviously doesn't want them to go anyway.

  • Anyone studying the issue will tell you a wall won't work

  • when nearly three quarters of all illegal immigrants come in by plane.

  • Let alone all its other obvious faults.

  • It's just performative art for the angry.

  • People who would shoot themselves in the foot to pretend that screaming is the same as taking action.

  • That xenophobia is the same as economic concern.

  • But it's not like they can admit that they're wrong.

  • There are two political parties, and most people love having a team to back.

  • So they present it as culture.

  • The reason that we can't have immigrants is because they'll change our culture.

  • Because they'll never fit into our system that was built on immigration.

  • So they point to Japan, a system not built on immigration.

  • And they pretend that they can be the same.

  • Look at how well they've done in the face of this new world order, they very unironically say out loud.

  • It's just, it's not true.

  • More and more every year, they've become accustomed to increased immigration.

  • And not surprisingly, it was their furthest right-wing government in decades

  • who opened their door the widest it's ever been.

  • As their system comes closer and closer to collapse, they've recognized the bind they're in.

  • With their population having peaked in 2008, and likely shrinking a full percent annually from here on out,

  • they know they need workers.

  • And just like all nations in their position, immigration is how they're going to get them.

  • Yet just like everywhere, opposition remains.

  • And much of it is xenophobic.

  • They call it a loss of culture, which it is, that needs to be stated,

  • but that's definitely not the core issue here.

  • Almost everything changes the culture.

  • Wealth changed the culture.

  • Hell, look at the first major change Japan made when it tried to raise the growth rate.

  • They inspired women to work.

  • They tapped into that unused fifty percent.

  • And that has caused major, fundamental changes to their culture.

  • If the real issue was simply that they were trying to stay the same,

  • well, they definitely wouldn't have done that.

  • The reality is that culture is always changing, and there are ways to mitigate those negative effects.

  • If a nation treats immigrants with acceptance and integration, then acceptance and integration work.

  • There's a mountain of evidence to show that when a nation treats immigrants as normal,

  • employable members of society, they integrate within a single generation.

  • It doesn't matter where they are from.

  • And although they're countless, the only other example I'll give here is from my own country.

  • The biggest riot in Toronto's history was anti-Greek.

  • Virtually everything you hear today about Muslims they said about Greeks a hundred years ago.

  • It got so bad that mobs resorted to open violence in the streets.

  • But nobody in the city would ever imagine that their descendants are a danger today.

  • Because of course, they integrated.

  • That's how it works.

  • Yet even on top of all of that.

  • On top of the economy and culture and xenophobia and whatever else the anti-immigration crowd

  • is throwing at the wall to see what sticks, there's always the elephant in the room.

  • If your population is declining, you're losing power.

  • Not just economic, but militarily.

  • In a world where nations sit with billions of citizens, a people of Japan's size cannot stop growing.

  • They have to try to meet their neighbours as they are.

  • Who will they use to fight the upcoming wars?

  • Who will rattle their sabres when that foreign navy comes to their harbours?

  • How do they protect themselves if they have nobody to stand up and yell Banzai?

  • It's a harsh question, but one every nation must think about.

  • And they do think about it.

  • Service age men and women are a requirement of every society.

  • Not just for the labour market, but as warm fodder for the cannons.

  • Even if those cannons never actually fire.

  • And without immigration, that's simply not an option.

  • That's why they're letting them in.

  • That's why we're letting them in.

  • Immigration is an incredibly touchy topic, with much more complexity

  • than two diametric poles of yay and nay could ever summarize.

  • I personally am truly supportive of the low-income worker.

  • I believe they're the ones who need to be taken care of the most.

  • The house that's on fire should get the water.

  • In that respect, I often find myself aligning with somewhat protectionist, unionist policies.

  • But I'm also aware that those policies cannot be sustained without growth.

  • The world is more complicated than ideology, and everything has a balance.

  • My family are immigrants.

  • My wife is an immigrant.

  • And my country is better for us being in it.

  • But there has to be a limit.

  • An understanding.

  • A recognition that the benefits have to be weighed against the reality of the situation.

  • Because after all, what values do we hold?

  • Who are we here to protect?

  • What is an economy for?

  • There are no right answers to these questions.

  • So does Japan have the perfect nation?

  • Well, of course not.

  • There is no perfect nation.

  • But they do have a great nation.

  • Because they've tried incredibly hard to protect their children, their workers and their culture.

  • They just made one fatal mistake.

  • When that newscaster asked that question all those years ago, they laughed.

  • They thought that if they shut their eyes hard enough, they'd never have to see reality.

  • And even though it wasn't a joke, they laughed.

  • This is Rare Earth.

Back when I was still learning Japanese, I used to turn on the news at night

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B1 US immigration nation culture economic wealth illegal

Is Japan the Perfect Nation?

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    Stephen Liu posted on 2020/05/02
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