The “Too Big to Fail” Banks: The Japanese Lesson

Oh what a difference three decades make. Back in the 1980s, as Japanese companies began buying up prime real estate in the US, and the supremacy of Japanese cars and electronics made it seem like the country’s economic ascendancy was assured, sci-fi visions of the future imagined a United States dominated by Japanese culture, language and business.

Today, the economic stagnation that has gripped the Japanese economy for the past two decades make such visions of the future seem like the naive dreams of a bygone age, much like how futurists of the early 20th century extrapolated from their own time to imagine fleets of dirigibles carrying passengers across the Atlantic. Just as the trend-spotters of the early 20th century were caught off guard by the jet engine, so too were those predicting the rise of an unstoppable Japan caught off guard by the raising of interest rates and the popping of the bubble, the bailout of the banks, the life support of the zombie companies, and the lost decade…

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