Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Return of the Samurai.

With all the exaggerated talk of an economic recovery sounding more and more like an alcoholic convincing himself he's kicked the habit and can just have a couple of drinks there are some pretty significant happenings out east, far east which undermine the whole picture.

It should be noted the first foreign leader that Obama chose to meet was the PM of Japan, Aso on February 24th of this year. Even though he was a lame-duck leader who was going to lead the LDP to its worst result in its history a near wipeout for a party that had run the country for nearly 50 constant years. The reason was, of course, economic Japan holds a massive amount of US Bonds -second only to China- thus supporting the massive debt which American capitalism has.

This has lead to a lot of resentment by buying dollars they are adding to their problems by strengthening their own currency. This means that exports - a critical part of their economy - are weakened. Sony made their first loss for 14 years. The economic turmoil largely led to the defeat of the LDP the only other time they have lost power very briefly was in response to the recession of the early 90s which its domestic economy has never fully responded to.

Although the new PM Hatoyama is an establishment figure his financial advisers took a much more strident approach to the US - this was also reflected in some foreign policy pronouncements. For example reviewing the US military bases on the islands. Concretely they want to promote Samurai bonds based on yen - more importantly they want America to buy them so that Japan is not so reliant on the dollar.

The Finance spokesman for the new governing party the DPJ wants to promote other bonds as reserve including IMF and Samurai bonds. Obviously the current situation suits the US as they remain the world's reserve currency everyone has to come and buy them. This in turn finances its debt. So will the new government push US capitalism on this issue? This will have a bigger impact on global recovery than a lot of the superficial stories appearing in the British press. There is speculation that this is just nationalist rhetoric for the election and this wont materialise.
Indeed it seems that the Finance spokesman who promoted this policy :Masaharu Nakagawa may be being sidelined with veteran politician Fujii aged 77 likely to get the job. This shows the issue may not be live for a while but it is definitely one to watch if/when the economy goes down again.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Fall - Albert Camus

A challenging read. More of a philosophical tract than a novel and though it is only 100 pages long it contains more ideas than most writers deal with in their whole career,
Ostensibly I read this because it followed the same structure as the Reluctant Fundamentalist (which I think is influenced by it) a onesided monologue in a supposed conversation.
Rather than develop a plot though Camus uses this device to discuss different aspects of human existence: sex, death, law, justice, morality, religion.
A few points really stuck with me - the narrator is a French lawyer who uses his calling of helping others as his fulfillment - this is how he feels alive. It builds his arrogance - he likes to be above everyone else physically and feeds his debauchery. Once this is challenged though his spiral (or fall I guess) is pretty sudden. He is found in a sleazy bar in Amsterdam - the atmosphere of which is very well written.
There is an interesting intro in my edition that the book is partially an outline of the dispute between Sartre and Camus - an expression of Camus' disillusionment with theLeft. This is reflected in the tone and barbed asides. Though Sartre did praise the work as the meaningless of the narrator's existence does chime with elements of his philosophy.
You can aso see why Mark E Smith stuck with the name of the Fall- the anti-hero in a bar is a Mark-e archetype.
A wee review like this cannot do this justice - academic careers have probably been built writing about this. I will keep this book handy though and will re-read it.