Saturday, August 18, 2007

Is Japan More Socialist than Venezuela?

In the post-socialist and post-social democratic world today, terms such as "Left," "Right," and "Center" make little sense. That is most obviously the case on the political and military front in the Middle East, but so it is on the financial front worldwide. The power elite in Japan, reliably conservative as always, are set to regulate hedge funds, apparently more tightly than in countries whose governments are run by the electoral "Left": "The SESC [Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, Japan's financial regulator] is poised to crack down on hedge funds and others when the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law is implemented next month. . . . Mr [Kiyotaka] Sasaki [SESC director of strategy and policy coordination] concedes that 'If Japan alone strengthens regulation, funds will leave Japan.' But, he says, 'it is also possible that the market will become . . . healthier'" (Michiyo Nakamoto, "Japanese Watchdog Set to Curb Hedge Funds," Financial Times 10 August 2007).

BTW, Japan's ambassador to Venezuela, Matsui Yasuo, said in an El Nacional interview that the Japanese are more socialist than Chavez:
Los japoneses somos más socialistas que el presidente Chávez porque las diferencias en la calidad de vida entre los ricos y pobres en Japón son mucho menores que las que se ven en Venezuela. La clave no está en la ideología, sino más bien en la filosofía. Lo importante no es que un gobierno sea capitalista o socialista, sino en cómo organiza a la gente para que sea más productiva y supere la pobreza. El desafío para Venezuela es convertir la riqueza petrolera en calidad productiva. ("Los japoneses somos más socialistas que Chávez," 23 July 2007)
Seriously, there is a grain of truth in the ambassador's remark, given the political economies of Japan and Venezuela, but the grain of truth gets lost in the sea of ideology that washes away the history of imperialism that developed Japan and underdeveloped Venezuela (cf. Miguel Angel del Pozo, "El Embajador Yasuo Matsui nos deja su pensamiento socialista japonés y critica el socialismo criollo tercermundista venezolano," 10 August 2007). Moreover, as this Communist of Yamanashi, Japan points out ("駐ベネズエラ大使の粗忽さ," 26 July 2007), quoting Akahata, poverty in Japan has been rising in recent years, so much so that now some are dying of hunger in the rich country (!): "厚生労働省の直近の調査で、二〇〇五年には八十二人(男性七十人、女性十二人)が餓死していました。〇四年には、七十一人(男性五十七人、女性十四人)、〇三年には九十七人(男性七十七人、女性二十人)となっています."

Matsui's remark, naturally, caused the Venezuelan government to protest against the Japanese government: "Ministro Maduro entregó nota de protesta al Gobierno de Japón: Venezuela no acepta que nadie se inmiscuya en los asuntos que son de decision y debate de los venezolanos," 24 July 2007.

Yes, it is right and proper for Chavez and Chavistas to protest. But we also have to remember the aforementioned grain of truth and its implications for the future: they will soon have to make harder political and economic decisions than they used to, for the era when it is possible to do "Socialism of the 21st Century" under which the poor get richer and the rich get richer than ever -- the phenomenon that supporters of the Chavez government and Chavez himself, too, not just the undiplomatic diplomat from Japan, have noticed -- is likely to end soon, though oil booms may last longer than credit bubbles, giving them more time.

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