Japan from the inside out

Connecting the dots

Posted by ampontan on Monday, May 23, 2011

THE SQUABBLE continues of whether the financial institutions that lent money to Tokyo Electric Power should be asked to write off some of the debt if the government uses public funds to keep the utility from going bankrupt. Financial Services Minister Yosano Kaoru will hear none of it, and he and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano Kaoru have been straw-spitting BBs at each other over the question all week long.

At a news conference after a Cabinet meeting on the 20th, Mr. Yosano said it would be unfair to hold the institutions liable for compensation because they were lending to a public utility. He added that the accident at the Fukushima power plant “could only be explained as an act of God”, and that the “ultimate in human wisdom was employed” when developing safety measures for the plant.

He also said:

“They lent the money knowing that (the utility) didn’t have the ability to repay the loan (in a situation such as this). A classic example of this is the sub-prime loans of a few years ago (in the U.S.). The banks lent the money while believing that the receipients couldn’t afford to buy a house.”

Since it will be impossible to further shock you after that blockquote, I’ll mention here that his explanation was hailed as a very sensible argument by Yamamoto Ichiro, who runs an investment firm called Irregulars and Partners. Mr. Yamamoto’s website, by the way, was selected as something called “Blog of the Yeah” in 2003, the last year that particular honor was awarded. See what I mean about not having to read fiction any more?

The response of everyone else, however, seems to have been “WTF is he thinking”, even though Mr. Yosano is well known to be a Finance Ministry water carrier. But it didn’t take long to connect the dots.

After Mr. Yosano was graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1963, his mother asked her friend Nakasone Yasuhiro, still 20 years away from becoming prime minister, to help find her son a job. Mr. Nakasone did so, and The Graduate was hired by the Japan Atomic Power Co. He worked there for five years, specializing in insurance matters.

Those of a philosophical bent who are intrigued by the question of whether loyalty is a virtue or “only or primarily a feeling or sentiment — an affective bondedness that may express itself in deeds though more as an epiphenomenon than as its core” might find this paper to be of interest.

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One Response to “Connecting the dots”

  1. toadold said

    Nepotism, group loyalty, unit bonding, having an “interest”, a “Rabbi”, and etc. trumps patriotism. Indeed it is oft pointed out how awful civil service was when all the positions were appointed. So they they instituted tests and rules to promote “merit” and now there is anything but. I vaguely remember a study of nepotism in the Napoleonic era British Royal Navy. There was a check on it. If you were an Admiral and too many of your promoted interests were incompetent, then your own career became endangered. The studies of the US military suggest that the primary loyalty is within the unit and the largest unit that will have that loyalty is a regiment sized unit. It is created by shared pain and suffering either as the results of combat and/or a period of painful and harsh training. In government you’ll see the loyalty is too old school mates for the most part. Other wise it seems to be all for one and everyone for himself.

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