August 10, 2014 12:00 am
There are three major alternative sets of economic understanding in the world, each operating a different system of an economic consensus. Each zone assumes it has all the answers to the most effective operation of the economies in its zone, and they cannot all be right. These three zones are:
The Washington Consensus Zone, where a neo-classical restrictive monetarism reigns supreme, supported by the United States and its major allies, and policed and recommended by various “international” American-based and US-dominated organisations (such as the IMF, the OECD, the “World Bank”, etc)
The Berlin Consensus, operating in and dominating the Eurozone, where Germany reigns supreme through the national and local banking commitment to industrial development, and especially through the commitment of its 135 Sparkassen banks with their 12,600 branches to the 2.148 million SMEs (“mittelstand”) in Germany, and
The Tokyo Consensus Zone, comprising the main four nations of the China Sea economies (China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) where Shimomuran economics is the ascendant economic understanding and is fully and effectively practised with minor variations.
2 Major Attributes of Each Zone
Each zone is characterised by a dominant economic philosophy an economic structure, or recipe for presumed success, promoted by the dominant national government or governments within each zone (except in the special case of Germany in the EU) an observed set of economic outcomes, and a different set of future potentials for economic growth and human development.
2.1 The Washington Consensus Zone
The dominant economic philosophy throughout the Washington Consensus Zone is neo-classical economics, with its emphasis on private enterprise solutions regardless of the economic circumstances of any nation or the social and economic history of its people.
The associated economic structure involves governments which have borrowed heavily on the international financial markets, originally to fund tax cuts for the relatively rich and ultimately to provide a pretext for the now-widespread policies of austerity and budget cuts an independent central bank, with an emphasis on restricting credit creation with the stated aim of achieving low inflation partly, fully or increasingly privatised national facilities, such as health, education, transport and communication systems Leading inexorably to the economic outcomes of the shifting of national income from the majority of its population in favour of domestic corporate profits and international interest payments to the already rich and privileged the sale of large domestic industries to foreign buyers and the associated national economic weakening through future dividends being sent abroad the increasing collapse of SMEs within the nations practising the Washington Consensus due to the lack of supportive local banks the long-term decline in the living standards of most families through higher unemployment, lower social contract facilities (lower social security funds and unemployment and poorer access to higher cost health facilities, education, etc) and the increasing impoverishment of the already poor. All of these outcomes are already obvious in the major nations practising the Washington Consensus (such as the USA and the UK) and in virtually all of these less developed nations obliged to adopt the Washington Consensus solutions as a condition for receiving international aid.
The international organisations attempting to enforce the Washington Consensus on its client states produce relatively worthless reports because they do not pay any attention whatsoever to local conditions. The OECD reports, for example, recommend the usual litany of neo-classical economics solutions because the visiting teams do not need to even look out of the window to tailor their report to the specific national circumstances of the nation on which they will report. They do of course mention where they are but when it comes to recommendations, they assume they already know all the answers”Š-“Šone neoclassical remedy with all its ramifications is suggested as a solution which will fit the needs and circumstances of all countries.
Except it doesn’t. The industrial decline of the USA and the UK and the increasing impoverishment of their peoples should have made even the most blinkered of the neoclassicists look up.
Neoclassical economics is fulfilling the dire predictions of Marxism. There are better solutions than running the economy mainly for the benefit of the already rich and international capital, which is what neo-classical economics obviously brings about. It is not triumphing, it is not useful, it is not beautiful, it has been rejected in the major country in the Eurozone and in the Tokyo Consensus zone, which both have the possibility of a greater innovative capability and the production of a more widespread prosperity and a more full human development than the Washington Consensus is likely to provide. Even the rich have not voted for what is happening”Š-“Šit is not in their long-term interest that the West loses much of the world.
2.2 The Berlin Consensus Zone
United Europe is dominated by the economic success of United Germany, which success partly rests upon the 135 Sparkassen or local savings banks which are each committed through their 12,600 branches to the local success of the 2.148 million Small and Medium sized enterprises (SMEs) of Germany. About a quarter of German savings are available to these local SMEs for local investment purposes. Larger German companies (AG & GmbH) have a Supervisory Board (Aufsichtsrat) which appoints the Management Board (Vorstand), and the executives of major German banks are invariably on the Aufsichsraat of several major companies where these bankers facilitate the funding of the investment plans for the generally larger industrial companies they advise.
The dominant economic philosophy of Germany is industrial banking. For more information on that tradition, see
The industrial banking tradition, with the commitment of domestic bankers to national success through the provision of long-term loans from banks to private companies, has until recent years dominated the post-war growth in Western Europe and has culminated in the formation of United Europe and the Eurozone. However the relative economic success of Germany and the dominance of German industry has led to the institutions of the European Union being dominated by Germany and German politicians. What should have happened after the credit crunch was the adoption of the Sparkassen tradition and structure throughout all of the states of United Europe to enable the more full flowering of the millions of local EU SMEs. Instead German dominance has led to the use of financial credit creation by the ECB to support a Washington Consensus solution for the weaker industrial economies of the EU. That activity has reduced the prosperity of the EU people, led to a backlash against the EU institutions, and dimmed the future prospects of the EU.
The European Union was not designed to be operated as if it were a German Empire. The economically weaker states of Europe are not in the EU to be exploited by the strongest state”Š-“Šthat has never been the basis of the European Union, which was designed as a co-operative venture for the benefit of all of the people of the nations involved.
The response to the recent crisis should not be the abandonment of the industrial banking tradition by the weaker European states but the reinforcement of that tradition by the ECB. This could be done through ECB investment credit creation (at the rate of about 8% to 10% of EU GDP) being funnelled through as earmarked investment credit funding to all the local banks in the EU for use by local SMES in all of the villages and mini-economies within the EU, and by larger industries. The successful German economic model should be replicated at every level in the EU, as it is in Germany, to encourage a swift recovery from the credit crunch. That would work to re-establish and re-provide the prosperity recently removed.
The example of the EU motor vehicle industry illustrates the predominant success of German industry. There are a dozen domestically owned vehicle mass production companies (each receiving local and regional capital loans from supportive banks) in Germany which directly employed 886,000 people in 2005, with each company supported in turn by domestic steel-producing plants and clusters of SMEs providing specialist vehicle-parts, in all manufacturing a total of about 5.7 million vehicles in 2013. At the other end of the scale, Britain has no domestically owned mass production car companies and the British-based foreign companies which do produce motor vehicles in the UK are importing funds for investment and car parts from their home economy to produce their final products, resulting in a net cost to the British balance of payments.
The beautiful local subcultures of United Europe hold a vast potential for the more full development of much of the potential of mankind. The current impoverishment of the people of many of the Southern states of the EU could result in the dissolution of the EU if the better solution (as proposed above) is not adopted. If the partly competent administration led by Angela Merkel does not wish to preside over the dissolution of the EU, then she and her administration need to take early and effective action to ensure EU-wide recovery and prosperity soon, or the newly resurgent electoral nationalism in the disaffected nations of the EU is likely to cause that ever-greater union to fail in fulfilling its great promise to all concerned and to dissolve in a resurgence of negative nationalism.
2.3 The Tokyo Consensus Zone
The dominant economic philosophy of the Tokyo Consensus zone is Shimomuran economics. The key aspects of that economic policy are the deliberate economic management of the country by an intelligent government with the objective of achieving explicit national objectives the provision of large flows (typically 10% to 20% of GDP) of no-cost investment credit creation by the Central Bank to fund productive investments of up to date, modern plant and machinery in all of the manufacturing and service industries and in the SMEs of the economy the monitoring and continual management of the economy through well-informed government action based on Economic Planning Agency advice and the continual adjustment of policy to achieve altering goals the adherence of government economic policy to Shimomuran principles, which are the creation of credit principally for productive industrial and commercial enterprises the policy setting of the interest rate equal to the best estimate of the inflation rate in factory gate prices (so that money becomes a counterpart of real resources) the creation of an economy of abundant capital at all levels and for all industries in the economy legislation for the payment of wage and salary increases as about half in weekly wages or monthly salaries, and the rest in an annual bonus: this policy limits inflation and encourages the saving of part of lump-sum bonuses, and alters the pattern of demand to increase the affordability of expensive items, as well as improving the security of households through their higher access to personal savings the creation of a rational bank savings structure, in which time savings are inflation proofed through higher interest rates and immediately available monies slightly lose their value the management of growth and inflation through a combination of measures which have a demonstrated track record of success. These aspects are not an exhaustive list but are only the main common features of the major nations of the Tokyo Consensus Zone (China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) although they each have local variants as changing and different national circumstances continually reshape economic policy. The machinery of government for the achievement of these aims, as well as the extent of reporting of these, also varies according to national objectives and local circumstances (e.g: the extent of credit creation by the BoJ is almost fully measured in Japan, while the apparently same Chinese data has numerous stated exclusions, such as the exclusion of non-performing loans or the rediscount limits allowed for in provincial People’s Bank of China bank branches, etc).
A few paragraphs about two of the major countries of the Tokyo Consensus zone (on China and Japan) seems appropriate, as well as similarly framed comments on the first major nation which put into practise the embryo of what has now emerged as the Tokyo Consensus”Š-“Šthe USA from 1938 to 1944.
After the 29 September 1972 Nixon-inspired rapprochement between China and Japan (which signalled the formal end of WW2 hostilities between these countries) the Chinese negotiating delegations reported back to the Chinese Communist Party leaders the observed immense and obvious degree of Japanese economic development in 1972. Unlike any Western nation, the Chinese government resolved to understand the theory and practice of the economic understanding which had propelled Japan, in less than three decades, from being a war-devastated economy in 1945 to one of the world’s major industrial powers, and numerous Chinese delegations were sent to Japan to investigate, understand and report upon how best China could replicate the Japanese growth-accelerating processes.
The extent of Chinese economic understanding can perhaps best be illustrated by the observation that in a Chinese book about major world economists, Dr Osamu Shimomura is listed as Japan’s most important postwar economist. That source of course only repeats what the Japanese assert, but I have yet to see such an acknowledgement or recognition in any of the economic textbooks used as teaching materials in Western universities.
Nearly all of the leading western nations (the USA, where ICC originated; the UK, where many of its universities are perhaps first class in almost everything except macroeconomics; nearly all of the EU nations, where there is no lack of realistic economic analysis skills; Russia, currently creating investment credits for the Moscow zone but apparently ignoring the needs of much of the rest of the country; the economists of the four natural resource-rich giants of Australia, Brazil, Canada and again Russia; and many others) could have done as China did. They could have investigated the causes of the Japanese economic miracle and copied the transferable economic technology back home. But they didn’t. Britain’s NEDO very nearly did, producing a 1980 document entitled “Transferable Factors in Japan’s Economic Success.” That paper was stamped as “Confidential” and not placed in the public domain and was ignored by the Thatcher government. A banker who was involved in the production of that report once told me that the UK Clearing Banks had nothing to do with that Report’s security classification, but I doubt that.
Whatever one thinks about the Chinese Communist Party, its recent leaders during the last half century have been formidably
intelligent. The same description cannot be applied to some recent Western leaders who have been much less well advised about economic issues. The Chinese government has pursued a policy of using no-cost investment credit to develop every aspect of the Chinese economy, and in every province of China. Although the coastal zone Chinese provinces have grown more rapidly than those in the central and the western zones, the Government has continually implemented various measures to ensure more even development and more widespread Chinese prosperity. One principal initiative has been the implementation of the “Chinese Dream” of the construction of 400 new cities (each sized at about one million people) during the 2000-2020 period, as well as the updating of all existing Chinese cities, with the parallel relocation of large branches of much of Chinese industry to more western and highland provinces. Chinese living standards are increasing quickly for all classes in China.
The Chinese Government has put into place all the machineries of growth which existed in high-growth Japan, with the result that China has become the major potential hegemonic challenger to the USA during the next couple of decades. After the Chinese teams had completed their 1970s investigations of Japanese growth policies and procedures, and advised the Japanese Government what they had learned, the Japanese foreign ministry on 31 August 1980 released a press statement that “China will emerge as a tremendous economic and military power in the 21st century,” as is happening.
After the end of the Second World War, Japan appeared to be in an impossible economic position. Several Western economists produced reports predicting a dismal future for the Japanese people, painting the picture of an overcrowded Asian island with inadequate raw materials and insufficient arable land adequately to feed its population. The American occupation authorities required the Japanese Government to practice a balanced budget, so the Keynesian route to higher demand and consumption was theoretically not available to that Government”Š-“Šit could not borrow its way out of the post-war depression. So it created credit without any borrowing either domestically or abroad.
What the post-war Japanese governments did was practice Shimomuran economics. The BoJ, which had been given the objective of facilitating economic growth since 1942, from 1945 provided gigantic flows of no-cost investment credit creation (none of it depending on foreign borrowing) initially to restore the essential infrastructure of Japan. The arteries of the economy”Š-“ŠJapanese roads and communication facilities”Š-“Šand the essential facilities for population survival”Š-“Šnew housing and food supply and distribution facilities, schools, hospitals and civic buildings”Š-“Šwere targeted for the receipt of capital investment during the immediate post war period. This caused relatively high inflation but was a vital first stage of the economic recovery of the nation. Part of Dr Osamu Shimomura’s disagreement with Bank of Japan officials [who argued in the 1950s and 1960s that the control of inflation was more important than economic development] may have originated from that post war experience, because he knew from experience that economic development was far more important than inflation.
Foreign observers, visiting Japan in the late 1940s, seeing the great extent of Japanese economic recovery, sometimes stated that the war damage done in Japan must have been much less than that previously estimated. But the pictures of Tokyo immediately after the war”Š-“Šthe cityscape of ruined buildings, and all the evidence of the total destructiveness of the Curtis Lemay Tokyo firebombing, which on just one night”Š-“Šon 9/10 March 1945″Š-“Šdestroyed 15.8 square miles of Tokyo, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese workers, illustrates the immense extent of the damage. As the historian Gabriel Kolko has remarked in his 1968 book
“The Operation Meetinghouse firebombing of Tokyo on the night of 9/10 March 1945 was the single deadliest air raid of World War II; greater than Dresden, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki as single events.”
See Kolko, Gabriel (1990) . The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943-1945. pp. 539-40.
The Government of Japan from 1949-50 provided”Š-“Švia the BoJ investment credit creation”Š-“Šfunds for transmission through Japan’s banking system to productive investments in SMEs and to major industries, partly to fund increases in liquidity and working capital but mainly focused on providing up- to-date plant and machinery in all of the manufacturing and service industries and in the SMEs in the economy. These Governments continually monitored and managed the progress of the economy through the information provided by Japan’s EPA and by continually adjusting policy to achieve their changing goals.
A vast amount of information about the economic progress of Japanese trade and industry and the structure of its development is provided in the Economic Planning Agency’s Economic Survey Of Japan (published annually by the Japan Times since 1945). These documents provide the vast wealth of information”Š-“Šbetter quality information, so far, than that produced by any other major economy”Š-“Šabout the progress of every aspect of the Japanese economy.
The Japanese intention in using Shimomuran Investment Credit Economics appears to have been, and still seems to be, very narrowly focused”Š-“Šlike Dr O Shimomura himself, they only seem to want to create a trading advantage for Japan, in order to be able to afford to buy from abroad the key raw materials and resources required to feed and productively employ all their people.
Shinzo Abe has reintroduced Shimomuran economics and a “Japan of abundant capital” in his recent policy statement and in his government’s activities following on from the failure of the attempted adoption of Washington Consensus policies by the Bank of Japan during the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st. See Professor Richard Werner’s book “Princes of the Yen” where these events are fully documented. If anyone wishes to compare and contrast the experience of a major nation practising Shimomuran high-growth economies for several decades followed by Washington Consensus policies for almost two decades then Japan is an interesting illustration of the results of these different policies.
The role of Dr Osamu Shimomura (1910-89) in the success of Japan is partly hidden by the absence of his works, and the absence of an accurate translation of any of his works, in the West. We know that Dr Shimomura produced a paper on the Japanese multiplier which earned him his doctorate, that he was directly responsible for the management of prices and that he had views about how to manage wage and salary inflation. We also know that Shimomura had for years a starring role on the policy board of the Bank of Japan. Fortunately anyone doing a deep study of the Japanese economic miracle”Š-“Šfirst rank economists such as such as Kenneth Beida, Kenneth K Kurihara, and in more recent decades Richard A Werner”Š-“Šcannot fail to come across Shimomura or his works in their investigation. And the Development Bank of Japan has given Shimomura his due prominence as “Japan’s most influential post-war economist” (see http://www.dbj.jp/ricf/fellowship/) even if they leave the key formulae out of the only DBJ-provided English translation of his major work.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Shimomura was responsible for the key modification of Keynes’ central investment-savings equilibrium condition to include no-cost investment credit created credit (by the BoJ) or low-cost long term debt (from the viewpoint of industrial borrowers) in that formula. That formula is there in a central pride of place in his Model of the Japanese Economy and its equations, as presented to the joint meeting of the Japanese Economic Association and the Japanese Econometric Society. His presentation was then published under the title “Seicho Seisaku No Kihon Mondai” (Basic Problems of Growth Policy) in Riron Keizaigaku, March 1961.
But it is now impossible to tell if Shimomura was responsible for the Japanese inflation-reducing policy of legislatively requiring wage and salary increases to be split, and partly awarded as an increase in weekly or monthly income and partly in November bonuses. Shimomura was in an official price-controlling position which implies he may have been responsible for the origin of that policy, but there is no available evidence to prove that he was. That treatment of income awards very significantly reduces the inflationary potential of consumer demand and stimulates long-term personal saving. I think the consummate cleverness of that policy may have Shimomura’s fingerprints on it, but it seems that cannot now be proven.
The Tokyo Consensus, as practiced during Japan’s economic miracle years, demonstrates how to achieve the successful management of national growth and inflation through a combination of measures which have a proven track record of success. The Washington Consensus has not similarly succeeded anywhere and its attempted adoption in Japan produced two decades of misery and economic stagnation which they call “their lost generation.”
2.3.5 The United States of America 1938-44
No recent American Government has ever been (or needed to be) as focused as the FDR administrations were during the 1938-44 period, because the impending and actual world war required an intense focus which peacetime does not. The 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was an outstandingly intelligent man at the head of an amazingly fit-for-purpose Government which had the over-riding aim of ensuring that the allies would win the Second World War. The basic framework of US policy during that period was:
1 No investment required by the war effort was to be held up for lack of funds.
2 The Fed and its 12 regional branches provided vast increases in investment credit creation to fund or create the industries, whose outputs were required to make the USA the “arsenal of the democracies” (and American industries successfully argued they were all in that category).
3 Wherever possible, industrialists were integrated into the process of national economic planning, but no roadblock to the achievement of economic victory was allowed to persist: non-cooperating industrialists were sidelined or ignored.
4 The US government had no ideological objection to creating vast new industrial plants (for the production of steel and rubber, for instance)
5 Funds were also provided for required inventions and innovations (eg artificial rubber research and production, atomic bomb R&D, the continual stream of aircraft-improving innovations, etc)
6 Price control was very effectively carried out during part of that period by the Canadian economist John Kenneth Galbraith
7 All of the resources of the economy, all of its immigrants, and virtually all of its available workers (including the employment of many women) and most of its managers were enrolled in the planned production of higher US output and the associated economic development.
The results of US wartime growth are a permanent part of world history. The USA grew at an average rate of 12.2% from 1938 to 1944, effectively doubling the size of the economy. Some of the highlights of that development are at
Shimomuran economics, or investment credit economics, is as American as apple pie, and I mean the apple pie sold at McDonalds.
The Tokyo Consensus and the Shimomuran understandings on which it is based must be an absolute nightmare for the rightwing politicians of the West. A new and more successful economic understanding has blazingly emerged from Asia to challenge the old and well-established classical economic ideas “lest one good custom should corrupt the world.” The wealth-creating combination of the government’s power to create no-cost central bank credit and the canalisation of that credit through national and local banks to provide investment capital for major private businesses and millions of local SMEs is the most effective way to harness nearly all of the inventive and innovative talents of most of the creative people in an economy. Nothing else works as well.
When Thatcher won the first election victory in 1979, one of her election promises was that she would reverse British industrial decline, but she did nothing of the sort. Instead, she embraced the deadly simplicities of monetarism and regularly trumpeted the idea that “There is no alternative” to her policies. As Wikipedia notes (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_is_no_alternative):
“There is no alternative (shortened as TINA) was a slogan often used by the Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In economics, politics, and political economy, it has come to mean that “there is no alternative” to economic liberalism-that free markets, free trade, and capitalist globalization are the best or the only way for modern societies to develop.”
But not only is there another way, “There Is A Much Better Way” or TIAMBA. The roots of the Tokyo Consensus, the bunch of economic understandings which I have called Shimomuran Economics, were originated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his administration’s actions to ensure the American and Allied victories in the Second World War. These roots are impeccably American, democratic and helpful to all the workers of America. What I have christened as Shimomuran economics (because Shimomura was the first to explain it) was perhaps born as an astonishing piece of American know-how, providing no-cost-to-the-Fed investment credit creation debt to US industry to enable the greatest growth the American people have ever seen. And to place the USA in the position it still tentatively holds, as the greatest economic and military power in the world.
Neoclassical economics, on the other hand, is profoundly destructive to the wealth and welfare of the workers of America (and elsewhere). It is profoundly undemocratic, capturing all media positions because it claims that it alone is the only true economic faith. And neo-classical economics has re-adopted Say’s Law that unemployment is due to workers’ wages not being sufficiently low, when unemployment is actually due to Government inaction which (among other things) denies the provision of sufficient investment credit, provided by a helpful banking system, to the 26.8 million SMEs which are a major foundation of American economic greatness and the prosperity of the American people. Michael Shaman’s proposed policy of “Local Ownership, Import Substituting” is a similar answer [see Shuman, M. H. (2006) The small-mart revolution: how local businesses are beating the global competition, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.: Berrett-Koehler]. But America’s SMEs do not just provide an answer to import substitution, they are the major source not only of much of the employment in the economy but also of most of inventions and a lot of innovation. From the small beginnings of SMEs mighty industries can grow. Neoclassical economics closes off many paths to the future because it is not supportive of invention and innovation, as Shimomuran economics is.
Shimomuran economics unlinks national economic growth from international finance. Governments do not need to borrow abroad to create an economic miracle once they understand Shimomuran Economics, for they can create wealth by requiring their Central Bank to create the credit to release the massive inventive and innovative talents of their people. None of the nations of the Tokyo consensus financed their economic miracles by foreign borrowing. Obama does not need to borrow from China. Neither does Merkel. The neoclassical mindset requires them to do so; the Tokyo consensus mindset doesn’t.
Francis Fukuyama has argued in his 1992 book The End of History and The Last Man (Free Press. ISBN 0-02-910975-2) that liberal democracy has triumphed over all other existing political systems. The idea of liberal democracy has certainly triumphed but the reality of it has not. The western democracies have a marked tendency to turn into plutocracies serving only the interests of the rich and privileged, as most of their leading edge economies have done. Elections are sometimes run as exercises in political trickery with politicians promising policies which they either do not know how to deliver, or have no intention of delivering, once they are in office.
That tendency is most apparent in the United Kingdom, where an economically incompetent Coalition Government is implementing policies never mentioned in any of their manifestos, where each of the three main parties is committed in future to the similar deadly neoclassical economics of increasing family impoverishment and where the electoral response is to vote for a previously unknown party in the hope they might behave differently. I once thought no British government could possibly be more destructive of domestic living standards than the Cameron-Clegg-Osborne Coalition Government, but a UKIP government would be even worse.
The mindset of the Tokyo Consensus Zone is more productive than that of the Washington Consensus Zone. The rapidly increasing economic potential of China will in due course provide a hegemonic challenge to the USA and its allies which can only be met through the Western adoption of Shimomuran economics.
I have written to President Barack Obama several times in the hope he and his administration might listen, without success so far, and adopt Shimomuran economics. But the day may yet come’.
© George Tait Edwards 2014
Note 1: George Tait Edwards has just published a book about “Shimomuran Economics” at http://www.lulu.com/shop/george-tait-edwards/shimomuran-economics/paperback/product-21688864.html
Note 2: This article was first published on Medium.com on June 26th 2014 at https://medium.com/@georgetaitedwards/a-comparison-of-the-washington-berlin-and-tokyo-consensus-zones-221e7e53018b
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This post was written by George Tait Edwards