Me: Hi Japan. What’s going on with your economy?
Japan: The usual. Why?
Me: I keep hearing that it’s “stagnating” or “stagflating” or “sluggish” or a “train wreck”.
Japan: It is.
Me: And there’s a “lost generation” that can’t find really amazing jobs and earn buckets of cash every month.
Japan: They can’t.
Me: And your GDP isn’t seventeen double digits above the baseline macro index for economic growth forecasts in the second half of the Dow Smith fiscal trimester.
Japan: Something tells me you’re not an economist.
Me: All of this must have had lots of very negative impacts on your society.
Japan: Oh yes. Absolutely.
Me: Such as?
Japan: Well, as you said finding a decent job these days is tough.
Me: Right. Finding a job isn’t easy. What else?
Japan: People are earning less now. Wages have come down dramatically since the 90s.
Me: How much were people earning before?
Japan: Oh, shit loads. Business men got their bonuses delivered in wheel barrows.
Me: And it’s subsequently come down to normal levels since the bubble burst?
Japan: Yeah, i guess.
Me: And what other major society-breaking, life-affecting problems have occurred since then?
Japan: Well, erm, there’s the, er…let me think…
Me: Haven’t you still got one of the highest life expectancies in the world with some of the healthiest people even with your half-arsed smoking laws and steep suicide rates?
Japan: Er…yeah. I think so.
Me: And you’ve got one of the highest rates of literacy and numeracy and low rates or alcoholism and drug abuse.
Japan: Yeah…but this year’s growth forecast isn’t looking great. Again.
Me: Aren’t your crime and incarceration rates are really low? Don’t you have universal health care and an absence of obesity?
Japan: Yeah, but last years’ numbers weren’t good at all. Just look at those graphs.
Me: You’ve got low rates of teenage pregnancy and mental illness. You’ve got the best public transport infrastructure on earth that can take people to all corners of you quickly and cleanly.
Japan: Yeah, look, you’re totally missing the point.
Me: Sure, you’re not perfect and your financial system isn’t anywhere within driving distance of being in awesome tip-top shape, apparently, but all of the above has continued whilst your economy has “faltered” and “stuttered”. Daily life is still pretty comfortable isn’t it? Has any of this really changed? How have you suffered?
Japan: Well, i’ve been left behind. China’s now the second biggest economy in the world. I’m number three.
Japan: Well, they’ve overtaken me.
Japan: So, well, erm, their economy is bigger than mine.
Me: And that means it’s a better place to live?
Japan: China? God no. Have you seen it? It’s a fantastic mess.
Japan: But their graphs do look good. I mean, you can’t beat looking at an economic graph and statistics for finding out how nice a country is to live in, can you?
Me: Have you ever thought of looking at some other graphs and statistics?
Japan: Hell no. What would that tell me?
Me: Well…who knows?