Dilbert nails indicative planning

In my Comparative Economic Systems class we discuss indicative planning, a non-coercive system of national planning found in countries like France and Japan.  The controversy surrounding such planning is that the plans never come close to predicting reality.  So what’s the point in spending hundreds (thousands?) of hours on an exercise in futility?


Kevin notes that this comic strip also describes most academic “planning” pretty well too!

The Culture that is Japan: #Ikemen Edition

So the latest Japanese heartthrob is 18 years old, which makes sense, but he’s also around 300 pounds!

Did I mention he’s a gorilla?


Apparently he’s got quite the “come hither” look that is getting his mojo working with Japanese women.

In case you were wondering WWWZS:

“I wish the ape a lot of success
I’m sorry my apartment’s a mess
Most of all I’m sorry if I made you blue
I’m betting the gorilla will, too”

The Culture that is Japan: Tomato-bot edition

Man, Noah Smith keeps trying to convince me that Japan is a normal country, but then stuff like this shows up.


Yes, people, that is a robot that feeds you tomatoes while you are running or exercising!


So much great stuff here. Who knew tomatoes were optimal for re-hydration, as opposed to say, water?

And of course, if you are going to re-hydrate with tomatoes during exercise, why wouldn’t you have a monkey, err robot strapped to your back to feed them to you at prescribed intervals?

I will say this though, that is one fine looking’ robot!

Hat tip to DC.

The culture that is Japan

I’m teaching Comparative Economic Systems this semester and we just finished discussing Japan. Among other things, I had them read Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival, a new and terrific book by David Pilling.  I also had them read selected chapters from an oldie but goodie called Japan: Why It Works, Why It Doesn’t : Economics in Everyday Life (edited by Kazuhiro Igawa, Shyam Sunder, James Mak, and Shigeyuki Abe).  The book was published in 1997 and I really wish the authors had put out a more recent edition, but it still is a fun read.  Here are some of the chapters I had my students read:

Why Do Students Take it Easy at the University?

Why Do Japanese Companies Hire Only Spring Graduates?

Why Are There So Many Small Shops in Japan?

Why is Japan a paradise of vending machines?

Why do ATMS shut down in the evening?

The chapter on vending machines made me curious about what innovation in this industry might have taken place since the book’s publication.  There’s supposedly a machine for every 23 people in the country, so there is a lot of room for creativity.  Here’s one site that lists a lot of cool new vending machines and a couple of my favorites:







You could buy transportation and be set for dinner!

you can’t print babies, but you ought to divide by them

Tyler’s macro experts, Hugh and Scott don’t seem to understand what economic growth is for, or how to measure it.

People, a country with a zero percent change in its overall GDP combined with a shrinking population is actually generating higher living standards for its citizens.

In other words, for most economic purposes, it’s per-capita growth that we should be measuring.

Sure, the raw size of the economy might be a problem for debt ratios and total war, but I’d rather live in an economy with zero change in GDP and a population growth rate of -1% than an economy with a1% growth rate in GDP and a population growth rate of 2%.

Living standards are rising in the first case and falling in the second case.

This is why the worry about, “the Chinese economy may be bigger than the US economy” makes no sense from an economics standpoint. China is still a relatively poor country in terms of income per capita or median income.

Sure, Japan could do a lot of things better. It could be more open to women in the workforce (I think this may be starting to happen). It could be more open to trade and investment.

But it is very very far from being an economic disaster.