Tweet Me

With the G-20 summit over the anarchist protesters who it seems were protesting their right to burn shit and smash the windows of popular brand stores have gone home. While legitimate protesters were drowned out or depending on your view the media focused on the Anarchists over those with a real message to send. One of the main groups that attends these events are the anti-IMF protesters who try and stop the IMF policies towards developing nations. As Chalmers Johnson points out in one of his books in the American Empire Project most of the newly developed countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and of course Japan raised their living standards to industry levels because they had protectionist barriers that blocked free trade and protected their developing industries. These industries were only possible because they “acquired”, “stole”, “were given” the necessary technology to create them. The IMF does the exact opposite, forcing developing countries to open their markets, eliminate social programs and take on huge debts that will be difficult to pay off in the future. The developed nations like Japan support these IMF policies as it allows greater access to market Japanese products. Japan is one of the worst when it comes to opening up to foreign trade.

Japanese pay 10 times more for their stable food, rice

One of the biggest and most commonly harped upon industry is Japan’s Farming sector. The agriculture industry in Japan is even now both inefficient and an economic failure. It wouldn’t have survived until now without protection and import restrictions. Japan has and still makes its citizens pay 10 times more for their stable food, rice, than they should in order to protect the small town farmer who through a skewed voting system wields huge power whenever the country goes to the polls.

Of the almost 4500 hemophiliacs in Japan 2,000 contracted AIDS

Another more tragic example of protectionism is directly related to Japan’s new Prime Minister, Naoto Kan. In the mid-90s Kan uncovered the huge HIV-tainted blood scandal. American medical companies had discovered in the 80s that AIDS was being transferred via donated blood contaminated with the virus. They had developed a new heating method that would kill off the AIDS virus. They offered to sell their new AIDS-free blood products in Japan but the one of the largest Japanese blood product company lobbied to have foreign blood banned so that they could develop their own blood heating technology. Knowing that there was a possibility that AIDS patients were donating blood and tainting the nation’s blood system the Japanese government gave the go ahead to start from scratch to develop a Japanese heating system. The inevitable happened and in the years it took to create a viable heating treatment the AIDS virus made it into Japan’s blood system and thousands were infected with the AIDS virus. Of the almost 4500 hemophiliacs in Japan (a disease that requires constant blood infusions) about 2,000 contracted AIDS.

these experiments can pay upwards of $10,000 a week

Another medical related field that is protected from outside competition is the drug and pharmaceutical outfits. The pharmaceutical industry has convinced the Japanese government that the Japanese are a special race that drugs affect differently thus a lot of medications are delayed entry into the Japanese market until they are “proven” safe to those of the unique Japanese race. Foreign drugs manufacturers have tried to get around this impasse by having special Japanese clinical trials. In these trials a group of foreigners (they only use Europeans as Japanese and Europeans are close to the top on the racial totem pole in the eyes of government officials) takes a drug that has already been approved in the States or Europe. At the same time a Japanese group takes the same drug. If both groups have the same side effects and results the drug will be fast tracked to approval in Japan. This has created a little cottage industry of healthy white males who take part in these experiments earning upwards of $10,000 a week.

Overhead lines are never a good idea – both for practical, safety and aesthetic reasons

Another case of Japanese protectionism is something you see everyday. Walk out your door in Japan and you’re struck with the amount of overhead power lines that connect every house to the power grid. In an earthquake these overhead lines are a disaster just waiting to happen as they will fall on the road and block emergency vehicles as well as electrocuting any unsuspecting passerby. Overhead lines are never a good idea – both for practical, safety and aesthetic reasons. But why not bury them? There is a claim that it is cheaper to leave them overhead indeed this bears out as developed nations would love to bury their power lines but can’t afford to. But this is Japan: a country which revolves around constructing and repairing public infrastructure.  Often it seems like the whole country is employed as public works employees. Indeed Japan can afford it but they don’t move forward because then one of the most powerful and most protected industries in Japan would be affected; the concrete Industry. The concrete lobby has such a big market for its concrete; be it power poles or creating government policy where it is decided that whole mountainsides and beaches should be paved over. No wonder that the concrete syndicate has deep connections with the former ruling party, the LDP.

The Japanese ski manufacturers even tried to convince the government that Japanese snow was unique in the world and that only Japanese made skies would be able to function, luckily common sense ruled that day (a rarity in Japan). Even though Japan is one of the most protected countries, trade wise, in the world. It is not the only one to protect its industries. America coddles its powerful farm lobby too with massive government subsidies and Canada supports its airline manufacturing companies above and beyond what it should. But telling developing nations that they have to open their markets and infant industries in order to receive vital capital is wrong and hypocritical.