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Rising Sun ()

As incredible as it seems now, it really was just a few years ago that America's intellectual elites worked themselves up into a tizzy over the ascendancy and supposed pending world dominance of Japan.  Several factors contributed to this phenomenon.  First, there was the general feeling (hope) on the Left that the U.S. was in decline, perhaps best expressed in Paul Kennedy's best-selling Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (see Orrin's review).  Second was the fact that Japan's centrally planned economy appealed to many on the Left, who hoped to see the U. S. adopt a similar system.  Third, let's face it, was a persistent strain of anti-Asian racism in American society.  Though Germany and Japan shared many qualities in the late 80's, it was Japan's rise in particular which was greeted hysterically.  It is no coincidence that while German immigrants faced a significant degree of ethnic animosity during WWI, though little or none during WWII, it was Japanese-Americans who were actually rounded up and put in concentration camps after Pearl Harbor was bombed.  Oddly enough, despite the American Left's generally impressive record on racial matters, both the internments of WWII and the outbreak of Japanophobia in the late 80's were led by the Left.  I can't explain this blind spot, but it's interesting to note that it persists in the diametrically different ways in which the Left today treats Castro's Cuba as opposed to Red China, the last two remaining outposts of communism, advocating a lifting of sanctions on Cuba, while seeking to deny China a range of Free Trade opportunities.  At any rate, whatever it's causes, it was less than a decade ago that intellectuals, academics and politicians joined together to proclaim that Japan was the next superpower and that America would be left in her wake.

Today, with the American economy in the best shape that any economy has ever been in and Japan's economy a complete mess, these doomsday predictions can correctly be seen as ridiculous.  But even at the time they were being made, calmer heads perceived the endemic weaknesses confronting Japan.  The best book from the period was Bill Emmott's The Sun Also Sets, in which he pointed out many problems with Japan's economic system.  Having not read the book in many years, I don't recall whether all of the following come from his discussion of the issues, but problems included   :

    (1) Lack of natural resources

    (2) Lack of a military

    (3) Low birth rate and aging population

    (4) Hostility towards immigrants

all of which are pretty self evident.  But more significant were the factors which were conventionally perceived as strengths which properly understood were really weaknesses:

    (5) Japan's high rate of personal savings, though understood to reflect frugality, actually derived
    from the complete absence of other outlets for consumers.  With no opportunity to buy a home and
    no need for a car, the citizenry had nothing else to do with their money but to put it into low-yield
    savings accounts.

    (6) Extensive trade barriers, which on an artificial level seemed to protect Japanese industries,
    actually stifled competition and drove up prices for domestic consumers.

    (7) The homogenous population and practically one-party government, which were thought to
    provide stability and societal cohesion, predictably lead to stasis, insularity, and corruption.

    (8) The conformity and obedience which made for such a good workforce also made for a
    supremely unimaginative people.  Japan became an economic force by manufacturing high quality
    products cheaply, but the products themselves were invented elsewhere, mostly here.  This was
    double trouble because there were several other nations (Korea, Taiwan, etc.) with equally
    disciplined labor corps, capable of meeting the same quality standards, and willing to work for
    lower wages.  But more importantly, as the world economy moved from the old heavy
    manufacturing model towards one based on intellectual capital, Japan found itself unable to

    (9) and, of course, centralized planning, as is recognized by all except intellectuals (see Orrin's
    review of F. A. Hayek's Road to Serfdom), is so inefficient that it is almost entirely unresponsive to
    any changing circumstances, but especially to such an enormous paradigm shift.  If no one, or very
    few, even recognize or understand what's going on in the economy, how are a few bureaucrats
    supposed to intelligently direct the economy.

These factors all combined to make it obvious to anyone who was not caught up in the mania of the moment that and was not ideologically committed to authoritarian government, that, far from being the next dominant world power, Japan was headed for a precipitous decline.  All of which brings us to another trend-sucking bestseller by Michael Crichton.

Rising Sun is an interesting mystery, a fascinating clash of cultures, and a completely over-the-top anti-Japan polemic--kind of like Robert Ludlum interspersed with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  As the detectives pursue their murder investigation, characters launch into extended disquisitions on the cunning and the treacherous business practices of the Japanese.  As a result,  a competent techno-thriller ends up being buried in so much pedantry, and what's worse, inaccurate pedantry, that the most compelling reason to read it now is that it serves as a reasonably entertaining proof of one of our central tenets here at Brothers Judd : the accepted wisdom is always wrong.  Read it to be reminded of how little attention you should pay to the ideological ravings of our intellectual elites.


Grade: (C)


See also:

Michael Crichton (3 books reviewed)
Michael Crichton Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Michael Crichton
    -AUTHOR SITE: The Official Michael Crichton Website
    -CARICATURE: Michael Crichton (David Levine, NY Review of Books)
    -The New York Times > Movies > People > Michael Crichton
    -AUTHOR/BOOK SITE: - State of Fear
    -BOOK SITE: State of Fear (Harper Collins)
    -State of Fear (Wikipedia)
    -SPEECH: Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century (Michael Crichton, November 6, 2005, at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C.)
    -LECTURE: "Aliens Cause Global Warming" (A lecture by Michael Crichton, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, January 17, 2003)
    -SPEECH: Remarks to the Commonwealth Club (Michael Crichton, San Francisco, September 15, 2003)
    -REVIEW: of Slaughterhouse Five (Michael Crichton, New Republic)
    -PROFILE: Michael Crichton Takes on Global Warming in Latest Work: Author Says Environmentalists Are 'Fomenting False Fears' (JOHN STOSSEL, Dec. 10, 2004, 20/20)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview: Global warming? Now that really is fiction (Jasper Gerard, 1/02/05, Sunday Times of London)
    -PROFILE: Jurassic Park author pours cold water on global warming: Michael Crichton's new techno thriller fantasises a world free of the pall of greenhouse gases (Patrick Barkham, December 11, 2004, The Guardian)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Michael Crichton's 'State of Fear' (NPR Science Friday, January 7, 2005)
    -ESSAY: Fear of reason (Gregory Benford and Martin Hoffert, San Diego Union Tribune)
    -ESSAY: Global Warming? Hot Air (George F. Will, December 23, 2004, Washington Post)
    -ESSAY: Answers to Key Questions Raised by M. Crichton in State of Fear (Pew Center on Global Climate Change)
    -ESSAY: Fear Factoids: Michael Crichton debunks global warming in his latest thriller. Bill McKibben says the book's bunk. (Bill McKibben, March 2005, Outside Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Michael Crichton's 'State of Fear': Fact and Fiction on Global Warming (Alan Caruba Monday, January 17, 2005, Chron Watch)
    -ESSAY: Toro! Toro! Michael Crichton (Donald W. Miller, Jr., MD,
    -ESSAY: Some Like It Hot: Forty public policy groups have this in common: They seek to undermine the scientific consensus that humans are causing the earth to overheat. And they all get money from ExxonMobil (Chris Mooney, May/June 2005, Mother Jones)
    -REVIEW: of Sphere by Michael Crichton (Robin McKinley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Travels by Michael Crichton (Patricia Bosworth, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Rising Sun by Michael Crichton (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Disclosure by Michael Crichton (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Lost World by Michael Crichton (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Lost World by Michael Crichton (MIM UDOVITCH, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Airframe by Michael Crichton (Tom Shone, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Airframe (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Timeline by Michael Crichton (DANIEL MENDELSOHN, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Timeline (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Prey by Michael Crichton (Jim Holt, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Prey (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Prey (Freeman J. Dyson, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Prey (Reviews of Books)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: State Of Fear by Michael Crichton (MetaCritic)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: State of Fear (Reviews of Books)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (BRUCE BARCOTT, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Steve Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (S.T. Karnick, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Sam Leith, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Blake Hurst, American Enterprise)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear(Read Mercer Schuchardt, Christianity Today)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (RONALD BAILEY, Opinion Journal)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Ronald Bailey, Reason)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Carol Memmott, USA TODAY)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Sacha Zimmerman, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (James Wilson, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Chris Mooney, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Charley Reese,
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Jennie Bristow, Spiked)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (David Kipen, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Allan Walton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Myron Ebell, Human Events)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Dr. Jeffrey M. Masters, Chief Meteorologist, The Weather Underground, Inc.)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (David Roberts, Grist)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (NRDC)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Kenneth Green, Tech Central Station)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Joseph L. Bast, The Heartland Institute)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Amy Ridenour, National Policy Analysis)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (S. Fred Singer,
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Peter Guttridge, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Iain Murray, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Robert Zirkelbach, Townhall)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (Jeff Glorfeld, The Age)
    -REVIEW: of State of Fear (gavin, Real Climate)
    -ARTICLE: Experiment probes climate riddle (Richard Black, 1/19/06, BBC News)

Book-related and General Links:
    -The Official Web Site of Michael Crichton
    -Michael Crichton Filmography
    -A Michael Crichton Website
    -REVIEW: of   RISING SUN By Michael Crichton  (Robert Nathan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Rising Sun By Michael Crichton  (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT , NY Times)
    -REVIEW: Ian Buruma: It Can't Happen Here, NY Review of Books
        Rising Sun by Michael Crichton
    -REVIEW: of Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (Adam Lesh, Dusty Shelf)
    -REVIEW: ( Dylon Whyte , Books for those Busy Signal Blues)
    -REVIEW: of Timeline By Michael Crichton (Daniel Mendelsohn , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW:  Louis Menand: Between Planes, NY Review of Books
        Airframe by Michael Crichton
    -REVIEW: of Airframe By Michael Crichton (Tom Shone, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of TRAVELS By Michael Crichton (Patricia Bosworth, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: R.C. Lewontin: The Last of the Nasties?, NY Review of Books
        The Lost World by Michael Crichton
    -REVIEW: of THE LOST WORLD By Michael Crichton  (Mim Udovitch, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of   THE LOST WORLD By Michael Crichton (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of  Disclosure By Michael Crichton (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT , NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of   DISCLOSURE By Michael Crichton (Maureen Dowd, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: A Man. A Woman. Just a Movie. Not a Polemic (BERNARD WEINRAUB, Special to The New York Times)
    -REVIEW: Stephen Jay Gould: Dinomania, NY Review of Books
        Jurassic Park directed by Steven Spielberg, screenplay by Michael Crichton, and David Koepp
        The Making of Jurassic Park by Don Shay and Jody Duncan
        Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
    -REVIEW: of Jurassic Park By Michael Crichton  (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of   Jurassic Park By Michael Crichton   (Gary Jennings, NY Times Book Review)
    -STUDY GUIDE: LESSON PLANS FOR THE NOVEL "JURASSIC PARK"  Instructor:   Jim Wasielewski  Location: Vacaville High School
    -REVIEW: of    SPHERE By Michael Crichton (Robin McKinley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Thomas R. Edwards: People in Trouble, NY Review of Books
        The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton
        Open Heart by Frederick Buechner
        Enemies, A Love Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer

    -Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library
    -The Japan Economic Institute of America
    -Japan Information Access Project
    -ESSAY: Asian Values and the Asian Crisis: Do the nations of the East have a distinct cultural identity, and is it the source either of their rapid econmic growth or of their current financial rupture? (Francis Fukuyama, Commentary)
    -ESSAY : Is Japan Out to Get Us?  (Robert B. Reich, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : TAKING STOCK: IS AMERICA IN DECLINE? (Peter Schmeisser, NY Times Magazine)
    -ESSAY : After the Cold War, the Land of the Rising Threat  (EDWIN McDOWELL, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : Blindside revisited: the case stands lindside: Why Japan Is Still on Track to Overtake the U.S. by the Year 2000  (Eamonn Fingleton)
    -REVIEW : of THE ENIGMA OF JAPANESE POWER People and Politics in a Stateless Nation By Karel van Wolferen (Frank B. Gibney, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of TRADING PLACES How We Allowed Japan to Take the Lead. By Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr (Jeffrey E. Garten, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of TRADING PLACES How We Allowed Japan to Take the Lead. By Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt , NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of AGENTS OF INFLUENCE By Pat Choate  (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt , NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of AGENTS OF INFLUENCE By Pat Choate (Jeffrey E. Garten, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE END OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY By Steven Schlossstein ( Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of HEAD TO HEAD The Coming Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe, and America. By Lester Thurow (Adam Smith, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of INVENTING JAPAN The Making of a Postwar Civilization. By William Chapman (Joel Dreyfuss, NY Times Book Review)

   -TJFR Business News Reporter: Journalist Profile[tm]: Bill Emmott, The Economist
   -BOOKNOTES: Japanophobia: The Myth of the invincible Japanese by Bill Emmott (C-SPAN, February 13, 1994)
   -REVIEW: of Japanophobia (Oren Grad, Reason)
    -REVIEW: of 20:21 Vision By Bill Emmott (Lee Gaillard , SF Chronicle)
   The future is American: a review of 20:21 Vision: the Lessons of the 20th Century for the 21st by Bill Emmott (Martin Vander Weyer, Daily Telegraph)
   -REVIEW: of 20:21 Vision: the Lessons of the 20th Century for the 21st by Bill Emmott (G. S. Rousseau, Spectator)
    -REVIEW : of THE SUN ALSO SETS The Limits to Japan's Economic Power. By Bill Emmott (Joel Dreyfuss, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of JAPANOPHOBIA The Myth of the Invincible Japanese. By Bill Emmott (Alan M. Webber, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Japanophobia (Oren Grad, Reason)
    -BOOKNOTES : Author: Bill Emott  Title: Japanophobia  Air date: February 13, 1994  (C-SPAN)
    -INTERVIEW : Classical Liberalism: Anti-Utopian : An interview by Robert Nef with Bill Emmott, Editor of "The Economist", London
    -ESSAY : On the yellow brick road : What might the 21st century bring? Some clues can be found by looking at the ebb and flow of the 20th (Bill Emmott, The Economist) The future is American: a review of 20:21 Vision: the Lessons of the 20th Century for the 21st by Bill Emmott (Martin Vander Weyer, Daily Telegraph)