The Corner

Japan and The Immigration Debate


I would not make too much of the Japan example I raised. Tamar Jacoby

asserted that you can’t have any growth without a growing labor force. I

provided a clear counterexample to refute that particular point. Next! We

are batting ideas around here, not writing position papers.

I am aware of all the bad news about Japan these past few years. I have not

been there myself for some time, but acquaintances who know the country tell

me things are fine, and people have plenty of money in their pockets.

Certainly there is no trace of a hint of a sign that the economic slowdown

this past few years has changed any Japanese minds on the immigration issue.

They just don’t like the idea. While there is a degree of mild hypocrisy

involved — there are in fact lots of foreigners living in Japan, though

nothing like on the US scale — I very seriously doubt you will see

large-scale unskilled immigration into Japan any time soon.

The _Economist_ story I referred to had as its main point the aging of the

Japanese population. The author of the article predicted dire consequences

from this. Maybe, maybe not. It is as well to remember that The

Economist follows a strong “open borders” line in both its editorial and

news coverage.

Conservatives have been waiting for Sweden to collapse from its

“unsustainable” welfare-state spending for, to my certain knowledge, 40

years, yet somewhow the Swedes are still there, and prospering. I wouldn’t

be surprised if the “open borders” proponents have some similar

disappointing experience with Japan.

My impression of Japan, admittedly from a slight acquaintance, is that the

nation is sui generis, and cannot be used to argue any general political

point. The Japanese are just… Japanese. We are Americans, and should

organize affairs according to our own tastes and customs.

On the particular point that economic growth requires always-increasing

inputs of labor, though, Japan’s performance last year offered a

sufficiently good — and, so far as I can see, perfectly irrefutable –

counterexample. Next!