Books by Eamonn Fingleton

Released: Sept. 9, 1999

An economic polemic arguing that the information age is an overblown phenomenon. Fingleton, who has written previously about Japan's manufacturing culture (Blindside, 1995), this time explores the hidden failure of American nonmanufacturing industries (using Japan as his major foil). Singly and in aggregate, the author discounts the apparent successes of the computer software, finance, and entertainment industries, among others. In comparison, he claims, traditional manufacturing industries, such as automobiles and steel, may have weaknesses, but their potential has been unfairly overlooked. Fingleton's main point is simple: manufacturing is an efficient generator of jobs, income, and export wealth. Look at the success of postwar Japan, he invites us, excusing its economic travails of the 1990s as exaggerated by Western powers. Whatever the merits of this argument, they are wounded by Fingleton's unrelenting attack on "postindustrialists," modern bogeymen who tout the wonder of the information economy while ignoring the rusting industries of the past. These demons include named sources—individual economists, futurists, and publications like the Economist and the Wall Street Journal—and amorphous groups such as the media, depicted as dupes and fawning supporters of the postindustrialist mantra. The press, for example, is blamed for portraying manufacturing as a "consistently dull activity worthy only of self-evident second-raters." The author has credible ideas and offers reasonable descriptions of economic activity, yet readers may have difficulty believing someone whose political biases are so flagrantly exhibited. For example, Fingleton's complaint that powerful Microsoft and other software companies are guilty of "exclusionist hiring" seems merely bizarre when we discover that what he means is, these firms insist on hiring very smart people ("workers of average intelligence need not apply"). At the end, the author reveals his hidden agenda: the need to resurrect tariffs, because "good fences make good neighbors." Fingleton's novel promotion of the value of manufacturing is crippled by unbalanced coverage and patronizing insults. Read full book review >
Released: March 20, 1995

An overstated case for the proposition that Japan Inc. has artfully hoodwinked a credulous West about the extent of its economic ambitions. Fingleton, Asia editor of Euromoney magazine, makes many valid points about the differences between Anglo-American free-enterprise capitalism and the mercantilist approach of Japan's government- industrial complex. In an effort to prove that the island nation is engaged in a conspiracy orchestrated by the formidable Ministry of Finance (MOF) to achieve global commercial supremacy, however, the author exaggerates the challenge to a degree that discredits legitimate concerns about Japan's bent for cartels, collusive labor relations, managed trade, encouragement of a high savings rate (at the expense of consumption), and an undervalued yen. Without going into detail, for instance, Fingleton ascribes all five of the postWW II crashes that have convulsed Japan's securities exchanges to cunning plots engineered by the MOF. He only hurts his case with selective attacks on Western publications (notably, The Economist and the Wall Street Journal) and scholars he believes have been gulled into a false sense of security by diabolically clever Japanese bureaucrats. Fingleton ignores a wealth of evidence at odds with his invincibility scenario. Cases in point include the demographic fact that Japan's population is aging at a faster pace than those of other developed countries and its unfortunate record of international investment (in US film studios, real estate, etc.). Overlooked as well is the risk that rivals will eventually take draconian steps against a competitor that desperately needs foreign outlets for a relatively narrow line of export goods but doggedly defends its own turf against significant offshore incursions. Occasionally perceptive but essentially hyperbolic prophecy from the I-alone-can-save-them school of analysis. Read full book review >