THE WEIGHT OF THE YEN by R. Taggart Murphy


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An astute analysis of the dangerously self-serving economic games Japan and the US have been playing over the past 15 years, from an expatriate American investment banker. In mercifully jargon-free fashion, Murphy offers a critical interpretation of the events, strategies, miscalculations, and errors that have brought Tokyo as well as Washington ever closer to a day of financial reckoning. First, however, he delivers a clear-eyed overview of how big business works in Japan, where elite finance bureaucrats (who are accountable to neither the electorate nor its representatives) provide administrative guidance that recipients ignore at their peril. The author goes on to review how the credit and industrial policies of these shadowy shoguns made Japan a power in global trade, albeit at no small cost to its populace. He next examines how Japan's ultra-influential Ministry of Finance allowed indigenous institutions to recycle the vast sums accruing from exports to buy the debt obligations of the US Treasury during the early years of the Reagan administration, when federal budget deficits topped $100 billion. Assessing the consequences of this bailout, Murphy reprises the 1985 Plaza Accord (which laid the value of the dollar far lower than signatories intended) and Wall Street's 1987 crash. Covered as well are the high costs accruing from the collapse of Japan's speculative boom and the unwillingness or inability of American officials to realize that their country's chief lender does not play by the same commercial rules as other nations. By the same token, the author points out, Japan's economic mandarins have yet to appreciate that the Cold War's end has changed a relationship long based on security considerations. Murphy closes with some uncommonly sensible suggestions on how the two superpowers could forsake the ideological denial that threatens their alliance in favor of a realpolitik calculated to inspire cooperation and trust.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0393316572
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton