Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Let Me Know!

I want to see interesting blogs written in English. What is interesting is in that they are related to my interests such as social life, politics and economics. There are so many blogs that I can't find an interesting one. My research skill is inadequate.

If you know that, please let me know. Of course, please introduce your original blog, too. Thank you.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Colon And Semicolon: The Usages

Today's Sunday. So I feel like being free from political topics, sipping an afternoon tea.

As I have said again and again, I'm not a non-native speaker of English. I often don't know how I should compile what I want to say in English. Especially, I wonder how I should use a colon and a semicolon properly, writing an essay. Distinguish them clearly is very important and necessary to write English and to make myself understood correctly.

A colon means:
a punctuation mark ( : ) used after a word introducing a quotation, an explanation, an example, or a series and often after the salutation of a business letter.

I will show an example: She has been to numerous countries: England, France, Spain, to name but a few. The colon used in the above sentence corresponds to the English words, “namely” and “such as”.

A semicolon says:
a mark of punctuation ( ; ) used to connect independent clauses and indicating a closer relationship between the clauses than a period does. For instance, it was six o'clock in the afternoon; the sun was low in the west. Of course, the above sentence can be expressed by two independent ones. If I want to indicate a closer linkage between the two, I use a semicolon to connect them.

I may have made following grammatical mistakes: It is only one year since he began to study French, however, he has already made remarkable progress. You found mistakes? In this case, I have to put a semicolon in front of however like that: …study French; however, he has...

See this site for details.
To sum up, a colon introduces an example whereas a semicolon a close relation.

To this blog’s viewers:
If you have any other comments related to the usages of colon and semicolon, please let me know about that.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tax For Regional Recovery

In Japan, there is a controversial issue on how to do with the economic divide between town and country among policymakers. Major cities in Japan like Tokyo and Osaka are becoming economically larger, regional rural communities shrinking. (Even the economic gap between Tokyo and Osaka is widening; That is, Tokyo is now getting larger and larger whereas Osaka is going more stagnant because of the companies in Osaka leaving to Tokyo and other major cities in Japan.)

Finance Minister Omi is thinking about planning to shift road taxes to general revenues and expending them on reviving regional communities. I think it is a good plan. I hope he will realize the plan. Here's the excerpt:

Saturday, Nov. 25, 2006
Omi eyes tapping road taxes to rev up regional economies
Kyodo News

The government may allocate tax revenues marked for road projects to revitalize regional economies as part of a plan to shift the money to general revenues, Finance Minister Koji Omi said Friday.

In reiterating the government plan to shift revenues from road-related taxes to general revenues, Omi told reporters, "Since there is also a need to revitalize the regional economies, we will address the matter." The Cabinet's priority is to revitalize the regional economies, ....as pledged by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Fiscal System Council, a body that advises the finance minister, also recommended Wednesday that funds from various road-related taxes, including the gasoline tax and the automobile acquisition tax, be used to cover general expenses.

The rates of the road-linked taxes, which include state and local levies, have been roughly doubled since 1974 in order to carry out road projects across Japan.

Some ruling party lawmakers strongly oppose the plan, saying tax rates should be returned to previous levels if the revenues are used for projects other than road-related ones.

However, why do some politicians oppose such an epoch-making plan? Here's my conjecture: It is because they benefit from the road-related services. They protect their special interests because they want to keep the votes of the people who engage in the road-related services like constructors and staffs employed by road agencies. In economic words, this is a kind of rent-seeking.

I don't blame such politicians for seeking not national interests but their own special interests. I expect most of them will not be supported because many people come to realize that they do the political activities for not national interests but themselves. This may be a sort of the effects of Koizumi structural reforms.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

More Lawyers Are Bad For Lawyers Themselves, But Good For Consumers

According to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), the number of lawyer would grow from 22,000 in 2006 to 123, 484 in 2056, 5.6 times as many as today's lawyers, because of the reform of the National Bar Examination. (See above the figure. The vertical axis shows the number of justice, public prosecutor and lawyer, and the horizontal axis year.) Many lawyers are worried about their own future.

What's the effect of the increase in lawyer? To answer this question, we need some basic principles of economics. Today's topic is about the impact of an increase in lawyer on our society and life. I'll tell you about some of the effects from the perspective of elementary economics ― a supply-demand diagram.

An increase in lawyer, translated into economics idea, means the rightward shift of the supply curve of lawyer. The demand for lawyer unchanged, the number of lawyer increases and the price of lawyer decreases. What's the meaning of a decrease in the price of lawyer? For example, it is thought to be a legal consultation fee. In Japan, consulting with lawyer costs about US$40 per half hour. I don't know whether it is expensive. An increase in lawyer would push down the fee and thus pay him or her less. (Of course, consulting with very popular and competent lawyer would cost higher than with normal one, because the demand for very popular one is higher.)

Lower payment for lawyer leads to high benefit for the customer, however. Lower price of lawyer may increase the demand for lawyer. This problem has something to do with what sort of goods lawyer offers: The demand is less likely to be sensitive to the downward change of price because not all the services offered by lawyer are luxury goods. And so, in an economics term, the elasticity of the demand to the price change would be relatively smaller. (Employing a very famous and talented lawyer may be no better than using luxury goods. And then the elasticity may be larger.) What does a small elasticity imply? A smaller elasticity of demand indicates that the demand curve slopes steeper. If the supply of lawyer increases(the supply curve shifts rightward), the price of lawyer's services would decrease even more because of a steeper slope of the demand curve. This is a worse thing to lawyer.

From the viewpoint of "welfare economics", on the condition that the market is highly competitive, the surplus of lawyer (a producer surplus) gets smaller and the surplus of the costomer (a consumer surplus) larger if the supply shifts to the right. In other words, lawyer earns less and becomes unhappier and, at the same time, the costomer benefits more and happier. It is easier for consumer to take the legal services offered by lawyer when he or she faces the problems of domestic violence, divorce, company set-up and so on. At last, the total surplus (a social welfare; something like an index of happiness of all the members in a society)increases and thus the market outcome is socially efficient. That is, everyone in our society gets much better and happier than usual, at least except the lawyer.

To my analysis, an increase in lawyer is a very good thing to everyone in our society, of course, including me and except lawyer. I approve of increasing lawyers because I am not a lawyer.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Washington's Concern For the Asian Union

Washington is wary of an initiative for East Asia's economic integration. Increasing economic integration in the East Asia region seems to be the next engine of world economic growth. Losing the initiative would lessen the influence of the U.S. on this region.

See the relevant excerpt:

Taku Iwaki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 9, 2006

..... The United States reportedly wants to give a boost to the idea by having the APEC members agree to enter into a joint study on an FTAAP, looking into hurdles that will have to be surmounted for the realization of an all-inclusive free trade agreement as well as the merits of such an accord for about one year.

.....In East Asia, China has been strengthening its economic influence by concluding free trade agreements with ASEAN.

Japan, for its part, also has proposed its own initiatives for concluding an East Asian Economic Partnership Agreement and setting up an East Asian version of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Multilateral talks on the initiatives have begun, involving 16 countries--the 10 ASEAN member states, Japan, China and South Korea as well as Australia, India and New Zealand. The APEC region and East Asia have the world's leading high-growth emerging economies such as China, India and Russia.

From the U.S. perspective, it is the most realistic to make the best use of APEC to keep itself part of Asian economic integration. A Japanese government source said Washington is apparently trying to use APEC as leverage to open up the Asian market. .....However, China, which has been increasing its economic sway over ASEAN, has been reacting strongly against U.S. involvement. In 2004, China proposed an East Asia Free Trade Area plan, including ASEAN, Japan, China and South Korea. Against this backdrop, Beijing been insisting that trade liberalization in the ASEAN plus Three zone--which includes Japan, China and South Korea--should precede the conclusion of an APEC-wide free trade accord.

According to the above article, the APEC region and East Asia have the world's leading emerging economies such as China, India and Russia.

To sum up, the aims of the U.S. are thought to be:

(1) The U.S. wants to make the best use of APEC to keep itself part of Asian economic integration.

(2) The U.S. wants to try to use APEC as leverage to open up the Asian high-growth emerging market.

The U.S. economy will go into stagnation in the long run because of the increase in the aging people in the U.S., as well as in many other developed countries like Japan. Although the number of incoming foreign people is now ingreasing in the U.S., it is uncertain for them to be the main engine of this country's economic growth. In theory, increasing population would lead to high economic growth. However it is only in the short run. In the long run, as the Solow-Swan model says, an increase in people does not lead to persistent high growth but technological progress does. It is uncertain whether they contribute to the advance of production technology and the accumulation of high-tech knowledge in the U.S.

If most immigrants are from low-income countries like Mexico and other South American countries, they would be less educated and less skilled, and thus it would cost very much for the U.S. local or federal government to provide them with fundamental educations, medical care, unemployment insurance and any other social services. They are generally thought to earn so less that they can't pay taxes. Therefore the presence of them may be the big fiscal burden to the U.S. economy.

From this perspective, the Washington's aim is obvious: the U.S. joins the growing Asia market to enhance its export to it. It sells more goods and services to the region and increases the demand for the products by the U.S. and internal employment. By doing so, the U.S. can keep its economic growth so sustainable as to finance the "civil minimum" of the social security for low-income immigrans and elder people.

So far the U.S. economy has been so large that it has been less related to the rest of the world. However Washington begins to feel seriously the necessity of joining the booming market in the world, facing its expected economic stagnation. Washington's concern for the international integration in the East Asia region stands for the awareness that "we can't live alone in a globalized world any longer" . In this regard, the U.S. is not the super-largest country any more in the world. This case shows that Washington comes to realize it.