Saturday, June 30, 2007

Translated To Nine Languages

This Taro's blog has begun to be translated into 9 foreign languages. You can enjoy another language's version of Taro's blog. It is translated by the Google Translate.

I saw the Japanese version of Taro's blog. However, the Japanese in it is broken and very hard for the Japanese to read. Similarly the other languages may be also broken. You can also enjoy broken another language's version of Taro's blog!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fujimori Took The Plunge

At last Mr. Fujimori will run the election in July.

By KANA INAGAKI Associated Press Writer
AP Photo/Santiago Llanquin

-- Disgraced Peruvian ex-President Alberto Fujimori will run in the July election for Japan's parliament despite being under house arrest in Chile, he said Thursday via telephone with the head of his Japanese political party.

Fujimori said he had accepted the request to run for the People's New Party in the upper house elections in a talk with party chief Shizuka Kamei.

"I will run as a proportional representational candidate for the People's New Party to work for Asian diplomacy, on the North Korea problem and for the safety of the Japanese public," Fujimori said in a phone conversation that Kamei hooked a speaker to so the audience in Tokyo could hear it.

Kamei said he wanted Fujimori - who holds Japanese citizenship - to put "his knowledge, rich experience and reputation" to use in Japan. "I strongly hope Mr. Fujimori, as the last samurai, will add vigor to today's Japanese society, which lacks courage, confidence and benevolence," he said.

Fujimori, 68, is under house arrest in Chile. Neighboring Peru wants to try him on charges including bribery, misuse of government funds and sanctioning death squad killings during his decade-long rule, which ended in 2000.
The PNP plans to ask the Foreign Ministry and the Japanese government to help ensure Fujimori can engage in electoral activities, and requests that Chile allow him to return, Kamei said.

Kiichi Miyazawa Died

Ex-Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, died at 87. He was highly evaluated as a statesman not only in Japan but also in the US.

6月28日16時47分配信 読売新聞

 宮沢喜一(みやざわ・きいち)元首相が、28日午後1時16分、老衰のため、東京都渋谷区神宮前6の34の1の自宅で死去した。87歳だった。 宮沢氏は自主憲法制定を綱領に掲げる自民党にあって、護憲、平和路線を追及する「ハト派」の中心的存在だった。 首相としては、自衛隊を初めて国連平和維持活動(PKO)に派遣し、その後の日本の外交戦略の方向を示した。政治改革をめぐっては自民党の分裂を招き、結党後初の野党転落に直面したが、経済危機の中で蔵相として再登板するなど、その後も活躍を続けた。 2003年衆院選の際、小泉首相の要請を受けて衆院議員を引退した後も党の新憲法起草などに関わった。

Japan's dovish ex-PM Miyazawa dies at 87
By Linda SiegReutersThursday, June 28, 2007; The Washington Post

TOKYO (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, whose career stretched from Japan's defeat in World War Two through the 1990s "lost decade" of economic stagnation, died on Thursday at the age of 87, his office said.

A finance expert at ease on the world stage and a diplomatic dove keen on better ties with Asia, Miyazawa first served as finance minister from 1986 to 1988, when low interest rates fuelled soaring stock and land prices.

He was forced to resign the post over a shares-for-favors scandal that ensnared his party -- only to return as prime minister just three years later.

For some, Miyazawa's most enduring image was captured in 1992 when he cradled the head of U.S. President George Bush in his lap after Bush collapsed at a state banquet in Tokyo.

But his tenure in Japan's top job was cut short in 1993 when ruling party rebels backed a no-confidence motion. That sparked an election in which scandal-weary voters ousted the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party briefly for the only time in its five-decade reign.
Five years later, Miyazawa -- then a sprightly 78 -- was drafted for a rare second term as finance minister in an effort to avert a banking crisis in the world's second-biggest economy.

"I am not sure I will live up to your expectations, but I will do my best," the elder statesman said at the time. Within weeks, Miyazawa was jetting off to the United States for consultations and jousting at home with young lawmakers in both ruling and opposition parties who insisted on putting teeth into his plans for a painless banking bailout.

Ultimately, a financial system rescue was enacted, but it took another five years before Japan's banks were cleansed of the bad loan legacy from the collapse of the late 1980s asset bubble.

An aide in the Japanese delegation that negotiated the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty formally ending World War Two, Miyazawa was elected to parliament in 1953 and held many key cabinet posts. A fluent English speaker, he had close personal ties to America -- he met his Japanese wife while studying there, and his daughter is married to a U.S. diplomat.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Immigration And Emigration

Moving around
Jun 25th 2007 From

MORE people are moving to OECD countries than ever before. ...Since the turn of the century, the rate of immigration countries has been surpassed by that of emigration countries. Booming Ireland is an exemplar of this trend.
Immigration countries: Austria, Australia, Britain, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United States
Emigration countries: Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain

What caught my eye is that Japan is one of the emigration countries in the world. Most of the countries in the above list seem to be less developed than Japan. Why are the people in Japan leaving for another country though Japan is one of the most developed and affluent countries in the world?

Is Japan difficult to live in? The other day I saw a woman from Florida saying that the prices were high and rooms were small in Japan. She didn't seem to like Japan and said that she planed to go back to America the next year.

I also think that Japan isn't good to live in because the prices are higher than those in other countries. An affluent society may not be necessarily a good place to live in. It is not analytically clear, but the difficulty in living in Japan may keep some people from staying in Japan.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Carbon Tax vs. Carbon Auction

My favorite economist, Greg Mankiw, is an advocate of the Pigovian tax such as a carbon tax. The Pigovian tax, which is named after Auther Pigou, a prominent British economist, aims to internalize optimally negative externalities such like the emission of carbon dioxide. That's a today's topic:

The Best Idea for Reducing Global Warming
It's not a carbon tax and it's not a cap-and-trade system. It's a carbon auction.
Robert B. Reich June 20, 2007 web only

The best idea I've heard so far to deal with global warming is not a carbon tax. I can't imagine any politician calling for higher taxes affecting the middle class, or for that matter the middle class -- already squeezed by high energy prices and stagnant wages -- putting up with it.

....The best idea I've heard is described as a carbon auction. Companies would have to bid for the right to pollute. And, most ingeniously, the money raised in the auction would be shared equally by all citizens in the form of yearly dividend checks -- just like the residents of Alaska now get yearly dividends for their share of the state's oil revenues.

....In a carbon auction, companies would have to bid against other companies for a portion of the atmosphere they intend to use -- within overall limits that reduce pollution levels.

Get it? It's a win-win. The auction market itself determines who can pollute and by how much. And since companies will inevitably want to reduce their bidding costs, they'll search for new technologies that cut their emissions. And even if companies pass on increased costs to their customers, we'll still be better off because we'll get dividend checks and cleaner air.

This column is adapted from Reich's weekly commentary on American Public Radio's Marketplace.

To sum up his idea on reducing global warming:

(1) He's not for a carbon tax because higher taxes hit the middle class.

(2) He's for a carbon auction because the money raised in the auction would be shared equally by all citizens in the form of yearly dividend checks.

According to his views (1) and (2), he talks of a carbon tax and auction not in terms of efficiency but equity. What's the matter in his statement? To reduce global warming, a carbon tax and a carbon auction will be both effective measures. Rather to reduce the gap between the middle class and the executive class, a carbon auction might be more effective, as Reich says. However, there's no guarantee for the money to be shared equally among all the citizens. The companies that sell the right for the emission of carbon dioxide to other companies will get much of the revenue. It seems few citizens will get it. Because there's no incentive to have them equally get the money raised in the auction.

The Pigovian tax as well as the auction will let market determine who can pollute and by how much. And since companies (and consumers) want to reduce their payment of the tax on the emission of carbon dioxide, they'll search for new technologies that cut their emissions. And even if companies pass on increased costs to their customers, we'll still be better off because we'll get cleaner air.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why Japanese Women Talk To Themselves?

Are the Japanese women tired from working? Or from some personal reasons? I don't know the true explanations, but the following article caught my eye.

40% of young Japanese women talk to their computers, survey claims

Mainichi June 23, 2007

Two in five Japanese women in their 20s or 30s talk to their personal computer, according to a survey by mail forwarding company iShare Inc. and toymaker Sega Toys Co.

Young women are also likely to talk to themselves during times of high stress, or when they do something wrong, the survey reckons. Other computer-related habits include decorating their computers or work areas with stuffed toys, and in a few cases giving their computers names.
Of the 410 women in their 20s or 30s surveyed, 40.5 percent said that they talk to their computer.

....Talking to oneself at regular times was also common, with 59.2 percent of those surveyed saying that they did it. Stress was a frequent trigger for women to start talking to themselves, such as when caught driving behind a slow driver or upon making a mistake. Some women even said they started talking to themselves at times for no particular reason. Women who talked to themselves commonly felt "lonely" or "disgusted with themselves," according to the probe.

If you visit Japan, you might see some women talking to themselves in the street. In fact a few years ago I saw a young woman talking to herself at Ueno Station when I visited Tokyo, the capital of Japan. Of course, you may also see some men talking to themselves. Talking to oneself is not related to sex, I guess, but women seem to be more likely to talk to themselves than men.

Stress, the above article says, was a frequent reason for women to start talking to themselves, such as when caught driving behind a slow driver or upon making a mistake. The Japanese women may suffer much stress from their everyday workplace and life. And they may not know how to relax themselves by themselves. This may be the reason that aromatherapy has become so popular among them.

This is a trifling worry, if the men had some causes for the women to suffer stress, I might have to apologize to them in behalf of many of the Japanese men, "I'm sorry".

Well, anyway, I think this case should be researched more because it is thought to be closely related to the Japanese mental health.

You Want To Kill Yourself?

Elusive, but not always unstoppable
Jun 21st 2007 From The Economist print edition

....suicide is a mysterious phenomenon; it defies generalisations. Emile Durkheim, the father of modern sociology, wrote in 1897 that suicide rates were a key sign of the state of a community. It was commonest, he reckoned, at two extremes—highly controlled societies, or loose, atomised ones. Since then, his successors have filled thousands of books with theories about what makes people take their own lives: the negative factors which remove the desire to live, and the positive ones that can make self-killing an attractive or even “fashionable” option. new trend that is clearly pushing the real incidence of suicide up is the growing use of the internet to learn about, plan or even encourage self-killing. ...Nowhere are such internet deaths more common than where they started—in Japan, whose suicide rate has long been among the highest of never-communist developed countries. Japan is a conformist society, and life, it is said, is bleak for those who do not fit in. It has a tradition of self-killing, which in some forms, such as the ritualised seppuku (“belly-cutting”) of the samurai, may still be deemed honourable, even noble. Public figures shamed by scandal often kill themselves.

....South Korea, too, has seen a new wave of such suicides. It, like Japan, is a country in which the young find themselves under huge pressure to succeed, and most internet pacts involve young people. Unlike Japan, however, South Korea does not have a long tradition of self-inflicted death. Two decades ago it had a fairly low suicide rate (under ten per 100,000 in the 1980s), but now it has one of the world's highest (24.7 in 2005).

...Certain differences can be readily explained. China is one of the few countries in which more women kill themselves than men. Over half the world's female suicides are Chinese; among Chinese under 45, the female rate is twice the rate among males. Why should things be different in China? Part of the explanation clearly lies in the high rate among rural women, which in turn may be partially explained by the ready availability of poisons (weedkillers and pesticides), and the absence of any effective treatment. Similar apparent anomalies may be explained by the ready availability of other poisons. Many Sri Lankans kill themselves by eating the seeds of the yellow oleander, a common shrub.
.....Measures can be taken to make it harder for people to kill themselves. ....In countries like Britain, suicide rates have fallen significantly thanks to legislation that allows drugs such as paracetamol to be sold only in small quantities. ...Some Indian states pay bereaved families compensation for the loss of a breadwinner who has killed himself; this seems to increase the suicide rate.

....Worldwide, indeed, suicide rates have increased by 60% in the past 45 years. About 1m people a year die at their own hands. Too many of these deaths are avoidable.

Have you ever thought of committing suicide? Happily I've never. And unhappily many people have thought of taking their own lives and in fact many of them have killed themselves. Suicide is an unhappy event. I am wondering what it is for when I see the articles of suicide in the newspaper.

But in my country, Japan, it seems that suicide tends to be traditionally beautified. I don't like this tendency and I think it immoral in terms of social norm and manner. Suicide gives nothing good to us. It is not taken pride in that the suicide rate in Japan has long been among the highest of never-communist developed countries.

As Emile Durkheim said, suicide rates were a key sign of the state of a community. It is right. And it is surprising that different countries have different ways of committing suicide. What is more, internet deaths are more common in today's society. Internet suicide seems to have a kind of externality and a negative effect on the society. In terms of economics, suicide is like an air pollution, which is also a great negative effect on the society and our lives and, if so, it should be prevented beforehand by some kinds of public policy.

When we make the policy to prevent it, we should think about the reason for them to take the plunge? In terms of economics, when the marginal benefit of suicide is greater than the marginal cost, they make such a final decision.

Interestingly, part of the reasons is the ready availability of poisons. If the availability of poisons induced them to kill themselves, the marginal benefit of suicide would be greater than the marginal cost and there would be room for public policy to prevent them from suicide, say, by raising the cost of taking poisons.

In fact, the suicide rates in Britain have fallen significantly thanks to legislation that allows drugs such as paracetamol to be sold only in small quantities. This public policy seems to succeed in raising the cost of taking toxic drugs and preventing them from suicide. However the public policy isn't always successful: Some Indian states pay bereaved families compensation for the loss of a breadwinner who has killed himself; This seems to raise the suicide rate. It is a interesting fact.

In this case, if a breadwinner thought more highly of the welfare of his wife and children than that of himself, he would likely commit suicide to raise his family's welfare. In other words, if he had an altruistic utility, the marginal benefit of suicide would be higher to him. This policy fails in preventing suicide but succeeds in giving him an incentive to kill himself.

There might be much discussion on whether public policy should prevent it or not before discussing how to prevent suicide. It is a normative idea whether public policy should do it. But if suicide clearly had a harmful effect on the society and the citizens' lives and the marginal benefit of preventing it were higher than the marginal cost, the policymakers should have some options to prevent it to raise the social welfare.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fujimori For Diet

Fujimori, ex-Peruvian President, is asked to run for Diet.

SAO PAULO (Kyodo) Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, under house arrest in Chile and facing possible extradition to Peru, has been tapped by a minor Japanese opposition party to run in the upcoming House of Councilors election, party sources said Monday.

Fujimori, 68, has apparently given no clear-cut reply to the offer by Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party), which plans to continue trying to persuade him to run, the sources said.

If Fujimori declares his candidacy, he would be the first former leader of a country other than Japan to run in a Japanese national election.

...Kamei is believed to admire Fujimori's political skills, seen in such accomplishments during his 10-year rule of Peru beginning in 1990 as resolving territorial disputes with Ecuador and rebuilding the Peruvian economy.

...Earlier this month, the Chilean Supreme Court ordered Fujimori held under house arrest on grounds that he may flee. Fujimori, indicted in Peru on more than 20 counts of corruption and human rights violations, was arrested by Chilean police on Nov. 7, 2005.

Fujimori graduated from UWM that I am going to this August to study econ. I'm surprised at this news. But I don't think he will be a good statesman in the Japanese diet. He speaks Japanese, doesn't he? How much does he know about the life and the people in Japan?

Fujimori certainly has a Japanese name, but he is not a Japanese himself. He was not born and raised up in Japan. Japan is different from what visitors from abroad see as Japan.

I strictly hope he will decline the offer to run for the House of Councilors this July.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You'd be so nice to come home to

I want to be said like that:

You'd be so nice to come home to

You'd be so nice to come home to

You'd be so nice by the fire

While the breeze on high, sang a lullaby

You'd be all that I could desire

Under stars chilled by the winter

Under an August moon burning above

You'd be so nice

You'd be paradise

To come home to and love

You'd be so nice to come home to

You'd be offer nice by the fire

While the breeze upon high, sang a lullaby

You'd be all that I could desire

Under stars chilled by the winter

Under an August moon burning up there above

You'd be so nice

Just like paradise

To come home to and love

A famous Jazz singer, Nancy Wilson, sings this song in a strong and sometimes a fascinating voice and I love it.

This song is originally one that a man sings for his woman, not vice verse. However, I usually hear it sung by female vocalist. It may be better for a woman to sing for her man.

Universities In Wisconsin

I didn't know how many universities in Wisconsin there are. I hear Wisconsin is called little California and it is understandable.

Stronger Women

I love a strong woman. But are women really stronger? Here's a good excerpt:

Wealthy women
Sex and money
Jun 14th 2007 From The Economist print edition

By 2020 over half of Britain's millionaires may be female. Why?
IN APRIL this year, 92 females graced the Sunday Times Rich List, an annual round-up of Britain's 1,000 wealthiest people. Ten years ago there were 64. And rich women are getting richer, too: over the decade the average worth of female millionaires has grown by more than half.

Today Britain's wealthiest woman has £4.9 billion ($9.6 billion) to her name, compared with the paltry £1.5 billion her counterpart had in 1997. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) reckons female millionaires will outnumber male ones by 2020, and by 2025 women will control 60% of the nation's private wealth. They do better at school and in higher education, and they live longer. Girl power, it seems, never had it so good.

....the historical sources of women's wealth—marriage, inheritance and divorce—have been replaced by independent income, business ownership and investments. More than 80% of women now derive their riches from personal earnings, it says, particularly from their own businesses.

But Philip Beresford, who compiles the Rich List, dismisses the idea that women are breaking into its ranks independently of men....The woman who tops the list is in fact Lady Green, whose husband made them both a fortune in retailing.

....If things look sticky at the top, women at the bottom find the relative going far tougher. Although the gap between men's and women's earnings has shrunk for those at all income levels, it remains far bigger among the poorest tenth than in any other group (see chart). still dominate highly paid work, and the proportion of female graduates in low-level jobs has rocketed in the past decade, along with the number of people going to university.

The above fact is in Britain but not in our country, Japan. I want to know about it in Japan. The report of CEBR that by 2025 women will control 60% of the nation's private wealth is surprising. If it is true, the social standing of women will be much higher than that of men. Few women will feel anxiety about her own treatment and payment in her workplace by being a woman.

In Britain more than 80% of women now derive their riches from personal earnings, it says, particularly from their own businesses. More women seem to be stronger, but many are making them both a fortune with her husband.

In a more calm research, men still dominate highly paid work, and the proportion of women in low-level jobs has rocketed in the past decade.

I think men's high pay is not due to the difference of any career opportunity that women are given and much less the incompetence of women, but due to the choice that women make. Many women are doing the housework (some may say that women are being forced to do that by men) and have no time to do a full-time job. They usually have a part-time job to supplement her husband's income.

Many women choose to do a part-time job, while many men a full-time job. The tendency is going down, but it seems to remain the same though the workplaces for women have been pursued for long time. The reason that men relatively dominate highly paid job is clear: Many women still choose to do a part-time job, while many men a full-time job.

More women choose a full-time job since they have more chances to have her housework done by someone and to work outside and it takes less time to do it. For that reason, the wage gap between men and women is shrinking. But it won't vanish as long as women choose a less-pay job.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

John Kenneth Galbraith

He is the most well-known economist among general people all over the world: John Kenneth Galbraith is one of the American economists who made me like studying economics. Of course, today's economics can't be learned just by him. My economics is also today's one that most econ students study.

I used to read his books. More than one year has passed since his death. I've not read his book through in English yet, but I'll try it someday.

As an undergrad student, I read his pieces in an English class but couldn't understand his English. Then I had read it in Japanese and the Japanese was very difficult for me to read. I remember that it took many hours to read even one page of it. At that time I was told to read it to be a good econ learner, so I read it.

At first I thought the translator was poor at putting him into Japanese, but I found it wrong. His English is also difficult! It is not straight and clear. When I tried the Mankiw's econ text in English, I wondered how easy the English was.

However, now I think his books should be read by more (econ) students. Because it seems that his books make us patient with much rhetoric English. I want to read his English faster and write English here like him. If I expressed my ideas here like him, more people would think me meaningful and respect me.

Unfortunately I have to do much more math for the grad study in the US, so I will have no time to read him.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Is Recycling Beneficial For Us?

The truth about recycling
Jun 7th 2007From The Economist print edition

IT IS an awful lot of rubbish. Since 1960 the amount of municipal waste being collected in America has nearly tripled, reaching 245m tonnes in 2005. According to European Union statistics, the amount of municipal waste produced in western Europe increased by 23% between 1995 and 2003, to reach 577kg per person. (So much for the plan to reduce waste per person to 300kg by 2000.) As the volume of waste has increased, so have recycling efforts. In 1980 America recycled only 9.6% of its municipal rubbish; today the rate stands at 32%. A similar trend can be seen in Europe, where some countries, such as Austria and the Netherlands, now recycle 60% or more of their municipal waste. Britain's recycling rate, at 27%, is low, but it is improving fast, having nearly doubled in the past three years.
...“We are constantly being asked: Is recycling worth doing on environmental grounds?”

....The researchers then looked at more than 200 scenarios, comparing the impact of recycling with that of burying or burning particular types of waste material. They found that in 83% of all scenarios that included recycling, it was indeed better for the environment.

Based on this study, ...Britain's recycling efforts reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions by 10m-15m tonnes per year. That is equivalent to a 10% reduction in Britain's annual carbon-dioxide emissions from transport, or roughly equivalent to taking 3.5m cars off the roads.

Recycling has many other benefits, too. It conserves natural resources. It also reduces the amount of waste that is buried or burnt, hardly ideal ways to get rid of the stuff. ....But perhaps the most valuable benefit of recycling is the saving in energy and the reduction in greenhouse gases and pollution that result when scrap materials are substituted for virgin feedstock.

....Extracting metals from ore, in particular, is extremely energy-intensive. Recycling aluminium, for example, can reduce energy consumption by as much as 95%. Savings for other materials are lower but still substantial: about 70% for plastics, 60% for steel, 40% for paper and 30% for glass. Recycling also reduces emissions of pollutants that can cause smog, acid rain and the contamination of waterways.

The China question
But the practice of shipping recyclables to China is controversial. Especially in Britain, politicians have voiced the concern that some of those exports may end up in landfills.

In fact, importing waste materials, recycling firms in developing countries are able to build larger factories and achieve economies of scale, recycling materials more efficiently and at lower environmental cost.

...Still, compared with Western countries, factories in developing nations may be less tightly regulated, and the recycling industry is no exception. China especially has been plagued by countless illegal-waste imports, many of which are processed by poor migrants in China's coastal regions. They dismantle and recycle anything from plastic to electronic waste without any protection for themselves or the environment. ...But it is clear that processing plastic and electronic waste in a crude manner releases toxic chemicals, harming people and the environment—the opposite of what recycling is supposed to achieve.

The future of recycling
More generally, one of the biggest barriers to more efficient recycling is that most products were not designed with recycling in mind. Remedying this problem may require a complete rethinking of industrial processes, says William McDonough, an architect and the co-author of a book published in 2002 called “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”.

....Recycling should be taken into account at the design stage, they argue, and all materials should either be able to return to the soil safely or be recycled indefinitely. Evidently there is plenty of scope for further innovation in recycling. New ideas and approaches will be needed, since many communities and organisations have set high targets for recycling. Europe's packaging directive requires member states to recycle 60% of their glass and paper, 50% of metals and 22.5% of plastic packaging by the end of 2008.

Recycling is one of the greatest concerns in Japan. The latest summit in Germany had some topics on global warming. The Economist post a good article. I sum it up:

Three effects of recycling on our society are thought to be:

(1) Recycling efforts reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions.

(2) Recycling conserves natural resources.

(3) Recycling is the saving in energy and the reduction in greenhouse gases and pollution.

Importing waste materials has become more popular recently. It has some benefit: Recycling firms in developing countries are able to build larger factories and achieve economies of scale, recycling materials more efficiently and at lower environmental cost.
However, Chinese companies have countless illegal-waste imports. They dismantle and recycle anything from plastic to electronic waste without any protection for themselves or the environment, which harms people and the environment. Some regulations will be needed to keep them from importing illegal waste and harming people and the environment.

For more efficient recycling most products should be designed with recycling in mind. I think so, too. But at the same time we should keep in mind the cost effectiveness, when we produce goods. Very expensive goods designed with recycling in mind would not be purchased by consumers in the market economy; Consumers like more inexpensive goods if they are the same. Needless to say, producers should think about it.

I do not agree that governmental regulation should induce producers to make goods designed with recycling in mind, but the effects of some tax policy should do so through the working of the market.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Saddle Point And Consumer Behavior

From the Wiki,

For a function of two or more variables, the surface at a saddle-point resembles a saddle that curves up in one or more directions, and curves down in one or more other directions. ....For example, two hills separated by a high pass will show up a saddle point, at the top of the pass,....

A saddle point is a very important idea for economics, though it is somewhat mathematical. For econ learners, it is necessary to keep it in mind.

An econ example is about the consumer's utility maximization problem(UMP):

Suppose he or she had two kinds of goods: apples and oranges. The price of an apple is p, and the price of an orange is q. The number of apples is A, and the number of oranges is O. He or she has a utility function like U(A,O). It expresses his preference and assumes that the more oranges or apples he gets the happier he becomes. His income is M. And then his or her utility maximization problem is:

max U(A,O)

such that pA+qO≦M

When an economist usually solves the above problem, she uses the Lagrangian function:

L(A,O,l)=U(A,O) - l(pA+qO-M)

where l is the Lagrange multiplier, or the marginal utility of income.(If you see it as the marginal utility of income, differenciate L with respect to M and you get l. As M increases L also increases. The multiplier l is the rate of change of L to a small change in M. )

And she differentiates L with respect to A,O and l to get the first-order necessary conditions for the maximization problem.

dL/dA=dU/dA - lp=0....(1)

dL/dO=dU/dO - lq=0....(2)

dL/dl=- (pA+qO-M)≧0,
l(pA+qO-M)=0 and l≧0....(3)

The above conditions are called "the Kuhn-Tucker necessary conditions". (Note that dL/dx means the partial derivative.) The Kuhn-Tucker conditions (or the Kuhn-Tucker Theorem) say that there exists l such that dL/dA=dU/dA - lp=0, dL/dO=dU/dO - lq=0 and dL/dl=- (pA+qO-M)=0.

And the condition (3) says that l>0 and -(pA+qO-M)>0 cannot hold at the same time. (Of course, l=0 and (pA+qO-M)=0 can hold simultaneously.)

If l=0, then -(pA+qO-M)≧0. In this case, this problem is unconstrained. And so you can solve the problem just by equating the derivatives of U(A,O) with respect to A and O to zero.

If l>0, then -(pA+qO-M)=0. In this case, this problem is constrained to income. And so you can solve the problem by solving the simultaneous equations of A,O and l, (1), (2) and (3).

Well, I'll reach the conclusion soon. The optimal solutions (A*,O*,l*) are at a saddle point: These give the maxima of the utility in A and O, and the minimum in l. That is, for a function of two variables A and O, the surface at a saddle-point curves up in two directions of A and O, and curves down in one other direction of l.

The meaning is simple. If you have a little more income left, you would be better to spend it on goods in order to make your utility as large as possible. If you maximize your utility, no income is left. That's the optimum!


If you have a maximization problem with nonnegative constraints, you'll have the following first-order conditions:

max U(A,O)

such that pA+qO≦M, A≧0 and O≧0


dL/dA=dU/dA - lp≦0, A(dL/dA)=0 and A≧0....(1)'

dL/dO=dU/dO - lq≦0, O(dL/dO)=0 and O≧0....(2)'

dL/dl=- (pA+qO-M)≧0, l(pA+qO-M)=0 and l≧0....(3)'

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Big Saver Spends More?

Saving grace
May 3rd 2007

From The Economist print edition

.....But could higher interest rates boost Japanese consumer spending? EVERY economics student learns that higher interest rates depress growth by curbing borrowing and spending. That, according to the conventional wisdom, is why the Bank of Japan (BoJ) must continue to hold interest rates at historically low levels; a rise in rates would risk tipping the economy back into recession and deflation.

Yet a few brave economists believe, to the contrary, that higher interest rates would actually encourage households to spend more, not less.

....The problem is that ultra-low interest rates risk creating economic distortions, such as the excessively weak yen, asset-price bubbles, or inefficient investment. Worse, low interest rates may themselves be discouraging consumers from opening up their wallets.

Debtors gain from low interest rates but savers lose, and Japanese households have the biggest stash of savings (relative to their income) among developed economies. Their net financial assets, excluding equities, amount to 3.2 times personal disposable income, compared with a ratio of only 1.9 in America and 1.1 in Germany (see left-hand chart). Over half of Japanese households' gross financial assets are in deposits that earn adjustable rates of interest (in America the figure is just over one-tenth), but only one-quarter of their liabilities are at floating interest rates.

Julian Jessop of Capital Economics. The impact of higher interest rates on spending depends upon the relative size of the income effect (higher rates boost income and hence expenditure) and the substitution effect (higher rates encourage people to save more). For small changes in interest rates, says Mr Jessop, the income effect may dominate, but for large changes the substitution effect may be more important.

Today is about macroeconomics. In Japan there exists a hot discussion whether BOJ (the Bank of Japan) should raise the interest rate or not. It is open to dispute politically and theoretically:

(1) Higher interest rates depress growth by curbing borrowing and spending. A rise in rates would risk tipping the economy back into recession and deflation.

(2) Higher interest rates would actually encourage households to spend more, not less. An ultra-low interest rates risk creating economic distortions, such as the excessively weak yen, asset-price bubbles, or inefficient investment.

Which sight is right? As Julian Jessop of Capital Economics says, it depends on the relative size of the income effect and the substitution effect.

Higher interest rates have two effects on the Japanese economy: income effect and substitution effect. This idea is convincing from the viewpoint of economics. Income effect means more income (and thus more expenditure) led by more interest revenue in the bank account due to higher rates, whereas the substitution effect more saving due to higher rates.

And for small changes in interest rates, says Mr. Jessop, the income effect may dominate, but for large changes the substitution effect may be more important.

Judgement on which is effective is related to empirics, so theory doesn't suggest that BOJ should raise the interest rate. However, my guess is that most of the Japanese people don't spend more but save more. The reason is that most of us have less to buy.

Rich countries like Japan also have the income and substitution effects of how wealthy they are; In richer countries, the richer people become, the more they buy(income effect), or the more they save(substitution effect). In rich countries consumers have two choices to make: to buy goods and service and to buy monetary goods. Monetary goods, which I coin, include saving, stock, bond and any financial derivatives.

One of my old teachers told me about the reason of recession: They spend less on goods but more on monetary goods like stock and bond. The more they earn, the more they desire not for goods but for saving, stock and bond. And thus the aggregate demand for goods decrease. Why do they pursue financial assets? Because they want no more goods.

However, whether they want goods or not depends on the relative size of the income effect and the substitution effect. And for small changes in wealth, the income effect may dominate, but for large changes the substitution effect may be more important.

In historical perspective, we Japanese have become much more wealthy since the end of WW. For large changes in national wealth, the substitution effect may be stronger than the income effect. And that's why we suffered an almost 10-year-long deflationary recession. What do you think of it? Let me know your frank comment!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Optimum Currency Area

I have been interested in the topic on the Optimum Currency Area (OCA). When I was an MA student, I met an intriguing article: Jeffrey A. Frankel and Andrew K. Rose (1998), “The Endogeneity of the Optimum Currency Area Criteria”, The Economic Journal, 1009-1025.

Since then, I have wanted to study the relationship between the currency union and the international integration.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Lovely Voice

Nat King Cole is one of my favorite vocalists. He makes me approach Jazz. Jazz is one of what I think of as the US. Recently I hear that Jazz has become the music that the old people listen to in the US.

Jazz is one of the most respected American cultures. I want more younger people to listen to it.

The First Anniversary of Taro's Blog!!

Today's is the first anniversary of Taro's blog! Thank you for keeping an eye on my blog!

In fact, though it has been here for one year, it has not been known to and seen by many bloggers yet. But I'll continue writing about economics and our daily life vividly from my original point of view!

Here's a good news: Dr.Mark Thoma, a professor of the Department of Economics, University of Oregon, and the host of Economist's View, one of the well-known econ blogs in the US, links to my blog. I am grateful to Economist's View and Dr. Mark Thoma for linking to it.

Main character of my blog is to write like a diary. Of course, sometimes I write personal issues unrelated to econ, but most of what I write here is about econ and the related issues.

Most of the posts are easy for readers without the knowledge of economics and, even though my econ sight and English expressed here might be incorrect and misread, are likely to be useful to study introductory economics or to think like an economist.

I've not yet have the PhD in Economics, but I try to make the social issues as clear as possible and to continue writing this econ blog. I would like you to hope for the success, thank you!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

PhD Econ Ranking (In Japanese)

Here's the ranking.

A Girl From France

Mr.Kudamatsu, a LSE PhD econ student and the host of the Econ Study Abroad (in Japanese), advised me to study how to express my own country in English by reading what visitors from abroad write about my country. From his experience in England, it is very important to express one's own country in English since one will have many conversations with English speakers if one studies at the US or England grad school. It is an unexpected comment to me, but the best I can do now.

Today's excerpt is introduced by Mr. Kudamatsu. The story is about a life in the Kansai Area, where I was born and raised up.

'I'm always out and about'
By Muriel Roche
Published: April 28 2007 03:00 Last updated: April 28 2007 03:00

Muriel Roche, 41, was born in southern France near the Mediterranean port of Toulon. She carries out genetic diagnostic tests for a laboratory in Kobe, Japan.

I arrived in Kobe in 2005. My apartment is in the upper part of town, a 15-minute walk from the clinic. I'm on the 9th and top floor with lovely views of the sea and the mountains. I have a bedroom and a dining room with an open-plan kitchen. I'm lucky enough to have a Japanese room with tatami on the floor and cupboards that store the futons. It's a room for receiving visitors, with a small low table for meals. I don't use it much because for me sitting cross-legged for a long time isn't much fun.

Work is in English. My boss is bilingual. I don't give orders but things have to happen quickly. I don't have time to think and it comes out easier in English. I've been learning Japanese, laboriously, for a year. I started with an intensive group course. There were lots of Chinese - who already have an advantage with the writing, which they can understand, and the sounds, which aren't that dissimilar. There were only three Europeans. "So there'll be at least two gaijin [foreigners] with me," I thought. Not at all! They were both married to Japanese women. I was nowhere near their level and didn't manage to keep up. I quickly switched to private lessons - one hour a week, so progress is much slower.

....I love museums; we had an exhibition on the Silk Road that was phenomenal. I'm in the Kansai area, one of the best places for gardens and temples. Kyoto isn't far, half an hour on the shinkansen [high-speed train]. When I'm not working, I'm always out and about.

And the sumo wrestling! The next basho - tournament - is in Osaka. I've got my tickets to go for two days. It takes place over 15 days but I can't go daily because I'm working. I love the ceremonial aspect. I like the strength. Everybody thinks it's just fat but there are lots of muscles underneath - and a suppleness to allow competitors to sidestep their opponent's attacks. I like the bouts, the holds. It's quite spectacular. There are six tournaments a year - three in Tokyo, one in Osaka, one on the island of Kyushu and one at Nagoya.

....I don't like all Japanese cuisine. I have a problem with the seaweed. There's a lot of it and the taste, well, we're just not used to it. Then there are unbearable things like natto. That's something that, frankly, would make me leave the room. I think it's fermented soya beans - with an absolutely pestilential smell. It's a product of decomposition. I was made to try it once. I had no idea what it was. They're convinced that it's good for the intestines. That may well be but I'd treat myself differently.

...Recently we visited a restaurant and started with the fugu sashimi, then the rest of the fish was prepared as nabe, a kind of pot au feu. We ate the whole fish. It was to die for. You often sit in small side rooms, which is rather intimate and adorable.

Japan is an amazing place to some visitors from abroad. Those who don't have an interest in Asian countries may think of Japan as part of China. China is very different from Japan. Needless to say, both countries are worth visiting. If you have much time and money, you would enjoy the stay though there might be few English speakers and you might have some hard time in getting in touch with the local people.

Econ PhD's Manual

Here's the list. The list in the econphd is more affluent.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hello, A Baby!

More babies are coming here: Japan's fertility rate rose last year for the first time in six years in 2006.

By KOZO MIZOGUCHI Associated Press Writer
TOKYO (AP) -- The fertility rate - the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime - stood at 1.32 babies per woman in 2006, up 0.06 point from a record low of 1.26 in 2005, the Health Ministry said on its Web site.

"The latest figure alone doesn't indicate whether there is a turnaround in the country's recent trend of falling number of births," said Emi Sato of the vital statistic division with the Health Ministry.

....Ministry officials say the rise in the country's fertility rate was due partly to Japan's economic recovery from a decade-long slowdown, which encouraged more people to get married and have babies.

....A declining birth rate - a figure that expresses the number of children born every year in a given population - threatens Japan with a potential a labor shortage, tax shortfalls and pension problems as fewer taxpayers support an aging population.

In an international comparison, the fertility rate in the United States was 2.6 in 2005 and 2.1 in France, both preliminary figures, the report said. It was 1.36 in Germany, 1.33 in Italy, 1.75 in Sweden, all in 2004, and 1.71 in Britain in 2003. The fertility rate stood at 1.13 in South Korea, 1.25 in Singapore.

...Some local governments offer special subsidies for couples to have more babies. But many Japanese companies typically expect long hours from workers, and many women with careers feel they cannot meet the demands of both work and family and have to choose one or the other.

Three interesting points are:

(1) The rise in the country's fertility rate was due partly to Japan's economic recovery from a decade-long slowdown, which encouraged more people to get married and have babies.

It shows that there may exist a positive correlation between the country's fertility rate and the economic boom. The sight that the aggregate economic activities affect the fertility is interesting. We may have some important policy implications in controlling the population.

(2) Some local governments offer special subsidies for couples to have more babies.

I would like to know about the socioeconomic effects of the special subsidies for more babies. Are the subsidies or tax cuts for more babies really effective? Do women have the decision function that includes a tax as a variable? Is the derivative of the function with respect to tax negative? This is a good empirics, I think.

(3) A declining birth rate threatens Japan with a potential labor shortage, tax shortfalls and pension problems as fewer taxpayers support an aging population.

The problem of the decrease in tax and pension revenue due to fewer workers who support the old people is open to further dispute. The related issue is going to be reported in this blog. However, more Japanese are worried about the negative effects of the today's declining birth rate and are mumbling that the shortfall of tax revenue and pension benefit due to fewer children and aging population are coming to them soon. Is it right? Is it a groundless fear? I'll make it clear later.

Worry About Global Warming

One of the purposes of this blog is to let you know about the modern Japan. So I cite some main Japanese newspapers, since many American bloggers usually the NY times, the Washington Post and WSJ.

Today's excerpt is from the Yomiuri Shimbun, the most popular newspapers in Japan: Seventy-one percent of respondents in a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey cited global warming as their chief worry regarding changes to the environment.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The survey also found that 67 percent of respondents said they "want" or were "quite keen" to use bioethanol as automobile fuel.

The survey covered 3,000 eligible voters in interviews at 250 locations nationwide on May 19 and 20. Of them, 1,803 people, or 60.1 percent, responded.

....The latest survey shows that an increasing number of people are worried about global warming and its link to increases in carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of oil and coal, with changes in the climate being felt in Japan in extreme summer heat and an unusually warm winter.

....Specifically regarding global warming, 72 percent of respondents said they were concerned about the deterioration of the environment due to such phenomena as heat waves, floods and cold snaps, which have become more pronounced in recent years.

Asked if Japan should step up diplomatic pressure on China and the United States, which are the world's largest carbon dioxide emitting nations, 92 percent of respondents said yes.

....On the environmental impact of global warming, 52 percent of respondents cited worries about the deterioration in living environments by decreases in agricultural products due to more frequent regional heavy rain and droughts. Fifty-one percent said they were concerned about rising sea levels, while 41 percent were worried that the fisheries industry would be adversely affected with changes in the marine ecosystem. This was followed by 39 percent who cited concerns about changes in farming areas due to desertification.
(Jun. 6, 2007)

More Japanese are getting interested in the environment issues and the related TV programs often broadcast. It is a good trend, I think. I am also interested in the global warming, especially the economic impacts of it. I'll have a comment on it in this blog later.

By the way, Al Gore's book, "An inconvenient Truth", becomes popular among the Japanese readers. I have not read it yet. If you've read it already, let me know your comments on it.

Saturday, June 02, 2007



Friday, June 01, 2007

Will You Marry Me?

I found a good post in my favorite econ blog, Freakonomics Blog. Here's the excerpt:

Every year, as might be expected, the American Wedding Study’s* tally of the amount spent by Americans on getting married increases: from about $22,000 in 2003 to more than $26,000 in 2005 to, in 2006, a grand total of $27,852 …

According to the 2006 study, Americans were spending $14 billion annually on engagement rings, wedding rings, and other items of jewelry. They were purchasing just over $7 billion worth of wedding gowns, tuxedos, flower girl outfits, bridesmaids’ dresses, veils, satin shoes, gloves, stoles, and other items of wedding attire....

It is an interesting fact. Why do they marry? And why do they spend so much money on their wedding? Economists generally reason it: A wedding is a kind of "commitment".

Commitment is the strategic issue that is paid attention to on the games with sequential moves. Sequential moves mean that, for example, if one of the two players in some game moved first the other would make his or her choice by knowing what one player was choosing (or had chosen).

This sort of game is very popular. And the commitment is also very popular among us in our daily life. For example, if you and I walk straight at opposite ends of the street, we both will crash into each other and be injured. And if you or I swerve first, we won't crash.

What should we do in order not to crash into each other? If I forced myself to choose straight, you would choose to swerve, and vice versa. And how do I force myself to do that? For example, I should wear the glasses that enable me to see just only straight and not to see around there. And then you would choose to swerve in the street when you saw me walk to you and wear such glasses.

A wedding is like such a straight-walk game. If I forced myself to choose her, she would choose me as her lifelong partner, and vice versa. And then how do I force myself to do that? For example, I should give her a big, very expensive present like a big, shining diamond ring with the certificate.

Note that this committed choice, a big present for my fiance, must be both irreversible and observable to her; otherwise she couldn't be persuaded to make a big decision(marry me). What is both irreversible and observable to my fiance? This is the question!

The fact that the amount of money spent on wedding is increasing might show us that more men are afraid that their fiances will change their minds and are trying to persuade them to choose themselves.