Can Japan's Cozy System Come To Terms With Change?

Like many of the things you buy, this column was made in Japan, where I am spending some time trying to unravel the mysteries of the Japanese economy. Since Japanese scholars who have devoted years to this task still find themselves somewhat in the dark, I do not expect to figure the whole thing out in two weeks. Nonetheless, as I travel around sultry Tokyo talking to economists, business executives, and government officials, two terms keep cropping up. These expressions will not surprise you: "long-term" and "cooperation." Whether the subject is employment practices, linkages among business firms, or the role of government in the economy, the essence of the Japanese system seems to be long-term, cooperative relations.

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