THE SUCCESS OF JAPAN AND GERMANY
During this time of “Global Financial Crisis,” it’s poignant to ask, “Why did countries like Japan and Germany, losers of World War II, boom economically after their loss?” Japan still holds bitter memories as the only nation to experience not one, but two, atomic bombs dropped on them. Germany was split into two: communist east and democratic west (until the collapse of the Berlin Wall. I remember the news of its fall well on 9 November 1989, though too young to understand its significance). The loss of lives, especially working men, was horrific. What can we learn from their success that might help us now?
REVIEW OF MODERN ECONOMICS IN ONE PARAGRAPH
From an economic point of view, there are theories that contradict each other and the research never ends. I took several economic courses in my university days like: microeconomics, macroeconomics, and the underground economy. We had to read a spectrum of authors from Adam Smith to Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels to Friedrich Hayek. One side would say they boomed because the governments stepped in: Keyenesian economics promoted government intervention in the market through central banks (monetary stimulus), government spending (fiscal stimulus) and an international monetary referee called the IMF, created at a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire on 27 December 1945 (this ‘Bretton Woods aystem’ collapsed in 1971 when Richard Nixon abandoned the control factor of the gold standard, though the IMF continues). The other side would say economies boomed because the governments stepped out and let free market reign. Deregulation, free trade, low tax promoted an environment for entrepreneurship. Many Japanese credit their industries’ success to one man, W. Edwards Deming, for teaching them lean economics and total quality management (TQM). Both sides have some merit, but I think the answer to why these countries had super-growth and near full employment is simpler than that.
THREE UNDENIABLE FACTS
If you only listen to economics, you will never understand the full story, because economics is only one way of studying something. Here are some facts that everyone can agree on, whether we like them or not:
1) Germany and Japan’s old ways, both its physical infrastructure and ruling ideologies, were bombed to death.
2) Germany and Japan, though guilty of starting the worst war on earth, were not treated as enemies of the world, but were given grace by the victors.
3) They received outside help when they opened up their borders and their minds. Japan in particular saw an influx of Christian missionaries and management gurus like Deming.
In other words, I submit to you that they are ‘born again nations.’ Japan and Germany succeeded despite their corrupt past because their old system completely died and they were given grace to ‘rise up out of the ashes’. They died, resurrected in a different state, and were given grace and help in time of need. Much of that help came from outsiders, foreigners, people whom they hated and wanted to kill. Yet these outsiders proved stronger and offered grace to them.
It seems that the only way to fix things sometimes is just to start over. We all know this is true when our computers start giving us inexplicable problems. Sometimes the best thing is not to load another anti-virus software or schedule another disk clean up. Sometimes the best thing is to wipe out and reboot.
The same principle that is true for nations and computers is true for you! You and I ought to come to a point in life where we realize that adding more solutions is not going to clean our mess. Trying harder is not going to fix some problems. Now at this point, there is only one logical choice, to die, but that word has two completely different applications.
The wrong application is to commit suicide – this is what I attempted and nearly succeeded at the age of 20 – out of sheer commitment to solving all my problems. This fatalistic attitude explains why many Japanese pilots were willing to kamikaze their planes into Pearl Harbor rather than land safely on enemy territory and why Japanese warriors regularly commit seppuku or harakiri (disembowel themselves to die with honor).
The correct application is to die to our old ways: all our past, all our pride, all our assumptions about God, self and life. The law of God spiritually destroys our inclination to boast and levels our pride to the ground. Only when we are dead can we be resurrected. We must be born again, Jesus said (John 3:3).
Once we are born again, like nations that survived and rose out of the atrocities of war, we can go back to our old ways or we can choose to live under grace. Some nations go back to their old ways, never being truly humbled. Germany and Japan live under grace: they cannot even have their own military to fight any more wars! They largely depend on America and the free world to protect them from enemies. With this agreement, they start from a humble position. Since being “born again,” they have adopted new ways, learned new ideas, started new industries (both succeeded in the automotive and mobile phone industries, and are focusing on innovative technologies).
Notice that grace doesn’t mean they did nothing. Just because they couldn’t build bombs and large armies didn’t mean they sat around and did nothing. Many Christians think that once they have grace, then they don’t have to keep any more laws and religious rules – that’s true! But then they think they don’t have to live holy and work hard at their jobs – that’s not true! Christians, all people under grace, should be the most creative and productve people in the world! That’s what grace is for – for you to stop focusing on your failures and start focusing on your success!
Grace allows me to stop focusing on my past and start focusing on my future. But if I don’t focus on my future, what good is grace to me? Germany and Japan seized the opportunity to focus on building their economies. As a Christian, what opportunities have you seized upon to become a better person set free from your mistakes? Are you thinking more about your failures or are you thankful about the opportunity to rise up and succeed again?
The only way to succeed in this fallen life is to be born again: to start over, to stop warring for our own success and to live under grace, then to open up our minds to new ideas. We must die to our old ways, go to Jesus the Victor, and learn from Him how to live a new way. Jesus sends His ambassadors (they are better than Deming) to teach us His ways. They are our Christian friends, Bible teachers, pastors, and yes, evangelists. They may seem foreign at first, as thought they were from the outside or ‘the other side,’ but listen to them! Don’t go back to your old ways! God’s ideas are exactly what we need to become healthy again.
SUMMARY OF WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM GERMANY AND JAPAN’S SUCCESS
We cannot credit either government intervention or laissez-faire economics for the success of post-WWII Germany and Japan, for both have failed them. Japan’s government stimulus has not been able to lift Japan out of the doldrums of recession for the past 20 years, and Japan’s industries have not been able to use lean economics to outcompete emerging economies like China, Turkey and southeast Asia. There is a simpler explanation, something far bigger than any one person or policy can control. These countries:
1) Died to their old ways.
2) Rose again to live under grace.
3) Learned to get help and wisdom from outside, even from some people they once thought were their enemies.
This is the formula for success for every single individual:
1) Die to our old ways
2) Be Born Again in Christ and live under God’s grace
3) Go to church and get help from people we never suspected could and would help us!
Are you ready to succeed?
COMMENT PLEASE: Have you thought about nations, politics or economics in this way before?
What did you learn that you can apply to your own success? What other insights have I missed?