The economics of disaster after devastation in Japan


“Japan will be poorer, for this disaster,” said Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, tumbled 7.9 percent after saying it would suspend manufacturing at its domestic plants through Wednesday — a production loss of 40,000 cars. Other manufacturers forced to halt production, such as Sony Corp. and Honda Motor Co., also slumped.

Much has been said in the aftermath of the earthquakes (the biggest with an intensity of 8.9 in the Richter Scale) and tsunami (with waves >10 meter high) that hit Japan last Friday.  First, the headcount of deaths has already reached 10K people and thousands more are still missing.  The first estimates on the economic impact stroked world’s stock markets and the price of petroleum fell in estimations of Japan’s industrial paralysis.

However, some economists would argue that the destruction caused by these natural disasters had something positive at the end of the day. Such is what had previously said Lawrence Summers, president emeritus of Harvard University that “It may lead to some temporary increments, ironically, to GDP, as a process of rebuilding takes place. In the wake of the earlier Kobe earthquake, Japan actually gained some economic strength” Many other economist believe the same as Mr. Summers and the reason is that an enormous influx of liquidity is to enter Japan’s long stagnant economy.  Already, Japan’s central bank pumped a record $184 billion into money markets and took other measures to protect a teetering economy today, as the Tokyo stock market nose-dived followed the devastating earthquakes and tsunami.  Afterward, large scale reconstruction plans are to start and billions of dollars would be pumped to reconstruct the country.  Overall, this huge reconstruction investments could trigger the recovery of Japan’s economy.

So, is everything going to be better?

Japanese culture and attitudes toward disasters has always been identified with the adjectives “pro activity, benevolence, cooperation and honesty”.  As such, looting has not occurred and reconstruction has started after only 3 days of the disasters.   However, the economy is not going to recover positively from this disasters no matter how much money is pumped into the economy to reconstruct by private companies or public investment.

Why is that the economy will continue suffering?

The destruction of business and public services had been working efficiently under market laws. This means that there is no relation to “creative destruction” and destruction occurred because of natural disasters.  Creative destruction applies only to businesses that were not competitive and as such, disappeared to open new investment in new industries and technologies.  A good example of creative destruction was how American Car Industry should have disappeared after the 2008 financial crisis to allow for more competitive companies (bailouts avoided it causing long term inefficiencies and economic loses to the US).

The reconstruction of Japan will require billions and this would surely ignite the tentacles of governmental interventionists agencies under the fallacy that the earthquake and tsunami were good things for Japan.  Government interventionism always deems disaster good to the system since it allows them pump more taxes and extort more money from private businesses.

Rebuilding Japan will be a hard and difficult work and estimates of the are at up to 15 trillion yen ($183 billion) — about 3 percent of gross domestic product.  Credit Suisse’s Shirakawa said in a report the direct economic losses such as property destruction could total 6 trillion yen ($73 billion) to 7 trillion yen. Indirect losses such as lost production will probably be higher.  The costs of reconstruction are at a high loss for the Japanese people and the rest of humanity.  This historical moment will again open the doors for collectivist ideologies that consider the sacrifice of individual rights to benefit the public good.

Evidence and history has shown that reconstruction and investment is more quickly, effective and has better long term effects if kept private and in respect of individual’s rights.  Lord Acton’s essay “The fallacy of the broken window” is a great example of how destruction is not always positive and of how reconstruction should be organized by a government that respects an individual’s right to his rights and property.  It is now our obligation to remind this to leaders of world governments.

Here’s a great video explaining it,

Video: The broken window fallacy

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2 comentarios

  1. Catherine Rampell thinks that creative destruction has its uses.Two days ago the New York Times ran an article by economics editor Catherine Rampell titled that focused on the largely middle-aged unemployed who will probably never work again. She is part of a much bigger picture .Miss Norton is one of 1.7 million Americans who were employed in clerical and administrative positions when the recession began but were no longer working in that occupation by the end of last year. There have also been outsize job losses in other occupation categories that seem unlikely to be revived during the economic recovery.

  2. […] Actualizados : The economics of disaster after devastation in Japan Imágenes en vivo de los terremotos y tsunami en Japón Dibujo de 1910 sobre la […]

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