More Like Us

February 14th, 2010

Like so many, both inside and outside the academy, I tend to mark the passage of time by the books I read. For me, the 1980s opened with a book by Ezra Vogel, entitled “Japan as Number One,” which foreshadowed all the worries about our loss of industrial supremacy that would come to haunt that troubled decade. In the book Japan seemed superior to America in every way: its government and corporations were as efficient as they were efficacious, increasing productivity while preserving social welfare; its politicians reigned over a stable polity as its bureaucrats wisely figured out everything from controlling crime to alleviating the energy shortage and reducing pollution. Meanwhile, its citizens were highly educated, amid all the uproar about why Johnny can’t read—and Fumiko can.

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