Two articles interested me yesterday. The first was a New York Times story about the recession in Japan. The recession is even worse in Japan than it is in the US because Japan is heavily dependent on exports. The reason that it is so heavily dependent on exports is because the population saves a large percentage of its income, for various cultural and economic reasons.
This whole recession thing has me deeply ambivalent. I’m a pussified liberal academic, rather than a Randroid who wants to make a million babies with the free market, but I still give the free market a hell of a lot of respect. I understand that you can’t fight it and it will always win out in the end. Bail out failing companies, keep extending refinancing and so on and the day of reckoning will still come when the money will run out and someone will fail. And again, while I am a pussified liberal academic, I support sustainability not in crunchy granola feel-good terms, but simply because of the laws of the free market: keep spending resources you don’t have and you’ll go bust. Or, run your business poorly and you’ll go bust.
Anyway, I read the article and thought “You know, that mindset really isn’t too different from my current mindset”. Like Risa Masaki, I’m not interested in big spending. I will save money, and then wait to spend on something to see if I can get it at a lower price. I pay off my credit cards in full. I went to college and grad school where I would have scholarships, and then I pay more on my loan each month than I have to so that I’ll pay less interest. Even little things in that article made me chuckle. It makes it sound like being forced to eat cabbage stew is one of the worst indignities that can be hoisted upon a human. Shit, I made three gallons of cabbage stew on Sunday to eat for dinner for the week! So while all of this encourages me to save money, this makes me a “bad” consumer, and as Japan has shown, that hurts the economy becomes it hurts growth and creates deflation.
Why are the rich rich? Because they have money. It sounds like a tautology, but consider this: what does spending do? It takes away your money. If the rich are those who have money, if you do not have money, you are not rich. It sounds simple, but nobody must have told all those people that buy Gucci purses on credit cards or take out home equity loans to buy luxury SUVs that YOUR DOING IT WRONG. Additionally, people have the wrong idea when they say that money doesn’t buy happiness. Money most certainly buys happiness. It buys the happiness that comes with security and comfort. What does not buy happiness are possessions.
It’s that reason why I’ll roll my eyes at things like batshit insane mai room pictures. I have no problem with your epic nerdiness, even if I do think that “itasha” is a great word because those cars are so nerdy that they are painful to look at. It’s because the materialism bothers me. However, note that I said “the” materialism, not “your” materialism. “You” may simply just like to acquire massive quantities of dakimakuras, and if you get a lot of use out of them, then perhaps it is an investment well spent (ewwww).
No, the “the” is because it makes me think “Is that what is really required to ‘support the industry’?”, because it is a concept that I simply do not agree with for the two reasons listed above. If the economic conditions don’t exist to make something profitable, they don’t exist. If there’s excess capacity, there’s excess capacity. If something isn’t priced correctly, the optimum price will be discovered whether you like where it ends up or not.
Here’s where the second article comes in. The second article was just a brief ANN news report that Kodansha had a record loss this quarter. There was nothing special about that article. The real point comes from the talkback thread. As usual, it was filled with the regular facepalm/headdesk comments about how it’s all fansubs fault that Japanese domestic ad revenue fell off a cliff. Again, nothing special there. What mattered where the litany of comments saying that you-know-who said that anime revolves around America, so it’s up to us to save teh animus! Spend, spend, spend!
Why? Because it came back to the whole Tinkerbell economics versus common sense economics issue. Why isn’t all anime streamed online with advertising? Because it won’t make remotely enough money. Alright, then why not stream all anime online on a paid service? Because it won’t make remotely enough money. Okay, okay, we’ll keep the DVD model. But why not anime DVDs sell for $20 for a whole season? Because it won’t make remotely enough money.
That was one of the most eye-roll worthy parts of you-know-who’s panel that I attended at AnimeNext. When one teenager said that they only have so much disposable to spend, we were told about tips for how to save money on DVDs so that we could still buy anime, completely unaware of the “problems” in that way of thinking from the first half of this literary diarrhea. Saving and shopping around in hopes of deflation make us “bad” consumers, and the resulting price discovery was bad news for the distributors. Anime DVDs are not say, a Prada scarf where Barney’s can mark it down 85% for its warehouse sale and still make an enormous profit. Mark that $75 Thinpak down to $12 and Best Buy is taking a massive loss.
I like anime. I also like food, TV shows, video games, the newspaper, and a whole lot of other things. Yes, anime is doing badly, but at the same time restaurants are closing, media companies are laying off thousands, and even video game companies are reporting massive losses despite massive increases in sales (the culprit are rising costs). The worldwide economy is resetting to a lower level of consumption as (hopefully) the Tinkerbell economy ends. So while this sounds selfish, no, I can’t cry for the anime industry. I’d also have to cry for the auto industry, the newspaper industry, the banking industry, and just about everything that isn’t Wal-Mart, Lazard, and McDonalds.
But you watch it! You have to give back! I guess you missed the first half of this whole rambling gobbledegook. My selfishness comes from my concept of first stating with assuming that I have “nothing”, rather than “something”. Do I spend money on things? Of course! But I spend what I feel is the correct price for something. I’m not special here, since this is after all what every consumer does when they buy something. However, if I feel the cost is too high, I go without. And since I don’t have the sense of entitlement, not having “something” is not a problem for me. Unfortunately, this is going to be an extremely rough transition for society as a whole when you’ve been told since birth by advertising that you NEED this and that THIS will allow you to express who you are and that he who dies with the most toys wins. There’s also a hardcore libertarian (think Mises Institute/Austrian School) perspective on the nothing/something thing where you need to stop thinking that the way that something is is the way it must always be. They take it to extremes sometimes with things like global warming (“We’ll all just live in different parts of the world”), but why for example must the American anime industry be the way it is? What if it ends up being like where the companies are like say, The Right Stuf where distributing anime is just part of their business? On this note, I really want to read Bailout Nation if it ever comes out to see how things might have been different (“different”, remember, not “worse”) if Chrysler had failed. Also, I’ll get it from the New York Public Libr…OH SHIT I JUST STARVED AN EDITOR!
(And no, I’m not “killing” anime and taking the food out of some poor animator’s mouth. If I were killing anime, I’m also killing Detroit by taking public transportation, killing the newspaper industry by reading blogs and free commuter papers, and taking the
food foie gras out of some banker’s mouth by not taking out loans that I can’t repay.)