2008-09 Financial Crisis: US Is Not Japan
Today's U.S. Financial Crisis Is Not Like Japan's "Lost Decade"
In periods of crisis, pundits and policymakers tend to scramble for historical analogies. This time, many have seized on Japan's notorious "lost decade," the decade of stagnation that followed a mammoth property bubble in the late 1980s. But this comparison is wrong. In Japan, the primary problem was pervasive dysfunction in the economy, which caused a banking crisis. In the United States, pervasive dysfunction in the financial sector has caused a deep recession in the economy as a whole. This financial dysfunction is not the result of structural flaws, as in Japan, but of grave policy mistakes that opened the door for widespread malfeasance and even criminality.
The consequences of the 2008 U.S. financial crisis will be different from Japan's slump in the 1990s for three reasons: the cause of the current crisis is fundamentally different, its scope is far smaller, and the response of policymakers has been quicker and more effective.
For details, see this essay in the March-April 2009 Foreign Affairs.