From his birth in the lowest stratum of the samurai class to his assassination at the hands of right-wing militarists, Takahashi Korekiyo (1854-1936) lived through tumultuous times that shaped the course of modern Japanese history. Takahashi is considered "Japan's Keynes" in many circles because of the forward-thinking (and controversial) fiscal and monetary policies--including deficit financing, currency devaluation, and lower interest rates--that he implemented to help Japan rebound from the Great Depression and move toward a modern economy.
Richard J. Smethurst's engaging biography underscores the profound influence of the seven-time finance minister on the political and economic development of Japan by casting new light on Takahashi's unusual background, unique talents, and singular experiences as a charismatic and cosmopolitan financial statesman.
Along with the many fascinating personal episodes--such as working as a houseboy in California and running a silver mine in the Andes--that molded Takahashi and his thinking, the book also highlights four major aspects of Takahashi's life: his unorthodox self-education, his two decades of service at the highest levels of government, his pathbreaking economic and political policies before and during the Depression, and his efforts to stem the rising tide of militarism in the 1930s. Deftly weaving together archival sources, personal correspondence, and historical analysis, Smethurst's study paints an intimate portrait of a key figure in the history of modern Japan.
Smethurst's biography is a major achievement reflecting some 20 years of work. Not to exclude the general reader—the book is a very good read—Takahashi's biography should interest not only Japanologists, but also students of economic history everywhere. Smethurst admits that it was difficult to balance the anecdotes of Takahashi's adventures with the necessary analysis of his historic accomplishments. He has succeeded, giving us a wise and immensely competent biography of a great Japanese and a vibrant human being.
Japan emerged from worldwide economic depression in the 1930s more successfully and quickly than the other modern world economies. Without denying the role of rapid militarization in prompting economic growth, this new biography of Japan's seven-time finance minister shows how Takahashi's countercyclical fiscal and monetary policies overcame a steep deflationary spiral and in the process engineered a remarkable record of growth built on a novel deficit spending approach... In telling Takahashi's story, Smethurst uncovers some of the pushes and pulls shaping Japan's modern economic growth, and it is a story he tells well.
- 377 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
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