09 May 2008

A Japanese story

Apparently, there was this samarai who wanted to buy a splendid suit of armor. It would be expensive, though, and he didn't have a large income. So he ate less and less until he could put aside enough money to make the purchase.

A war broke out and our protagonist put on his newly acquired metal plating and headed toward the battlefields. But his body had become so weak from semi-starvation that he could not bear the weight of the armor, and one of the enemies soon cut him down.

A pointless little story ... yes? Well, maybe not. Okita Saburo used to tell that tale. He was an economic planner under Japan's prime minister Yoshida in the 1950s, and his listeners all knew what the story meant.

It meant that Japan should take its MacArthur-imposed Constitution and its disavowal of armed force seriously. Not as a matter of newly discovered pacifist principle but because if Japan gave up the hope of wearing a suit of armor any time soon it could instead feed itself, and develop the sinews of industrial might that our imaginary samarai forfeited so unwisely.

I just thought I'd pass that along. Guns and butter. Not a new subject of contrast, but a perhaps a valuable shift of frame for it.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.