JAPAN is not, by nature, a boastful country. Its opportunities for bombast have shrunk along with its population. And its economic pride has suffered many years of deflation, a form of macroeconomic self-deprecation, in which firms and workers continuously discount what they do. In some fields, however, Japan still allows itself some swagger. It is, for example, happy to describe itself as a “robotics superpower”. In a speech early this year Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, praised a “dream robot suit” made by Cyberdyne as a prime example of the country’s technological advances. The robotic exoskeleton can add strength and stamina to healthy limbs and restore movement to enfeebled ones. As a symbol of Japanese ingenuity in overcoming debility, the suit’s appeal to Mr Abe is easy to understand.

Since returning to office in 2012 Mr Abe has strapped Japan into an economic exoskeleton of his own. Dubbed “Abenomics”, his three-piece dream suit includes monetary easing, fiscal pragmatism and structural reform. He claimed it would repel deflation, repair the public finances and revive productivity. Over time, he later boasted, the combination of...Continue reading