Communing with Disaster: What We Can Learn from the Jusen and the Savings and Loan Crises



Now that the Japanese economic miracle has soured into the Japanese economic meltdown, scholars are confronted with a new challenge: instead of trying to penetrate the secret of Japan’s successes, they must try to unravel the enigma of its misfortunes. Professors Curtis Milhaupt and Geoffrey Miller (1997) have performed a great service in documenting one of the most dramatic of those misfortunes – the collapse of the jusen companies. Professor Shinsaku Iwahara (1997) has also performed an equally valuable service by placing this event in the larger context of Japanese politics and society. But despite its record setting scale, the jusen problem was not unprecedented; Japan merely followed in the footsteps of its economic mentor, the United States, which experienced a very similar financial meltdown about a decade earlier. This commentary briefly describes that event – the U.S. savings and loan crisis – and then draws some tentative conclusions on the basis of a comparison of the two events.