The Moment

Toru Hanai / Reuters

"Consider Japan," murmured the title of a book-length article in the Economist in 1962, a seminal work that introduced much of the outside world to a puzzle. In ruins just a few years before, Japan was by then growing its economy at a sustained annual rate of 9%, and doing so, moreover, by cheerfully throwing conventional wisdom out of the window. You could almost see the writer furrow his brow: How do they do it?

Nearly half a century later, the question still poses itself. Consider: Japan is by any...

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