Japan’s rural areas have been paved over and filled in with roads, dams and other big infrastructure projects, the legacy of trillions of dollars spent to lift the economy from a severe downturn caused by the bursting of a real estate bubble in the late 1980s. During those nearly two decades, Japan accumulated the largest public debt in the developed world — totaling 180 percent of its $5.5 trillion economy — while failing to generate a convincing recovery. Now, as the Obama administration embarks on a similar path, proposing to spend more than $820 billion to stimulate the sagging American economy, many economists are taking a fresh look at Japan’s troubled experience. . . . Among ordinary Japanese, the spending is widely disparaged for having turned the nation into a public-works-based welfare state and making regional economies dependent on Tokyo for jobs. Much of the blame has fallen on the Liberal Democratic Party, which has long used government spending to grease rural vote-buying machines that help keep the party in power.
NYT link via Instapundit.
I wasn't enjoying Hugh Hewitt's show on the drive home from work today, so I switched over to Michael Savage. He's pretty extreme, but he said something today that struck me as inarguable: A crisis of excess debt cannot be solved by more debt.
We're in deep trouble.
Update, 2/10/09: Here's another column, subtitled A History of Folly.