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Planning for Empire: Reform Bureaucrats and the Japanese Wartime State: The early twentieth century was a Cambrian Explosion of political ideologies, most of which did not survive. That change can be read as partly a reaction to the collapse of monarchies within Europe and the decline of colonialism outside of it, but there was significant variation in how different places and institutions responded. Sometimes the family tree gets messy: the "reform bureaucrats" were an odd coalition of Marxists, fascists, admirers of the New Deal, and amorally ambitious political operators.

The odd coalitions did not just show up at a high level, but were fractally present at every level. For example, Japan's economy was dominated by zaibatsu, large networks of holding companies, often centered around a bank and trading company. The older zaibatsu were largely in favor of free markets, because they made so much money importing and exporting goods. The newer ones often cozied up to the government, both because they could get state subsidies and loans for heavy industry and as a competitive differentiator.

This era also showcased a bizarre form of federalism: Japan tested out some of its industrial policy and government plans in the puppet state of Manchukuo. It's easier to impose reforms at home if they've been demonstrated elsewhere, but no one was pursuing quite the model Japan aimed for, so they incubated their own policy laboratory. This was in one sense a decentralized governance model, but in another sense was an invitation to experiment with looser conceptions of human rights.

There's surprising continuity, both in terms of personnel and policy, between pre- and post-war Japanese economics. In both periods, the country wanted to secure access to raw materials and a market in which to safely sell finished goods. It turned out that this was not really possible with the Japanese military, at least once they a) didn't have access to American oil imports, and b) were, in fact, fighting America. But the US Navy was able to accomplish what the Imperial Japanese Navy was not, and to secure Japan's status as a modern, advanced economy.

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