[C] and the Role of Government (And Other Criticisms)

The invisible hand of the market was never meant to be seen.

Much of the commentary on the recent episodes of [C] is that it could be considered a criticism of deficit spending by governments. Scamp ultimately came to this conclusion, however I see it differently. Much of the action in [C] has been defined by complete inaction by governments and international agencies like the IMF. Essentially I see the events of the series as showing the powerlessness of governments in the age of a globalism controlled by private investors.

Back in 1997, several nations in Southeast Asia were coming to the end of a period of startling economic growth. The end came rather quickly in what would come to be known as the Asian Financial Crisis. A decision made by Thailand to float their currency even when they were effectively bankrupt  caused foreign investors to flee the region entirely into safer investments. Currency values plummeted in the region leading to bailouts by the IMF, stock market and housing bubbles in America and for Japan, more competition in manufacturing from countries with devalued currency.

So what happened in episode 9? Currency loses all value in Southeast Asia, and it has a knock on effect on other countries in the region. [C] chose to portray this as a loss of population and confidence of those affected, as opposed to things like revolution and active destruction of property.

Mikuni's intervention, in chart form.

The role Mikuni plays in all of this is rather interesting. Using Midas Money, he essentially becomes the foreign investor buying up Japanese treasuries for what seems like the noble purpose of keeping Japan afloat or in episode 9 injecting money into stocks to prevent a crash. However, that came at a cost as he had to pull all of that money out of the Japanese economy with devastating consequences.

By the end of the episode, I was with two conclusions as far as what the series is really trying to criticize. The first is the absolutely glacial pace with which governments move on economic issues, but more importantly is the idea that systemically important institutions are allowed to become time bombs capable of destroying millions of lives with money that ultimately have to be bailed out by those who had nothing to do with it. Mikuni failed to realize that he had become too powerful. His own attempt at bailing out Japan had in fact done seemingly irreparable damage.

Which leads back to what could have actually been done by Mikuni after his bailout attempt in episode 9. He could have chosen to pay the money back, or not paid it back. This very much plays out like a couple of decisions made during the recent financial crisis in Europe. Ireland chose to bailout their banks, Iceland chose to do so only for their own citizens. By taking the Ireland route, Mikuni may have turned Japan into an island with a shrinking population and economy as well as being unable to turn things around because they have no money left.

Entire nations disappearing now?

Now onto some other issues I have with the series. The first has to do with disappearing landmasses. We’ve heard of one country in the Caribbean disappearing entirely, while the ninth episode saw Singapore vanish into the ether. Having masses of land disappear seems to me rather impossible with simply money, but wouldn’t making Singapore part of Malaysia or Indonesia have the same impact as just wiping out the island. I suppose it is rather silly complaining about realism in a series like this.

I thought it was worth noting that urban Japan could suddenly look rather post-apocalyptic.

Another thing was alluded to late in the last episode, the decline of the birthrate into the single digits per week nationally. Satou pointed out that GDP was at early-80s levels, which effectively meant that Mikuni had chosen to inflict 30 years of economic stagnation on the country. Little wonder at that point that social services would collapse and the birthrate would plummet. There would be many versions of the new Hanabi who had never seen prosperity in their lifetimes. That emigration wasn’t talked about probably says a lot about just how far the situation had fallen.

The New Japan: A World Without Hope or a Future

Conclusions: I tend to think that much of the discussion on [C] has been dominated by snap judgements based on one’s political leanings. I believe that comes out of this is that governments don’t have as much power as they would like. It could be argued that by not doing anything when they had the chance, they made themselves too weak to act when they should have. There’s now 2 episodes remaining, which I am now expecting to be rather rushed and possibly concluding with 1 man, or country remaining extraordinarily rich, surrounded entirely by ocean.

11 thoughts on “[C] and the Role of Government (And Other Criticisms)”

  1. I took the episode to be a reflection of the economic crisis that has enveloped America for the last few years, and that it had made it’s way over to Japan among other countries. How about bankrupt Greece? I’m not sure what they really want to say, but your take on it makes a lot of sense. It’s rather surreal in the the earthquake also exposed many problems with Japan’s economy. The series is almost a foreshadowing in retrospect. Again government that failed to act with any kind of urgency.

    1. I think with the IMF angle, it never really was about America. There are America-style problems involved here, but not enough to assign blame to America. The comparison to the banking crises in Ireland and Iceland I thought were more apt because there was more of a panic involved in those two incidents. The Greece situation has been brewing for years without the need for immediate action from governments.

  2. I didn’t mean my reply to say that the episode was based on American problems, but the Japanese problems are closer to American, than to Europe, imo.

    1. I can see where you are coming from. By the end of the episode Japan was in a much worse version of the Great Depression. I just think with modernization problems are getting harder and harder to isolate to one particular area.

      1. I agree with that. Do you think it is possible to have another Great Depression or are we in one now, that is as close as we can get?

      2. Personally speaking I don’t think we are in one now, though certain actions taken over the coming months could push it in that direction. I tend to think of this period as a sort of lengthened 1970s malaise more than anything approaching a depression.

  3. Hrmm, I haven’t started C yet (a bit late, don’t you think :v)

    Is it worth a watch? The concepts do seem more interesting than previous episodes foretold.

    1. The problem C has is that the upfront method they choose to present criticisms of how things work is pretty ridiculous. The stuff set in the real world is what I find interesting, but it can be a bit esoteric and way too easy to read something that isn’t there. It does make a great change from the usual and it does do social commentary much better than Fractale, but there’s not enough time to tell a real story.

  4. I always took C as a series about the effects that financial crises have on people and the role that money plays in our society. I think the title summarizes the show pretty well – C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control. At the same time, I think the show has completely convoluted whatever message it was originally supposed to convey. It’s just a gigantic mess right now in my eyes.

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