Monday, April 05, 2010

Iwakura Mission - Insights & Observations

This post is a collection of some interesting observations and insights recorded by Kume Kunitake, during the tour of the Iwakura Mission. What strikes you is how effectively the Mission Report managed to commnunicate the urgent need to pick-out and transplant a whole range of ideas from the West.

Excerpts -

Britain: Prosperity in just 40 years (pp.120)
European countries of the present day atand a the pinnacle of civilization. They are immensely rich, their trade is on a huge scale, they excel in arts and manufacturers, and their peoples live pleasant lives and are extremely happy. It is natural to assume that all this is the product, achieved over many centuries, of the high value which Europe places on commerce, and that it is peculiar to this continent. However, the truth is otherwise. It is since 1800 that Europe has attained its present wealth; and it is only in the last forty years that it has achieved the truly remarkable level of prosperity we now see.

France: Preserving old ways - Libraries & Museums for accumulating knowledge (pp228-229 )
At the root of the march of progress in the West is a profound love for antiquity...It is the accumulation of knowledge over hundreds and thousands of years which fosters the enlightenment of a civilization

Belgium:  Forethought and attention to detail necessary for a successful enterprise (pp. 267)

Whenever plans for a new enterprise are drawn up, the people of the West are just the opposite of the Japanese in the degree of forethoughtand attention to detail they bring to the task. After they have carefully weighed the idea and cosider the project to be feasible, they start by accumulating the necessary capital. Then they obtain the permit, put up a temporary workshop, install the machinery and gradually build up the enterprise over the course of two or three years. They will plan for the future, setting aside a part of their profits for improvement of buildings and equipment, and it will take ten years of sustained effort before they can display their achivements to the world at large.

People in Japan, however, assume profits will come easily even before they have made any money at all. They rush into plans for new forms and expand the business in such haste that within the space of a year, even as the fine premises they have built are still impressing people, their profits will be starting to dwindle. This may be attributed to their impulsive, carefree spirit, but the truth of the matter is that, as yet, they simply do not have an understanding of the fundamental nature of profit.
Germany: The influence of a frual monarch - Friedrich II (pp.300)

The political culture in Prussia seems to be founded on the legacy of Frierich-II, a monarch who despised outward showy displays. It is even said that at the time of this death he had no new clothes he could be dressed in... He once said that Prussians are not frugal by nature, and that even those with the smallest sums to spare will dress themselves in fine clothing...German aristocracy's admiration for French culture and of the way Austrian nobelmen wallow in a life of gilder splendour, all of which reveals the true character of the German people. It is the nature of man that a convenience once employed can never be foregone, while a taste once acquired cannot be forgotten.

Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck's timeless advise regarding realpolitik (15 March 1873)

Field Marshal Moltke's Views (pp 311-312)
Nations these days all appear to conduct relations with amity and courtesy, but this is entirely superficial, for behind this fascade lurks mutual contempt and a struggle for supremacy...First, so-called international law, which is supposed to protect the rights of all nations,afford us no security at all. When there is a dispute, the great powers would invoke international law and stand their ground if it stood to their benefit; but if they stood to lose, they would simply change direction and resort to military force, which was never limited to self-defence alone. However, small nations like ours would assiduously stick to the letter of the law and abide by univrsal principles, not daring to trnasgress these. Consequently, in the face of manoeuvring with flattery and contempt by the great powers, we invariably failed to protect our right of independence, no matter how hard we tried.

The principles of law, justice and freedom serve to protect the country domestically, but only military power can protect it abroad. International law, too, is concerned only with a country's strength or weakness, for it is small nations which will remain neutral and re protected solely by this law, whereas great powers must use their strength to claim their rights.
Somehow we begrudge military expenditure and yearn for a life of peace, but if war were to break out, would this not promptly squander the wealth we have worked so hard to accumulate all these years? To disband our regular army in response to encouraging signs of peace is a dream for future generations, not something which can be accomplished at present. On all sides our neighbors fear and etest our power, as if the devil himself were glaring down at them from pictures hung on their walls...
Russia: Wealth among commoners (pp.330)

It used to be argued that in Britain, France, Belgium and Holland there were more wealthy people among the commoners than among the nobility, and that for precisely this reason the population in each country was flourishing and popular rights were well developed. In Germany (including Austria), and Italy, the wealth of the nobility exceeds that of the common people, and therefore those countries cannot escape being pooer in the visible levels of civilization, and the rights of the rulers are greater than those of the people. In Russia, by contrast, it is only the nobility who are at all advanced and the common people are like slaves.

East vs. West (pp.336)
The Eastern races are less inclined to greed; they submit themselves to moral governance; their sovereigns are conscientious and frugal and thus have raised their people to great heights. Even so, the welath they have accumulated is found astonishing by foreigners. The Westerns races by contrast, are given to rampant greed and are slow to correct their conduct; as for the rulers, it would not be clumny to say that they tax the people of their lands heavily and make themselves wealthy by keeping the revenue to themselves, and that they are all but tireless in their cupidity and rapacity. This explains why the notion of freedom has sprung forth among the people of Europe and why Europe is seething with the views of those who would wipe out the rights of sovereigns and establish the rights of the people. The peoples of the East and West are different in character; they are almost opposites.

What should Politics be about? (pp. 372)

It is a vulgar notion, born of a narrow-minded outlook, to suppose that other people, because of some minor difference in bone structure or customs, are not our equals...What is it that politics should be about, that education should be inculcating? Surely not such trivial matters as these. Rather, let the focus of politics and education be on these two words: 'wealth' and 'strength'. The goal for which we should be striving is that all the people of the land workd hard at their occupations, achieve independence, be courteous in their dealings with others and be trustworthy, and that we exploit the benefits of all the foods which are desired. Thus will our national pride not be affronted abroad and we will be able to lie in good public order at home and progress towards a state of peace.
Switzerland: On how the government avoids recruiting excess staff (pp.457)
This day we visited various administrative departments which are under the direction of the members of the State Council...The appointment of officials in the various departments is simple in the extreme. At very busy times, when there are not enough clerks for the work on hand, passers-by are somtimes asked to help in such tasks as copying documents. This obviates the need for emplying superfluous officials, which would lead to a reduction inthe amount of workd done by each. One lazy official, we were told, would infect the others with his idleness.
European Commercial Enterprise - Industrial arts leading to vast gains in wealth and power (pp.482)

Because they are no more able to depend on their native ingenuity than on their infertile soil, Europeans make every effort to conquer nature by thoroughly investigating its mechanisms, by unremitting labout, and by close cooperation with one another. This capacity for investigation leads to advances in knowledge, their capacity for hard works leads to invention of machines, and their capacity for cooperation leads brings prosperity in trade. It is a combination of these qualities which has produced the flourishing civilization we see today.

An examination of the situation in Europe shows that while people in the East have developed agriculture and manufacturing through 'practical' experience, people in the West have developed agriculture and manufacturing through 'theoritical' study. Thus their technology cannot escape a dependence on machines.

We should not therefore be overawed by their engineering feats. What should give us greater cause to worry is their capacity for cooperation and their untiring attention to the minutae of trade. They always obtain the best possible prices for the goods which their nations produce, and their commerce is like an army on the march. They cannot rely on nature, so they make human cooperation their chief principle. It is in commerce that Europe can best serve as an example to the world.

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