By John H. Sagers (auth.)

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Extra resources for Origins of Japanese Wealth and Power: Reconciling Confucianism and Capitalism, 1830–1885

Sample text

When the domain ran into financial difficulties in the mid-Tokugawa Confucian Moralism and Economic Realism ● 35 period, domain officials tried to find ways to monopolize products for the domain’s profit. They seem to have been aware that commerce needed to be exploited to strengthen the state, but were also wary of the potential deleterious effects that commercial wealth in private hands might have on the state’s power. One of the earliest ways that Satsuma officials attempted to augment the domain’s commercial wealth was through its special relationship with the Kingdom of Ry˚ky˚ in what is present day Okinawa prefecture.

Second, thinking of trade as a form of war brought commerce to the center of domain politics. Economic policy was consequently judged less upon vague moral principles than on its concrete contribution to improving the domains’ trade balances. Third, the domain states began to take an activist approach to economic affairs. No longer content to leave commerce to merchants, domain officials took a leadership role in technology acquisition and other measures to promote commercial advantage. In practice, daimyo in the late eighteenth century responded to their financial crises with new commercial policies including domain monopolies of specialized regional products.

Even money lending occurred within the parameters of natural principle. The ruler, then, should not hesitate in promoting commerce as another part of the natural order he was entrusted by heaven to govern. But Kaiho took this line of reasoning a step further than most of his contemporaries did. He saw trade as not only acceptable, but also essential in the context of the domains’ competitive relationships with one another. Confucian Statecraft and Innovation ● 27 In his “Advice on Practice” (Keikodan) written near the end of his life in 1813, Kaiho argued that trade had replaced warfare between domains under the Pax Tokugawa, but the stakes of the competition remained high: This is an age when one must not let his guard down toward other domains and must carefully cultivate his own country.

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