Like you, I also believe questioning one’s assumptions – the deeper, the better – is an important process and key to our personal development.
Now, I want to address your using Japan as an example of somewhere things went wrong. Why? Because I’ve lived in Japan since 2004 and, in general, I have found life a lot more pleasurable and fulfilling. An a lot less stressful than I did my 31 30 1/2 years growing up in the U.S.
Sure, I suppose if we look at things only through the lens of modern economic theory (a mighty narrow lens, I’d suggest).
Yes, I admit, my English teaching job in the public schools of 15 years had only one pay raise – about $50/month – which was subsequently mostly wiped out by a national tax increase the following fall.
Still, if one questions the whole money narrative that’s sold to most Americans from the time they are old enough to say “waa,” well, one can find that a lot of cultures around the world don’t have nearly the material wealth that the U.S. does but they’ve got more wealth in other ways.
Last, the Wikipedia link you had about Japan’s 20 Lost Years had this buried in it:
Rather, to return Japan’s economy back to the path to economic prosperity, policymakers would have had to adopt policies that would first cause short-term harm to the Japanese people and government. -Wikipedia, on Japan’s Lost 20 Years
Isn’t it funny how this elusive and rather abstract concept of “economic prosperity” is placed above the immediate well-being of the people it claims to be in service of?
Such things make you think. And by doing so, maybe that does cause you to re-examine your deeply held assumptions about what is good and right for the world.