Godzilla x Economics: How feasible is rebuilding Japan after Godzilla attacks?

I’m not going to say it’s an omnipresent meme or anything, but a meme I’ve seen with some regularity over the years is  “Wow, Japan is so resilient to rebuild itself time after time in the wake of Giant Monster Attacks, nyuk nyuk nyuk” – I’ve even tried to get a few nyuks myself along those lines. But how unrealistic is it? I needed to know the answer, once and for all.

And not only that, once I got some answers I needed to run the information by an expert in all things Kaiju, so I called Kyle Yount of the Kaijucast to talk things out – when it comes to Godzilla this dude knows his stuff, and when it comes to Godzilla podcasters there is no higher authority.

You can listen to the audio here!

METHODOLOGY AND ASSUMPTIONS

First I went through all the Godzilla films, notepad at my side, and made notes of what got destroyed.  I focused on infrastructure things – buildings, bridges / tunnels / power plants and highway overpasses. (For whatever reason it feels like overpasses are disproportionately targeted by giant monsters – something I feel received a short homage in Pacific Rim, where Gipsy Danger – one of the protagonists of the film – purposely steps over an overpass to save it from being crushed). Things like boats, cars, planes etc weren’t factored in – my assumption being there are a lot of these things to go around and then could be replaced relatively easily.

Another key assumption: I only looked at Godzilla films and a few additional films from Toho (Rodan, Mothra and Varan). It’s a slippery slope if you include Gamera films, because while I wanted to include the Gamera Trilogy from 1996, if I did that it would mean I’d have to inlude early Gamera films… and if I did that I’d have to include ‘The X From Outer Space’… and the next thing you know I’m scrutining ‘Death Gappa’.  Better to just avoid. I also made one key assumption that all of these movies happened on the same timeline (which we discuss during the podcast).

THE NUMBERS STUFF

Once I had a list of the infrastructure measurements I had to assign both a cost value and a time value to each. My research yielded the following:

Power Plant / bridge: $650 mil, 3 year lead time
Building: $3 million per floor constructed and five months to build regardless of size
Overpass: $8.48 million, six months

Doing some simple math I was able to get a total cost estimate for each film and a time estimate from each film. However, in calculating the time I made an important assumption: first, note the power plant / bridge lead time is much longer than the other lead times – therefore it’s the ‘critical path’ lead time (meaning ‘it’s the lead time that can change how long it takes to complete the project on its own’). A lead time of three years is reasonable under *normal* circumstances, but as we discuss on the podcast a lot of that lead time has to do with meetings, permits and other things that would be waived to rebuild following the wrath of Daikaiju (so we cut the lead time in half). I also assumed that all things would be rebuilt in parallel, the rebuild effort would be swift.

Back to cost: having a cost estimate isn’t enough – the rate of inflation has to be measured since a dollar (or yen) had far more purchasing power in 1954 (first Godzilla film) than it does now. The cost estimates were adjusted to account for inflation of currency through the years.

Okay, so we have total cost estimate to rebuild and a reasonable time estimate to rebuild – you’d think we’re done right? Well, almost – we need to look at one more thing: simply looking at money doesn’t mean anything in and of itself, so what I did was look at the cost in rebuilding as a percent of Japan’s GDP that year (GDP being ‘the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a given time period’). GDP is viewed as the standard measure of economic strength for a nation, because that’s what – at the end of the day – you’ve actually provided to everyone. It’s all well and good if Monster (x) – or ‘Monster X’ for that matter – does a certain amount of damage, but even more important is a country’s ability to absorb that damage.  Wealthier nations afford themselves more of a buffer in dealing with things of this nature, just like wealthy people can afford to lose 20 bucks much more so than I can. This is why ‘Destruction as a percentage of GDP’ is a better indicator of the effect the monster really had.

FINDINGS

1) In almost every case the time to rebuild and the money involved to rebuild could have happened.
2) Any time there was more than a one-year gap between films, the rebuild would have happened easily.
3) The target cities of Giant Monster rampages varied enough where one city didn’t get hit too hard (with one exception, more on that in second).
4) The Giant Monster Attacks after the Japanese economic expansion could have been easily sustained due to Japan’s financial strength.

However, there are two things in the data that raised my eyebrow.

1. In the Millennium series of Godzilla films (named because they began in the year 2000) Giant Monsters repeatedly attack Tokyo. Year after year, Tokyo got hit – the time to rebuild would have been seriously challenged in getting that taken care of. That being said… you could make the case the timelines would get accelerated even MORE than I’ve assumed, making the rebuild even more reasonable (since all we’re really talking about here is a gap of about six months).

2. The first movie Gojira (1954) was easily the one to hit Japan the hardest – not only was Tokyo laid to waste by Godzilla but it was 2.4 percent of GDP (more than double the impact of the second-most impactful film from a Giant Monster perspective – Destroy All Monsters).

Godzilla-destruction graph

Now, I know it doesn’t sound like much when I say 2 percent of GDP, so let me try to put that in perspective.

– 2 percent of US GDP today is $299 billion dollars.
– That money alone could buy 14 Big Macs each for every man, woman and child on this planet.
– With $2 billion left over.

But yet again, as much as that is? It could still be dealt with economically despite Japan’s status as a nation before the economic boom.

FINAL CONCLUSION: Rebuilding Japan in the wake of Giant Monster Attacks is at no times infeasible – in fact it’s pretty darn realistic.

Thanks to Kyle from Kaijucast again for making himself available to talk on this!  You can check out Kyle’s podcast here if not familiar with it already – if it happens in the world of Daikaiju, Kyle is there to cover it and talk about it. Go check it out now!

Oh, and one more note – as part of our discussion I talked with Kyle and compared his thoughts on the ‘most destructive’ Daikaiju films with my calculations on said films, kind of as a double-check to see how my calculations lined up.  What the numbers showed (and Kyle agreed with) is after the top three movies there was a drop-off and a bunch of films that vied for the Number 4 spot.  Once among those films, my numbers favored Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack aka ‘G.M.K.’ while Kyle’s thoughts favored Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, but all in all things lined up really clean.

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One thought on “Godzilla x Economics: How feasible is rebuilding Japan after Godzilla attacks?

  1. Pingback: Cool Links from Tweeps: Re-Imaging ‘True Grit,’ Saving Drive-Ins, ‘They Call Me Trinity’ and More… | I Love Terrible Movies

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