O que é este blog?
Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org.
sábado, 17 de fevereiro de 2018
quinta-feira, 7 de abril de 2016
sábado, 18 de maio de 2013
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Is France a ‘Peripheral’ Country?by Jacob Funk Kirkegaard
For any leading euro area finance minister to doze off during key negotiations to settle the economic future of another euro area member is an embarrassing dereliction of duty. Perhaps Mr. Moscovici was assured that his 70-year-old old German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble, would defend French taxpayers’ interests. Moscovici’s staff—which failed to wake him up—seemingly agreed. Or perhaps Paris simply viewed the German-led bail-in solution in Cyprus as a fait accompli about which they could do little. Or perhaps the French government’s support for costs imposed on creditors and uninsured depositors was stronger that it wished to acknowledge. Taking a nap during the negotiations could thus have been a subtle way of Moscovici stepping outside the door at the key decision moment.
The other euro area finance ministers could probably be forgiven for letting sleeping ministers lie. But by failing to wake Moscovici up, they effectively rendered France’s potential input as irrelevant. Probably to avoid that implication, Lagarde woke up her successor.
Whatever the underlying motives for Moscovici’s sidelining at the Cyprus negotiations are, the broader reasons for France’s evident loss of influence in the EU since the beginning of the crisis are several.
Paris has been hit by bad timing luck in European affairs. My colleague John Williamson once explained that a period of “extraordinary politics” follows serious crises, compelling leaders to establish new institutions, such as the so-called Permanent Five members (P-5) in the United Nations Security Council or the de facto clout wielded by U.S. and European members of the IMF Board resulting from their dominant global role in the 1940s. In European affairs today it matters for a country to be economically strong in a time of severe crisis.
Ironically, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany are reaping the unforeseen national benefits of reforms instituted by her predecessor, Gerhard Schöder, a decade ago in response to Germany’s status then as the “sick man of Europe.” Its weakness mattered little because nothing dramatic was happening at the time to the European institutional design following the collapse of the constitution treaty negotiated under the leadership of former French President Giscard de Estaing. Today Germany is strong when it matters, and able to play a leading role in the birth of important and permanent new European institutions like the updated fiscal surveillance framework (two-pack/six-pack, fiscal treaty), the European Stabilization Mechanism (ESM), and now the banking union. These redesigns have been largely devoid of obvious French fingerprints, even if France can take credit for helping to goad Germany into taking action at critical moments.
If Germany benefited from Schröder’s early reforms, France’s situation results from its profound misreading of the effects of the euro introduction, and the political dynamic of crises. Germany’s original agreement to give up the Deutsche mark for the euro back in the 1990s has historically been seen as a concession in return for France’s acceptance of German reunification. (Chancellor Helmut Kohl also saw the euro as a reunified Germany’s anchor in Europe.) With the euro’s advent, Paris was free from the yoke of having to pursue German monetary policies to defend the “Franc Fort” in the 1980s. The crisis, however, has bestowed disproportional political power to Germany, which as the euro’s anchor has been able to set the crisis response agenda.
For two decades, France has failed to reform its economy, yielding power to Berlin and the European Central Bank to demand domestic reforms in other euro area member countries. Meanwhile, the government of President Francois Hollande has done little to arrest France’s path of gradual decline since adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Neither Presidents Jacques Chirac nor Nicolas Sarkozy succeeded from the center right, and the consensus seeking socialist Hollande does not seem to have the political will to face down entrenched special interests blocking reforms either. The alleged left-right divide in France is obsolete. Both sides favor the status quo and are fearful of street protests blocking any serious attempts at reform.1
The parallel with fears of “Arab street” protests blocking reforms in the Middle East is evident. But with its founding myth of storming the Bastille, France has embraced its identity as a place where farmers, truck drivers, and average citizens are easier to mobilize. By protesting, French citizens are engaging in an intrinsic element of being French. Like the National Rifle Association in the United States, French labor unions, public sector representatives and protected industries appeal to patriotic fervor to promote their political and economic interests. As a result, international competitiveness suffers, the size of the public sector continues to grow, unemployment rises and debt and deficits begin to approach damaging levels.
Unable to muster the political capacity to reform itself in the absence of a deep crisis, France fits the political definition of a peripheral country in the euro area, except that things have not gotten as bad as they have in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and arguably Spain and Italy in recent years.
To be sure, France is far from an economic basket case. It has avoided the build-up of huge post-euro imbalances. It does not have Italy’s history of free-spending governments, and it enjoys some of Europe’s most favorable long-term demographics and a first-rate public infrastructure. Were it to experience a crisis, it is inconceivable that Germany (and the ECB) would not come to the rescue. As a result, despite the growing differentials in French and German economic competitiveness, unemployment and debt, France is likely to keep getting a pass from financial markets and tracking German interest rate levels closely.
Lacking financial market pressure, however, France’s status quo parties will likely continue to derive the functional equivalent of America’s “exorbitant privilege” and enjoy interest rates lower than its own economic fundamentals would dictate. France’s problem is not a sudden speculative attack, but rather continued malaise, stagnation, and decline.
Though he never used the word “malaise,” President Jimmy Carter described the American mood in 1979 in ways that seem suitable to the predicament in France: “The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.”Hollande’s government continues to shun globalization by blocking foreign investments in France. The latest sad example is the blocking of Yahoo!’s proposed takeover of successful French internet start-up, Dailymotion. He has, on the other hand, overseen some new labor market rules accepted by the social partners, and has committed to reforms of the social insurance system later this year in return for a two-year delay in achieving a deficit target. But these consensus-driven steps are unlikely to shake France out of its paralysis or earn much respect elsewhere in the euro area, and especially not in Berlin.
The euro area’s required institutional reforms can be divided into two groups: one that is urgently required and one that takes the form of highly desirable institutional innovations. The most urgent steps that are needed to convince markets and voters that a euro collapse is not imminent include establishment of the ESM as a de facto European monetary fund to serve as a backstop if a euro area member loses market access; the ECB’s outright monetary transaction (OMT) program, serving as a conditional lender-of-last-resort; and the banking union, which will integrate banking supervision with resolution in cases of insolvent banks, and establish a system of deposit insurance. All these new institutions have been implemented under financial market pressure and in response to the political desires of Germany. France’s input has mattered little.
But neither financial markets, nor Brussels technocrats, nor central bank pressure can be factors in the other group of institutional reforms, such as deeper political and fiscal integration in the euro area and revisions of the EU Treaty. Only the democratically elected leaders of Europe can bring about these changes. These steps will be close to impossible to achieve without support and agreement from France and Germany, the two countries historically at the heart of the European integration project.
Regrettably, France’s lack of domestic economic reforms will ensure that Germany will likely refuse to discuss deeper fiscal and political union in Europe for the foreseeable future. The road to any potential form of euro area fiscal integration, whether in the form of debt mutualization or an increased euro area fiscal capacity, will have to pass through a French reform-driven domestic economic revival first. Germany will not agree to permanent-burden sharing with a France that does not reform itself first.
This does not mean the collapse of the euro or the European project, only an end to most longer-term progress on the project. Just as the United States political system can stagger through political crises with one of the two large parties on the political fringes, the euro area can stagger on under de facto German leadership for as long as France’s inaction exiles itself from real influence. As with the US fiscal negotiations, this state of affairs ensures that progress will be minimal, based on the least common denominator, rather than arrived at by a grand bargain between France and Germany.
France’s inability to reform itself puts Europe at risk, in short, and condemns France to subpar influence in Europe and thwarted aspirations. For its own sake and Europe’s, France must do better.
quarta-feira, 10 de abril de 2013
Margaret Thatcher’s death caught up with me in the worst of places: a speech in Argentina. What to do? Should I follow my conscience and say a few words in memory of her—and risk offending an audience sensitive to the legacy of the Falklands War—or should I keep silent? I opted for saying a couple of words, asking them not to take offense and expressing respect for their feelings. Some disapproving noises came back from the audience. After I finished speaking, I faced some aggressive reproaches.
In death, as in life, Thatcher is a polarizing figure. There are classical liberals who object to her excessive conservatism and conservatives who judge her to have been too libertarian; the left hates everything about her and Argentines consider her a war criminal. I spent a few years in London during her time in office. There are some things everyone, left or right, should value.
First, she transformed the British right, which was an oligarchic club, into a association in which merit rather than origin, and effort rather than lineage, became the dominant features. When she took over the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1975, being a grocer’s daughter from Grantham was a stigma among Tories; self-made success and social mobility were anathema to them. By 1990, those were emblems of a new Tory Party.
Thatcher brought back ideas into politics. Neither the left, which had been dominant since the end of WWII and accelerated Britain’s decadence, nor the right, which had accepted the fundamentals of a socioeconomic model imposed by the left, believed in ideas anymore. We can debate whether she went as far as she could in applying hers, but there is no debating her love of ideas. The ones she absorbed at the Institute of Economic Affairs and the ones she learned reading everything from Edmund Burke to Friedrich Hayek shaped her discourse and many, many of her actions.
Because her mission was not to do away with the state, she did not do so. In some areas, such as defense, she enlarged it. But she launched a process that devolved the responsibility for wealth creation and the pursuit of happiness from the state to civil society. In so doing, she transformed the right and the left. She instilled idealism and a reformist zeal into the political right; she helped modernize part of the left. Although Tony Blair’s Labor Party made government somewhat bigger, on the whole he maintained her legacy and reaped the benefits. This fostered the rebirth of the left under the banner of the “third way”, which impacted Europe, the United States (under Bill Clinton) and Latin America (with Brazil’s Lula da Silva).
Contributing to the implosion of Soviet communism, something that is often attributed to her, was no small feat. It required going up against vested interests and widespread perceptions in a democratic Europe that had lost all hope of change on the other side of the Iron Curtain. She was accused of being blinded by ideology; but when she understood that Mikhail Gorbachev was seriously interested in reform, she declared that the West could “do business with him” (and caused whispers among the American right). Thatcher was not an ideological animal, but a political animal with ideas. Both the right and the left owe much to what she did, in peaceful combat, to tear down the Berlin Wall. The right defeated an enemy, of course, but the moderate left shook off a dead weight.
Thatcher mistrusted European integration. Many of us thought she did so primarily for nationalistic reasons (and later a discomfort with a unified Germany) rather than because she feared the bureaucratic aspects. Time has shown she was right about some of what she said. The European construct has many flaws; the crisis of 2007/8 brought them into the open.
She was a rare politician. It will be decades before Europe produces anything like her. Rest in peace, Maggie.
quinta-feira, 31 de janeiro de 2013
Provavelmente, junto com os chineses Han, eles representam a mais longa continuidade cultural e étnica na trajetória histórica de toda a humanidade. Os chineses têm uma continuidade sobretudo cultural, já que falam vários dialetos e atravessaram dezenas de dinastias numa mesma área geográfica. Pela escrita asseguram essa continuidade (inclusive pelo despotismo imperial).
Com os judeus é diferente: foram escravizados, derrotados, dispersos, eliminados, sujeitos a todo tipo de exação e sofrimentos. E no entanto persistiram, graças precisamente à educação. São um povo livre, no entanto, já que preservaram sua cultura, sua religião, sua identidade, independentemente das destruições e tentativas de extinção a que foram submetidos ao longo da história. O calendário judeu é sobretudo uma construção política moderna, mas que reflete basicamente uma continuidade real, meio submergida na legenda bíblica, mas sobretudo garantido pela identificação desse povo com uma história escrita que não tem paralelo em nenhum outro povo, nenhuma outra cultura.
Se alguém ainda duvida da importância da educação para o povo judeu, apresento um teste muito simples: compare a magnitude da população judia (menos de 1% dos habitantes do planeta, e provavelmente menos de 0,01% de toda a humanidade desde a Antiguidade) e que representam, no entanto, mais de 25% dos Prêmios Nobel nos últimos 100 anos, e provavelmente boa parte da cultura científica e cultural, em geral, da Humanidade, desde muitos séculos. Algum outro povo chega perto desse desempenho? Duvido. Contestadores podem apresentar os seus dados...
Abaixo a resenha de um livro sobre uma pequena parte dessa história multissecular, com meus agradecimentos tanto aos autores do livro quanto aos que foram, e são, o seu objeto próprio: sempre devemos ser reconhecidos aos que nos tornam mais inteligentes...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492
------ EH.NET BOOK REVIEW ------
Title: The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492
Published by EH.Net (January 2013)
Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein, The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012. xvii + 323 pp. $39.50 (hardcover) ISBN: 978-0-691-14487-0.
Reviewed for EH.Net by Carmel U. Chiswick, Department of Economics, George Washington University.
The Chosen Few by Maristella Botticini (Bocconi University) and Zvi Eckstein (Tel Aviv University) reminds us – for those who need reminding – how Cliometrics can transform our understanding of historical events. They examine Jewish history from an economic perspective with results that are both innovative and insightful.
The book is structured around a skeleton of straightforward economic theory, fleshed out with data – quantitative and qualitative – obtained from an extraordinary array of documentary evidence. The historical period covered is a few decades short of 1,500 years, requiring us to step back and look through a very broad lens, yet the proof offers details on everyday economic life and on the timing of events. The economic model is simple but not simplistic, presented elegantly without bells and whistles, sophisticated but accessible to a general reader. (Technical language is wisely confined to appendices that spell out the model mathematically and present details on statistics that are new or controversial.) And the overall result is a new perspective that will change forever the way we understand the economic history of Jews over a broad spectrum of time and space.
The economic model developed by Botticini and Eckstein uses a human capital approach to look at the way investments in religious education interact with occupational choice and earnings. At the beginning of their story, approximately in the first century, Judaism was in transition from a religion centered on the Temple in Jerusalem to a synagogue-based religion that could be observed anywhere that Jews lived. Part of this transition required that every Jewish male learn to read from the Torah, making basic literacy a part of religious training that began at the age of 5 or 6 and encouraging further study for those so inclined. This meant that even ordinary Jewish men (and sometimes women) could read, and perhaps write, at a time when literacy was rare among the common people.
Botticini and Eckstein develop a model placing Jewish literacy within its economic context. When urbanization and commercialization raised the demand for occupations where reading and writing was an advantage, the religious training of Jews gave them a comparative advantage. This meant that investments in Jewish religious education earned a reward in the marketplace as long as Jews moved into those occupations, which of course they did. In contrast, when urban and commercial economies declined, Jewish religious training lost its economic advantage. This deceptively simple model is the framework for understanding the economic incentives not only for Jewish occupational clustering but also for the strength of Jewish attachment to Judaism.
At the beginning of their story, in the year 70, Botticini and Eckstein estimate a population of some 5 million Jews (about the size of today’s American Jewish population), half of whom lived in the Land of Israel under Roman rule and the rest in various places in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Asia Minor and the Balkans. Within the next century the Jewish population dropped by nearly half, and by the year 650 there were only one million Jews living mostly in Mesopotamia and Persia. Throughout this period most Jews, like most non-Jews, were farmers, a fact that Botticini and Eckstein document in some detail. War and famine, including the exile that dispersed Jews after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, explain no more than half of this decline, which was considerably greater than the general population decline during this period. As long as Jews remained farmers, however, the literacy requirement provided benefits only in the religious sphere but not in the secular economy. Many farmers responded by not investing in their children’s Jewish education, and most of their descendants assimilated into the surrounding (often Christian) populations. Those who remained Jews would have been a self-selected group of people with either strong preferences for religious Judaism or a high ability for reading and writing.
The second part of their period, approximately from 750 to 1150, uses the same model to explain why Jews (most of whom still lived in Persia and Mesopotamia) shifted from rural to urban occupations, from a community of farmers to one of craftsmen and merchants. Under the Muslim Caliphates cities grew, trade thrived, and the demand for occupations benefitting from literacy grew accordingly. Literacy skills Jews acquired as part of their religious education transferred readily to these urban occupations and were rewarded with high earnings, generating an income effect that supported a Golden Age of Jewish culture. Those Jews who remained as farmers were self-selected for persons who invested little in religious education and eventually assimilated into the general (Muslim) population.
Botticini and Eckstein look at demographic trends during this period of prosperity and cultural flowering, observing that the Jewish population not only grew in size but dispersed to cities all along the trading routes from India to Iberia, from Yemen to Europe. They are at pains to show that these migrations were not motivated by push factors like discrimination or expulsion, but rather by the pull of new opportunities for urban craftsmen and merchants. In most places the Jewish community concentrated in large cities, but in Europe – where the cities were too small to support much activity in high-level urban occupations – the Jewish communities were smaller and scattered more widely in many towns. The Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century destroyed the cities of the Middle East, devastated its commerce, and dramatically reduced demand for urban occupations throughout the region. Jewish religious education no longer yielded secular benefits in the impoverished Muslim economy, and the number of Jews declined as they assimilated into the surrounding population to avoid costly investments in religious human capital.
The Golden Age of Jewish culture in the Muslim world created a spiritual and intellectual legacy on which European Jewry could build. In particular, the Talmud and Responsa literature (correspondence ruling on religious observance in everyday business and family matters) discussed the application of ancient (biblical) rules to contemporary activities. This literature took Jewish religious studies well beyond basic literacy to develop literary sophistication and hone decision-making skills. After the Mongol invasions destroyed the Muslim commercial economy, Europe became the new center of Jewish learning that nurtured these skills. During the fourteenth century Spain had the most sophisticated economy in Europe and Spanish Jewry flourished in both religious culture and secular occupations.
Wherever they lived, Jewish communities maintained an active correspondence with each other on religious matters, creating networks that benefitted commercial activities as well. These networks meant that urban Jews living in capital-scarce countries could borrow from Jews in more prosperous communities. After the Mongol invasions, when European economies began to expand in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, imperfect capital markets created arbitrage opportunities that made money lending an especially profitable business. Botticini and Eckstein argue convincingly that Jewish trading networks, mercantile experience, and universal literacy gave European Jews a comparative advantage in a very profitable profession for which few non-Jews had the relevant skills. They thus argue that religiously-motivated education (creating literacy and decision-making skills transferable to secular occupations) and religiously-motivated correspondence networks explain why money-lending had become the dominant occupation of European Jews by the fifteenth century.
Botticini and Eckstein’s simple yet sophisticated human capital analysis provides new insights into Jewish history for the fourteen centuries covered in this book. In the last chapter of The Chosen Few they promise us a new book carrying the analysis forward for the next 500 years, from 1492 to the present. Judging from the economic success of modern Jews, 80 percent of whom now live in the United States or Israel, their model suggests strong complementarity between skills developed by a Jewish religious education and those associated with business management and scientific investigation.
Intentional or not, The Chosen Few follows an expositional style that suggests this very hypothesis. Like the Talmud, each topic is introduced by a statement of fact (evidence) followed by questions about what those facts mean and how to explain them. They then consider a number of opinions (hypotheses), including their own, and discuss the pros and cons of each with respect to internal consistency and historical evidence. This methodology yields a very convincing Cliometric analysis that we can expect to inform all future economic histories of the Jews between 70 and 1492.
Carmel U. Chiswick is Research Professor of Economics, George Washington University, and Professor Emerita, University of Illinois at Chicago. She has published widely on the economics of religion, especially on Jews, and much of her work on this subject is collected in C. Chiswick, The Economics of American Judaism (Routledge, 2008).
Copyright (c) 2013 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (firstname.lastname@example.org). Published by EH.Net (January 2013). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview