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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.

Mostrando postagens com marcador Prêmio Nobel. Mostrar todas as postagens
Mostrando postagens com marcador Prêmio Nobel. Mostrar todas as postagens

domingo, 10 de janeiro de 2016

Joseph Stigliz, o premio Nobel que precisa aprender economia (ou pelo menos políticas comerciais)

Raras vezes, ou praticamente nunca, eu concordo com o que diz esse Prêmio Nobel "unicampista" (mas da Columbia University) Joseph Stiglitz. Desta vez NÃO é exceção. Não que eu discorde fundamentalmente do acordo de Paris (2015) sobre mudanças climáticas, que acho apenas inócuo, ainda que aponte possivelmente para uma boa direção: a diminuição do componente fóssil, não renovável, na matriz energética mundial, em favor dos renováveis e a diminuição da emissão dos gases de efeito estufa na atmosfera (não que eu acho que isso venha a fazer uma grande diferença na escala geológica, mas vamos deixar esse pessoal tranquilo). É que eu acho que mercantilismo -- ou seja, substituição de mecanismos de mercado e de formação de preços nas interações livres entre produtores e consumidores, por burocratas governamentais e internacionais decidindo o que pode e o que não pode fazer na economia -- nunca resolveu nada na vida real, e só tende a distorcer ainda mais a avaliação da raridade relativa dos bens, que é o que importa.
Mas vejamos o que diz esse economista que parece não ter aprendido o beabá das políticas comerciais: "Furthermore, a “most favoured nation” provision ensures that corporations can claim the best treatment offered in any of a host country’s treaties. That sets up a race to the bottom – exactly the opposite of what US President Barack Obama promised."
Stiglitz se engana redondamente, no caso quadradamente: MFN NUNCA significou que o mais alto padrão de um determinado país represente a norma universal para todos os países, e ele não sabe do que está falando. MFN significa simplesmente que um país, ao estabelecer os SEUS PADRÕES NACIONAIS, e ao entrar em acordo com outros países, para comércio, investimentos, ou quaisquer outras coisas, não pode simplesmente dar um melhor tratamento a um do que a outro, e toda e qualquer medida que esse país introduza, de acordo com a sua SOBERANIA NACIONAL que seja mais favorável a um determinado parceiro de UM ACORDO é estendido, unilateral e ilimitadamente, sem qualquer tipo de discriminação a TODOS OS DEMAIS parceiros DAQUELE acordo, e apenas daquele acordo, sem valer para terceiros.
ENTENDEU Mr. Stiglitz? Faça um cursinho rápido de política comercial antes de escrever bobagens...
Incidentalmente: eu não acho o TPP a maior maravilha, acho apenas que se trata de mais um acordo mercantilista, igual a dezenas de outros, dentro ou fora do Gatt-OMC. Apenas acho que esse acordo não é melhor ou pior do que outros que existem por ai.
O "first best", seria a abertura comercial unilateral, ou seja, o livre-comércio universal, sem precisar negociar com ninguém, apenas abrindo seu próprio mercado ao todos os países do mundo. Mas, como os políticos não permitem essa simples medida de racionalidade econômica, melhor ter um acordo mercantilista que liberalize um pouco o comercio, ainda que com todas as restrições e salvaguardas protecionistas e subvencionistas, do que não ter acordo nenhum, correto.
Portanto: o que Mr. Stiglitz deveria estar promovendo é o livre comércio, não "melhores acordos comerciais". Isso simplesmente não faz sentido: o melhor acordo comercial é a abertura unilateral.
Ponto. Entendeu, Mr. Stiglitz?
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Brasília, 10/01/2016

In 2016, let's hope for better trade agreements - and the death of TPP

Japanese protesters oppose Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks in Atlanta, USA
The Trans-Pacific Partnership may turn out to be the worst trade agreement in decades

Japanese protesters oppose Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. Obama has sought to perpetuate business as usual, whereby the rules governing global trade and investment are written by US corporations for US corporations. Photograph: Steve Eberhardt/Demotix/Corbis

Last year was a memorable one for the global economy. Not only was overall performance disappointing, but profound changes – both for better and for worse – occurred in the global economic system.
Most notable was the Paris climate agreement reached last month. By itself, the agreement is far from enough to limit the increase in global warming to the target of 2ºC above the pre-industrial level. But it did put everyone on notice: the world is moving, inexorably, toward a green economy. One day not too far off, fossil fuels will be largely a thing of the past. So anyone who invests in coal now does so at his or her peril. With more green investments coming to the fore, those financing them will, we should hope, counterbalance powerful lobbying by the coal industry, which is willing to put the world at risk to advance its shortsighted interests.
Indeed, the move away from a high-carbon economy, where coal, gas, and oil interests often dominate, is just one of several major changes in the global geo-economic order. Many others are inevitable, given China’s soaring share of global output and demand. The New Development Bank, established by the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), was launched during the year, becoming the first major international financial institution led by emerging countries. And, despite Barack Obama’s resistance, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was established as well, and is to start operation this month.
The US did act with greater wisdom where China’s currency was concerned. It did not obstruct the renminbi’s admission to the basket of currencies that constitute the International Monetary Fund’s reserve asset, Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). In addition, a half-decade after the Obama administration agreed to modest changes in the voting rights of China and other emerging markets at the IMF – a small nod to the new economic realities – the US Congress finally approved the reforms.
The most controversial geo-economic decisions last year concerned trade. Almost unnoticed after years of desultory talks, the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round – initiated to redress imbalances in previous trade agreements that favored developed countries – was given a quiet burial. America’s hypocrisy – advocating free trade but refusing to abandon subsidies on cotton and other agricultural commodities – had posed an insurmountable obstacle to the Doha negotiations. In place of global trade talks, the US and Europe have mounted a divide-and-conquer strategy, based on overlapping trade blocs and agreements.
As a result, what was intended to be a global free trade regime has given way to a discordant managed trade regime. Trade for much of the Pacific and Atlantic regions will be governed by agreements, thousands of pages in length and replete with complex rules of origin that contradict basic principles of efficiency and the free flow of goods.
The US concluded secret negotiations on what may turn out to be the worst trade agreement in decades, the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and now faces an uphill battle for ratification, as all the leading Democratic presidential candidates and many of the Republicans have weighed in against it. The problem is not so much with the agreement’s trade provisions, but with the “investment” chapter, which severely constrains environmental, health, and safety regulation, and even financial regulations with significant macroeconomic impacts.
In particular, the chapter gives foreign investors the right to sue governments in private international tribunals when they believe government regulations contravene the TPP’s terms (inscribed on more than 6,000 pages). In the past, such tribunals have interpreted the requirement that foreign investors receive “fair and equitable treatment” as grounds for striking down new government regulations – even if they are non-discriminatory and are adopted simply to protect citizens from newly discovered egregious harms.
While the language is complex – inviting costly lawsuits pitting powerful corporations against poorly financed governments – even regulations protecting the planet from greenhouse gas emissions are vulnerable. The only regulations that appear safe are those involving cigarettes (lawsuits filed against Uruguay and Australia for requiring modest labeling about health hazards had drawn too much negative attention). But there remain a host of questions about the possibility of lawsuits in myriad other areas.
Furthermore, a “most favoured nation” provision ensures that corporations can claim the best treatment offered in any of a host country’s treaties. That sets up a race to the bottom – exactly the opposite of what US President Barack Obama promised.
Even the way Obama argued for the new trade agreement showed how out of touch with the emerging global economy his administration is. He repeatedly said that the TPP would determine who – America or China – would write the twenty-first century’s trade rules. The correct approach is to arrive at such rules collectively, with all voices heard, and in a transparent way. Obama has sought to perpetuate business as usual, whereby the rules governing global trade and investment are written by US corporations for US corporations. This should be unacceptable to anyone committed to democratic principles.
Those seeking closer economic integration have a special responsibility to be strong advocates of global governance reforms: if authority over domestic policies is ceded to supranational bodies, then the drafting, implementation, and enforcement of the rules and regulations has to be particularly sensitive to democratic concerns. Unfortunately, that was not always the case in 2015.
In 2016, we should hope for the TPP’s defeat and the beginning of a new era of trade agreements that don’t reward the powerful and punish the weak. The Paris climate agreement may be a harbinger of the spirit and mindset needed to sustain genuine global cooperation.

sábado, 9 de agosto de 2014

O "Nobel" da matematica e a Guerra Fria - Michael J. Barany


How Math Got Its ‘Nobel’

Michael J. Barany
The New York Times, August 10, 2014

ON Wednesday in Seoul, the International Congress of Mathematicians will announce the winners of the Fields Medal. First awarded in Oslo in 1936, the medal is given every four years to two to four mathematicians. It is considered the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics (even the organizers of the congress call it that), filling a gap left by Alfred Nobel, who did not include mathematics among the prizes endowed on his death in 1896.
Many mathematicians will tell you that Nobel omitted mathematics from his prizes to spite the Swedish mathematician Gosta Mittag-Leffler, a rival, and that the Canadian mathematician John Charles Fields created the award that bears his name to correct the omission. But this is a myth that needs debunking. First of all, there is no good evidence of a feud between Nobel and Mittag-Leffler. Nobel omitted mathematics simply because it was not as important to him as other endeavors were.
As for Fields, he proposed his award not as a substitute for the Nobel Prize but as a symbol of international unity. In the aftermath of World War I, the scientific community was fractured by national rivalries. When the International Mathematical Union was first founded, in 1920, it explicitly banned representatives of the former Central Powers. Fields so wanted “to avoid invidious comparisons” among candidates for his award that he suggested it be presented “with a view to encouraging further achievement” rather than just honoring past accomplishments. (This remark would later be used to justify the award’s age limit of 40, though Fields never intended the medal just for the young.)
For decades the Fields Medal was relatively obscure. In 1950, neither of the two recipients had heard of the award before being told that he had won it. So how did it become the Nobel Prize of mathematics? The true story helps illuminate the often neglected intersection of mathematics and politics.
On Aug. 5, 1966, The San Francisco Examiner reported that Stephen Smale, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley, who had been subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee in connection with his anti-Vietnam War activism, had fled to Moscow. But Mr. Smale hadn’t fled. The subpoena hadn’t even reached him, for he was already in Europe. As Mr. Smale’s colleagues hurried to clarify to the press, he was on his way to attend the International Congress of Mathematicians, in Moscow, where he was to receive the Fields Medal on the day he was meant to testify.
Some saw Mr. Smale’s award as evidence of Communist affinities. “U.S. Math Teacher Wins Soviet Award” announced The Gettysburg Times. But The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times saw things differently. They credited Mr. Smale’s colleagues’ account, quoted in The Associated Press, that he was abroad to accept “mathematics’ closest award to the Nobel Prize” — an exaggeration that, by enhancing Mr. Smale’s stature, helped insulate him from criticism. The scandal faded.
The following year, Mr. Smale returned to the headlines. It appeared that his funding from the National Science Foundation had been blocked by parties unhappy with his antiwar activism. But once again, the claim that Mr. Smale held the equivalent of a Nobel Prize helped to protect his cause, and he retained his funding. The close association between the Fields Medal and the Nobel Prize, an artifact of Cold War politics, would persist to this day.
Because mathematics seems remote from “real world” concerns, people tend to overlook how intertwined mathematics and politics can be. In Mr. Smale’s case, his mathematical work was not directly tied to his political activities (though his renown as a mathematician created opportunities for his political engagement). But mathematics itself can be political, too. After World War II, the United States military funded elite mathematical research in areas ranging from topology and differential equations to operations research and game theory.
Mathematicians have been some of the military-industrial complex’s biggest beneficiaries, but also some of its fiercest critics. Today, in the wake of the controversy about the National Security Agency’s surveillance, mathematicians are debating how they should relate to the agency, one of their largest employers and a longtime funder of their work. The Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin expressed the frustration of many of his peers when he said recently that mathematicians “should refuse to work for the N.S.A. until they both follow the U.S. Constitution and demonstrate responsible use of mathematical tools.”
Mr. Smale is not a mathematician who merely happened to oppose the Vietnam War, just as others are not mathematicians who merely happen to work for (or oppose) the N.S.A. Mathematics is a critical part of who they are and what they do, for better and sometimes for worse.
To say mathematics is political is not to diminish it, but rather to recognize its greater meaning, promise and responsibilities.

terça-feira, 19 de novembro de 2013

Enquanto isso, num pais admirado pelos companheiros, e tido como aliado...

Chinese Nobel Winner Appeals Subversion Conviction

HONG KONG — Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese dissident who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, will seek to challenge in court the subversion verdict imposed on him almost four years ago, a lawyer for Mr. Liu said on Tuesday.
A court in Beijing sentenced Mr. Liu to 11 years in prison in December 2009 after he helped organize Charter ’08, a petition calling for wide-ranging political changes that amounted to replacing Communist Party rule with a multiparty democracy.
The following year, Mr. Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize, prompting fury from the Chinese government, which blamed the Norwegian government for the decision, although the prize is awarded by an independent committee. Since then, Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, has also lived in confinement, kept under informal house arrest by the police and guards around her apartment in Beijing.
Ms. Liu visited her husband in prison last month and passed on his written request to formally challenge his sentence, Mo Shaoping, a lawyer acting for Mr. Liu said in a telephone interview.
“This is requesting that a court retry the case,” Mr. Mo said. “The appeal here means he doesn’t accept the verdict already in effect that was reached by the court in the initial and second trials.”
Mr. Mo said he was preparing to submit papers to the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court contesting the verdict against Mr. Liu, who was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power.” Mr. Mo said he or a colleague also hoped to visit Mr. Liu, who is held in a prison in northeast China.
“The basis for the appeal is the same argument we raised earlier — writing essays, participating in drafting Charter ’08, are all part of a citizen’s right to freedom of expression,” said Mr. Mo. “When we appeal, they will have to accept our documents, assess the case, and decide whether to hold a retrial.”
Mr. Liu’s decision to appeal again was first reported by Radio Free Asia, a service based in Washington that receives funding from the United States government.
Mr. Mo would not comment on Mr. Liu’s chances of success. But China’s courts rarely overturn verdicts, and it would be unheard-of in a politically contentious case like this. In February 2010, a court rejected Mr. Liu’s first appeal.
A writer and literary critic, Mr. Liu, 57, won prominence as a critic of censorship and political restrictions in the 1980s, and was imprisoned for a first time for his role in the student-led protests of 1989.
On Friday, the Communist Party leadership published a program of economic, social and legal reforms, including plans to abolish re-education through labor — a form of imprisonment that does not need a trial — and vows to make China’s courts less susceptible to meddling by local officials.
But there are no signs that these measured changes will bring about a major political relaxation. The party leadership under President Xi Jinping has instead overseen a widespread clampdown on political dissident, criticism and rumors spread on the Internet, and ideological currents seen as threatening one-party rule.

segunda-feira, 14 de outubro de 2013

O Imperio e a defenestracao do Diretor da Opaq, Bustani: brutalmente,como de costume

O diplomata americano John Bolton é um mentiroso contumaz, e um dia vai se conhecer todos os dados desse ato brutal de decapitação de um diretor muito independente para o gosto do Império.
Não havia muito que o governo brasileiro pudesse fazer, a não ser escarcéu...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

To Ousted Boss, Arms Watchdog Was Seen as an Obstacle in Iraq

Serge Ligtenberg/Associated Press
José Bustani, front, before a special session in 2002 that called for his removal as head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

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PARIS — More than a decade before the international agency that monitors chemical weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize, John R. Bolton marched into the office of its boss to inform him that he would be fired.
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John R. Bolton in 2005. Mr. Bolton disputed José Bustani’s account of why he lost his job, saying it was for incompetence.
“He told me I had 24 hours to resign,” said José Bustani, who was director general of the agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. “And if I didn’t I would have to face the consequences.”
Mr. Bolton, then an under secretary of state and later the American ambassador to the United Nations, told Mr. Bustani that the Bush administration was unhappy with his management style.
But Mr. Bustani, 68, who had been re-elected unanimously just 11 months earlier, refused, and weeks later, on April 22, 2002, he was ousted in a special session of the 145-nation chemical weapons watchdog.
The story behind his ouster has been the subject of interpretation and speculation for years, and Mr. Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, has kept a low profile since then. But with the agency thrust into the spotlight with news of the Nobel Prize last week, Mr. Bustani agreed to discuss what he said was the real reason: the Bush administration’s fear that chemical weapons inspections in Iraq would conflict with Washington’s rationale for invading it. Several officials involved in the events, some speaking publicly about them for the first time, confirmed his account.
Mr. Bolton insists that Mr. Bustani was ousted for incompetence. In a telephone interview on Friday, he confirmed that he had confronted Mr. Bustani. “I told him if he left voluntarily we would give him a gracious and dignified exit,” he said.
As Mr. Bustani tells the story, the campaign against him began in late 2001, after Iraq and Libya had indicated that they wanted to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international treaty that the watchdog agency oversees. To join, countries have to provide a list of stockpiles and agree to the inspection and destruction of weapons, as Syria did last month after applying. Inspectors from the agency were making plans to visit Iraq in late January 2002, he said.
“We had a lot of discussions because we knew it would be difficult,” Mr. Bustani, who is now Brazil’s ambassador to France, said Friday in his embassy office in Paris. The plans, which he had conveyed to a number of countries, “caused an uproar in Washington,” he said. Soon, he was receiving warnings from American and other diplomats.
“By the end of December 2001, it became evident that the Americans were serious about getting rid of me,” he said. “People were telling me, ‘They want your head.’ ”
Mr. Bolton called on Mr. Bustani a second time. “I tried to persuade him not to put the organization through the vote,” Mr. Bolton said.
But still Mr. Bustani refused, and his fate was sealed. The United States had marshaled its allies, and at an extraordinary session, Mr. Bustani was ousted by a vote of 48 to 7, with 43 abstentions. He was reportedly the first head of an international organization to be pushed out of office this way, and some diplomats said the pressure campaign had made them uneasy.
Mr. Bolton’s office had also circulated a document that accused Mr. Bustani of abrasive conduct and taking “ill-considered initiatives” without consulting with the United States and other member nations, diplomats said.
But Mr. Bustani and some senior officials, both in Brazil and the United States, say Washington acted because it believed that the organization under Mr. Bustani threatened to become an obstacle to the administration’s plans to invade Iraq. As justification, Washington was claiming that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, possessed chemical weapons, but Mr. Bustani said his own experts had told him that those weapons were destroyed in the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf war.
“Everybody knew there weren’t any,” he said. “An inspection would make it obvious there were no weapons to destroy. This would completely nullify the decision to invade.”
Mr. Bolton disputed that account. “He made that argument after we invaded,” he said. Twice during the interview, Mr. Bolton said, “The kind of person who believes that argument is the kind who puts tin foil on his ears to ward off cosmic waves.”
But diplomats in The Hague said officials in Washington had circulated a document saying that the chemical weapons watchdog under Mr. Bustani was seeking an “inappropriate role in Iraq,” which was really a matter for the United Nations Security Council.
Avis Bohlen, a career diplomat who served as Mr. Bolton’s deputy before her retirement, said in a telephone interview from Washington on Saturday that others besides Mr. Bolton believed that Mr. Bustani had “stepped over some lines” in connection with Iraq and other matters. “The episode was very unpleasant for all concerned,” she said.
Speaking from São Paulo, Brazil, on Saturday, Celso Lafer, the former Brazilian foreign minister, said that in early 2002, he was asked to meet privately with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who a year earlier had praised Mr. Bustani’s leadership in a letter.
Mr. Lafer said Mr. Powell told him, “ ‘I have people in the administration who don’t want Bustani to stay, and my role is to inform you of this.’ ”
“It was a complicated process,” Mr. Lafer recalled, “with the United States and particularly John Bolton and Donald Rumsfeld wanting the head of Bustani.”
“My view,” he continued, “is that the neocons wanted the freedom to act without multilateral constraints and, with Bustani wanting to act with more independence, this would limit their freedom of action.”
Getting Mr. Bustani fired took some doing. Washington failed to obtain a no-confidence motion from the chemical weapons watchdog’s executive council. Then the United States, which was responsible for 22 percent of the agency’s budget at the time, threatened to cut off its financing and warned that several other countries, including Japan, would follow suit, diplomats have said.
Mr. Bustani recalled that the ambassador from Britain, one of the agency’s most committed member nations, told him that London had sent instructions to vote with Washington. With the United States and Japan covering almost half the budget, the organization ran the risk of collapsing, Mr. Bustani said.
On Friday, while fielding a flow of messages in his office, Mr. Bustani said he felt gratified about the Nobel Prize news and did not regret his days at the agency. “I had to start it from the beginning, create a code of conduct, a program of technical assistance,” he said. “We almost doubled the membership.”
He reflected on the contrast between Iraq and Syria. Inspectors from the agency are there now, cataloging the government’s stockpiles of chemical weapons as a step forward in Syria’s civil war, now in its third year.
“In 2002, the U.S. was determined to oppose Iraq joining the convention against the weapons, which it did not even have,” he said. “This time, joining the convention and having the inspectors present is part of the Syrian peace plan. It is such a fundamental shift.”

segunda-feira, 15 de abril de 2013

Rodrigo Constantino: entrevista em Paginas Amarelas da revista Veja

Rodrigo Constantino, jovem revelação de economista: “Esfolar os ricos em nome de melhorar a vida dos pobres é uma falácia. E a defesa do mercado não deve ser confundida com a defesa dos empresários”

"As estatais são ineficientes porque não precisam obter lucros. Quando há problemas, o governo sempre coloca mais dinheiro" (Foto: Instituto Millenium)
"As estatais são ineficientes porque não precisam obter lucros. Quando há problemas, o governo sempre coloca mais dinheiro" (Foto: Instituto Millenium)
Entrevista concedida a Giuliano Guandalini, publicada em edição impressa de VEJA

Um dos mais produtivos economistas da nova geração aponta as contradições, os riscos e a ineficiência resultantes do aumento da interferência do governo na economia
“Se puserem o governo federal para administrar o Deserto do Saara, em cinco anos faltará areia.” A frase é do economista americano Milton Friedman (1912-2006), ganhador do Nobel de 1976 e o maior expoente do liberalismo nos últimos cinquenta anos.
Essa corrente de pensamento preconiza a abertura econômica dos países e a redução, ao mínimo possível, da interferência do governo no funcionamento dos mercados, favorecendo o investimento privado em um ambiente de competição acirrada. A frase de Friedman serve de epígrafe para o livro Privatize Já, de Rodrigo Constantino, lançado pela editora Leya.
Constantino, de 36 anos, faz parte de uma nova geração de economistas brasileiros que valorizam o pensamento liberal clássico e denunciam o peso excessivo do estado na economia. No livro, ele defende a “agenda esquecida” das privatizações. O economista recebeu VEJA em seu escritório, numa empresa de investimentos, no Rio de Janeiro.
As empresas de celulares estão entre as campeãs de queixas entre os consumidores brasileiros, apesar de serem extremamente rentáveis. Nas estradas privatizadas, as reclamações recaem sobre o valor dos pedágios. Não são sintomas de que a privatização nem sempre funciona?
No fundo, se procurarmos bem, sempre haverá a impressão digital do governo nessas falhas atribuídas ao mercado. No caso dos celulares, há muitas reclamações, em primeiro lugar, por causa do grande aumento no número de usuários depois da privatização do sistema Telebrás. Antes nem adiantava reclamar, porque era um serviço caro e raro.
Reconheço que existem problemas. Mas os impostos arrecadados pelo governo encarecem as tarifas e reduzem os investimentos. O sinal das chamadas é ruim porque faltam antenas, e o grande entrave para ampliar o número de antenas são os governos, que demoram a conceder as licenças de instalação.
As pessoas reclamam do preço do pedágio, porém o que deveria ser objeto de revolta são os milhões arrecadados em impostos, como o IPVA, que não são investidos nas ruas e rodovias.
As privatizações, obviamente, não são uma panaceia se feitas de maneira escusa. Acompanhei o processo de desestatização na Rússia, depois da queda do regime soviético. As privatizações ocorreram sem nenhum arcabouço institucional minimamente decente, sem transparência nas informações. Privatização, assim, não faz milagre.

"Para privatizar a Petrobras, precisaríamos ter uma Margaret Thatcher, um estadista disposto a enfrentar os grupos de interesses localizados" (Foto: Petrobras)
"Para privatizar a Petrobras, precisaríamos ter uma Margaret Thatcher, um estadista disposto a enfrentar os grupos de interesses localizados" (Foto: Petrobras)
Se a venda de estatais obteve resultados positivos, por que nenhum político no Brasil defende abertamente a privatização da Petrobras?
As resistências são gigantescas. Para privatizar a Petrobras, precisaríamos ter uma Margaret Thatcher, um estadista disposto a enfrentar os grupos de interesses localizados. Será impossível vender o controle da estatal enquanto imperar a ideia de que seria a “entrega” de um patrimônio público.
Basta ver a dificuldade dos tucanos em defender o seu legado, no geral favorável, de privatizações. Elas foram feitas mais por necessidade, porque as estatais estavam quebradas, do que por convicção. Foi preciso que gente como eu, um liberal convicto e crítico da social-democracia dos tucanos, saísse em defesa das privatizações.
A Petrobras não é uma empresa grande demais para ser privatizada e não existiria o risco de substituir um monopólio estatal por um privado?
Nesse aspecto, estou com Milton Friedman. Entre um monopólio estatal e um privado, prefiro o privado. Sempre há formas de regulação para equilibrar uma eventual falta de concorrência. Ademais, não acredito que a Petrobras deva ser monopolista. A concorrência pode e deve ser incentivada, atraindo novos investidores.
O petróleo não é nosso, como argumentam os defensores do monopólio estatal? Perfeito, então nada melhor que entregar a cada brasileiro a sua fatia na empresa. Cada um faria o que quisesse com as suas ações. Em parte, seria a repetição em grande escala da compra de ações com o uso do FGTS.
Infelizmente, o comando da Petrobras fica a cargo de políticos, pessoas sem o menor foco na gestão.
Quais seriam os benefícios de uma Petrobras privatizada?
Os acionistas privados, interessados na rentabilidade, pressionam a empresa a ser mais eficiente. Seriam reduzidas as ingerências políticas e manipulações, como o controle no preço da gasolina para evitar o impacto na inflação. O Brasil já seria autossuficiente em combustíveis. A produção do pré-sal estaria em um estágio muito mais avançado.
Como paralelo, basta observar a revolução em curso atualmente nos Estados Unidos com o intenso desenvolvimento da produção do gás de xisto. O seu processo de extração é complexo, e para torná-lo economicamente viável foram necessárias muitas pesquisas e inovações, feitas por diversas empresas.
É um exemplo daquilo que Schumpeter (Joseph Alois Schumpeter, economista austríaco, morto em 1950) chamou de destruição criadora. Não se pode vislumbrar esse tipo de inovação surgindo em uma economia predominantemente estatal, fechada e sem concorrência.
Não existem estatais eficientes?
São raras. As estatais tendem à ineficiência porque não precisam obter lucros para se perpetuar. Seus diretores podem fazer atrocidades financeiras, mas mesmo assim as estatais continuarão existindo, porque, quando houver problemas, o governo acabará lhes dando mais dinheiro.
É o que ocorre, enquanto falamos, com os bancos públicos. Os bancos privados, temendo o aumento na inadimplência e o risco de perdas, reduziram o ritmo na liberação de financiamentos. Já os bancos públicos, por determinação do governo, estão injetando na economia um volume crescente de empréstimos. Eles sabem que serão salvos pelo governo se essa política der errado.
A atuação dos bancos públicos não contribui para a queda nas taxas de juros cobradas pelo setor financeiro, estimulando assim o crescimento econômico?
Esse é um efeito de curto prazo, atendendo a interesses essencialmente políticos. Acusam, com certa razão, o setor privado pela crise financeira de 2008, mas se esquecem da contribuição do setor público.
Nos governos de Bill Clinton e de George W. Bush, a Casa Branca sofreu pressões para incentivar o crédito habitacional, usando como instrumento as agências semiestatais de financiamento. Essa foi a origem da bolha imobiliária.
Os governos são os maiores interessados em pôr em foco políticas de curto prazo e lançar a conta para a frente. Por cálculo eleitoral, os governos são míopes. Se um político não olha para o curto prazo, ele perde a eleição. Então os governos tendem a estimular a formação de bolhas, postergando qualquer tipo de ajuste.
A internet e o GPS resultaram de investimentos públicos na área da defesa, e o Vale do Silício talvez não existisse sem os gastos americanos na indústria militar e aeroespacial. No Brasil, a Embraer nasceu de um investimento do governo. Esses não seriam exemplos de intervenções estatais positivas?
Tudo isso é verdade, mas recorro a Bastiat (Frédéric Bastiat, teórico liberal francês do século XIX), segundo o qual, em economia, existem os efeitos vistos e os não vistos. Sempre haverá exemplos de sucesso resultantes de intervenções estatais. Um economista mais cético, entretanto, deverá perguntar: e aquilo que não se vê?
Como seria o país se o governo não desviasse recursos escassos para esses fins? Ninguém tem essa resposta. Se o governo não tivesse criado a Embraer e a mantido por anos e anos, mesmo dando prejuízo, talvez os recursos pudessem ter sido usados de maneira mais produtiva pela iniciativa privada. O governo nunca é um bom empresário.
Origem da bolha imobiliária dos EUA está na pressão do governo e atuação de semiestatais no financiamento (Foto: Images Money)
"A origem da bolha imobiliária dos EUA está na pressão do governo e atuação de semiestatais no financiamento" (Foto: Images Money)

A redução da pobreza não deve ser uma missão eminentemente do governo, sobretudo em um país com bolsões miseráveis como o Brasil?
Sinceramente, acredito que o Estado contribui mais para concentrar a riqueza do que para distribuí-la. Brasília, a capital com a segunda maior renda per capita do país, é um ótimo exemplo dessa concentração de renda patrocinada pelo governo. Não me convence o discurso segundo o qual a justiça social depende de um Estado grande e inchado.
O governo brasileiro cobra um pedágio muito alto em nome dessa distribuição de igualdade e, no fim, o resultado é uma concentração. O governo deveria concentrar os seus gastos na melhora da qualidade do ensino e também na infraestrutura. É o inverso do que existe hoje.
O governo consome o equivalente a quase 40% do PIB e investe apenas 1% do PIB. É preciso investir muito mais, sem, é claro, desativar uma rede de proteção social mínima.
Os países europeus argumentam que o estado de bem-estar social contribui para a coesão na sociedade, reduzindo o risco de levantes populares e rupturas políticas. Qual a sua avaliação?
Concordo em parte. Como disse, nenhuma nação civilizada deve se conformar com o fato de uma parcela de sua sociedade ter ficado para trás, seja por um infortúnio, seja por outro problema qualquer. Essas pessoas não podem ficar desamparadas. Na Europa, porém, o básico já foi atendido há muito tempo.
Para os europeus de agora, todos devem ter direito a tudo. Essa é uma bandeira marxista: a todos de acordo com a sua necessidade; de todos de acordo com a sua capacidade. No limite, essa política leva todos a ter necessidade de tudo, e todos a ter capacidade de nada.
O estado de bem-estar social solapa incentivos cruciais. Ninguém estará disposto a labutar de sol a sol para deixar 60% ou até 70% de sua renda na mão do governo. Esfolar os ricos em nome de melhorar a vida dos pobres é uma falácia.
Por quê?
A economia não é um jogo de soma zero, no qual João, para ficar rico, precisa tirar de José. O mesmo vale para países. É pura propaganda defender a ideia de que alguns países ficaram ricos apenas por ter explorado os pobres. Essa mentalidade mercantilista é que leva a conclusões absurdas como a de que as importações são prejudiciais ao país.
Não é importante proteger da concorrência externa empresas nascentes e, assim, desenvolver o parque industrial?
Absolutamente não. Quantas décadas ainda serão necessárias para a indústria automobilística sair da infância? Setenta anos não foram suficientes? Essa ideia de incentivar os campeões nacionais deveria ter sido enterrada já nos tempos da desastrada Lei da Informática, no governo militar. Mas, infelizmente, muitos economistas ainda usam esse argumento e dispõem de amplo espaço no debate público.
O liberalismo econômico e o estado mínimo não tendem a favorecer os já estabelecidos, os donos de propriedades, em detrimento dos pobres?
Falso. Hayek (Friedrich Hayek, economista liberal austríaco, morto em 1992) mostrou que o liberalismo é o maior aliado dos pobres, porque ele incita a concorrência e oferece igualdade de oportunidades. Sem concorrência, os grandes empresários se revezam na tentativa de conquistar mais privilégios do governo.
O capitalismo de Estado, a simbiose de empresários e governo, é o modo mais injusto de organização econômica. Nesse modelo, o interesse do homem comum, do consumidor, está sempre subordinado ao estado e às suas empresas preferidas. A defesa do mercado não deve ser confundida com a defesa dos empresários.
O mercado é muito mais amplo que isso. O mercado é um mecanismo impessoal de mediação constante dos interesses e demandas de milhares e milhares de entidades e pessoas.
Os liberais, particularmente no Brasil, costumam ser tachados de reacionários e conservadores. Como o senhor se classifica?
Nelson Rodrigues dizia que era um reacionário: reagia contra tudo aquilo que não presta. Eu sou um conservador: quero conservar tudo aquilo que presta. Um liberal é um sujeito cético, desconfiado da natureza humana e do custo das utopias. Encara o estado como um mal necessário.
Sabe que não existe vida civilizada sem governo, mas defende a tese de que o melhor mecanismo de incentivo ao desenvolvimento é a descentralização do poder estatal em um ambiente de livre mercado.
Para nós, liberais, o que realmente serve de garantia ao interesse público são as instituições sadias em pleno funcionamento, e não um governante iluminado dando canetadas no palácio, pensando ser capaz de resolver tudo apenas pela vontade.

sábado, 9 de fevereiro de 2013

Premio Nobel de Literatura 2012: Mo Yan - Ian Buruma (NYTRBooks)

Folk Opera

‘Sandalwood Death’ and ‘Pow!’ by Mo Yan

Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, has a deft way with similes: salty, sometimes gross, usually unexpected. Comparing women’s breasts to “ripe mangoes” is almost a cliché, but to describe the nipples as “rising gracefully, like the captivating mouths of hedgehogs” is arresting. Passengers disembarking from a train do so “like beetles rolling their precious dung.” A rich meal of pork lies on a man’s stomach, “churning and grinding like a litter of soon-to-be-born piglets.”
Yuko Shimizu


By Mo Yan
Translated by Howard Goldblatt
409 pp. University of Oklahoma Press. Paper, $24.95.


By Mo Yan
Translated by Howard Goldblatt
386 pp. Seagull Books. $27.50.
Yan Bo/European Pressphoto Agency
Mo Yan
What gives Mo Yan’s novels their highly idiosyncratic tone is the combination of a great literary imagination and a peasant spirit. Howard Gold­blatt’s translations catch this atmosphere brilliantly. The prose reads well in English, without losing a distinctly Chinese feel, but it is very far from the classical Chinese tradition. There is nothing mandarin, or even urbane, about Mo Yan’s work. He has retained the earthy character of rural Shandong, where he grew up in a farming family.
Like most of his stories, both “Sandalwood Death” and “Pow!” are set in a rustic place resembling Mo Yan’s native village in Gaomi County. Of “Sandalwood Death,” he has written that it might be less suited to sophisticated readers than “to hoarse voices in a public square, surrounded by an audience of eager listeners.” In fact, it is artfully written in the style of a local folk opera called Maoqiang, now almost defunct. One of the main characters is an opera singer. The rhythms, idioms and narrative techniques of ­Maoqiang are ­woven into the text in a seamless way that only a master storyteller can pull off. The art of telling stories is actually the main theme of both novels.
The narrator of “Pow!,” Luo Xiaotong, is a young man who has a horror of growing up, of entering the corrupt adult world where the powerful prey on the weak. As Mo Yan explains in his afterword, Luo is the reverse of little Oskar in Günter Grass’s “Tin Drum,” the boy whose body stops growing even as his mental age progresses. Luo has a child’s mind in a grown-up body. He is the sort of wise simpleton, a kind of Chinese Soldier Schweik, that often turns up in Mo Yan’s novels. When Luo looks at Aunty Wild Mule, his father’s mistress, he feels “like a boy of 7 or 8,” and yet “the pounding of my heart and the stirrings of that thing between my legs declare to me that I am that child no longer.” By observing the adults, Luo realizes that sex can lead people into some very dark places. And so he clings to a kind of innocence. But, as so often happens when the strain of growing up in a corrupted world becomes intolerable, innocence explodes in an act of extraordinary violence. “Pow” can mean two things: It is the bang of an old Japanese Army mortar, used by Luo to blow the adult world to smithereens; it also means to brag, to tell stories, and even, in Beijing slang, to have sex.
Luo’s bizarre story of his childhood is told to a monk in a decaying temple dedicated to the worship of a lecherous idol named the Horse Spirit. Greed, lust and the abuse of power are the main features of the world observed by Luo. The greediest, most lecherous, most powerful figure in the story is also his benefactor, a man named Lao Lan, scion of a landowning family, who sleeps with Luo’s mother and exploits human greed by monopolizing the production of meat in a village dedicated to animal slaughter.
In this fantasy world of meat-eating gluttony, there is even a Meat God Temple and a Carnivore Festival. Lust for meat isn’t really condemned (nor, for that matter, is sex); it’s the natural response of people who have gone hungry for too long, a grotesque binge after a history of famines. Mo Yan himself was born only a few years before Chairman Mao starved China’s rural population in his monstrous Great Leap Forward.
Luo, the meat-eater, is a highly useful asset to Lao Lan’s business. He has a limitless capacity for food. The champion of a meat-eating contest, Luo adores meat and meat loves him back, to the point of speaking to him in voices. He is an artist of meat-eating, the best in China. Eating, sex and power are closely related in Luo’s fantastic tales, as they are in other novels by Mo Yan, including “Red Sorghum,” made into a much-praised film by Zhang Yimou, and indeed in “Sandalwood Death,” to my mind an even better novel than “Pow!”
Indulging our appetites for food and sex is one way of asserting our individual freedom. Perfecting an art, even of meat-eating, is another. The two artists in “Sandalwood Death” are Sun Bing, an opera singer, and Zhao Jia, his executioner, whose son is married to Sun Bing’s daughter. Zhao is a master at his trade, a genius at administering the slow death by a thousand cuts, the greatest artist of the sandalwood death, able to keep his victim alive for five days while spliced on a sandalwood stake.
Sun Bing has been sentenced to this agonizing death because he dared to attack German soldiers involved in crushing the Boxer Rebellion in 1901. A heroic local patriot, Sun Bing hates these arrogant foreigners for strutting about his native region, building a railway line that will change its ways forever. Like many tales of peasant rebellion, Mo Yan’s reworking of the Boxers’ war with the foreign devils is deeply anti-modern. Loyalty to tradition is part of Mo Yan’s peasant spirit, yet he is not sentimental about the past.
Maoqiang opera is the symbol of Chinese tradition in the novel. But so is the art of inflicting cruel punishments “beyond the imagination of any European.” Chinese executions could be seen, in the words of one of the narrators of “Sandalwood Death,” as stage performances “acted out by the executioner and his victim.” At the end of the novel, the two types of theater come together when Sun Bing sings his last aria while spitted on the wooden stake. His fellow actors defy the German soldiers and their treacherous Chinese helpers by performing an opera on the execution ground to honor their dying master. The theater troupe is mowed down by foreign bullets. Sun Bing dies, stabbed in the chest by a compassionate Chinese official who can no longer stand to witness his suffering. In the last words of the novel: “The opera . . . has ended. . . . ”
In sum: Without art, myths, stories, imagination, life isn’t worth living. And that brings us to Mo Yan’s politics. He has been widely criticized for not being more politically outspoken. Salman Rushdie called him “a patsy of the regime.” According to Mo Yan’s fellow Nobel laureate Herta Müller, awarding him the literature prize was “a catastrophe.”
Mo Yan is certainly no dissident. He might even be accused of cowardice. He could have used his prestige to speak up more forcefully for Liu Xiaobo, the brave literary critic who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while imprisoned for advocating democracy in China. Defending censorship, as Mo Yan did in Stockholm, was also an odd, not to say craven, act for a writer who sets such store on the freedom to tell stories.
Indeed, he refuses to speak out almost as a matter of principle. He has said that his pen name, Mo Yan, meaning “Don’t Speak,” was chosen because his parents warned him not to say things that might cause trouble. “I’ve always taken pride in my lack of ideology,” he writes in the afterword to “Pow!,” “especially when I’m writing.”
Mo Yan does in fact have some strong views. The targets of his satirical barbs are clear: the gross materialism of contemporary China, the venality of government officials, the abuses of political power, the abject opportunism of Chinese collaborators with foreign invaders. But these are rather easy marks. Party leaders are forever denouncing corruption and materialism. It is also a tenet of Communist propaganda that only the party can protect China against foreign depredations.
Perhaps Mo Yan really is in tune with the current Communist regime. Perhaps he simply wants to play it safe. But the political perspective of his fiction is also a reflection of his peasant spirit. To a villager, all politics are strictly local, especially in China, with its vast distances. The capital is far away. National politics aren’t the peasant’s concern. What counts is food on the table, fertility, sex and staying out of trouble, if necessary by appeasing the powerful, be they local or foreign.
This narrow perspective has its advantages. By concentrating on human appetites, including the darkest ones, Mo Yan can dig deeper than political commentary. And like the strolling players of old, the jesters and the public-square storytellers he so admires, Mo Yan is able to give a surprisingly accurate impression of his country. Distorted, to be sure, but sharply truthful, too. In this sense, his work fits into a distinguished tradition of fantasists in authoritarian societies: alongside Mikhail Bulgakov or the Czech master, Bohumil Hrabal.
To demand that Mo Yan also be a political dissident is not only what the Dutch describe as “trying to pluck feathers from a frog.” It’s also unfair. A novelist should be judged on literary merit, not on his or her politics, a principle the Nobel committee hasn’t always lived up to. This time, I think it has. It would be nice if Mo Yan were more courageous, but he has given us some great stories. And that should be enough. 

Ian Buruma is Henry R. Luce professor of democracy, human rights and journalism at Bard College. His most recent book is “Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents.”