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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. Para a maior parte de meus textos, ver minha página na plataforma Academia.edu, link: https://itamaraty.academia.edu/PauloRobertodeAlmeida;

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quarta-feira, 8 de abril de 2009

1057) Turismo academico (11): Leituras sobre a crise

Em Urbana, na Universidade do Illinois.
Passei a terça-feira dia 7 de abril em pesquisas e leituras.

Pela manhã, retirei seis livros de duas bibliotecas para ler e retirar materiais para um livro que estou escrevendo sobre a diplomacia econômica do Brasil entre 1889 e 1945. Depois comento.
Pela tarde, passei boa parte do tempo, inclusive o começo da noite, numa livraria Barnes and Noble, lendo livros recentes sobre a crise econômica internacional, para preparar uma apresentação que vou fazer para os alunos de pós-graduação do Professor Werner Baer.
Para não ter de comentar cada um isoladamente, vou postar aqui abaixo minhas notas para essa apresentação, com o aviso de que as notas devem apenas servir de base, junto com gráficos e tabelas estatísticas, mais algumas ilustrações (como por exemplo capas dos livros citados), para uma apresentação em PowerPoint.
Aviso que a apresentação e as notas não estão ainda completas, pois falta toda a parte do Brasil.
Serve como um relatório de mid-term presentation and readings...

Brazil and the International Crisis: a personal approach
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Presentation in April 2009 at the Center for Latin American Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana, by invitation of Professor Werner Baer.

The American or international aspects of the current crisis are already, if not well known, very well discussed and debated, as we can confirm by a bunch of books published lately:

The Gods That Failed: How Blind Faith in Markets Has Cost Us Our Future,
Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson (New York: Nation Books, 2009)

BUT: It was just at one precise moment of 2008, say, between September and October 2008, that Gods failed and financial thunderstorm fell unto us? This is, perhaps, a conspiratorial view of the financial world, with a secret bunch of market speculators from Wall Street and the City taking control of the market leverages… (Sorry, they are just two English economists-journalists).


Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity, Michael Lewis (ed.)
(New York: Norton 2009)

BUT: It was just a Wall Street black hole that provoked the collapse of the markets? The man in the street also adopted the same behavior as speculators it seems… Why, so many people, during so long a period, trusted the Black-Scholes formula (portfolio insurance, and the short position assumption)?

Some books distribute the sins and responsibilities in an egalitarian way:

Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life,
Steve Fraser (New York: Harper, 2006)

BUT: History repeats itself, in form of dreams and nightmares? Well, it seems part of American national character and the gospel that ‘greed is good’? That’s the inescapable fate of the ‘shareholder nation’?

Other analysts go direct to the point:

Getting Off Track: How Government Actions, and Interventions Caused, Prolonged, and Worsened the Financial Crisis, by Jeffrey Taylor (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, Press, 2009)
From which a synthesis can be read in this paper:
John B. Taylor, “The Financial Crisis and the Policies Responses: an Empirical Analysis of What Went Wrong” (National Bureau of Economic Research, January 2009; Working Paper 14631; available here).

BUT: Why the most brilliant economists did not alert the keepers of the Treasury and the Fed about the unsustainable interest levels?

Some try a more sophisticated approach:

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism, by George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Schiller (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009)

BUT: Why economists were not counting on psychological aspects of economic behavior all the time, and not just during moments of stress? And why the ‘animal spirits’ of the public at large should be driven by the visible hand of governments, as these two authors suggest in this book? And, would a more robust, and behaviorally informed, kind of Keynesianism suffice to counter such impending crises like this one?

Whereas other search for antecedents:

The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market’s Perfect Storm, by Robert F. Bruner and Sean D. Carr (New Jersey: John Wiley, 2007)

BUT: It seems that the all the lessons were not very well learned at all… As William Bernstein recounts in his Preface, financial manipulators – be they English goldsmiths, treasury secretaries or central bankers – always print more money than they have in their vaults…

And one of the explicative variables is, of course,:

The Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis, by William Bonner and Addison Wiggin (New Jersey: John Wiley, 2006)

AND that sound entirely true:
“The Entire homeland economy now depends on the savings of poor people on the periphery to keep it from falling apart. Americans consume more than they earn. The difference is made up by the kindness of strangers – thrifty Asians whose savings glut is recycled into granite countertop and flat-screen TVs all over the United States.” (p. 4).

According to some economic theorists (Hyman Minsky, for instance), all credit operations fell into three categories: hedging, speculative, and Ponzi. We have had allt three in the most recent times… And William Bernstein – from whom I have recently read the splendid A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World – believes, as a trained neurologist, that we all have “greed centers” in our brains…

And here we are: Almost all, if not all, of the Brazilian crises of the past were provoked by external debt, huge amounts of debt, in every and each downturn of the international economy.

Even those crises not directly provoked by external constraints, such as the hyper-inflationary experiences of the 1980s and 1990s, are due, in last resort, to huge amounts of debt, either internal or external, which provoke mistrust, capital flight, insolvency of the State and some sort of default in government bonds.

When there is an external constraint, there is a lack of credit, say a credit crunch, and it is all: the economy stops, like today.
Today’s Brazil is not in crisis, but it is IN the crisis, for the first time.


Does Brazil need stimulus? If so, what sort, exactly? Monetary stimulus, fiscal stimulus, what kind of it?
Government is trying every sort of government expenditures, to counter the credit crunch. It started by reducing the compulsory deposits in the banks, then extending some credit to the same banks, afterwards introduced old sorts of sectoral policies, such as one for automotive sector and so on.

Is there a lack of confidence in Brazil? Not exactly, but entrepreneurs took already a big surprise by the reverse behavior of the dollar at the reversal of exchange markets, last October.

So, the government tried everything:
1) Enlarging the provision of capital (compulsory, credits by Central Bank and so on…
2) Direct Injections of Capital (BC, to foreign trade companies and banks dealing with foreign trade, extending money for non renewed borrowings by Brazilian companies)
3) Direct credit from government banks (BB, BNDES)

(to be continued...)

Urbana (freezing), April 7th, 2009.

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