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Mostrando postagens com marcador Theodore Dalrymple. Mostrar todas as postagens
Mostrando postagens com marcador Theodore Dalrymple. Mostrar todas as postagens

terça-feira, 14 de janeiro de 2020

Roger Scruton: Swimming Always Against the Tide - Theodore

Uma pequena homenagem do grande Theodore Dalrymple ao gigante do pensamento conservador da contemporaneidade recentemente falecido.

Swimming Always Against the Tide

Roger Scruton, R.I.P.

Sir Roger Scruton, the British conservative philosopher who was preeminent for nearly half a century, died on January 12, after an illness that he had borne for six months. He was 75.
He showed great moral courage throughout his career, swimming against the intellectual tide of his time regardless of the deprecation, insult, denunciation, and even hatred directed at him. For a long time, his very name among much of the British intelligentsia was a byword for political atavism or evil, as if he had been a radical advocate of tyranny and pogroms rather than a defender of freedom and civilized values. At the time of his coming to public notice, much of the intelligentsia refused to believe that a highly gifted and knowledgeable man could also be a conservative. Their own rejection of all that was traditional seemed so self-evidently right to them that they thought that the only possible explanation for someone who valued tradition was obtuseness, moral turpitude—or both.
Scruton’s work was so broad-ranging that the term Renaissance Man seems hardly inappropriate. He published books on Kant and Spinoza, on Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, on the aesthetics of music and architecture, on animal rights, on wine, on hunting, on the importance of culture, on the nature of God, on man’s relations with animals, and on many other subjects. He wrote novels and short stories of distinction, and two operas. The words of Dr. Johnson’s epitaph for Oliver Goldsmith come to mind: he left scarcely any style of writing untouched, and touched nothing that he did not adorn.  
This is not to say that many people, or indeed anyone, would agree with all that he wrote, scarcely to be expected in view of his immense output. He accepted disagreement with equanimity, as the natural and laudable condition and consequence of freedom. Unlike many of his detractors, who affixed labels to him and then believed in their veracity, he was fair-minded to those with whom he disagreed and whose ideas he believed had had a disastrous effect on Western society. In the two editions of his book about thinkers of the New Left, for example, he praised them generously for whatever he considered praiseworthy in them. He paid them the honor of reading their work with attention, trying hard to decipher what it meant (by no means easy, given their frequent resort to high-sounding, multisyllabic verbiage), and refuting what was sufficiently intelligible to be refutable.
Contrary to what his detractors supposed, his reaction to the writers he criticized was far from the result of blind prejudice, ideology, or preconceived ideas. Sartre, for example, was—for his earlier work—Scruton’s hero. Sartre had then the ability seamlessly to combine observation and experience of life with subtle metaphysical thought, very much contrary to the kind of philosophical training that Scruton received at Cambridge, where application of philosophy to life as it is lived was regarded almost as vulgar but which had the compensating advantage of precision and rigor. It was only the later Sartre, an apologist for tyranny and mass murder, whom Scruton reprehended. In other words, he made the necessary distinctions.
Scruton was much in favor of Brexit but was far from a small-minded isolationist. He regarded France, and Paris in particular, as his second, and perhaps as his spiritual, home. His experience of the events there in 1968, however, was formative, and the memory of these events remained a warning to him for the rest of his days. Unlike most young intellectuals, he was appalled, not exhilarated, by the events of May 1968. He saw them as the willful destruction of a beautiful civilization by the spoiled beneficiaries of that very civilization and as a rejection of refinement in favour of crudity. He sided with the preservers rather than with the destroyers. The fragility of our cultural inheritance was clear to him.
He was revered in several Eastern European countries where, with others, and at some risk to himself, he helped keep alive the hopes of dissident intellectuals. He ran clandestine philosophical seminars in several countries. It was a matter of disappointment to him that young British people were so cut off from any historical knowledge and so lacking in powers of imagination that they had no conception of what life in a totalitarian system could be like. This is important because all judgment, including of one’s present situation or predicament, is comparative, and without an awareness of just how terrible things can be, one can easily, and frivolously, start down the primrose path to perdition.
In his last and moving article in The Spectator, indeed in the last paragraph he published in his lifetime, he stressed the importance of gratitude for what one has been fortunate enough to inherit. Take nothing for granted, preserve what is worth preserving, understand the fragility of things, remember debts to the past as well as to the future, take delight in the world. Such was the lasting message of this exceptionally gifted man.
To me he was always kind and encouraging. Much more important, he was an exceptionally good father to his children.  
Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

terça-feira, 12 de maio de 2015

Reino Unido: uma eleicao que nao resolve os problemas fundamentais -Theodore Dalrymple

Eye on the News

Britain in Crisis
David Cameron’s troubles are just beginning.
The City Journal, May 11, 2015

On Election Day, May 7, I went to see my doctor, a Polish immigrant. Because he was a legal resident he had the right to vote, and he lost no time (in a very un-English way) in telling me that he was voting Tory. I turned to his nursing assistant, who was also in the room.
“You’d better vote Tory too,” I said, “or you’ll be out of a job.”
“I’m voting Conservative,” she said.
“The Tories are the Conservatives,” said the doctor.
“I never knew that,” she said. “I always wondered who they were.”
I was immediately reminded of what Churchill once said: the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. How, I wondered, could someone born and bred in this country reach her early twenties and not know that the Tories were the Conservatives? How had she managed not to notice it? But then she said something that redeemed her a little: “I want to keep what we have, you never know with change, do you?”
In any case, she was not alone in her ignorance. It turned out that the pollsters, with nothing else to do but prognosticate, were completely wrong. They had predicted that Labour and the Conservatives would be neck and neck, but the Conservatives polled 6 percent more votes than Labour and won an unexpectedly outright majority in the House of Commons.
Why were the polls so wrong? One possible explanation is that people are reluctant to admit to third parties that they are going to vote Conservative, as if to do so were to admit a secret vice or to being actuated only by the most selfish motives. In other words, their reluctance is an indication of how far the Left has won the battle for the hearts and minds of at least a large section of the population, who do not believe that there can be any respectable arguments for conservatism. Not, of course, that the British Conservatives are genuinely conservative; they are merely less progressive than their opponents. The very term progressive causes a bias against conservatives, for who can be against progress? That real progress occurs largely by non-political means is not an idea that can be expressed in a slogan, while supposed progress by political means can easily be reduced to slogans. Moreover, since competitive politics is about the righting of wrongs and the addressing of complaint, any suggestion that some things should remain the same is easily portrayed as unfeeling complacency by the privileged. 
In fact, the reelection of David Cameron, which in the past would have been a manifestation of stability, solves nothing of the crisis of political legitimacy in Britain (constitutional legitimacy is something else). With voter turnout of 66 percent and the British party system Balkanized, Cameron won reelection with the suffrage of 24.7 percent of the adult population. Even more startling was the fact that a vote for the Scottish Nationalists weighed nearly 150 times more heavily as far as representation in Parliament was concerned as did a vote for UKIP. (It took 25,974 votes to elect an SNP Member of Parliament, but 3,881,129 to elect a UKIP one.) A vote for the SNP weighed about 25 times more than a vote for the Greens. The SNP won 50 percent of the votes in Scotland but 95 percent of the seats. Clearly, we now live in an unrepresentative democracy. 
For the SNP, it was a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose election. If Labour had won more seats than the Conservatives, but not an absolute majority (which was always very unlikely), the SNP would have been able to dictate policy or at least influence it strongly; if the Conservatives won, the SNP could claim that the U.K. government had no mandate or legitimacy in Scotland, and use the vote to emphasize the difference between England and Scotland, and perhaps as a further grievance.
Cameron’s problems are just beginning, and his triumph will be short-lived. He has promised a referendum on membership of the European Union, a promise that would be difficult even for Houdini to escape; and if it goes against membership, the Scots, who are Europhile but anti-English, might declare their independence and try to remain in the European Union (though it is by no means a foregone conclusion that the Union would have them). Nor would independence be without potential for creating deep divisions, bitterness, and conflict within Scotland itself, though the leadership of the SNP speaks the language of unanimity. The potential for chaos both north and south of the border is enormous. 
One of Britain’s prevailing assets has been its political stability. But that stability has evaporated, probably for good—with potentially disastrous results for its financial sector, upon which it so strongly (though foolishly) depends. Terrible political problems have been conjured out of nothing except the ambition of politicians, and the country’s deeper problems—its low productivity, its abysmal cultural and educational levels—remain not only unanswered, but unremarked. 

domingo, 15 de junho de 2014

O fenomeno Piketty como expressao da inveja - Theodore Dalrymple

O Jardim da Inveja de Piketty
Instito Ludwig Von Mises Brasil, sexta-feira, 13 de junho de 2014

O ressentimento é a única emoção que pode durar a vida inteira e que nunca desapontará você. Em comparação, todas as demais emoções são passageiras e falíveis. Eu tentei odiar alguém por anos; isso, contudo, revelou-se impossível: o ódio desaparece como as cores das flores prensadas. Mas o ressentimento! Ele é a solução perfeita para o seu fracasso na vida. E, graças a Deus, todos nós cometemos falhas em algum sentido ou outro, pois nada seria tão insuportável, causando tanto ressentimento, quanto o sucesso total.

O sucesso dos outros fomenta o ressentimento, especialmente o sucesso em uma área na qual você gostaria de ser bem-sucedido. Sempre que eu leio um trecho de prosa maravilhosa, eu experimento o prazer dessa leitura, é claro; mas ele, muito antes, mistura-se com a irritação e, por fim, com o ressentimento. Por que o meu semelhante é capaz de escrever algo mais elegante, mais perspicaz, mais poético e mais conciso do que eu? O que ele fez para merecer o seu talento? A sorte dos escritores de língua inglesa é que Charles Dickens, por exemplo, tinha muitos e graves defeitos, pois, caso contrário, a genialidade autoevidente e transcendente de alguns dos seus parágrafos os paralisaria, minando a sua vontade de pegar caneta e papel ou de mexer os dedos no teclado.
Como se costuma dizer nos romances russos, chega de filosofia. Vamos agora descer da atmosfera rarefeita da abstração e nos deslocar para a realidade sórdida de um fenômeno real — neste caso, o fenomenal sucesso de um livro chamado Capital no Século XXI, do francês Thomas Piketty. Ele está vendendo tão rápido que as impressoras não conseguem acompanhar a demanda. Não se encontra a obra nas livrarias, mesmo (nas palavras de Lane, o mordomo do personagem Algernon em The Importance of Being Earnest, de Oscar Wilde) com dinheiro vivo.
Isso é realmente impressionante, uma vez que Thomas Piketty não é Dan Brown, o qual vende tolices abertamente supersticiosas escritas em prosa abominável para os crédulos pós-religião. Não: o livro de Piketty é grande, com centenas de páginas, e está recheado de dados misteriosos, que agora temos de chamar de fatos. Felizmente, eu comprara uma cópia desse livro quando ele apareceu pela primeira vez na França; e, em razão da sua rápida ascensão ao status de ícone internacional, eu tenho a esperança de que a minha edição original seja, no momento oportuno, considerada uma preciosa relíquia sagrada com propriedades curativas.
Obviamente, ter comprado um livro e tê-lo lido não são a mesma coisa. Infelizmente, apesar do seu tamanho e do seu peso, eu o perdi. Mas eu o carregava comigo por um tempo, assim como, há muitos anos, quando era um estudante de medicina, eu carregava comigo um livro de patologia, na esperança de que eu aprenderia o seu conteúdo por meio de um processo de osmose através das capas. No entanto, concluí que tinha de abri-lo e aprender apenas o suficiente para passar nos exames. Desnecessário dizer, eu esqueci tudo desde então.
Eu não costumo escrever sobre livros que não li; e eu suponho que, em minha vida, devo ter analisado pelo menos uns 500 livros. Seria falsa modéstia negar que eu li todos eles, incluindo muitas vezes as notas de rodapé, bem como negar a minha solidariedade e a minha empatia com os autores, até mesmo com os autores de livros tão ruins que eu considerava apenas ético fazê-lo — e isso apesar do fato de que não é preciso comer o pote inteiro de manteiga para saber que ela está estragada.
Todavia, duas ideias da obra de Piketty parecem ter sido discutidas com maior vigor em todas as análises que li sobre o seu livro; assim, eu suponho que elas devem representar o cerne daquilo que ele escreveu.
A primeira ideia é a de que há, em relação ao valor do capital, uma tendência de longo prazo a aumentar mais rapidamente do que o ritmo de crescimento da economia como um todo; e, já que a maioria das pessoas depende, para a sua sobrevivência, do seu trabalho em vez do seu capital, a desigualdade de riqueza só pode aumentar, chegando ao ponto de se tornar social e politicamente insustentável. Isso pode ser colocado em termos malthusianos: o valor do capital aumenta geometricamente, ao passo que o valor do rendimento do trabalho aumenta aritmeticamente. Ou, de novo, em termos marxistas: "Em uma determinada fase de desenvolvimento, as forças produtivas materiais da sociedade entram em conflito com as relações de produção existentes. (...) Em seguida, começa uma era de revolução social."
Mas Piketty não é um revolucionário; muito sensatamente, ele deseja evitar uma agitação violenta. Os meios através dos quais ele propõe isso é a sua segunda ideia: um imposto global sobre o capital — presumivelmente, para atingir realmente o seu desejado fim de uma maior igualdade, um imposto substancial.
Em primeiro lugar, analisemos a primeira ideia. Eu hesito em expor o meu próprio caso mais uma vez diante do público, mas alego a atenuação de que, pelo menos, trata-se de um assunto sobre o qual sou relativamente especialista. Como me prejudica o fato de que a proporção entre a riqueza de Bill Gates e a minha excede o quociente entre a minha riqueza e a de alguém que se encontra sob os cuidados do assistencialismo estatal? Eu me considero uma pessoa afortunada: eu nunca passei por quaisquer privações e dificuldades, pelo menos por nenhuma que não fosse a consequência do meu próprio comportamento ou das minhas próprias escolhas. Já fui pobre, mas não passei fome. Jamais sofri injustiça flagrante, exceto algumas detenções injustas em países da má fama (foi culpa minha tê-los visitado, embora, é claro, eu os tenha adorado).
A fortuna de Bill Gates só me prejudica se eu deixar o ácido da inveja e do ressentimento corroer a minha mente. Isso não significa dizer que algumas fortunas não possam ter sido adquiridas de maneira imoral e ilícita: por exemplo, as fortunas de muitos oligarcas russos. Há algo de errado com essas riquezas não porque elas são muito maiores do que a minha, mas sim porque elas foram adquiridas de forma imoral e ilícita. Não há dúvida de que existem muitas áreas cinzentas entre a legitimidade completamente branca e a escura negritude da desonestidade absoluta, mas as óbvias incertezas da vida devem ser suficientes para refrear e conter o nosso ressentimento.
Quanto ao imposto sobre o capital, Piketty está certo ao dizer que ele tem de ser global, pois, caso contrário, haveria fugas de capitais ou restrições locais muito severas sobre os movimentos de capitais — e isso não seria economicamente produtivo ou propício à igualdade. Um imposto global sobre o capital, porém, exigiria uma autoridade mundial para estabelecê-lo, arrecadá-lo e impingi-lo — com efeito, uma espécie de União Europeia gigante. Sinto-me feliz porque não estarei vivo para ver isso ocorrer, mas eu duvido que alguém, nascido ou não nascido, chegará a ver isso acontecer, pelo simples motivo de que os chefes supremos desse governo mundial precisariam de um paraíso fiscal no qual colocar o seu próprio dinheiro.
Eu suspeito que o enorme sucesso desse livro de Piketty seja uma homenagem ao nível de ressentimento que impera no mundo — e não o resultado de uma sede por conhecimento, especialmente entre aqueles indivíduos suficientemente ricos para comprá-lo, usando-o, em grande medida, como um reles acessório. A verdade, como Edward Gibbon nos ensina, raramente encontra uma recepção tão favorável no mundo. Eu posso estar errado, pois ainda não li a obra. Entretanto, posso invejar o seu sucesso.

Leia também:

Thomas Piketty e seus dados improváveis
O que houve com os ricaços da década de 1980?
Algumas frases aterradoras contidas no livro de Thomas Piketty

quarta-feira, 5 de dezembro de 2012

O problema da (i)legalidade das drogas - The City Journal

A analogia com limites de velocidade pode ser fraca, mas os anarco-libertários tampouco discutiram em profundidade os problemas advindos da legalização. Tudo vai ser descriminalizado? O Estado vai vender? Será um mercado livre, com altos impostos sobre o consumo? Algum monopólio estatal?
E os que causarem danos à sociedade vão ser multados e podem ir para a cadeia, como os criminosos do trânsito?
Seria preciso debater todas essas questões.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

On the Legalization of Drugs
Living in a civilized society means accepting laws that we didn’t make.
The City Journall, 5 December 2012

Discussing drug legalization with libertarians, as I did recently, can be a frustrating experience. This is in part because they rarely say exactly what they mean by “legalization.” Do they mean a controlled market that would barely represent a retreat from state regulation and interference, or an uncontrolled one, in which we would all be able to buy methamphetamine or crack at our local store?
There is a much deeper problem, though: their conception of what it is to live in a civilized society. They seem to think of people as egoistic particles that occasionally bump into one another rather than as necessarily and essentially social beings. No doubt there are some egoistic particles among us, but they represent only a tiny proportion of the total. On the matter of drugs, libertarians argue that it is no business of the state to tell citizens what to take or not to take, and that doing so is therefore an oppressive curtailment of freedom. The drug laws, they insist, don’t work in practice, because so many people break them—with impunity or not, as the case may be.
Let us draw an analogy with speed limits. They undoubtedly curtail our freedom; they are undoubtedly unevenly enforced; and it is likewise undoubtedly true that they don’t work, in the sense that there can hardly be a single driver in the world who has not knowingly broken them. Indeed, it is probable that most drivers break speed limits every time they drive a car. But does that mean that speed limits do not work? No. Does anyone suppose that if there were no speed limits, people would not drive faster? You have only to drive on a German autobahn, where there are no speed limits, to get your answer.
Now, a libertarian would say that responsible citizens should be able to determine for themselves at what speed to drive. It doesn’t take much intelligence or judgment to do so. It must be remembered also, by analogy with the frequent harmlessness of drugs, that most speeding does not end in a fatal accident. Not all speeding is abuse of speeding, therefore; and if while speeding a person causes a fatality to others, he must take the consequences, financial and other. The prospect of those consequences should be enough to cause him to adjust his speed to what is sensible and safe; and as an adult, he is the best judge of the speed at which he is capable of driving safely. If a man gets home safe and sound, he has, ipso facto, driven at a sensible speed.
Alas, this is strange philosophical anthropology. People are not—I am not—like that. I can see that other people should not drive above a certain speed, but I cannot see that I should not do so. They, of course, have a mirror-image view: they think that they are safe and that I am dangerous. But though we all consider ourselves safe, the fact is that speeding makes us more likely to have an accident or to kill someone.
Living in a civilized society means accepting laws that one did not make oneself, and that in any given situation may seem unnecessary; one has no right to complain if punished for breaking them. I accept the law as necessary even as I break it. One is not oneself the arbiter of everything. In some circumstances, it is right to prevent potential harms to third parties such as speeding and taking drugs produce rather than to wait for them actually to occur. It is a matter of judgment, not of principle, when those circumstances exist—and in my opinion, the taking of methamphetamine falls well this side of justifiable prevention.
Of course, restrictions on freedom may become onerous, and petty regulations may whittle away freedom altogether. But all freedoms are not created equal; a hierarchy exists among them; and a restriction on the freedom to intoxicate yourself or drive down Fifth Avenue at 100 miles an hour is not to be compared with a restriction on the freedom to say what you think. Speech codes are therefore a much more serious assault on liberty than are drug laws.
Theodore Dalrymple is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.