O poder não corrompe — o caráter é o que realmente importa

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Em colunas anteriores, tratamos sobre sexo e dinheiro. Agora, vamos falar de poder. Assim como o sexo e o dinheiro — e a maioria das coisas importantes da vida — muitas bobagens são ditas sobre o poder. Talvez a principal de todas elas seja a frase frequentemente citada “o poder corrompe, e o poder absoluto corrompe absolutamente”. 

Através de sua frase, Lord Acton tenta capturar uma verdade importante.  Contudo, se for tomada de forma literal, a frase se torna falsa e mal interpreta os abusos de poder. Então, a questão merece uma reflexão mais profunda.

Poder é a capacidade de se fazer algo. Ele assume muitas formas, tais como o poder cognitivo do pensamento, o poder moral da autorresponsabilidade, o poder físico do movimento, o poder social de influenciar outras pessoas, o poder político de controle das ações dos outros, e assim por diante.

Abusos de poder social e político são os mais preocupantes e, como a frase de Acton sugere, os maiores casos de corrupção ocorrem em nações que centralizam mais o poder político. Estatísticas das ciências sociais corroboram tal constatação, como o gráfico do Índice de Percepção de Corrupção da Transparência Internacional deixa claro: países com poder políticos mais concentrados e menos responsáveis tendem a ser mais corruptos; países com governos limitados e mais responsáveis tendem a ser menos corruptos. corruption-index

Então, um forte argumento pode ser apresentado em prol da limitação do poder governamental, e é tentador ver a posse do poder em si como um fator crítico e problemático.

Não obstante, considere esses contraexemplos:

  • Mães têm poder sobre a vida e a morte de seus filhos. Elas controlam o que as crianças comem, decidem como protegê-las de predadores e do clima, e moldam seus pensamentos e sentimentos. As mães são corrompidas por esse grande poder?
  • Professores têm muito poder sobre seus alunos. Com sua plataforma e sua audiência cativa, os professores podem instigar o medo de notas ruins e doutrinar seus alunos. Esse poder corrompe os professores?

Não, é claro que não. A maioria das mães e dos professores usa seu poder para o bem, para maximizar suas habilidades, enquanto uma minoria usa-o para o mal. Logo, não pode ser a posse do poder a causa do abuso. O que dizemos, corretamente, nos casos de maus tratos ou ensino de má qualidade é que ocaráter dos envolvidos é corrupto.

Levado ao pé da letra, então, o aforismo de Acton é falso. O poder não corrompe as pessoas; em vez disso, corrompe as pessoas que abusam do seu poder. O poder não faz nada; pessoas com poder, sim. Quer o poder seja usado de forma produtiva ou corruptiva, ele está sob o controle das pessoas. Em outras palavras, o poder é uma ferramenta, e como é usada depende do caráter de seu possuidor. A mesma ferramenta pode ser usada para o bem ou mal, dependendo da escolha de que a empunha.

A questão é importante, pois não se trata de pura semântica. Se o poder corrompe as pessoas, então as pessoas praticam a corrupção têm uma desculpa — o poder me fez agir assim. O conceito de poder é aqui conceituado como o anel de Sauron, da obra de fantasia de J.R.R. Tolkien, O Senhor dos Anéis: Aquele que possui o anel pode, no início, ser uma pessoa decente, mas o poder do anel o degenera. O poder é uma força externa que entra na pessoa e a corrompe.lord-of-the-rings

Considere outros contraexemplos:

  • O dinheiro é poder econômico. Adquirir riqueza torna uma pessoa imoral?
  • Músculos são poder físico. A musculação transforma alguém em um valentão?
  • O conhecimento é poder intelectual. Um PhD o transforma em um gênio do mal?
  • A fama traz poder social. O sucesso em Hollywood transforma atores em crianças mimadas?

Em cada caso, algumas pessoas usam seu poder — seja monetário, muscular, intelectual ou social — de forma corrupta.  Canalhas ricos, cientistas malignos, assassinos de plantão, e prima-donas arrogantes são matéria-prima da literatura e dos filmes.

Mas muitas outras pessoas que se tornam ricos, musculosos, inteligentes ou estrelas de cinema não se tornam pessoas piores. Em vez disso, tornam-se investidores de sucesso, pensadores criativos, trabalhadores eficientes, ou seres iluminados que nos encantam por seu estilo e glamour. O poder os exalta ao invés de corrompê-los.

A posse do poder, então, não é o fator principal: o caráter da pessoa é decisivo. O poder é a capacidade. Como tal capacidade é usada depende do usuário. Literalmente, o poder corrompe diz que o poder é o agente e a pessoa é o meio pela qual o poder é exercido. Mas isso reverte a ordem casual. A pessoa é o agente causal, a manifestação do poder é o efeito.  

Lord Acton estava falando da política, então talvez devêssemos perguntar: o poder político é distinto dos outros? O poder político é uma força intimidadora que envolve o uso do poder policial e militar para que se façam cumprir as decisões dos políticos. E, fazendo justiça a Acton, o contexto original contém uma qualificação omitida da versão popular: “todo o poder tende a corromper, e o poder absoluto corrompe absolutamente. Grandes homens são quase sempre homens maus (…) Não há pior heresia que a crença de que o ofício santifica quem o exerce”.

Mas mesmo com o qualificador “tende a”, os políticos controlam o seu poder. Não existe tendência preexistente que faz com que os políticos o usem de uma forma ou outra. O poder concede opções aos políticos, e o político escolhe qual opção exercer. Os políticos não são como os indivíduos que estão em busca do anel de Sauron. Ninguém é.

A política contemporânea dos Estados Unidos, com todas as suas peculiaridades (veja “A política esquizofrênica”) é inconsistente no seu entendimento de poder — tanto do lado “conservador”, quanto do “progressista” da divisão.lord-acton-quote

Na minha experiência, os “conservadores” são os que mais gostam da frase de Acton, já que serve de argumento para limitações ao poder governamental. A posse do poder é uma coisa perigosa que deveria ser controlada. Por outro lado, também se orgulham em dizer que “armas não matam pessoas; pessoas matam pessoas”, como defesa do porte de armas. Não obstante, a arma é uma forma concentrada de poder, e se o poder corrompe, então, a posse do poder de uma arma deveria corromper cidadãos assim como o poder político corrompe os políticos. Ou a frase de Acton se aplica a ambos os casos ou não se aplica a nenhum.

Os “progressistas” normalmente têm uma visão mais benigna do poder governamental, e há gerações têm estado felizes em conceder aos governos maior controle regulatório sobre nossas vidas. Mas eles também têm medo de armas e não acreditam que se possa confiar cegamente nas pessoas quanto ao seu porte. As armas matam, portanto o porte de armas deveria ser severamente restringido ou eliminado. Contudo, um número extraordinário de armas está à disposição de nossos políticos. Logo, se queremos controle de armas, são as maiores e mais poderosas armas — que estão em posse do governo — que demandam maiores restrições.

A “corrupção pelo poder” talvez não seja uma verdade em termos literais, mas é retoricamente poderosa e nos aponta a razão pela qual o poder político deveria ser limitado.

O problema é que nós, cidadãos, sempre enfrentamos um problema de conhecimento sobre nossos políticos: nunca podemos estar certos do seu caráter. Os poderes militar e policial podem ser usados para o bem, mas nas mãos de maus caráteres, podem ser terrivelmente destrutivos. A política democrática é um mecanismo de seleção imperfeito, e alguns políticos que escolhemos sem dúvida corromperão o poder que lhes concedemos. Então, a prudência dita que não devemos concentrar o poder. Porém, devemos estabelecer diversas formas de verificação ao sistema.

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hicks-stephen-2013“O poder não corrompe — o caráter é o que realmente importa” Por Stephen Hicks. Tradução de Matheus Pacini. Revisão de Russ Silva. Artigo Original no “The Good Life”. Visite EveryJoe.com para ler os últimos artigos de Stephen Hicks.

Stephen Hicks é o autor do livro Explicando o Pós Modernismo e Nietzsche and the Nazis.

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Puritan Valentine’s Day thoughts

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And: “Should I Marry You?” Answers From the Philosophers. At The Good Life:

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“Should I Marry You?” Answers From the Philosophers [new The Good Life column]

The opening of my latest column at EveryJoe:

“Romance is in the air, and even the lovers of wisdom are not immune from its allure.

“So here is a round-up of philosophers talking to their sweethearts – collected from conversations overheard at smoky cafés, college libraries, mountain paths, and seminar rooms the world over.

The Aristotelian: “I wish to marry you, for I know that my happiness, both of body and soul, is contingent upon our union in the best and deepest of friendships.”

The Utilitarian: “The question is: Would our marriage contribute to the greatest happiness for the greatest number? Please consider waiting for me, dearest, while the best social science does its calculations.”

The Freudian: “You do remind me of mother, but I’m afraid you are too Jung for me.”

The Kantian: “I do not love you. Indeed, I find you repulsive in every way. But if I do thus marry you, I can be certain that my motives for marrying are pure and dutiful …” [Read more here.]

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Last week’s column: On Intelligence, Freedom, and Who Knows What’s Best for You.

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Transcript: William Kline on market-based business ethics

New transcription: Dr. William Kline spoke at Rockford University on business ethics. My follow-up interview with him on the main points of his talk are below in video and transcribed-text form:

Interview with William Kline, Ph.D., on Business Ethics

Interview conducted at Rockford College by Stephen Hicks, Ph.D.
The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship

Hicks: I am Stephen Hicks, executive director of CEE. With us today is Dr. William Kline, who is Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies at the University of Illinois in Springfield. Professor Kline is a philosopher, primarily specializing in business ethics, which is why we invited him here to Rockford College to speak to our Business Ethics class.
Now, Professor Kline, in your approach to business ethics you take issue with the usual statement that “Business ethics is a contradiction in terms” or that business ethics is an oxymoron. Or what we might refer to as the “negative” approach to business ethics—which is about focusing primarily on the Enron and the Bernie Madoff cases—all of the scandal cases—and presenting an litany of problems as representative of what business is about. What is wrong with that approach to business ethics?

Kline: One of the things that struck me is—I was teaching business ethics at the time that Enron happened and Tyco—and everybody wanted to talk about that. Everybody asked, “Wow, what about WorldCom?” But we had, just in terms of corporations and not in terms of business overall, on the New York Stock Exchange, something like 3,000 listed companies and, on the NASDAQ, I believe something on the order of 5,000. And I might be short on that. The number might be easily be higher than that. So we are talking about 8,000 business and five did bad things. That’s actually a pretty good record.
So why not talk about the 7,995 good cases that have gone right and what we can learn from them? Rather than, you know, the same old boring story that, well, somebody pilfered the company funds and ran off to some exotic location, which we all know is wrong. I don’t need business ethics to tell me that’s wrong.

Hicks: Is it your point, though, not that we can’t learn from the negative cases just as a doctor can learn from disease cases, but that we have more to learn from the good cases or successful cases?

Kline: I hear what you say, and it’s not that we can’t learn from the negative cases. Of course, you need rules to protect property and contracts. I think there are real issues with what stock ownership entitles you to, and those rules need to be worked out, but they just get overemphasized. Nobody is looking at all of the good that happens through business, and specifically, the individual good when you decide to enter into business or a business person decides to enter into business, how that might be conceived of as morally good.

Hicks: Your major theme was putting your business life, including the choice to go into business, in the context of your life overall, that is, putting an emphasis on the good life in a very Aristotelian sense. Can you say more about that?

Kline: I think, quite frankly, it’s tragic. I’ve had students graduate now. I’ve been teaching long enough. And I’ve had students who have gone into things that they loved and students who have gone into things that they’ve hated. And this notion that, well, here is my business and professional life, and that’s totally separate from my personal life, and totally separated from the good things I do in the world, and it’s its own entity. I don’t find that works that often. The happiest people I met are the people who have incorporated their business life into their broader goals, their broader aspirations, and see it serving a purpose within their lives.
So, yes, that’s how I want to talk about business ethics. In the Aristotelian version of it, what we want to talk about is a flourishing life, and that requires taking a holistic approach to one’s life, including business.

Hicks: So you ask what are the constituent elements of a flourishing life, and you place one’s business activities in that context. So, if we ask in an Aristotelian sense what a flourishing life is, what are the major constituent elements here? You had a list of six features, I believe. Not that we have time to talk about all of them.

Kline: Yes, so let me just take a few.

What we’re talking about is this: in order for us to flourish as beings, we have to recognize both constraints on what we are and what we can’t do but also certain abilities that we possess and that need exercising. As Mill said, famously, to be Socrates dissatisfied is better than being a pig satisfied. And quite frankly, I think part of the reason for that is that to live a life of a pig is either exceedingly boring or, if you look at people who’ve lived purely hedonistic lives, quite self-destructive.
Kline,W-UISSo the question on the Aristotelian line is: given the kind of being I am, how can I do well in the world? Some of the characteristics of a flourishing life that we looked at today were that the flourishing might have to be some sort of standard for flourishing conducts, something that goes beyond my preferences, something that goes beyond my whim, or some sort of guide post to let me know when I am doing better or worse. One of those objective elements is that there is something fundamental about us in trading. Aristotle said that we are social creatures; Adam Smith said we have a natural propensity to truck and barter. I don’t see why it’s something we should deny. It’s something we should embrace, and it’s a good thing. When explorers go exploring and they want to make contact with new people, they take stuff to trade.

Hicks: Yes.

Kline: It’s far better than just annihilating who you meet. And trading is social. It’s not antisocial at all. Once again, Smith points out that economic transactions are a way of communicating, a way of persuading, which I find highly interesting. If one took a Hayekian model, one can say it’s a way to trade information. That’s exactly what I am doing when I am trading price information. I will take this for that much, and you’ll take that for that much. This is fundamental type of communication.

Hicks: So, in a broader context, this constituent element of a human flourishing life is social?

Kline: Yes.

Hicks: The rich values that we get as social beings interacting with each other, which then carries over to the business world, which is essentially social through trade. So we’re productive individuals trading with each other to mutual benefit. Your point, then, is that business is tapping something deeply social in us.

Kline: Well, absolutely.

Hicks: And, positively, the social is a constituent of a good life.

Kline: Yes, exactly. I mean, people recognize that when they meet at the local club they are being social. People will recognize when they meet on Facebook, they are being social. People aren’t as apt to recognize the fact that when you meet to trade, whether it’s in a bazaar or a Wal-Mart, you actually are being social.

Hicks: Though you might not know much about particular people you’re trading with.

Kline: Right, but that’s a good thing too. I don’t need to know everything about somebody to trade. I can productively engage in a fun, social interaction that mutual benefits both of us and I need not worry about what religion you are or what political beliefs you had. How horrible that would be if I had to litmus test everybody on their political views or religious views before I interacted with them.

Hicks: Another element of the social boldness that you mentioned is that business leads people to be willing to overlook many things they ordinarily wouldn’t overlook historically, like ethnicity, race, religion, or gender. Are people in business more likely to be tolerant and peaceful?

Kline: Tolerant, peaceful, and there are real incentives in the market and in business to not discriminate. There are real incentives to include anybody within your trading or productive enterprise as long as they can in turn trade or be productive with you. I am not saying that business answers all questions or solves all problems in humanity, but there is a critique of market systems out there that they are inherently racist or inherently sexist, and that’s simply not true.

Hicks: To go from flourishing in general to business in particular. In the former you mentioned Aristotle a lot, and in the latter you rely on Hume a lot. What is it that makes business business? What makes business a distinctive kind of human enterprise?

Kline: I think that the purpose of business is to produce a good or a service for trade. That that’s what makes distinctive. Someone would argue that perhaps the purpose of businesses is to serve a social good. For various reasons, I don’t think that that’s the purpose of a business. That’s the purpose of charities. That might be the purpose of certain political mechanisms. But if you look at what business is, it fundamentally involves trading. It involves using money as a method of calculation for making your decisions. To overlook that is to overlook the nature of business.

Hicks: If the purpose of business is not primarily to produce a social good, then what is the contrast purpose to that? Is business primarily individuals mutually satisfying their individual purposes?

Kline: Business allows you to do that, but I can solve my individual purpose. I can be an artist, I don’t have to trade. I can make my art works. I could be a philosopher. Socrates didn’t trade his thoughts and he had, you know, a life of his own that satisfied his preferences.
I really think that saying that you are going into business means that you are accepting a body of rules and goals and obligations that center on this notion that you are going to productively engage with other people on the basis of trade. If I am not trading, if I am just giving you something as a gift, then that’s not business. If I am just taking from somebody, that’s theft: that’s not business. Once we engage in this mutual give and take of what’s called trade with goods that we have produced without violating property rights or contract rights, then that’s business.

Hicks: You are critical of two major models that currently dominate business ethics discussions: the stakeholder model and the stockholder model. You use Milton Friedman as the major representative of the stockholder model. You’re critical of the idea that business should be defined in terms of a social responsibility to produce profit. What is wrong with that definition or account, in your judgment?

Kline: The majority of my business colleagues know the purpose is to make a profit. Well, stop. If one is on the financial services industry where the good or service one provides is actually an optimization of money accounts, whether it through hedge funds, mutual funds, monetary instruments, or derivatives, then that’s true. But that doesn’t mean that it applies to everything. I mean, people get involved in family businesses because they like the business. People start second careers in different businesses just because they’ve always wanted to operate a tiny theater in a small town. I am thinking of Berkeley, West Virginia. There is a small theater that people opened up because they just always wanted to do that. Profit is important; without a profit you go out of business. As I said before, money is a method of making your decision procedures. And profit also allows you to get what you want out of life, so it’s very important. I am not saying it’s not, but I don’t think it’s the purpose of business to gauge how well you’re doing business.

Hicks: Would you put that in the context of a corporation, say, where there’s a division of labor between management and the stockholders? Is there any role for saying that the managers have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profit for the stockholders? Or is that merely a limited case of business closer to the hedge fund people, for example, you mentioned earlier?

Kline: There is a tendency in business ethics to over-corporatize everything so that if you want to talk business ethics we have to talk about either Enron or GM. And, if you look at the business sensitive data, at least half of all businesses are smaller than, I think, 500 people, with sizable chunks even in the lower registers.
So the reason I don’t like talking about fiduciary responsibilities of managers to stockholders isn’t because it isn’t important. It’s because everybody is talking about it, and what I want to talk about is this practice called business. And whether you’re a corporation, a privately-held company, a professional, or whether you’re operating out of your garage or some multi-billion-dollar complex, this is something that has importance to you.

Hicks: So the profit-as-the-primary-purpose model, which is sometimes called the stockholder model, you criticize. But you also equally criticize the stakeholder model. What is your criticism of the idea that the purpose of business is to satisfy the interests of all relevant stakeholders?

Kline: That is my objection. The purpose of business is to produce a good or service for trade. Once you figure the good or service you want to offer, that you want to be an accountant, that you want to make widgets, etc., and you’re now doing that and making trades, there are multiple decisions one has to make in the means of production, where one wants to locate, who one is going to hire. And money is the method to make these decisions. What am I going to get if I invest in this? And it’s a multi-attribute decision problem made on the basis of money. That’s the key, as I said, methodology of business. The stakeholder thesis says No, if that’s all you are taking into consideration, you actually being immoral. I have to equally consider the interest of all my stakeholders. So, if I make a decision, I have to consider the interests of the community, interests of the workers, the interest of consumers, the interest of the suppliers, the interest of … I am probably missing one now. Stockholders actually count as well. Or the interest of the owners—mighty nice that they count sometimes, huh? I have to balance all their interests. Well, if it’s not going to be with money, then how do I balance it? And it turns out that it’s a political decision process to balance it. So that notion of business ethics I actually think it’s antithetical to business. It’s political ethics.

Hicks: But rather relying on the narrow stockholder approach or the narrow stakeholder approach as you’re arguing here, we need to think more generically about the nature of business, which can come in many forms and serve many different purposes with different individuals. Thus your definition of business as purpose-driven production of goods and services for the purpose of trade, that’s where we should start.
So on the positive side of business ethics, you then say that this generates a kind of principled commitment that can come out as an ethos: if you want to decide what it is to be a good business professional or what it is to commit to the best kind of business life, you think of what are the needs of the production part of the business and what are the needs of satisfying the trade. You then come to be committed to productivity and committed to trade.
Then, towards the end of your discussion, you mentioned that this serves as a principle for deciding what is unethical in business. Even if we rule out the clear cases of crime as not being part of business, how does your account of what business is help us deal with cases like discrimination, say, in the workforce or the owner who uses the business as his personal piggy-bank, and so on? How does it provide us a guide in the negative cases?

Kline: Let me go back to the positives briefly.

Hicks: Fair enough.

Kline: Remember we are looking at us as human beings, and the trading actually touches something within us, something that’s very peaceful, something that’s exciting, something that’s social. That’s important. Business can serve that because trading is a fundamental aspect of business. I’m producing goods and services for trade. So, in general, business is a good thing. Now, I have to decide specifically what I want to do within business. There is something specific I have to do—I want to be an accountant or whatever. So that funnels down. Now I’ve decided to be an accountant, or I’ve decided that I want to make hamburgers, or I have decided I want to sell whatever.
Now I have specific obligations that go along with each of those. If I am going to sell chicken, I have a specific obligation not to kill people with salmonella or kill people with e. coli. I have these specific obligations as I provide this on the market, certain things that I have to do. So it’s very action-guiding in a good sense to tell me what ought I focus on, which just making a profit doesn’t tell me, as I am focusing on these productive activities.
Now, to help me on the other side with when I’ve gone wrong. What am I going to do right? Well, I want to focus on the productive side and the trading side, but when I’ve gone wrong I have stepped outside of this. And people will do self-justification all the time. It’s my business, so I can discriminate. Or, it’s my business, so I can hire the secretary to sleep with. Well, that’s precisely just self-justification. And why is it just self-justification? Because you’ve agreed and you’ve broadcast that you’re in business. We have said that this is what business is and now you’re doing entirely opposite. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. You are really doing business or you’re not. And if you are using your business as your personal piggy-bank, if you are using it as your personal sex-playpen, or if you are using it just to lord it over other people, you are not engaging in business and I think you are violating the telos of it. I think you’re doing something fundamentally wrong.
And, by the way, in the process of that, people say, well, you’re violating the goals. But remember what you’re violating. You’re violating this trading, so we’ve gone from a trading model to an authoritarian model which doesn’t serve flourishing the way the trading does. You’re not being productive in this sense. You’re actually probably being some sort of—I wish I could find a better term—but some sort of leech. You are sucking the productive abilities out of people or the company. You are not engaging in this mutually productive trade anymore. So when I say you violate the goals or the ends of business, there are some very real effects, both on your individual flourishing and on the flourishing of those around you as well.

Hicks: So one should think of business as a principled calling in the context of a flourishing life, given the kinds of beings that we are. When you then enter into business you’re committing to productivity and trade. Take those seriously, internalize them, and then also externalize them in business and remain true to that. That’s business as a noble cause?

Kline: Yes, and if you don’t want to do that, then do something else.

Hicks: Fair enough. Thank you Professor Kline.

Kline: Thank you.

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This interview was transcribed by Matheus Pacini and edited by Jennifer Harrolle.
See the video of this interview at YouTube.
Kline’s talk was sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship, and the above video is cross-posted at CEE’s site.

Related: My video interview with Professor Kline on David Hume, who, according to a recent vote by contemporary philosophers, is the most influential dead philosopher.

Posted in Business Ethics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

À procura de um culpado: “A desregulamentação causou a crise financeira”

blamestorming

Você já ouviu a afirmação: “a desregulamentação causou a crise financeira”. Nos anos que antecederam a 2008, diz a história, maus economistas convenceram maus políticos a desregularem os setores bancário e financeiro da economia, e maus capitalistas desfrutaram de uma orgia de ganância que fez com que o sistema enlouquecesse.

Os prêmios Nobel Joseph Stiglitz e Paul Krugman concordam com essa história. Krugman, por exemplo, há muito defende o aumento da regulação dos mercados financeiros, e recentemente reclamou no The New York Times que os políticos falharam por não terem ouvido os economistas certos. “O mundo”, ele diz, “estaria em uma situação muito melhor do que está se a política do mundo real tivesse refletido as lições básicas da economia”, e as lições básicas, ele acredita, ensinam que mais controles (e maior gasto governamental) teriam evitado a crise.

Vamos agora para a segunda fase da caça aos culpados pela crise financeira. A primeira tratou da afirmação leviana de que os acadêmicos de livre mercado eram o mainstream da ciência econômica e que, devido a essa autoridade, levaram políticos e reguladores a seguirem suas instruções (ver “Onde estão os economistas de livre mercado que causaram a crise financeira?”). Na segunda fase, vamos analisar o que os políticos fizeram e a trajetória da regulação governamental no período anterior a 2008.financial-reform-now4

Como é possível dizer se a regulação aumentou ou diminui?

Um método grosseiro é contar o número de páginas no Diário Oficial dos Estados Unidos — publicação diária do governo onde constam todas as regras novas e propostas. Algumas das regras são triviais e algumas têm impacto importante; algumas são propostas e outras são definitivas; algumas são esclarecimentos e algumas são novas. De modo cumulativo, todavia, o aumento ou redução do volume de páginas nos diz algo sobre as tendências regulatórias.

Veja abaixo o número de páginas em alguns anos selecionados:

  • Década de 1980: 52,992 páginas / ano
  • Década de 1990: 62,237 páginas / ano
  • Ano de 2005: 73,870 páginas.
  • Ano de 2010: 81,405 páginas

Atualmente, existem dados mais sofisticados, como os disponibilizados pelo surpreendente website RegData. Os cientistas sociais do RegData contam o número de regulamentações, dividem por setor econômico, e tentam separar as menores das maiores mudanças regulatórias (e permitem que você monte suas próprias planilhas). Os dados inequivocamente mostram que o número geral de regulamentações aumentou na década de 1990 e, ao longo dos primeiros anos dos anos 2000. Se focarmos somente na regulação do setor financeiro, os dados também mostram um aumento na quantidade de regulação.

Outra medida de regulamentação é quanto o governo federal gasta no desenvolvimento e cumprimento das regras em vários setores: proteção ao consumidor, meio ambiente, energia, segurança nacional e assim por diante. A relação entre o número de normas e o tamanho do orçamento é diretamente proporcional. Então, por cortesia das economistas Veronique de Rugy e Melinda Warren, aqui seguem os gastos do governo federal relacionados aos setores financeiro e bancário da economia(ano base 2000) de 1960 a 2008:

  • 1960: US$190 milhões
  • 1970: US$356 milhões
  • 1980: US$725 milhões
  • 1990: US$1.598 bilhões
  • 2000: US$1.965 bilhões
  • 2007: US$2.065 bilhões
  • 2008: US$2.294 bilhões

Outra medida a ser utilizada é o número de funcionários do governo empregados no desenvolvimento e execução de normas. Os números para os setores financeiro e bancário.

  • 1960: 2.509
  • 1970: 5.618
  • 1980: 9.524
  • 1990: 15.308
  • 2000: 13.310
  • 2007: 11.637
  • 2008: 12.113

Então, algumas perguntas: Quando o suposto número de regulamentações caiu? Quando foram as demissões de reguladores que, tristemente, tiveram que procurar emprego em outro lugar? E quando ocorreram os grandes cortes nos orçamentos das agências regulatórias dedicadas ao policiamento do mercado financeiro?

Não existem respostas: sem elas, a afirmação de que a “desregulamentação causou a crise” não tem força. Então, por que a persistência dessa afirmação apesar do registro histórico?

Parte da explicação é a impulsividade ideológica, é claro. Uma crise acontece, e muitos imediatamente buscam culpados nos seus inimigos políticos: minha teoria diz que eles devem ser responsáveis pelos males do mundo.glass-steagall-investment-300_0

Mas a direção da regulação governamental é claramente vertical, então os defensores mais sofisticados da tese que a ausência de normas causou a crise se voltaram a uma versão mais sutil do meme. Eles concederão que a regulação, como um todo, cresceu, porém afirmam que certas desregulações específicas também ocorreram, e elas causaram o problema.

E o grande culpado é: Glass-Steagall!!!

A lei Glass-Steagall foi parcialmente revogada pelo presidente Bill Clinton em 1999. Joseph Stiglitz, por exemplo, culpa a revogação e diz que isso foi contra os seus conselhos. Glass-Steagall foi inicialmente promulgada em 1933 para separar bancos comerciais e bancos de investimento. Os bancos comerciais não podiam investir em ações, e os bancos de investimento não podiam aceitar depósitos.

Contudo, a vasta maioria dos economistas e políticas vê a Glass-Steagall como irrelevante à crise. As instituições financeiras que estavam com maiores problemas — incluindo Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Sterns, AIG e Lehman Brothers — nenhuma delas teria estado sujeita às provisões da Glass-Steagall. Mesmo o presidente Obama, em reportagem à revista Rolling Stone, concordou que a Glass-Steagall não era relevante no caso.

(E note o modelo intrínseco de funcionamento das economias, se fôssemos pensar que uma revogação parcial da Glass-Steagall fosse a culpada: os burocratas emitem milhares de regulações — mas se eles errarem em uma delas, o sistema irá entrar em colapso).

Nesse ponto, fãs do aumento de regulamentações mudam de opinião. Em vez de culpar a desregulação, eles sugerem que a falta de nova regulação é a culpada. Sim, a quantidade de regulação governamental aumentou antes da crise, eles relutantemente admitiriam, mas a economia cresceu a uma taxa ainda mais rápida e os reguladores não poderiam ou não conseguiriam acompanha-la.  

Tal postura levanta um intrigante novo conjunto de questões, e talvez uma analogia ao futebol ou a qualquer outro esporte seja bem-vinda aqui. Suponha que o futebol se torne crescentemente popular e mais jogos e campeonatos sejam realizados. Isso significa que precisamos aumentar o número deregras? Ou que precisamos contratar mais árbitros? Ou uma analogia melhor seria que as pessoas estão inventando novos esportes totalmente novos, os quais requerem novas regras e mais reguladores? Mas isso significa que o governo deveria criar regras para novos esportes? Os jogadores, os times e as associações esportivas não são capazes de fazê-lo?uncle-sam-regulation

Todas essas questões são interessantes. Mas note que agora nos afastamos definitivamente da hipótese da desregulamentação, como deveríamos. A desregulamentação significa que práticas existentes foram liberadas. Inovação é quando novas práticas passam a existir. Então, se formos culpar novos instrumentos financeiros pela crise, então deveríamos criticar a inovação em vez da desregulamentação.

Tudo isso importa para nós, como eleitores comuns ou legisladores profissionais, já que a tese da desregulamentação dominou os círculos políticos desde a época em que a crise se tornou aparente, e desde 2008, a quantidade de regulamentações aumentou de forma acelerada.

Mas se os dados mostram que a regulação estava crescente no período anterior à crise, então aquela reação política foi incorreta — mal interpretando o problema, desperdiçando milhões de dólares, prejudicando a recuperação econômica e preparando o caminho para algo pior.

E como os dados realmente mostram o aumento da regulação antes da crise, talvez devêssemos considerar algumas sugestões heréticas: talvez todas as regulações causaram o problema. Talvez o controle centralizado seja a mosca na sopa. E talvez — apenas talvez — pedir que políticos e burocratas administrem algo tão complexo como a economia moderna simplesmente seja pedir para ter problemas.

* * *

hicks-stephen-2013“À procura de um culpado: ‘A desregulamentação causou a crise financeira'” Por Stephen Hicks. Tradução de Matheus Pacini. Revisão de Russ Silva. Artigo Original no “The Good Life”. Visite EveryJoe.com para ler os últimos artigos de Stephen Hicks.

Stephen Hicks é o autor do livro Explicando o Pós Modernismo e Nietzsche and the Nazis.

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Kostyło’s review of Nietzsche and the Nazis

nn-polish-cover-frontProfessor Piotr Kostyło of the University of Casimir the Great reviews the Polish edition of Nietzsche and the Nazis:

PDF: “Czy wiemy, za czym cie opowiedamy? Stephena Hickss obrana indywidualizmu”. The review was published in Zeszyty Chojnickie No. 30 (2014), pp. 255-264.

Here is an English translation of Kostyło’s review: “Do We Know What We Advocate? Stephen Hicks’s Defence of Individualism” [pdf].

And here is information about other editions and translations of Nietzsche and the Nazis.

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Intellectual History page updated, February 2014

My page devoted to posts and essays in Intellectual History has been updated to include recent posts:

* Unamuno on Kant on God in the first two Critiques.
* Heine versus Nietzsche on obscurantism in philosophy.
* Should We Thank Coffee for Modern Civilization?
* Burckhardt quotation on the birth of individualism in the Italian Renaissance.
* At the site of Aristotle’s Lyceum in Athens.

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On Intelligence, Freedom, and Who Knows What’s Best for You Read [new The Good Life column]

The opening of my latest column at EveryJoe:

“Intelligence is a human being’s most important asset.

“One sign of this is the amount of time we spend educating our young. For some species, such as squirrels and hawks, the learning necessary to become a full adult is acquired in a matter of months. For more intelligent species, such as chimpanzees and elephants, it takes a few years. But we humans need a dozen or more years of life to acquire the knowledge, the learning skills, and the judgment necessary for adult life.

“We do need to develop our physiques — muscular power, endurance, and flexibility — but most importantly we each need to develop our minds. A lion can overpower its prey with strength, an insect has the flexibility to find what it needs in nooks and crannies, and a goose has the endurance to fly hundreds of miles. But humans flourish primarily via the power of their thinking …” [Read more here.]

the-good-life-intelligent

Last week’s column: Are You Smart Enough to Live in a Free Society?

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