Friday, May 29, 2015

Análise micro-económica de uma economia autogestionária

The Firm in Illyria: Market Syndicalism, por Benjamin Ward, publicado por The American Economic Review , Vol. 48, No. 4 (Sep., 1958).

Versão aberta[PDF]:

The discussion of the feasibility of socialism has long been closed with apparently quite general agreement that an economy will not inevitably collapse as a result of nationalization of the means of production. On the theoretical side the clinching argument was probably made by Barone shortly after the controversy began [2]. Probably the best known of the arguments on the other side of the question, that of Mises[15], was published twelve years after Barone's paper and gave rise to a new set of arguments, among them those of Taylor, Lange and Lerner [11] [12]. Lange in fact explicitly (though perhaps with a touch of irony) developed market socialism as a counterexample for Mises' assertions. (...)

These (...) questions are of special interest today as one watches some Eastern European countries groping toward a less centralized form of economic organization, and as one watches Western European socialists struggle with the implications for democracy (and efficiency) of further nationalization. In the present paper a few of the implications of one possible alternative form of industrial organization are explored. In this model the means of production are nationalized and the factories turned over to the general management of elected committees of workers who are free to set price and output policy in their own material self-interest. The nature of the resulting price and outputdecisions are investigated and compared with those obtained in the competitive capitalist (or market socialist) model. The assumptions of the model bear a close resemblance to the legal status of the industrial firm in Yugoslavia in recent years. Consequently some of the organizational arrangements of a "market syndicalist" economy can be described most conveniently by citing laws on the statute books in Yugoslavia, as is done in Section I. Toward the end of the paper some comments are made as to the extent of deviations of firm behavior in Yugoslavia from that of the theorems of our model. It seems that Illyria is in fact an alternative to the existing system in Yugoslavia as well as to those in Western and the rest of Eastern Europe.

[Algumas coisas parecem um pouco estranhas se nos esquecermos que se trata de um artigo de 1958]

A Coreia do Norte terá 6000 computadores? Ou 60?

Exame Informática: Coreia do Norte tem 6000 hackers prontos a lançar ataques mortíferos

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Micro-empreendedorismo vs. criar empregos

Please Do Not Teach This Woman to Fish, por Daniel Altman (Foreign Policy):

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think small business is the lifeblood of any economy? From Washington to Warsaw, politicians and pundits just can’t speak highly enough of plucky entrepreneurs. Even in poor countries, entrepreneurship is one of the most important forces underpinning economic growth, but the best way to raise living standards and reduce poverty is not necessarily to make everyone an entrepreneur. So why do so many costly development programs apparently ignore this fact? (...)

Along with them came the microfinance programs — as well as many other aid schemes designed to promote entrepreneurship — which were often based in rural villages where repayment would be enforced primarily by peer pressure among the members. These programs tended to target women, who were viewed as more reliable stewards of the groups’ money. Some women did manage to start their own businesses with the loans they received, but the verdict of research into microfinance’s ability to reduce poverty was decidedly mixed.(...)

Microfinance may have given a lot of people a little, but it was never designed to give anyone a lot. Unlike the microenterprises founded in rural villages, businesses that serve lots of customers take advantage of economies of scale in production and distribution. These economies of scale are essential for economic growth. After all, which economy is more productive — one in which every single person is an entrepreneur, or one in which a minority of entrepreneurs employ the majority of people?

In fact, poor countries already have many more entrepreneurs per capita than rich countries. More entrepreneurship is not what they need; economies of scale are. Indeed, the most productive economies are the ones that balance economies of scale with the benefits of competition. Too many businesses, and workers will fall short of their maximum productivity. Too few businesses, and monopolists will gouge consumers, quash innovation, and fail to serve the entire market.

On “Economies of Scale” and Other Magical Incantations, por Kevin Carson (Center for a Stateless Society):

There’s a certain kind of economic technocrat who tosses around the term “economies of scale” like a Young Earth creationist tosses around the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This is true of legacy liberalism, obviously, which is still defined by the mid-20th century mass-production paradigm of Joseph Schumpeter, John Kenneth Galbraith and Alfred Chandler. It’s also true of most Austrian economists in the tradition of Mises, who see capital-intensiveness or “round-aboutness,” as such, as the key to productivity. A recent example of this mindset — as it relates to development economics — appears in a Foreign Policy article by Daniel Altman, an NYU economics professor (“Please Do Not Teach This Woman to Fish,” June 29). The subtitle, appropriately enough, is “Why poor countries have too many entrepreneurs and not enough factory workers.” (...)

Altman goes on to criticize small scale economic activity — which he equates to the Kemp-Gingrich nonsense — on the basis of “economies of scale.” (...)

Altman’s unstated assumptions — and his stated ones backed by nothing save his own bare assertion — are far from the facts of nature he treats them as. Willow Brugh, whose critique of this article (“Teaching People to Fish,” willowbl00, Oct. 31) brought it to my attention, points to some of them. The first is that income is the main determinant of one’s subjective living conditions, rather than something that might — or might not — improve some aspects of those conditions. Things like agency and alienation — for example the lack of agency, and increased sense of alienation, involved in wage employment — are also real factors in whether life is good or bad.

Income is also very misleading as an indicator of well-being because a great deal of nominal income or GDP increase in the Third World reflects the forcible monetization of activities that were previously carried out — quite satisfactorily — in the informal, household or social economies. They were monetized only because 1) monetizing the social economy would make it more legible (in anarchist James Scott’s terms) to ruling elites, and thus easier to skim off the top, and 2) forcing producers into the money economy would compel them to accept wage employment and work as hard and cheap as the employing classes wanted (exactly as the Enclosures were designed to do in 18th century England).

Take a peasant family, successfully feeding itself from its share of arable land in an open field village, or subsisting off the common waste and common pasturage rights. If you expropriate those rights from them and instead compel them to become wage laborers to earn the money to pay for food on the cash nexus, their nominal income and the nominal GDP have both increased considerably. But are they better off?

Second is the assumption that hierarchy is inherently necessary, and that the economy is of necessity divided up into those who “provide jobs” and tell people what to do, and those who work at those jobs and do as they’re told.

I would add that Altman’s assumptions about “economies of scale,” in particular, are based on an understanding of industrial and technological history that’s been obsolete for decades (if it was ever valid).

Even at the height of the mass-production era, Ralph Borsodi observed that most of the alleged efficiencies of large-scale production were questionable if not spurious.

Um aspeto desta polémica é que me parece ultrapassar largamente o clássico binómio esquerda-direita (tanto Altman como Carson serão de "esquerda", aliás) - tanto podemos ver num dia alguém de direita a defender o "empreendedorismo" como solução para o desemprego e alguém de esquerda a contra-argumentar que muito "empreendedorismo" é típico de países atrasados e o que é preciso é políticas para criar empregos, como noutro dia podemos ver alguém de esquerda a defender o micro-crédito como via para desenvolver os países pobre e alguém de direita a defender que o que é preciso é mais investimento direto estrangeiro (para falar a verdade, dá-me a ideia que onde a clivagem é mais intensa é sobretudo à esquerda - lá no fundo, acho que há aqui um reflexo da velha divisão da esquerda entre uma tradição mais estatista e outra mais libertária).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Programação informática, a sintese da tecnologia com a imaginação?

How Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s Daughter, Became the World’s First Computer Programmer, por Maria Popova:

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, born Augusta Ada Byron on December 10, 1815, later came to be known simply as Ada Lovelace. Today, she is celebrated as the world’s first computer programmer — the first person to marry the mathematical capabilities of computational machines with the poetic possibilities of symbolic logic applied with imagination. This peculiar combination was the product of Ada’s equally peculiar — and in many ways trying — parenting.

Eleven months before her birth, her father, the great Romantic poet and scandalous playboy Lord Byron, had reluctantly married her mother, Annabella Milbanke, a reserved and mathematically gifted young woman from a wealthy family — reluctantly, because Byron saw in Annabella less a romantic prospect than a hedge against his own dangerous passions, which had carried him along a conveyer belt of indiscriminate affairs with both men and women. (...)

[T]he very friction that had caused her parents to separate created the fusion that made Ada a pioneer of “poetical science.”

That fruitful friction is what Walter Isaacson explores as he profiles Ada in the opening chapter of The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (public library | IndieBound), alongside such trailblazers as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, and Stewart Brand. Isaacson writes:
Ada had inherited her father’s romantic spirit, a trait that her mother tried to temper by having her tutored in mathematics. The combination produced in Ada a love for what she took to calling “poetical science,” which linked her rebellious imagination to her enchantment with numbers. For many, including her father, the rarefied sensibilities of the Romantic era clashed with the techno-excitement of the Industrial Revolution. But Ada was comfortable at the intersection of both eras.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ditaduras, crescimento económico e estatísticas

Dictators lie about economic growth, por Henry Farrel (Monkey Cage - The Washington Post):

There’s a lot of recent scholarship suggesting that non-democratic regimes grow faster than democratic regimes. This has led some people not only to admire the Chinese model of growth focused authoritarianism, but to suggest that it may be a better economic model for developing countries than democracy. However, this research tends to assume that both democracies and non-democracies are telling the truth about their growth rates, when they report them to multilateral organizations such as the World Bank. Is this assumption safe? The answer is no, according to a forthcoming article (temporarily ungated) by Christopher S. P. Magee and John A. Doces in International Studies Quarterly. (...)

This means that researchers need to find some kind of independent indicator of economic growth, which governments will either be less inclined or unable to manipulate. Magee and Doces argue that one such indicator is satellite images of nighttime lights. As the economy grows, you may expect to see more lights at night (e.g. as cities expand etc). And indeed, research suggests that there’s a very strong correlation between economic growth and nighttime lights, meaning that the latter is a good indicator of the former. Furthermore, it’s an indicator that is unlikely to be manipulated by governments.

Magee and Doces look at the relationship between reported growth and nights at light and find a very clear pattern. The graph below shows this relationship for different countries – autocracies are the big red dots. Most of the dots are above the regression line, which means that most autocracies report higher growth levels to the World Bank than you’d expect given the intensity of lights at night. This suggests that they’re exaggerating their growth numbers.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Re: Consequências do Grexit

Pedro Romano fala aqui da ideia de Krugman de que a saída do euro pode ser benéfica para a Grécia:

But the bigger question is what happens a year or two after the Grexi, where the real risk for the euro will not be that Greece will fail, but that it will succeed. Suppose that a greatly devalued new drachma brings a flood of british beer-drinkers to the Ionian Sea, and Greece starts to recover. This would greatly encourage challengers to austerity and internal devaluation.
Mas creio que uma coisa que distingue a Grécia de outras economias (e, na minha opinião, pode reduzir bastante as hipotéticas vantagens de uma eventual desvalorização) é exatamente o facto da sua principal "exportação" ser o turismo: quando compro, p.ex., carne de vaca normalmente não tomo em consideração as condições sociais do pais de onde ela vêm (pode estar à beira de uma crise humanitária e de uma hiperinflação – na moeda local – que isso não afeta a minha decisão de comprar a carne); já no caso do turismo (em que implica lá estar fisicamente), uma crise social (como a que um Grexit provavelmente originaria) tende a afugentar os turistas, mesmo que os preços sejam atrativos.

Há defensores por princípio do "Estado grande"?

Há tempos, Simon Wren-Lewis escrevia:

“In the end, you are either a big-state person, or a small-state person, and what big-state people hate about austerity is that its primary purpose is to shrink the size of government spending.”

So said Jeremy Warner (assistant editor of the UK’s Daily Telegraph) last year. Jeremy is a small state person, and I think many other small state people think like this. But the statement is wrong. There are a large number of people - I suspect the vast majority - who do not have any prior view about the size of the state.

In many ways the bipolar view harks back to a bygone age, where - at least in Europe - there actually was a large constituency on the left that wanted a large state as a matter of principle. In the UK that constituency lost all its influence with Margaret Thatcher and New Labour, and it has also lost its influence in the rest of Europe. However this decline in the influence of big state people on the left was matched by a rise to power on the right of those who want a small state as a matter of principle. George Osborne’s plan for the UK over the next few years is the apotheosis of this neoliberal view.

Na verdade eu suspeito que mesmo nos anos 70 nunca houve ninguém que defendesse o "Estado grande" por príncipio - veja-se que as mesmas pessoas que, no Reino Unido dos anos 70, queriam nacionalizar quase tudo também se opunham às tentativas governamentais (que vieram a ser consumadas por Thatcher) de restringir o direito à greve (ou seja, nessa aspeto eram contra a intervenção do Estado).

No geral, quem defende a intervenção do Estado para atingir um dado objetivo prefere a não-intervenção à intervenção para atingir um objetivo de sinal contrário - quem defende restrições à imigração por norma é contra leis anti-discriminação, quem é a favor de leis anti-discriminação tenderá a ser contra restrições à imigração, quem defende uma política de proteção ambiental será contra o uso do poder de expropriar para contruir oleodutos, etc.

Por vezes alguns liberais escrevem que os estatistas acabam sempre por entrar em conflito uns com os outros, mas eu iria mais longe - os "estatistas" começam por entrar em conflito uns com os outros (porque nem sequer é uma questão de, depois de derrotarem os liberais, as várias facções estatistas se enfrentarem - os estatistas preferem aliar-se com liberais do que com estatistas de sinal contrário).

Já agora, creio que isso demonstra que as tentativas de redefinir o espectro político pelo eixo de "mais governo vs. menos governo" (seja nas versões "cima - menos governo / baixo - mais governo", "esquerda - menos governo / direita - mais governo" ou "direita - menos governo / esquerda - mais governo") não fazem grande sentido na prática: não tem lógica inventar alinhamentos em que pessoas que nunca concordam entre si estão juntas num lado e no lado oposto estão pessoas que umas vezes se aliam a uns ou a outros (seria como dizer que o principal alinhamento da II Guerra Mundial era de um lado países participantes - como o Reino Unido, a Hungria, a URSS e a Alemanha - e do outro os países neutros - Suiça, Suécia, Portugal. etc.). Por alguma razão coligações conservadores+liberais e socialistas+liberais são mais comuns do que coligações conservadores+socialistas (mesmo apesar dos atuais governos alemão e grego).

John Nash e a economia

The Economics of John Nash, por Kevin Bryan:

I’m in the midst of a four week string of conferences and travel, and terribly backed up with posts on some great new papers, but I can’t let the tragic passing today of John Nash go by without comment. (...)

Now Nash’s contributions to economics are very small, though enormously influential. He was a pure mathematician who took only one course in economics in his studies; more on this fortuitous course shortly. The contributions are simple to state: Nash founded the theory of non-cooperative games, and he instigated an important, though ultimately unsuccessful, literature on bargaining.(...)

Consider a soccer penalty kick, where the only options are to kick left and right for the shooter, and to simultaneously dive left or right for the goalie. Now at first glance, it seems like there can be no equilibrium: if the shooter will kick left, then the goalie will jump to that side, in which case the shooter would prefer to shoot right, in which case the goalie would prefer to switch as well, and so on. In real life, then, what do we expect to happen? Well, surely we expect that the shooter will sometimes shoot left and sometimes right, and likewise the goalie will mix which way she dives. That is, instead of two strategies for each player, we have a continuum of mixed strategies, where a mixed strategy is simply a probability distribution over the strategies “Left, Right”. This idea of mixed strategies “convexifies” the strategy space so that we can use fixed point strategies to guarantee that an equilibrium exists in every finite-strategy noncooperative game under expected utility (Kakutani’s Fixed Point in the initial one-page paper in PNAS which Nash wrote his very first year of graduate school, and Brouwer’s Fixed Point in the Annals of Math article which more rigorously lays out Nash’s noncooperative theory).


The bargaining solution is a trickier legacy. Recall Nash’s sole economics course, which he took as an undergraduate. In that course, he wrote a term paper, eventually to appear in Econometrica, where he attempted to axiomatize what will happen when two parties bargain over some outcome. (...)

Imagine the prevailing wage for CEOs in your industry is $250,000. Two identical CEOs will generate $500,000 in value for the firm if hired. CEO Candidate One has no other job offer. CEO Candidate Two has an offer from a job with similar prestige and benefits, paying $175,000. Surely we can’t believe that the second CEO will wind up with higher pay, right? It is a completely noncredible threat to take the $175,000 offer, hence it shouldn’t affect the bargaining outcome. A pet peeve of mine is that many applied economists are still using Nash bargaining – often in the context of the labor market! – despite this well-known problem.

Nash was quite aware of this, as can be seen by his 1953 Econometrica(...)

You can read all four Nash papers in the original literally during your lunch hour; this seems to me a worthy way to tip your cap toward a man who literally helped make modern economics possible.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Grécia anuncia default

Greece does not have the money to make June IMF repayment: interior minister (Reuters):

"The four installments for the IMF in June are 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion). This money will not be given and is not there to be given," Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis told Greek Mega TV's weekend show.

Voutsis was asked about his concern over a 'credit event', a term covering scenarios like bankruptcy or default, if Athens misses a payment.

"We are not seeking this, we don't want it, it is not our strategy," he said.
"We are discussing, based on our contained optimism, that there will be a strong agreement (with lenders) so that the country will be able to breathe. This is the bet," Voutsis said.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A ascenção e queda de "La Causa Radical" venezuelana

Great Promise, but Poor Performance:Understanding the Collapse of Venezuela’s Causa Radical[PDF], por Daniel Nogueira-Budny (Jornal of Politics in Latin America, 1/2014):

Rising meteorically to national prominence amidst the collapse of Venezuela’s ossified two-party system, the leftist Radical Cause (LCR) seemed poised to ease the country’s crisis of representation and win the presidency in 1993. Instead, it imploded, paving the way for radical populist Hugo Chávez. How can the poor performance of a party with such great promise be explained? This article explains LCR’s initial success and eventual failure through the party’s adoption of internally democratic mechanisms. Its highly participatory approach attracted progressive groups, helping LCR’s early “meteoric” success. But it also sowed the seeds of LCR’s collapse: the absence of formalized decision-making rules and hierarchical leadership hindered the resolution of a political impasse. Internal democracy proved harmful to institutional growth and prevented the party from confronting factional conflict and instituting muchneeded reforms in the long run. It is not only a heavy hierarchy and bureaucracy that prevent political change, but also the opposite in a base democracy.

Contexto: La Causa Radical é um partido venezuelano, inicialmente de extrema-esquerda (atualmente talvez entre o centro e o centro-esquerda), criado em 1971 por dissidentes do Partido Comunista Venezuelano; no final dos anos 80 e príncipio dos 90 (nomedamente na sequência dos protestos de 1989 contra a austeridade) pareceu estar à beira do poder, mas depois perdeu quase toda a influência. Em 1997 a sua ala mais radical cindiu, criando o Partido Patria para Todos. Enquanto LCR desde sempre se opôs a Chavez e integra a coligação opositora, o PPT tem oscilado entre apoiar e opôr-se aos governos de Chavez e Maduro - nas últimas eleições legislativas concorreu, em aliança com os trotskistas, como uma força alternativa tanto ao chavismo como à aliança da oposição, mas mais tarde os tribunais venezuelanos entregaram o PPT à facção pró-Chavez, tendo a facção anti-Chavez criado os partidos Avanzada Progressista e Movimiento Progresista de Venezuela (que, tal como a LCR original, fazem parta da aliança da oposição).

O autor do artigo considera que os problemas que a Causa Radical começou a ter quando começou a ganhar influência resultam de uma organziação interna em que "LCR did not 1) write any formal documents, 2) have any way to expel unruly or disloyal members, 3) create a professionalized staff wth specialized roles, 4) have a hierarchical leadership structure, or 5) put decisions up to a vote (decision-making was done by consensus)":

LCR did not author any founding documents, such as a constitutive act, binding rules, or statutes to tie the party down. Norms, procedures, and patterns of behavior are important for the institutional survival of parties, as they foster stable, valued, and recurring patterns of behavior and provide for agreed-upon ways to handle conflicts and issues as they arise (Huntington 1968: 12). LCR members were required to write up a formal statute for the CSE in order to register as an official party, which they got around to doing in 1978. However, this document was widely considered a meaningless formality that most members did not even know existed. As such, there was little correspondence between established norms and the actual party. LCR’s operations were based on the immediate concerns of its members. In the beginning, when the party was an intimate group of like-minded individuals in Ciudad Guayana, informal and flexible party rules were changed as needed. Contrast this with the case of the PPT, which ended up learning from the mistakes of its predecessor: PPT immediately formalized itself with a constitutive act, rules and regulations, and formal statutes.

The fact that LCR had no founding documents or organic rules led to organizational inertia because it meant that there was no established way to effect institutional change. In its early years, LCR dealt with whatever issues that arose on an ad hoc basis. This worked well enough when the party was a small, homogenous group of individuals living in the same city. However, such an informal arrangement outlived its usefulness and remained in place long after the party had begun to expand geographically, diversify socio-economically, and broaden ideologically.

Interrogo-me se os problemas derivariam de todas as características apontadas pelo autor, ou se o mal estaria sobretudo nos pontos 1 (ausência de normas formais) e 5 (decisão por consenso e não por votação) - talvez os pontos 2, 3 e 4 por si só não fossem problemáticos, desde que houvesse uma maneira de decidir "o que fazer?" quando o partido se começou a dividir em tendências com projetos distintos.

Ou talvez seja um indício que um movimento político não consegue, ao mesmo tempo, organizar-se internamente como uma democracia radical enquanto participa no jogo político da democracia representativa.

Possíveis defaults gregos

Investors eye consequences of a Greek default, por Ferdinando Giugliano (Financial Times):

While a default need not necessarily lead to a Grexit economists warn that it would substantially increase the risks of a departure.

“Default but no Grexit cannot be a stable equilibrium,” Mr Cluse said.

The short-term consequences of a default may depend on who exactly the Greek government fails to pay, as well as on the reaction by creditors — in particular depositors and the ECB. A default by Athens on domestic payment obligations, in the form of IOUs to pensioners and civil servants, would probably be the least risky. (...)

A default on IMF loans would look politically ugly, as Greece would indirectly be refusing to repay some of the poorest countries in the world who contribute to the institution’s coffers. However, it is generally seen as less risky than a default to the ECB. (...)

A default to the ECB is generally seen as the most treacherous option. The Greek banking system relies on emergency funding from the central bank and any decision to close the liquidity taps would result in lenders being unable to meet their obligations. (...)

Since Greek banks hold sizeable amounts of government bonds — which are routinely pledged to the ECB as collateral — defaulting on them would make it hard for policy makers in Frankfurt to conclude that Greek lenders could stand on their own feet.

There could, in theory, be other options. These include a bail-in of bondholders and depositors to strengthen the capital buffer of Greek banks; or a eurozone-wide guarantee on the Greek banking system. However, these would be either difficult to enact domestically or rely on the goodwill of international partners, who stand to shoulder the brunt of a default.