Friday, August 11, 2017

Sobre discriminação laboral

Se houver a perceção (verdadeira ou falsa, a curto prazo tanto faz) que 55% dos membros do grupo A e 45% dos membros do grupo B são bons numa determinada tarefa, as empresas vão procurar contratar (se não tiverem mais informação adicional sobre cada potencial trabalhador) 100% de elementos do grupo A para desempenhar essa tarefa.

Isto possivelmente aplica-se a outros cenários além do trabalho, mas é neste que me parece mais fácil chegar a essa conclusão.

[Post publicado no Vias de Facto; podem comentar lá]

O caso James Damore versus Google

Este caso deve provocar sentimentos contraditórios a muita gente.

James Damore has an 'above decent' chance of winning his legal case against Google (Business Insider):

James Damore, the man fired by Google after he published a manifesto that suggested women may have a disadvantage in tech because of their biology, may well prevail in the legal case he has filed against his former employer.

That's because he filed his complaint against Alphabet (Google's corporate parent) under a provision of the National Labor Relations Act that protects workers' rights activists. Under that provision, Damore's complaint will not be about whether he was discriminated against as a white person, a man, or a conservative, or whether the company had a right to let him go as an "at-will" worker.

Rather, the provision governs what workers are allowed to talk about in the workplace about pay, conditions, promotions, and other practices. The law was crafted to protect the right of union organisers to discuss pay rates with their colleagues, and more recently to protect anyone asking questions at work about who gets paid what, and why.

On that basis, he has a fighting chance, according to Valerie Sharpe, a labor lawyer based in the San Francisco area. (...)

Of course, the irony here is that if Damore wins, it could be regarded as a big victory for conservatives who work in tech, though the win would strengthen the kind of workers' rights that are traditionally the focus of the left.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

O socialismo de Chris Dillow

My Socialism, por Chris Dillow:

Looking at critics of Venezuela makes me feel like intelligent religious believers when confronted with some new atheists: they’re attacking nothing I believe in. The shortcomings of the Chavez-Maduro government in no way whatsoever undermine my conception of socialism.

What is my conception? You might think I’m going to set out my blueprint of a socialist Utopia. You’d be missing the point. Capitalism was not the conscious design of a single mind, but rather it evolved. The same should be true for socialism.

For me, socialism is a system which fulfils, as far as possible, three principles.

One is real freedom. Oliver Kamm praises a liberal order as one in which – in contradistinction to state socialism - “embraces value pluralism, in which citizens are free to pursue the goals that matter to them.” I share this ideal, but I fear that capitalism does not sufficiently achieve it. Under capitalism, millions of us are compelled to work in often oppressive and coercive conditions. Our goals are thwarted. Perhaps Marx’s biggest gripe with capitalism was not its injustice but its alienation; the fact it prevents us from pursuing our goals.

In this context, a basic income is crucial. It would enable people to pursue their own lives. It would empower Cory Doctorow’s walkaways.

A second desiderata is voice. As Phil says, “socialism involves a deeper, more thoroughgoing democratisation of social life.” At the political level, this requires institutions of deliberative (pdf) democracy – not simply imbecile “speak your branes” referenda. At the economic level, it requires worker democracy. (...)

The third value is equality. I don’t mean here any particular Gini coefficient. Instead, what matters are two things.

One is how inequalities arise. I’ve no problem with some people getting rich if people freely reward them for good service – Nozick’s Wilt Chamberlain argumenthas no force for me – although luck egalitarianism justifies them paying some extra tax. (...)

The other is their effects. Inequalities of income spill over into inequalities of respect and political power. To me, this is unacceptable. (...)

What role would the state play in this?

I suspect it wouldn’t be a large one. We Marxists are wary of the state simply because it is often used for reactionary and repressive ends. A big state can be (and is) captured by capitalists. Nationalization, for example, cannot be sufficient for socialism simply because it can be reversed. Marxism is in some respects verydifferent from social democracy.

Instead, a big role for the state is to facilitate the transition to socialism, by encouraging socialistic institutions. Some call this accelerationism, othersinterstitial (pdf) transformation. Again, a basic income is crucial here: it enables people to walk away from oppressive capitalism (if they choose) and into cooperative ventures or self-employment. Also, the state could help spread coops by encouraging public sector mutuals and using procurement policies to favour them and penalize hierarchical firms. (...)

The general principle here is to empower people to reject exploitative capitalism (if they want). This would so squeeze profits that capitalists would have to transform into more egalitarian forms or die. (The state is, of course, needed to smooth this process).

As for the place of markets in all this, it should be what it is now - a narrow technical matter: does this particular market work and if not can we make it do so? It’s perfectly possible – I think desireable – to have freeish markets without (pdf)capitalism.

Personally, my socialism would have a perhaps big role for entrepreneurship – just not the sort that rips people off.

It should be obvious to everyone that this vision of socialism is massively different from that of a centrally planned dictatorship.

Of course, this vision of socialism differs from many others’, though it should be compatible with many of them: I’d hope there’s a parallel between it and Robert Nozick’s framework for utopia.

What all this is definitely not, of course, is statism, nor the illiberalism of Maduro’s government. Maybe the tragedy of Venezuela brings Jeremy Corbyn’s judgment into question. But it tells us nothing about my sort of socialism.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

O autoritário e elitista Alexander Hamilton

The Hamilton Hustle, por Matt Stoller:

AS DONALD TRUMP SETTLES INTO THE WHITE HOUSE, elites in the political class are beginning to recognize that democracy is not necessarily a permanent state of political organization. “Donald Trump’s candidacy is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid,” wrote Vox cofounder Ezra Klein just before the election. Andrew Sullivan argued in New York magazine that American democracy is susceptible, “in stressful times, to the appeal of a shameless demagogue.” Paul Krugman wrote an entire column on why republics end, citing Trump’s violations of political norms. But if you want to understand the politics of authoritarianism in America, the place to start is not with Trump, but with the cool-kid Founding Father of the Obama era, Alexander Hamilton. (...)

To assert Hamilton disliked democracy is not controversial. The great historian Henry Adams described an evening at a New York dinner, when Hamilton replied to democratic sentiment by banging the table and saying, “Your people, sir—your people is a great beast!” Hamilton’s recommendation to the Constitutional Convention, for instance, was to have a president for life, and to explicitly make that president not subject to law. (...)

Indeed, most of Hamilton’s legacy is astonishingly counter-democratic. His central role in founding both the financial infrastructure of Wall Street and a nascent military establishment (which supplanted the colonial system of locally controlled democratic militias) was rooted in his self-appointed crusade to undermine the ability of ordinary Americans to govern themselves. We should be grateful not that Hamilton structured the essential institutions of America to fit his vision, but that he failed to do so. Had he succeeded, we would probably be living in a military dictatorship.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

É possivel um RBI que não tenha grandes custos e que não desincentivo o trabalho?

The 2 most popular critiques of basic income are both wrong, por Dylan Matthews:

Making the case for universal basic income (UBI) has always required advocates to address two criticisms of the idea:
1. Giving people cash will cause them to work less, hurt the economy, and deprive them of the meaning that work provides in life.

2. Providing an income floor set at a reasonable level for everyone is unaffordable.

Call these the work critique and the cost critique. (...)

Let’s take the work critique first. University of Chicago economist Ioana Marinescu recently conducted a wide-ranging review of the literature on unconditional cash programs for the Roosevelt Institute, focusing on programs in the US and Canada. She examined experiments in the 1970s and ’80s that evaluated “negative income taxes” (NITs, essentially basic incomes that phase out as you earn more), Alaska’s Permanent Fund (which taxes oil extraction and returns the money directly to every man, woman, and child through an annual check), and a dividend the Eastern Band of Cherokees issued to members of the tribe from casino revenues.

All of these cases find reductions in work that are, at most, modest. (...)

The cost critique is even simpler than the work critique. (...)

In an absolute must-read paper for anyone interested in the basic income debate, the University of Michigan’s Jessica Wiederspan, Elizabeth Rhodes, and Luke Shaefer estimate the cost of the US adopting a negative income tax large enough to wipe out poverty. To be conservative and get a high-end cost estimate, they assume that such a program would discourage work substantially.

Despite that, they find that a household-based negative income tax, set at the US poverty line and with a 50 percent phaseout rate, would cost $219 billion a year. That’s almost the same as the combined cost of the earned income tax credit (which supports the working poor), Supplemental Security Income (itself basically a negative income tax but only for the elderly and disabled), food stamps, cash welfare, school meal programs, and housing subsidies. You could swap those programs out, put a guaranteed income in their place, and wipe out poverty entirely.
Não confio muito que ambas as críticas estejam erradas.

Para começar, no que diz respeito ao trabalho, é necessário distinguir entre o efeito-rendimento e o efeito-substituição; receber subsídios tende a fazer as pessoas trabalhar menos por dois mecanismo diferentes:

- O efeito-rendimento consiste em simplesmente o beneficiário passar a ter mais dinheiro, logo tem menos necessidade de trabalhar

- O efeito-substituição consiste no mecanismo do tipo "se eu arranjar um emprego a ganhar 600 euros perco o subsidio de 400, logo no fundo vou ganhar só 200; e por 200 euros não vale a pena".

Supostamente a grande vantagem do RBI sobre sistemas estilo Rendimento Social de Inserção é que a redução do trabalho só acontece via efeito-rendimento, já que como o subsidio não é cortado quando o rendimento aumenta, não acontece o efeito-substituição (ou só acontece na medida em que tem que pagar mais impostos, não por via do subsídio). Assim, o RBI terá muito menos o efeito de levar as pessoas a não trabalhar, em comparação.

Mas, se para a despesa ser comportável, e vai cortar o RBI à medida que o rendimento vai aumentando (como no modelo sugerido por Wiederspan, Rhodes e Shaefer, em que para cada 100 dólares de rendimento adicional que o beneficiário receba, o RBI é cortado em 50 dólares, a que imagino se junte ainda os impostos pagos direta ou indiretamente sobre o rendimento), então o RBI (se é que ainda lhe podemos chamar "RBI" neste caso) também vai reduzir o trabalho via efeito-substituição.

Ou seja, não podemos simultaneamente usar o exemplo do Alasca ou dos cherokees (em que há um rendimento distribuído mesmo igualitariamente por toda a gente) para dizer que o RBI não reduz a oferta de trabalho, e depois usar a proposta de Wiederspan, Rhodes e Shaefer (com um pseudo-RBI que se diminui à medida que o rendimento aumenta) para dizer que um RBI não vai sair muito caro.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rendimento Básico Incondicional - os limites de uma ideia

A basic income really could end poverty forever - But to become a reality, it needs to get detailed and stop being oversold, por Dylan Matthews (Vox):

Basic income advocates like to talk in effusive terms about the idea’s cross-partisan appeal, how it unites radical Marxists like André Gorz and libertarians like Milton Friedman and American heroes like Thomas Paine and Martin Luther King Jr. They speak of its radical potential to remake society, and position it as an inevitable and necessary response to an incoming torrent of technological change. (...)

You can’t assume away politics, though. And when you take a look under the hood of major plans from basic income advocates, the politics begin to look daunting. The coalition between left and right evaporates, the idea’s economic inevitability looks fanciful, and the promise that the plan could end poverty forever looks more dependent on technical details than you might think. (...)

We have gone through large automation shocks before; are self-driving trucks really a bigger step than, well, trucks were? And if trucks and washing machines and all the other labor-saving inventions of the 20th century didn’t put anyone permanently out of work, but instead shifted the kind of work that was being done, why would we think matters would be any different in the 21st century? Why could the laundry workers of the 1940s find new jobs but the truck drivers of the 2020s can’t?

Indeed, as my colleague Matthew Yglesias is fond of pointing out, technological productivity growth is actually well below historical averages. These are days of miracle and wonder, but our grandparents seem to have lived through even more miraculous times and did not see work disappear in the process.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Exercícios para desenvolver o cérebro versus jogos de computador

O Público dá destaque a uma notícia de título "Sabe aqueles exercícios que desenvolvem o cérebro? Talvez não o desenvolvam assim tanto", dizendo que  "os exercícios cognitivos vendidos por empresas para melhorar as capacidades neurológicas não trazem mais benefícios do que um simples videojogo".

No entanto, indo ver o estudo propriamente dito (de qualquer maneira, é um ponto a favor do Público terem posto um link para o estudo na notícia - grande parte das publicações on-line portuguesas não fazem isso quando falam de "estudos", e é uma trabalheira para encontrar o estudo e confirmar se tem alguma coisa a ver com o que é noticiado) parece-me um pouco mais complexo.

Em primeiro lugar, parece-me que o que está a ser testado é mais o efeito desses "exercicios" sobre coisas ligados à capacidade de autocontrole do que propriamente à capacidade intelectual em sentido estrito:

Increased preference for immediate over delayed and for risky over certain rewards has been associated with unhealthy behavioral choices. Motivated by evidence that enhanced cognitive control can shift choice behavior away from immediate and risky rewards, we tested whether training executive cognitive function could influence choice behavior and brain responses. (...) Pre- and post-training, participants completed cognitive assessments and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of validated decision-making tasks: delay discounting (choices between smaller rewards now vs. larger rewards in the future) and risk sensitivity (choices between larger riskier rewards vs. smaller certain rewards).
Ou seja, o que está a ser testado é se os participantes, após os treinos, "aprendem" a preferir o longo-prazo ao curto-prazo e o seguro ao arriscado.

Eu posso estar completamente enganado, mas tenho a ideia que as pessoas que fazem/compram esses exercícios tem com motivação primeira desenvolver e treinar o raciocinio, conseguirem pensar mais depressa, etc., não tento aumentar a sua autodisciplina e auto controle (ainda mais que creio que esses exercicios são frequentemente direcionados para a população mais idosa, cujas preocupações sejam mais "não quer ficar senil e com o raciocínio atrofiado" e não tanto "não quero ser um esgroviado que não pensa no futuro e gasta tudo em copos, mulheres [alterar de acordo com sexo e preferência] e motos de alta cilindrada").

Ordoliberalismo e neoliberalismo

A respeito desta discussão entre Vital Moreira e João Rodrigues sobre se o "ordoliberalismo" é uma variante do "neoliberalismo", suspeito que o problema talvez esteja na história da palavra "neoliberalismo", que dá-me a ideia ter 3 sentidos distintos:

a) Nas décadas a seguir à II Guerra Mundial, era praticamente a mesma coisa que "ordoliberalismo", tendo o "neo-" o sentido de ser um "novo liberalismo", modernizado e sem os radicalismos do liberalismo clássico tradicional; p.ex., o texto de 1951 de Milton Friedman, "Neo-Liberalism and Its Prospects" [pdf] define "neoliberalismo" de uma forma praticamente idêntica a "ordoliberalismo"

b) A partir dos anos 80, "neoliberalismo" começou a ser usado pela esquerda para designar o movimento de privatização e desregulamentação da economia e redução dos impostos posto em prática por governantes como Reagan e Thatcher, e tendo como ideólogos Hayek e os economistas da Escola de Chicago, como Milton Friedman; neste sentido, o "neo-" tem um significado puramente cronológico, de ser, em termos temporais, uma nova vaga de liberalismo, depois do liberalismo do século XIX e do pré-I Guerra Mundial. Pode-se argumentar que Friedman mostra que os dois estão ligados, já que este escreveu o tal texto de 1951 sobre o "neoliberalismo" no sentido de ordoliberalismo, mas parece-me que não se pode fazer esse salto; em primeiro lugar, nem é certo que o Friedman dos anos 70/80/90/00 pensasse o mesmo que o de 1951; e, de qualquer maneira, não é por, pelos vistos, aceitar a politica anti-trust que Friedman é frequentemente chamado de "neoliberal" - é por todas as suas outras posições anti-intervenção e anti-regulação, e seria à mesma (ou se calhar ainda mais) chamado de "neoliberal" se fosse contra as leis anti-trust

c) Em certa altura, a partir dos anos 90, e com as políticas de Clinton, começou também a chamar-se, nos EUA, "neoliberais" aos "liberais" (no sentido norte-americano, isto é, social-democratas) mais adeptos de alguma desregulamentação (e talvez sobretudo dos acordos internacionais de comércio livre) - é praticamente a mesma coisa que na Europa se chamou "terceira via" (é neste sentido que, p.ex., um Brad DeLong se define por vezes como um "neoliberal"). Agora aqui, tal como no primeiro caso, o "neo-" tem a conotação de ser um "novo liberalismo", modernizado e sem os radicalismos do liberalismo tradicional - só que neste caso, o liberalismo tradicional é o "liberalismo" norte-americano dos anos 60/70. Diga-se que por vezes este sentido também se mistura com o anterior; p.ex., quando nas presidenciais de 2016 (nomedamente nas primárias Democratas) se dizia que Hillary Clinton representava as políticas neoliberais, dá-me a ideia que umas pessoas estavam a usar "neoliberal" neste sentido e outras no anterior

Por norma, o primeiro e o terceiro sentido são autoproclamados; já o segundo sentido praticamente só é utilizado pelos seus críticos.

Monday, July 10, 2017


Há anos escrevi que "populista" quer dizer ou "politico de direita europeu de que não gosto" ou "politico de esquerda sul-americano de que não gosto".

Lembrei-me disto lendo este texto de Dani Rodrik (via Tyler Cowen):

The populist backlash may have been predictable, but the specific form it took was less so. Populism comes in different versions. It is useful to distinguish between left-wing and right-wing variants of populism, which differ with respect to the societal cleavages that populist politicians highlight and render salient. The US progressive movement and most Latin American populism took a left-wing form. Donald Trump and European populism today represent, with some instructive exceptions, the right-wing variant (Figure 2). What accounts for the emergence of right-wing versus left-wing variants of opposition to globalization?