Tuesday, June 30, 2015

O Syriza e a sociedade grega

Greece in chaos: will Syriza’s last desperate gamble pay off?, por Paul Mason:

If it all ends on Monday, with the Greeks voting for austerity in order to keep the euro, the first far-left party to hold office in modern Europe will be judged by its critics a failure. (...)

If they win, on the other hand, they will be seen as heroes by opponents of austerity across Europe.

But win or lose, Syriza in office has been a work in progress, impossible to read for people ignorant of Greece, let alone people who don’t know there are subcategories to moderate Marxism. (...)

It was the young people radicalised amid this landscape who pitched a tent camp outside parliament in 2011. They organised a movement most foreign journalists didn’t see: local assemblies in small squares across the city and its suburbs, where young mums, migrants and outraged pensioners could have their say. The communists denounced them; the socialists sent riot police to disperse them; Tsipras is said to have looked out of the window of his office and delared: those are the people who will put us into power.

But Syriza is different. Syriza is a coalition whose colours are red for socialism, green for ecology and purple for feminism. But it is primarily red. It was born out of Eurocommunism – when the communist parties of the west declared loyalty to parliamentary democracy instead of Moscow. Its most influential activists are aged 50 and above: people who have read all three volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital, plus the Grundrisse, Theories of Surplus Value and Friedrich Engels’ Anti-Dühring. A lot of them are MPs now, or special advisers: you’ll find them in greying huddles in their old haunts – the radical bars and cafes of Exarchia and Plaka. (...)

Their strength was that they understood the significance of the youth revolts of 2008 and 2011. Some pitched their own tents in Syntagma Square and were tear-gassed out of it. But in the process, the party built something more official and resilient. (...)

Yannis Dragasakis, Greece’s deputy prime minister, was in many ways the embodiment of Syriza’s long-term dreams. His team of advisers included those most attuned to the “horizontalist” agenda emerging out of the networked social movements; people whose main desire was to nurture the 70-plus small-scale economic experiments they had promoted: local currencies, Wi-Fi networks in the mountains, producer co-ops.

But Dragasakis was given “operations”: to operate the government, to firefight the banking system, to sort out the state energy company. Those who expected his department to unleash a wave of entrepreneurship and experimental projects have had to wait. (...)

The ultimate question for Syriza, with the banks closed and the referendum due, is: can it now function as a movement? It has ridden to power on the back of social movements but, unlike Podemos in Spain or Sinn Féin in Ireland, has never really been a mass movement itself. (...)

We meet at a council-run clinic where, after midday, the official GPs and psychiatrists give way to a team of volunteers. It is run this way because the austerity under the previous govenrment means they can’t staff the clinic with paid employees. The volunteers include doctors, psychologists and qualified pharmacists, but I find them engaged in the menial task of hand-sorting donated medicines. They note the sell-by dates, count the pills and sort them. This is Syriza’s mass base – but it is not Syriza.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Boas ideias postas em prática por péssimos meios

Depois de Row vs. Wade, temos a legalização "à força" do casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo pelo Supremo Tribunal dos EUA.

Ainda acerca deste assunto - Sobre o "activismo judicial" nos EUA.

" A arma usada..."

A respeito do mais recente atentado terrorista na Tunísia, o Expresso escreve "Dois homens armados com espingardas de assalto AK-47, a arma usada em março durante o ataque ao Museu do Bardo, na capital".

Isso será muito relevante (em ambos os atentados terem sido usadas AK-47s)? Afinal, a AK-47 deverá ser a arma mais usada em todo o mundo (e ainda mais para ações "irregulares").

Thursday, June 25, 2015

As taxas moderadoras na IVG

Existindo taxas moderadoras, parece-me fazer todo o sentido a IVG estar sujeita a taxas moderadoras.

Sim, as mulheres que praticam IVG (por definição) estão grávidas, e as grávidas estão isentas de taxas moderadoras. Mas a única razão que pode justificar essa discriminação a favor das grávidas serão considerações de favorecer a natalidade ou coisa parecida, logo não faz grande sentido essa isenção abrangir a IVG. 

Percebo as posições "ninguém deve pagar taxas moderadoras", "toda a gente - incluindo grávidas - deve pagar taxas moderadoras" ou "para fomentar a natalidade, as grávidas devem ser isentas de taxas moderadoras (mas não na IVG)"; já a isenção de taxas moderadoras às grávidas incluindo na IVG não faz sentido nenhum.

Na verdade, até suspeito que a isenção de taxas moderadoras na IVG ocorreu mais por acidente do que por outra coisa qualquer (suspeito que na altura ninguém se lembrou que a conjugação entre as várias leis existentes iria isentar a IVG de taxas moderadoras).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A história do "politicamente correto"

What the Hell Does 'Politically Correct' Mean?: A Short History, por Jesse Walker (Reason Hit and Run):

Amanda Taub's Vox piece denying the existence of political correctness does get one thing right: The phrase political correctness "has no actual fixed or specific meaning." What it does have, though Taub doesn't explore this, is a history of meanings: a series of ways different people have deployed the term, often for radically different purposes.(...)

[F]or our purposes the story begins in the middle of the 20th century, as various Marxist-Leninist sects developed a distinctive cant. One of the terms they liked to use was "politically correct," as in "What is needed now is a politically correct, class-conscious and militant leadership, which will lead an armed struggle to abolish the whole system of exploitation of man by man in Indonesia and establish a workers state!" It was a phrase for the sort of radical who was deeply interested in establishing and enforcing the "correct line," to borrow another term of the day. If you were the sort of radical who was not interested in establishing and enforcing the correct line, you were bound to start mocking this way of talking, and by the end of the '60s the mockers were flinging the phrase back at the drones. In 1969, for example, when Dana Beal of the White Panther Party defended the counterculture against its critics on the straight left, he argued that freely experimenting was more important than trying "to be perfectly politically 'correct.'" A year later, in the seminal feminist anthology Sisterhood is Powerful, Robin Morgan derided male editors who had "the best intentions of being politically 'correct'" but couldn't resist butting in with their own ideas. In the new usage, which soon superceded the old Leninist lingo pretty much entirely, "politically correct" was an unkind term for leftists who acted as though good politics were simply a matter of mastering the right jargon.(...)

In '80s issues of magazines like Mother Jones or Ms., "politically correct" could describe a consumer good or a lifestyle choice. The tone here was usually lightly self-mocking, as you'd expect when words once associated with a shifting Maoist party line were now being applied to an exercise book or a fake fur. But some people did use it earnestly, perhaps because they weren't in on the joke, perhaps because they just thought the term was too good to go to waste. (...)

My favorite mid-'80s manifestation of the phrase has to be this ad that Mother Jones ran in 1985—mostly because I'm not entirely sure if it's being partly ironic or completely sincere. It's clearly one of the funniest things anyone wrote that year, but I'll be damned if I know whether the person who produced it knew that:

Reflexões sobre a Grécia

Last Greek thoughts, por John Cochrane:

Greece seems to be coming to a standstill. (...)

... many [Greeks] have simply stopped making payments altogether, virtually freezing economic activity. (...)

“Business-to-business payments have almost been paused,” one Athens businessman says. “They are just rolling over postdated cheques.”

(...) If a Greek goes to the ATM and takes out a load of cash, where does that cash come from? The answer is, basically, that the Greek central bank prints up the cash. Then, the Greek central bank owes the amount to the ECB. The ECB treats this as a loan, with the Greek central bank taking the credit risk. If the Greek government defaults, the Greek central bank is supposed to make the ECB good on all the ECB's lending to Greece. It's pretty clear what that promise is worth. (...)

The argument is not about "lending" to Greece, i.e. covering this year's primary surplus. The argument is whether the IMF, ECB, and rest of Europe will lend Greece money to... pay back the IMF, ECB, and the rest of Europe. This is a roll over negotiation, not a lending negotiation.

The loans were not intended to be paid back now. The loans were intended to go on for decades. But with conditions. The negotiation is about enforcing or modifying the conditions for a roll-over. (...)

The latest proposed agreement includes sharp increases in tax rates. Now? Are you kidding?

I am reminded of the story of a town, that had a bridge, that had a 50 mph speed limit. A drunk driver, going 85, caused horrific crash. The town lowered the speed limit to 25. (...)

I think of taxes in terms of incentives. Keynesians look at aggregate demand. Either way, raising tax rates, now, in an economy where nobody is paying much of anything because they see the big explosion ahead seems destined, pragmatically, to raise no revenue. And, incidentally and humanely, to further crater the economy. (...)

Rolling over post-dated checks is a fascinating story to a monetary economist. Money is created when needed, apparently. (...)

Without the banks, this would all be simple. Greece could default, stay in the Euro (unilaterally if need be) and Euro zone. One government defaulting on debts to other governments is not a crisis.
All along though, the involvement of the Greek banking system makes it much harder.

Greece has 11 million people, $242 million GDP and 51,000 square miles. That's as many people as Ohio, the GDP and land area of Louisiana. Why does Greece need its own banking system in a common currency and free market zone? (...)

Imagine if Greeks deposited money in a local branch of a large pan-European bank, backed by assets spread throughout Europe. Imagine if Greeks borrowed money from the same bank, funded by deposits spread throughout Europe. A default by the Greek government on its bonds would be inconsequential to Greek banking.

[Como relembro de vez em quando, eu citar um artigo não implica necessariamente concordância]

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Porque é que a "fantasia" tem sagas?

No New York Times, Ross Douthat, a propósito da "Guerra dos Tronos", especula sobre a baixa popularidade da "fantasia" como género literário:

Of course some of this is part of the general disdain for “genre” in all its forms that permeates the respectable literary world. But I also suspect that there is a particular obstacle with fantasy that doesn’t exist with, say, horror novels or murder mysteries: The sheer immensity of the standard-issue fantasy saga, and the fact that committing to a bestselling fantasy author takes much more, well, commitment than reading Dean Koontz or Peter Straub, Michael Connelly or Tana French. (...)

Fantasy, by design, is an exercise in world-building, and many of the most famous examples of the genre, from Lord of the Rings and Narnia and the Gormenghast novels and Earthsea down to Martin and Pullman and Rowling and so many others in the present day, are multi-volume affairs that require a serious investment to actually finish. (The multi-volume expectation has an unfortunate tendency to encourage today’s bestselling authors to never … actually … finish their stories, which as Lanchester notes is the great fear gripping Martin’s fans today.) So it would make sense that there would be a higher bar for mass success than in many other genres: Reading a bad murder mystery only sets you back a day or two, and the satisfaction of finding out whodunit can compensate for lousy prose, whereas I’ve definitely found myself flagging at page 300 or so even in many highly-regarded fantasy novels I’ve dipped into.
Essa explicação deixa uma coisa por explicar - porque é que a "fantasia" normalmente funciona em grandes sagas, com continuações que nunca mais acabam?

Uma explicação poderia ser que criar um mundo completamente imaginário dá trabalho, logo é mais simples colocar as histórias todas a passarem-se no mesmo "universo ficcional" do que estar a criar um cenário diferente para cada história. Mas o facto das histórias se passarem no mesmo universo não obriga a que sejam continuação umas das outras; veja-se os policiais: os livros de Sherlock Holmes passam-se todos no mesmo universo, mas pouca continuação têm; provavelmente todos os heróis de Agatha Christie (Poirot e Hastings, Miss Marple, Tommy e Tuppence, Anne Beddingfeld, etc.) existem no mesmo universo (até porque algumas personagens secundárias aparecem em vários livros com heróis diferentes), mas cada livro existe independentemente uns dos outros.

Aliás, na própria fantasia há um bom exemplo da diferença entre "mesmo universo" e "história em continuação" - "O Hobbitt", "A Irmandade do Anel", "As Duas Torres" e "O Regresso do Rei" (e mais uma porção de outras obras) passam-se no mesmo universo (e com uma continuidade entre elas), mas, se "A Irmandade do Anel", "As Duas Torres" e "O Regresso do Rei" seguem uma continuação que só faz sentido em conjunto, "O Hobbitt" não precisa da continuação para fazer sentido (nem os outros três precisam de "O Hobbitt").

Assim, a minha questão - porque é que a fantasia tem tendência histórias intermináveis? Será por uma questão de hábito? Como a obra mais famosa do género - "O Senhor dos Anéis" - é uma trilogia, toda a gente se põe a escrever n-logias?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Um default grego pode melhorar o seu rating?

Talvez sim.

Missing IMF payment may not put Greece ‘in default’, por Joseph Adinolfi (Market Watch):

Even if Greece fails to make a payment to the International Monetary Fund due at the end of June, ratings firms likely won’t describe the country as “in default.”

And, if Greece tells the market it intends to honor all privately-held debt, but not the 72 % held by the IMF, ECB and eurozone governments, the value of its bonds might appreciate. (...)

“The Greek government has repeatedly committed itself to excluding private-sector creditors from any further debt reprofiling,” a representative for Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said in an email. 
Mas é bocado irónico um governo de esquerda (e internacionalista) não pagar as dívidas às instituição públicas internacionais mas pagar aos capitalistas privados.

[Em rigor, o artigo só fala em não piorar o rating, e nada sobre melhorar; mas admitem a hipótese de os títulos da dívida grega valorizarem, o que quereria dizer que os investidores privados estavam a ter mais confiança neles]

Nomes que Republicanos e Democratas dão aos filhos

Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree on baby names, por John Sides (Wonkblog):

To understand whether Democrats and Republicans choose different kinds of baby names, the researchers compiled an unusual set of data. They took all of the births in the state of California from 2004 -- about 500,000 in all. For each baby born, the data contained the child's first name, the mother's first name, the father's first name (where available) and the mother's education, race and address. Using these addresses, they then matched each mother to her Census tract and thereby determined whether she lived in an area that was predominantly Democratic, Republican or somewhere in between. (...)

Unique baby names were more common among blacks and Asian Americans than among whites and Latinos. Within any racial group, unique baby names were more common when the mothers had less formal education or lived in a lower-income neighborhood.

But among whites, partisanship and ideology mattered, too. Mothers who had at least some college education were more likely to give their child an uncommon name -- and less likely to give the child a popular name -- when they lived in relatively Democratic or liberal areas. If neighborhood characteristics corresponded to the mother's own characteristics, better-educated Democrats or liberals were more likely to give their babies unusual names than better-educated Republicans or conservatives.(...)

Oliver and colleagues also emphasize that these partisan or ideological differences were largely confined to better-educated whites.

E com outra prespetiva, Of Names and Politics: The Palin Story (BabyNameWizzard):
For the past two decades, a core set of "cultural conservative" opinions has served as a theoretical dividing line between "red" (Republican/conservative) and "blue" (Democratic/liberal) America. These incude attitudes toward sex roles, the centrality of Christianity in culture, and a social traditionalism focused on patriotism and the family. If you were to translate that divide into baby names it might place a name like Peter—classic, Christian, masculine—on one side, staring down an androgynous pagan newcomer like Dakota on the other. In fact, that does describe the political baby name divide quite accurately. But it describes it backwards.

Characteristic blue state names: Angela, Catherine, Henry, Margaret, Mark, Patrick, Peter and Sophie.

Characteristic red state names: Addison, Ashlyn, Dakota, Gage, Peyton, Reagan, Rylee and Tanner.

Even when biblical names are trendy in conservative, Christian-focused communities, they're typically not the classic names of Christian tradition. They're Old Testament names that summon up a pioneer style with an exotic flair, often with a modern spelling twist. Names like Malachi, Levi and Kaleb are hot in Alaska, while names like John and Elizabeth rule in liberal Washington D.C.

Why is it the blue parents who name with red values? Because in baby naming as in so many parts of life, style, not values, is the guiding light. The most liberal and conservative parts of the country differ on key style-shaping variables, like income, education level, and the age when women marry and have children. A community where the typical first-time mother is a 22-year-old high-school grad is going to have a very different style climate from the community where the typical new mom is a 28-year-old with a college degree.

As conclusões parecem quase opostas, mas os dois artigos não estão a estudar a mesma coisa: o primeiro está a comparar os bairros ricos e maioritariamente brancos e Democratas da Califórnia com os bairros ricos e maioritariamente brancos e Republicanos da Califórnia; o segundo está a comparar os estados (normalmente ricos e urbanos) que votam nos Democratas com os estados (normalmente rurais e não tão ricos) que votam nos Republicanos.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Revisitando o "resgate" de 2010 à Grécia

Greece, The Euro and Gunboat Diplomacy, por Karl Whelan:

With everyone talking about Greece being on the verge of exiting the euro after Monday’s summit meeting, it seems to be forgotten that the current crisis is not really about Greece’s currency arrangements at all. The Greek people are not demanding a return to the drachma and few within the country are arguing for the competitive benefits a currency devaluation would entail. And there are no formal rules that Greece is breaking that must lead to an exit from the euro because, legally, the euro is a fixed and irrevocable currency union. (...)

Europe’s governments and the IMF made an enormous mistake in bailing out Greece’s private creditors in 2010 and then overseeing a botched debt restructuring in 2012. In turn, the Greek governments of this era made the mistake of accepting official loans to pay off private creditors, perhaps not realising they were jumping out the frying pan straight into the fire. Now the Greeks are learning that defaulting on private creditors is one thing (not so hard it turns out, once you’ve got Lee Buchheit in your corner) but defaulting on governments of rich European countries is quite something else.

Blaming the euro for the current impasse is actually pretty strange because the euro’s founding fathers explicitly warned member states to not to get themselves into this situation. The story of the demise of Europe’s “no bailout clause” is an interesting one. (...)

By and large, the policy heavyweights of the day, such as Rudi Dornbusch, believed there was a “categorical no-bailout injunction.” As such, it was expected that markets would understand that European governments were more likely to default once their devaluation option was taken away and that financial markets would price the sovereign debt of countries differently depending on the health of their public finances. (...)

Well, the economists got it all wrong. Financial markets hadn’t seen a default in Europe since the Second World War but had grown tired of repeated currency realignments. The apparent end of devaluation risk was celebrated and, in the benign macroeconomic conditions of the early years of the euro, sovereign default was more or less forgotten about. (...)

Economists also got it wrong about the “categorical no bailout injunction.” It turned out that no such clause really existed in the European Treaty. The relevant article (No. 125 of the current treaty) merely stated that the Union and its  (.member states “shall not be liable for or assume the commitments” of other countries. This isn’t really how bailouts work: Those doing the bailout rarely announce “we’re taking over this country’s debts.” Instead, they provide loans to the government that is in trouble and these loans allow this country to honouring its existing loan commitments. (...)

So why were Europe’s politicians so keen to provide massive loans to Greece in 2010? One answer that comes up time and again is that European governments were using the loans to Greece as a way to protect German and French banks that had built up large exposures to Greek sovereign debt. (...)

Still, the figures in this area don’t really add up. The total exposure of European banks to Greek sovereigns was always fairly modest. These banks may have engaged in lobbying but, on its own, I’m not sure how important this element was. (...)

If the direct impact of a Greek default wasn’t going to be so great, there were lots of people in 2010 ready to scaremonger the potential indirect effects of such a default. The Europe of early 2010 was a place where the mere mention of the word “default” triggered visions of Hank Paulson’s decision to let Lehman brothers go into bankruptcy.(...)

Over 2010 to 2012, members of the ECB Executive Board, such as Lorenzo Bini Smaghi regularly gave speeches depicting the depicting a potential Greek default as provoking “an economic meltdown”. For example, Bini Smaghi argued that a default should be avoided because it would “punish patient investors” who believed in the adjustment program could restore sustainability, that a default would discourage investors from providing money to any euro-area member state and that “the payment of debts should be enforced, through sanctions if need be.” Or gunboats perhaps. (...)

My favourite theory, however, as to why European governments bailed out Greece is political hubris. European politicians were so sure the euro was a fantastic political success that a nasty event like a default was simply unthinkable for a euro area member state. If one euro area member state could default, the thinking went, surely this meant it could happen to others. So it needed to be stopped.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A ordeira corrida aos bancos na Grécia

Greece - the country that would not die, por "Weayl":

The idea was always that fear of losing control would make Greece blink at the last minute. Well, the last minute is here, Grexit is palpable, but Greece is not blinking.

To the contrary, the surprise here has been how orderly Greece's supposed plummet towards disaster has been. While there has been a deposit flight, there has been no bank run. No mobs shaking down ATMs or stampeding banks. Hardly a pitchfork in sight.

And, while the deposit flight is generally highlighted as undermining Greece's position, I see the opposite.
By taking their money out of the banks, the Greek population is essentially taking electronic money that upon Grexit will be denominated and haircut into oblivion, and turning it into hard cash, either under the mattress or safe in foreign bank accounts - in any case safe. Every million euros that Greeks take out of the banks is a million euros that will be preserved through the inevitable Grexit "corralito" - money that post-Grexit (and forced-Drachma conversion and likely evaporation of electronic money) will re-enter and rebuild the Greek economy. The more that's taken out, the more will be available on the other side. In fact, soon after denomination, the Greek government can declare the possession of more than a small amount of foreign cash (i.e. euros) illegal and subject to seizure without compensation and Greeks will have no choice but to trundle down to their local newly nationalised bank and pay in all their hoarded euros. The deposit flight, will turn into a deposit flood.

On the other hand, if there is no Grexit, or until Grexit happens, the deposit flight in itself doesn't matter - the ECB is funding everything anyway and keeping everything afloat. And if a deal is done, the money can simply go back.

You could argue then that is in Greece's interests to keep things going until the banks literally have zero deposits, knowing in full likelihood that the ECB will finance the banks down to that last euro rather than pull the plug and go down in history as the bankers that took out a nation.

What we are witnessing is not a deposit flight but a multi-billion euro bank heist. The ECB is essentially yet systematically being shaken down, and there is nothing it can do but dumbly smile

A geração narcisista (todas elas)

Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation, por Elspeth Reeve (Wire - The Atlantic):

Millennials are the "ME ME ME GENERATION," writes Joel Stein for the cover of Time magazine, which is apparently a marked departure from the Baby Boomers, who were the plain old "Me Generation" (one me, no caps) and who created the "Me Decade" in the 1970s, and who coined the phrase, "But enough about me… what do you think about me?" in the 1980s when they were raising the next narcissists, Generation X. (...) The type of young person that magazine writers come across most frequently are magazine interns. Because the media industry is high-status, but, at least early on, very low pay in a very expensive city, it attracts a lot of rich kids. Entitled, arrogant, spoiled, preening — those are the alleged signature traits of Millennials, as diagnosed by countless magazine writers. (...)

Basically, it's not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it's that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older. It's like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee On Walls, Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Even Thinking of the Consequences. (...)

For some visual evidence of this phenomenon, here is a century or so of culture writers declaring the youth to be self-obsessed little monsters.

The Atlantic, September 1907: In the cover story, "Why American Marriages Fail," Anna A. Rogers warned, "The rock upon which most of the flower-bedecked marriage barges go to pieces is the latter-day cult of individualism; the worship of the brazen calf of the Self."

Life, May 17, 1968: "The Generation Gap." (...)

New York, August 23, 1976: "The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening." (...)

New York Times, October 17, 1976: "'76 Politics Fail to Disturb Campus Calm and Cynicism." (...)

The Washington Monthly, February 1980: Greg Easterbrook wrote about how young people were having trouble coupling in "Fear of Success" (...)

Newsweek, December 30, 1985: "The Video Generation." There they are, those preening narcissists who have to document every banal moment with their cutting-edge communications technology.

Time, July 16, 1990: Cover: "Twentysomething." Inside: "Proceeding With Caution." (...)

Swing, September 1996: "Generational Warfare." (...)

Time, August 6, 2007: "It's All About Me." (...)

Confesso que não estava à espera que em 1907 o artigo principal de uma revista fosse "Why American Marriages Fail?".

A Grécia exporta 1/3 do que Portugal?

Ontem, na Quadratura do Círculo, António Lobo Xavier dizia que a Grécia exportava um terço do que Portugal exportava (ou coisa parecida). Não me parece que seja o caso:

Exportações em % do PIB (2013)

Efetivamente é maior, mas não é assim tão maior (a menos que talvez ALX tenha querido dizer que as exportações gregas eram inferiores em 1/3 às portuguesas).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Resultados da forma como as crianças passam o tempo

The Hours and Academic Achievement, por Bryan Caplan:

Adults love controlling the way kids spend the hours of the day.  What's the payoff for all their meddling?  Hofferth and Sandberg's "How American Children Spend Their Time" (Journal of Marriage and the Family) provides some fascinating answers for kids ages 0-12. 

After compiling the basic facts about kids' time use from the 1997 Child Development Supplement to the PSID, H&S regress measures of academic achievement on time use, controlling for child's age, gender, race, ethnicity, head of household's education and age, plus family structure, family employment, family income, and family size. (...)

The big result is the lack of results.  Controlling for family and child background, time in school and studying barely help - and television viewing barely hurts.  Contrary to wishful assertions that exercising the body improves the mind, sports don't matter either.  Out of nineteen activities, only two predict greater academic success across the board: reading and visiting. (...)

H&S's results lead to a separate but related result: How kids spend their time is overrated, too.  If adults really wanted to raise kids' test scores, they'd adopt the maxim, "If the kid has a book in his hands, leave him in peace."  Which, by sheer coincidence, was the maxim young Bryan Caplan vainly begged all the adults in his life to embrace. 
The Hours and Behavior Problems, também de Caplan:
Hofferth and Sandberg's "How American Children Spend Their Time" (Journal of Marriage and the Family, 2001) doesn't only estimate the effect of time usage on academic achievement.  It also estimates how the way kids spend their days affects their behavior. 

H&S have three measures of behavior problems.  There's a measure of total problems, plus subscales for external problems (acting badly) and internal problems (feeling badly).  Higher scores indicate more problems; SDs are 8 for total problems, 5.4 for external problems, and 3.2 for internal problems.  Results continue to control for child's age, gender, race, ethnicity, head of household's education and age, plus family structure, family employment, family income, and family size. (...)

Results for behavior problems are even scarcer than for academic achievement.  None of the nineteen kinds of time use predict behavior problems across the board.  Only two - eating and playing sports - have statistically significant effects on total problems.  How big are the effects?  Ten extra weekly hours of eating time cut problems by .24 SDs.  Ten extra weekly hours of sports cut total problems by .09 SDs. 

Look at all the stuff that doesn't matter: school time, study time, reading time, church time.  Furthermore, contrary to pro-play psychologist Peter Gray, play time has near-zero effect on either external or internal behavior problems.  Play may be intrinsically valuable for kids.  I argue precisely this in The Case Against Education.  But at least in this data set, the instrumental benefits of play are invisible.

While reverse causation remains a possibility, Hofferth and Sandberg do control for most of the obvious confounds.  The large effect of eating time is at least consistent with preaching about the importance of shared family meals, though more plausibly long meals are a symptom of general family togetherness.  Furthermore, even if we treat the effect of sports as entirely causal, it's still miniscule - especially compared to the triumphal rhetoric of our national cult of sport.

The chief takeaway, though, is that adults - not just parents but educators - need to relax.  At least within the observed range, setting kids' daily agendas is almost fruitless.  It's not helpful, it's not harmful, it's just bossy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Grécia - o maestro da orquestra europeia?

Greece Played Germany Like A Violin; Horrified Syriza Demands 'Icelandic' Default, por Mish Shedlock (TalkMarkets):

Note the irony of it all. Germany wanted to issue a "Take it or leave it proposal to Greece".

Instead we see Greece issuing a "Restructure or we leave proposal to Germany". It's likely this was Syriza's plan all along. If so, they managed to play Germany like a finely tuned violin, allowing Greek citizens to pull out cash out of banks every day for six months.

[A metáfora do autor não é exatamente a mesma que eu usei para dar o nome ao post, mas fiz uma tradução não-literal]

Patentes inúteis?

Unproductive patents, por Charlotte Boyer (Adam Smith Institute):

Patents are a state-granted property rights, designed to promote innovation and the transfer of knowledge. They grant the holder a time-limited, exclusive right to make, use and sell the patented work, in exchange for the public disclosure of the invention. This, so the theory goes, allows creators to utilise and commercially exploit their invention, whilst disclosing its technical details allows for the effective public dissemination of knowledge.

However, complaints that the patent system is broken and fails to deliver are common. (...)

There are plenty of ways we can tinker with the patent system to make it more robust and less expensive. However, they all assume that patents do actually foster innovation, and are societally beneficial tool.

A number argue that even on a theoretical level this is false; the control rights a patent grant actually hamper innovation instead of promoting it. Patents create an artificial monopoly, which results, as with other monopolies, in higher prices, the misallocation of resources, and welfare loss. Economists Boldrin and Levine advocate the abolition of patents entirely on grounds the that there is no empirical evidence that they increase innovation and productivity, and in fact have negative effects on innovation and growth.

A new paper by Laboratoire d’Economie Appliquee de Grenoble, authored by Brueggemann, Crosetto, Meub and Bizer backs this claim, by offering experimental evidence that patents harm follow-on innovation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Alienação - o tema esquecido?

Alienation: the non-issue, por Chris Dillow:

Jon Elster claims that Marx "condemned capitalism mainly because it frustrated human development and self-actualization."

Marx was right. The fact that we spend our leisure time doing things that others might call work - gardening, DIY, baking, blogging, playing musical instruments - demonstrates our urge for self-actualization. And yet capitalist work doesn't fulfill this need.(...)

This poses the question: why isn't there more demand at the political level for fulfilling work? 

The question gains force from two facts. First, autonomy at work is a big factor in life-satisfation. Politicians who want to improve well-being - as Cameron once claimed to - should therefore take an interest in working conditions. Secondly, workers who are happy - less alienated - are more productive. Less alienation should therefore help to close the productivity gap between the UK and other rich nations, which in turn should raise real wages. 

Despite all this, working conditions are barely on the agenda at all in this election. Politically, the workplace is, as Marx said, a "hidden abode."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gatos e esquizofrenia - causa ou apenas correlação?

Ultimamente, tem-se falado num estudo que associa ter gatos a uma maior probabilidade de desenvolver esquizofrenia. Pelos vistos, cerca de metade das pessoas que desenvolvem esquizofrenia tiveram gatos na infância, especulando os autores que talvez algum parasita presente nos gatos (como a toxoplasmose) possa contribuir para o desenvolvimento da doença.

É uma hipótese, mas ocorre-me uma hipótese alternativa (como sabem, eu sou economista, não psicólogo, psiquiatra ou biólogo, logo tudo o que vou escrever é puro "achismo"; se houver algum psicólogo, psiquiatra ou biólogo a ler isto, talvez queira dar a sua opinião nos comentários?).

Há muito tempo que é praticamente "senso comum" a ideia de que pessoas pouco sociáveis e excêntricas gostam de gatos (enquanto pessoas mais sociáveis e conformistas preferirão cães). Ora, penso que há vários estudos que também indicam que o tipo pouco sociável e excêntrico tende também a estar sobre-representado entre as pessoas que vêm a desenvolver esquizofrenia e entre os seus parentes próximos.

Por vezes são feitos estudos comparando as tendências "esquizotipicas" (isto é, os traços de personalidade que se considera serem, no contexto da população mentalmente saudável, semelhantes aos apresentados pelos doentes esquizofrénicos) com os chamados "5 factores da personalidade": muitas vezes o resultado é de que a "esquizotipia" estará associada com baixa extroversão, baixa "agradabilidade", baixa "conscienciosidade", alta "abertura" e alto "neuroticismo" (exemplo - PDF).

Ora, em tempos foi feito um estudo comparando a personalidade dos "fãs" de gatos e cães, que concluiu que os fãs de gatos tendem a ter mais "neuroticismo" e "abertura" e menos extroversão, "agradabilidade" e "conscienciosidade" que os fãs de cães - ou seja, o perfil de personalidade do típico elurófilo é similar ao das pessoas com tendência esquizótipicas.

Onde é que eu quero chegar com isto tudo - em que em vez de os gatos (ou os seus parasitas) serem causa de esquizofrenia, talvez o que se passe seja simplesmente que as tais pessoas excêntricas e pouco sociáveis sejam mais dadas, por um lado a gostar de gatos, e por outro a desenvolverem (elas ou os seus filhos) esquizofrenia, explicando assim a relação estatística entre as duas coisas.

[De qualquer forma, ainda bem que eu, aos 41 anos, já passei da idade em que normalmente se desenvolve doenças dessas - afinal eu tive gatos a minha vida toda, não só lá muito sociável e muitas pessoas dizem que eu sou "estranho/esquisito", logo teria os sinais de risco quase todos]

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Distúrbios de 24 em 24 anos?

The Long Hot Summer of 2015, por Philip Jenkins (The American Conservative):

Over the past century or so, racially-based rioting in the U.S. has followed chronological patterns that are remarkably consistent, although the reasons underlying these cycles are anything but clear. Particularly serious and major events occur at intervals of about 48 years, with more minor and sporadic outbreaks at the mid-point of that long cycle. Do understand that I am not offering any mystical forms of numerological interpretation here. I merely remark that, for whatever reasons, events have followed this pattern.
Although the pattern can be traced back into the mid-1890s, we might begin our observation in 1919, the hideous year of racial rioting and lethal pogroms in Chicago, Omaha, Knoxville, and other centers. James Weldon Johnson memorably called it the Red Summer. Moving forward 24 years, we note serious but more localized outbreaks of racial conflict in 1943, with upheavals in Harlem and Detroit.

Another 24 years beyond that takes us to 1967, by far the worst year of the urban rioting of that decade. That was the legendary Long Hot Summer, when observers tabulated 159 riots across the nation. It was in 1967 that Newark burned, while the U.S. government sent the 82nd Airborne into Detroit.

Twenty-four years later, historically-inclined observers breathed a sigh of relief when 1991 passed without any grave outbreaks. The following Spring, though, brought the Los Angeles riots, and many lesser copycat events around the country. I stress that the pattern suggests gaps of roughly 24 years, rather than following a precise chronology.

It is not difficult to trace long-term historical patterns and even mystical dates. All you need to is to cherry-pick particular events, while ignoring others that do not fit the scheme. In this case, though, a pattern seems to emerge without such special pleading, as is suggested by the rarity of riots between the various peak years. (...)

Assuming they are grounded in some reality, what might account for such cycles? The obvious linkage is demographic, in that 24 years is roughly the span of a generation. We might for instance suggest that racial tensions rise to the point where they provoke severe violence, but that violence has far-reaching consequences. The sheer scale of loss and destruction deters people from seeking any recurrence of the event. Meanwhile, governments act to prevent such repetitions. The 1943 riots profoundly affected the thinking of liberals, inspiring the civil rights drive of the following two decades. Over time, though, new generations arise, lacking direct memories of the earlier carnage, and thus prepared to risk open confrontations with authority.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Em defesa das cunhas?

Um interessante argumento em defesa das "cunhas", num comentário a este post do Marginal Revolution:

My take, as someone who regularly hires people, is it is always better to take a recommendation than just try to figure out from a resume and a short interview. The person giving the recommendation is putting their reputation on the line, so has an incentive to be honest in their recommendation.
Não sei é se isto não poderá ser re-construído como um argumento a favor da "discriminação positiva" e afins: se, do ponto de vista do empregador individual, faz sentido (pelo menos "na margem") escolher o candidato que tenha uma recomendação de uma pessoa conhecida do empregador, a economia no seu todo pode ficar num equilíbrio sub-ótimo em que pessoas mais competentes não são contratadas porque não têm recomendações, e como não entram nesses meios nunca chegam  aconhecer alguém que os recomende.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Turquia - islamitas devem perder a maioria

12% (acima dos 10% necessários para entrar no parlamento) para o HDP - Partido Democrático Popular (esquerda pró-curda)

Friday, June 05, 2015

Dois tipos de autoritarismo?

 Big Brother, Big Sister and control-freakery, por "Rick":

A few years ago, I read an amusing article (I can’t remember where) which contrasted the old authoritarianism of Big Brother with the new authoritarianism of Big Sister. Big Brother forces you to join his gang and fight for him. He beats you up if you disagree with him or if you do anything ‘queer’ like dance to funny music or fancy people of the same sex. Big Sister nags you to do your homework, eat healthily and play nicely. She admonishes you if smoke, call each other rude names or wear t-shirts that might upset the other children.

Maybe in the 60s and 70s there was a brief interregnum between Big Brother and Big Sister. Maybe. But control-freakery is nothing new. It just takes different forms according to the spirit of the age.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Os investidores correm mais riscos que os trabalhadores?

Who bears risk?, por Chris Dillow:

Most decent-sized businesses represent only a small fraction of a diversified portfolio for their capitalist owners, whereas suppliers of human capital usually have to put all their eggs into the basket of one firm; only a small minority of us have "portfolio careers" . All that stuff they teach you about the benefits of diversification applies in the real world to capital, not labour.

There are two implications of all this.

First, it means that the idea that capitalists are brave entrepreneurs who deserve big rewards for taking risk is just rubbish. As Olivier Fournout has shown, the idea of managers as heroes is an ideological construct which serves to legitimate power and rent-seeking.

Secondly, it suggests that ownership might in some cases lie in the wrong hands. Common sense tells us that those who have most skin in the game should have the biggest say simply because they have the biggest incentive to ensure that the firm succeeds. As Oliver Hart - who's hardly a raving lefty - says: "a party with an important investment or important human capital should have ownership rights." This is yet another case for worker ownership.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Armadilhas policiais para não-pedófilos

To Catch a Non-Predator, Try Entrapment, por Lenore Skenazy (Reason):

How can you turn a lonely guy looking for a date into a predator looking for a victim? All you need is a computer and a cop. Thus we must hail Noah Pransky, an investigative reporter for WTSP in Tampa Bay, Florida, for exposing the way cops fish for men on adults-only dating sites and then arrest them for being child predators. When they're not.

One way the cops do this is by first pretending to be young ladies of legal age. Then, once they develop an online relationship with a guy, they "admit" that they are actually younger, but still really want to meet. Or they say that they are eager to meet the man, but will be bringing along a younger sibling. The men don't have to indicate any interest in dating the female they now think is younger, or in dating a legal lady's younger sibling. Merely continuing an online conversation is considered soliciting a minor, as is heading off to meet the "older" sibling who will have the "younger" sibling (both non existent, of course) with her. (...)

If you are convinced that children are under constant threat from predators online, and then go so far as to set up entire government departments to "catch" them, it will seem bewildering, frustrating, embarrassing or annoying not to be able to find them. And so, if you have zero scruples and a budget to spend, you will create them.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Economia, política e os "agentes racionais"

Este comentário de Luís Pedro Coelho (em tempos um comentador regular deste blogue) no Marginal Revolution (ver também aqui) fez-me pensar numa coisa - no facto de nos últimos anos ter se tornado popular numa certa esquerda criticar a economia convencional por esta assumir excessiva racionalidade nos agentes (penso que um bom exemplo português serão alguns Ladrões de Bicicletas); mas o problema que vejo nisso é que a combinação "racionalidade limitada"+esquerda parece-me a mais díficil de conceber.

As outras combinação são relativamente óbvias:

- racionalidade pura + direita: "Agentes racionais guiados pelo interesse próprio agirão da forma que lhes é mais vantajosa, e ao fazer isso vão, no agregado, atingir os resultados mais vantajosos à sociedade no seu todo, mesmo que não tenham essa intenção" - creio que é a posição liberal clássical

- racionalidade pura + esquerda: "Os tais agentes racionais guiados pelo interesse próprio podem muitas vezes tomar decisões que são as melhores do ponto de vista individual mas que no agregado são prejudiciais - veja-se o «dilema do prisioneiro», p.ex. Mas  isso resolve-se facilmente: felizmente esses agentes racionais também são capazes de usar a sua racionalidade para desenhar leis e instituições que resolvam o conflito entre o interesse privado e o interesse público, levando - através de castigos ou incentivos - os indivíduos a se comportarem da maneira mais consistente para o interesse geral. Para isto tanto faz que os agentes sejam ao não guiados pelo interesse próprio - é capaz de ser marginalmente melhor que as pessoas façam as leis a pensar no bem comum, mas se cada um defender as leis que melhor defendem o seu interesse particular também não vem grande mal ao mundo, já que o resultado final acabará à mesma por ser leis que correspondem ao maior bem estar para o maior número de pessoas" - desde os tempos do Iluminismo que as várias esquerdas defendem variantes desta posição

- racionalidade limitada + direita: "A maior parte dos empreendimentos humanos estão condenados ao fracasso, porque a razão humana é falível; coisas que no papel parecem brilhantes ideias revelam-se catastróficas no mundo real, porque há muita coisa que a razão não é capaz de processar ou até de compreender. O melhor, tanto na política como na economia, é um lento processo de tentativa e erro, em que as ideias estúpidas acabam por ser abandonadas ao se ver que fracassam, e só sobrevivem as poucas que resultam; assim, na política o melhor é mantermo-nos com as leis antigas, e na economia aceitar o resultado do jogo dos mercados. Provavelmente haverá muitas leis que poderiam ser melhoradas, e muitas falhas de mercado que poderiam ser resolvidas com a política correta, mas no mundo real não existe o iluminado benevolente e omnisciente capaz de identificar e resolver esses casos" - creio que é basicamente a posição conservadora e liberal-conservadora, à Edmund Burke ou Hayek

Mas a posição racionalidade limitada + esquerda não estou a ver muito bem como possa ser. Não digo que nalgumas situações específicas (p.ex., a "equivalência ricardiana") não se possa defender posições de esquerda a partir do princípio da racionalidade limitada, mas parece-me díficil fazer isso de forma sistemática (poderá-se perguntar se a macroeconomia keynesiana, que assenta quase completamente na ideia da rigidez dos preços, não poderá ser um exemplo, mas creio que não, porque a rigidez relativa dos preços pode perfeitamente ser explicada sem grandes desvios face ao principio da racionalidade dos agentes - basta assumir que pensar em novos preços dá trabalho, e que portanto mudar os preços só de vez em quando não é o resultado de nenhum "bias" subconsciente mas sim mais um exemplo de agentes racionais maximizando a sua utilidade, neste caso reduzindo os custos de pensar)

Os mercados laborais pouco flexíveis do passado

Do passado inglês, mais exatamente

The legend of the free labour market, por "Rick" (Flip Chart Fairy Tales):

[W]hen it comes to labour, state intervention in the market is nothing new.

Almost as soon as the feudal laws tying people to the land started breaking down governments began to legislate. The Statute of Labourers in 1351 is usually regarded as the first labour legislation in English Law. It was enacted during the labour shortage after the Black Death and its purpose was to stop workers moving from their home villages to look for work to hold down the price of labour. Economic conditions made it almost impossible to enforce but it set the tone for subsequent labour legislation and common law which, by and large, worked in favour of employers for the next 500 years. (...)

From the 16th century until 1875, employment was government my Master and Servant laws dating from the Elizabethan Statute of Artificers but reinforced during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by further legislation. As Deakin notes, the original laws contained some degree of protection for workers but this was eroded by the subsequent legislation which, at the same time, increased the penalties for servants.

The important thing to understand about master and servant law, though, is that workers were subject to criminal sanctions for breaches of their contracts while masters were only subject to the civil law. You don’t need to think about that for too long to see the lop sidedness of it. Workers of limited means had to pursue employers through the courts, while employers had the entire law enforcement apparatus of the state at their disposal. (...)

The penalties for breach of contract were harsh. Imprisonment with hard labour, fines and even, on occasion, beatings. Criminal prosecutions under master and servant laws were common, says Johnson, averaging about 10,000 a year in the mid-nineteenth century. (...)

When criminal prosecution for breach of contract was abolished in 1875, wages rose. They rose fastest in the areas where there had previously been the most prosecutions. There can be little doubt that the law had done exactly what the masters intended it to do; intimidate workers to the point where they were too scared to leave their employers and find better paid jobs. (...)

The myth that there was a time before The Fall, when the state didn’t meddle in the affairs of free men, is persistent, especially on the libertarian right. When it comes to labour law, though, it is just that, a myth. State intervention in the labour market is nothing new. The only aspect that is relatively new is its intervention on behalf of employees.

The pre-20th century labour market was not without its red tape, it’s just that the red tape was used to bind the servants, not the masters.

Em Portugal terá havido legislação como esta? A Lei das Sesmarias de D. Fernando obrigava as pessoas com pouca riqueza a aceitarem trabalho como assalariados rurais (e sujeitos a salários méximos), mas imagino que depois disso não tenha havido mais leis desse género.