Monday, February 19, 2018


How is the world ruled?, por Branko Milanovic.

O tema do artigo é mais amplo, mas interessei-me sobretudo por esta parte:
Proposition 2. The world is ruled on merit.

This is the view that many people hold about their own involvements and that of institutions they work for. (...)

But is it true? Here I could ply the readers with numerous examples, but I will choose the one that, like the Belgrade story, sticks in my mind.

It happened that the offer that I got involved a study of how heating and transportation subsidies in a Central Asian country affected its income distribution. It was easy to do and I promptly came back with the conclusion that they were pro-poor and should be kept.

But this was not the policy of the World Bank. The year was 1994 or 1995 and everybody believed in Fukuyama and Larry Summers. So the decision or rather the diffuse feeling (because you do not need a formal decision on matters like these to know what the “correct” answer is) was made before the report was even started that the subsidies should be eliminated. The leader of the group, not the most brilliant person, was smart enough to know what the desired conclusion was and that his/her career would be helped if the empirical analysis supported it.

So when it did not, he/she totally ignored it, and after several endless meetings where I was supposed to be somehow convinced that the data must surely be wrong, that part of the report was either not included or totally ignored. (I cannot remember what happened.) Because I was not brave or stubborn enough, I gave up a (hopeless) struggle after a couple of attempts and went back to my numbers and equations.

I was outside that particular hierarchy; so I was relatively free. But I then thought: let’s suppose that I was hierarchically under the project leader and that I was courageous enough to stick to my guns. What would have happened? My arguments would have been ignored; I would not have been demoted or fired. But in my next annual review, I would have been given the lowest possible grade, salary increase would be nil, my promotion prospect would be zero, and the explanation would never address the substantive issue: it would be that I was not collegial, failed to work in a team spirit etc. It could be even that I would have been asked to attend “team building” seminars like the Soviet dissidents were sent to psychiatric asylums.

The problem would never even be mentioned to have consisted in a disagreement on substance. Rather it would have been treated as some maladjustment problem on my part; perhaps I was harassed when young or had a difficult childhood. Because, of course, the institution is not closed to different viewpoints and welcomes diverse opinions and “vibrant” or “robust” (these are the preferred terms) dialogue.

This is how the weeding out of undesirable views would have proceeded.

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