Friday, April 29, 2016

O verdadeiro golpe?

Enquanto muita gente alega que está a ocorrer um golpe no Brasil (em termos da letra de lei - que permite destituir um presidente se ele cometer um certo tipo de crimes - não está; em termos de espírito da lei, talvez esteja, já muitos dos deputados que votaram pelo impeachment fizeram-no abertamente por razões políticas e não judiciais), onde talvez esteja a ocorrer mesmo um golpe é no Haiti - com a particularidade que é um golpe feito quase sem ninguém (incluindo os golpistas) dar por isso.

Haiti's unintended coup (Bloggings by Boz):

To nobody's surprise, Haiti did not hold the second round of its presidential election last weekend as scheduled. Instead, Interim President Jocelerme Privert has now installed a commission that will spend the next 30 days looking at the accuracy of the first round to determine if the two top contenders should remain in the runoff. 
That is also Privert's way of announcing that the election will not happen before his interim mandate (already a constitutionally fuzzy issue) expires on 14 May. Does he stay as president? Does the parliament hold yet another election? And how long does the next extra-constitutional interim president get to stay for? What happens if elections don't happen this year? Or in the next two years? When does the OAS finally declare that Haiti is no longer a democracy? (...) 
At the same time, the current governing situation has no constitutional basis. Had Haiti's second round election occurred on schedule, Jovenel Moise would likely have won and currently be president. Instead, an interim government not defined by constitutional procedures has taken over, cancelled the rescheduled election and now has no timetable for a new election process. You don't have to be a fan of Moise or Martelly to agree that Moise is being blocked from the presidency through some fairly unconventional means. 
The current situation involves an unelected government operating for an indefinite period of time making up the rules as it goes along to block scheduled elections. Even if done with the best of intentions of improving Haiti's election conditions, the current situation is a break with constitutional democracy, an unintended coup.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Efeitos de um "Rendimento Básico Incondicional"

Parents’ Incomes and Children’s Outcomes: A Quasi-Experiment Using Transfer Payments from Casino Profits [versão aberta em pdf], por Akee, Randall K. Q., William E. Copeland, Gordon Keeler, Adrian Angold and E. Jane Costello:

We examine the role an exogenous increase in household income, due to a government transfer unrelated to household characteristics, plays in children's long-run outcomes. Children in affected households have higher levels of education in their young adulthood and a lower incidence of criminality for minor offenses. Effects differ by initial household poverty status. An additional $4,000 per year for the poorest households increases educational attainment by one year at age 21, and reduces the chances of committing a minor crime by 22 percent for 16 and 17 year olds. Our evidence suggests improved parental quality is a likely mechanism for the change.

Free money lifts people out of poverty, and that's an investment that pays for itself (Tech Insider):
On November 13, 1997, a new casino opened its doors just south of North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. Despite the dismal weather, a long line had formed at the entrance, and as people continued to arrive by the hundreds, the casino boss began begging folks to stay at home. 
The widespread interest was hardly surprising. After all, it wasn't just some shifty mafia-run gambling den opening its doors that day. Harrah’s Cherokee was and still is a massive luxury casino owned and operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and its opening marked the end of a ten-year-long political tug of war. One tribal leader had predicted that gambling would be the Cherokee's damnation, and North Carolina’s governor had tried to block the project at every turn.
Far from it: The profits — amounting to $150 million in 2004 and growing to nearly $400 million in 2010 — enabled the tribe to build a new school, hospital, and fire station. However, the lion’s share of the takings went directly into the pockets of the 8,000 men, women, and children of the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe. From $500 a year at the outset, their earnings from the casino quickly mounted to $6,000 in 2001, constituting a quarter to a third of the average family income. (...)
The arrival of the casino, Costello realized, presented a unique opportunity to shed new light on this ongoing question since a quarter of the children in her study belonged to the Cherokee tribe, more than half of them living below the poverty line. 
Soon after the casino opened, Costello was already noting huge improvements for her subjects. Behavioral problems among children who had been lifted out of poverty went down 40%, putting them in the same range as their peers who had never known privation. Juvenile crime rates among the Cherokee also declined, along with drug and alcohol use, while their school scores improved markedly. At school, the Cherokee kids were now on a par with the study’s non-tribal participants.
[Via Chris Blattman]

Monday, April 25, 2016

Quem paga os impostos sobre "vícios" (ou comida pouco saudável)

 Bernie Sanders Calls Out Hillary Clinton for Supporting Soda Taxes, por (Reason):

 Democratic Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is proposing a soda tax, a regressive three-cents-per-ounce fee on sugary drinks. Given its flat nature, such a tax would obviously impact the poor more that the middle class and certainly the rich. In the nanny state world of progressive health management, this is actually part of the intent of these taxes. It is a not-very-subtle nudge to try to steer the poor away from consumer goods that the municipal government management class has decided is bad for their health. See also: cigarette taxes. (...)

Yesterday Sanders blasted Clinton for supporting a tax on the poor. Via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Frankly, I am very surprised that Secretary Clinton would support this regressive tax after pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000. This proposal clearly violates her pledge. A tax on soda and juice drinks would disproportionately increase taxes on low-income families in Philadelphia."
Kenney's response to Sanders' critique of soda taxes has been very much in the "I am shocked—shocked!—to find gambling in this establishment" vein. This wasn't a tax on poor people, nosireebob! It was a tax on rich corporations. They were supposed to just give us more money and accept lower profit margins! (...)

Does anybody actually buy this nonsense? Again, I bring up cigarette taxes, and sin taxes in general. They are deliberately put into place to try to push citizens away from spending their limited income on things that government functionaries have deemed harmful. The point of soda taxes is for manufacturers to pass along the costs to consumers and consumers to drink less of the sugary drinks and thereby have fewer health problems.
Efetivamente, se o objetivo de uma imposto sobre um "vício" é reduzir o consumo desse "vício", só o fará se tiver efeitos sobre o preço (ou seja, se incidir sobre os clientes) - se não fosse isso, que motivo haveria para os consumidores reduzirem o consumo?

No entanto, acho que imagino o que se passa na cabeça de algumas pessoas que tentam negar o aspeto regressivo desses impostos - elas assumem que o dinheiro que as outras pessoas gastam em despesas que elas não aprovam (por exemplo, em bebidas adocicadas) é como se fosse dinheiro jogado fora (ou coisa pior) - portanto, a partir do momento em que partem desse pressuposto, se acharem que o imposto em questão vai reduzir tanto o consumo do produto que (mesmo com um preço unitário maior) a despesa total vai diminuir (ou seja, se acharem que a elasticidade da procura face ao preço será maior que 1 - que um aumento de 1% do preço vai originar uma redução da procura superior a 1%), é natural que considerem que os consumidores (no caso em discussão, os consumidores pobres) ficaram com mais dinheiro que antes de o imposto ser lançado, e que só quem ficou a perder foram as empresas que fabricam e vendem o produto.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Proteccionismo e recessões

The Donald and the Veg-O-Matic, por Paul Krugman (9 de abril):

But too many anti-Trump critics seem to have settled on one critique that happens not to be right: the claim that a turn to protectionism would cause vast job losses. Sorry, that’s just not a claim justified by either theory or history.  
Protectionism reduces world exports, but it also reduces world imports, so that the effect on overall demand is a wash; textbook economic models just don’t say what conventional wisdom is asserting here.
Robber Baron Recessions, por Paul Krugman (18 de abril):
In recent years many economists, including people like Larry Summers and yours truly, have come to the conclusion that growing monopoly power is a big problem for the U.S. economy — and not just because it raises profits at the expense of wages. Verizon-type stories, in which lack of competition reduces the incentive to invest, may contribute to persistent economic weakness. 
The argument begins with a seeming paradox about overall corporate behavior. You see, profits are at near-record highs, thanks to a substantial decline in the percentage of G.D.P. going to workers. You might think that these high profits imply high rates of return to investment. But corporations themselves clearly don’t see it that way: their investment in plant, equipment, and technology (as opposed to mergers and acquisitions) hasn’t taken off, even though they can raise money, whether by issuing bonds or by selling stocks, more cheaply than ever before. 
How can this paradox be resolved? Well, suppose that those high corporate profits don’t represent returns on investment, but instead mainly reflect growing monopoly power. In that case many corporations would be in the position I just described: able to milk their businesses for cash, but with little reason to spend money on expanding capacity or improving service. The result would be what we see: an economy with high profits but low investment, even in the face of very low interest rates and high stock prices. 
And such an economy wouldn’t just be one in which workers don’t share the benefits of rising productivity; it would also tend to have trouble achieving or sustaining full employment. Why? Because when investment is weak despite low interest rates, the Federal Reserve will too often find its efforts to fight recessions coming up short. So lack of competition can contribute to “secular stagnation” — that awkwardly-named but serious condition in which an economy tends to be depressed much or even most of the time, feeling prosperous only when spending is boosted by unsustainable asset or credit bubbles.
E creio que, na sua coluna de 18 de abril, Krugman (suponho que involuntariamente) refuta o seu post de 9 de abril - afinal, se o crescente "poder de monopólio" causa recessões, então o proteccionismo (ao reforçar o "poder de monopólio" das empresas de cada país, que passam a estar menos sujeitas à concorrência de empresas similares de outros países) irá contribuir para as recessões e para o desemprego.


A respeito disto, uma coisa que me ocorre é porque é que a criminalização do stalking/perseguição, que ocorreu na mesma altura (e na mesma lei) que a do "piropo", não gerou a mesma polémica - afinal, os mesmo argumentos contra a criminalização do "piropo" (ou de "importunar outra pessoa (...) formulando propostas de teor sexual"), em termos de liberdade individual, podem também ser feitos contra a criminalização da "perseguição". Antes que alguém diga que os "stalkers" fazem ameaças, tornam-se violentos, etc., recordo que tudo isso (ameaças, agressões, invasão de propriedade, etc.) já era punido por lei, logo o que estamos a punir é mesmo só a parte de andar constantemente atrás de outra pessoa, mesmo sem fazer mais nada que seja criminalmente punível (ameaça-la, agredi-la, injuria-la, entrar pela casa dela adentro, etc.).

A criminalização da "perseguição" até me parece muito mais perigosa, em termos de poder ser "torcida" para justificar limites crescentes à liberdade de expressão (por exemplo, o conceito pode ser construído de forma a criminalisar quem promova protestos continuados contra uma dada pessoa - p.ex., um governante).

Um motivo que me ocorre para a criminalização da "perseguição" ser melhor aceite "pela sociedade" (ou ignorada, mas mesmo essa ignorância é o resultado da medida parecer tão consensual que nenhum jornalista se lembrou de fazer uma primeira página tipo "stalking já é crime") talvez seja por o "piropo" (palavra que acho que ninguém usa além de nas discussões sobre a legalidade do "piropo", mas enfim...) ter a conotação de ser uma coisa feita por homens "normais" (ainda que de um estrato social relativamente baixo), enquanto os "perseguidores" têm mais uma imagem de pessoas "estranhas" (estilo homens solitários obsessivo-compulsivos que têm a casa cheia de fotografias da pessoa que perseguem).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Portugal é a Alemanha

Why Germany doesn’t like negative interest rates, por Tyler Cowen:

The business models of German financial institutions depend critically on the presence of positive nominal interest rates. The International Monetary Fund noted in its latest Financial Stability Report that the pre-tax profits of German and Portuguese banks are most affected by negative rates.

That is from the always superb Wolfgang Münchnau at the FT.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A semântica das classes sociais (agora nos EUA)

Working-Class Heroes - The 2016 election shows that, when talking about class, Americans and their candidates are both out of practice (New Yorker):

During the 2008 Vice-Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, in St. Louis, Biden offered a memorable brief on behalf of struggling communities like the one in Pennsylvania where he spent his childhood. (...) “Look, the people in my neighborhood, they get it,” Biden said. “They know they’ve been getting the short end of the stick. So walk with me in my neighborhood, go back to my old neighborhood, in Claymont, an old steel town, or go up to Scranton with me. These people know the middle class has gotten the short end. The wealthy have done very well. Corporate America has been rewarded. It’s time we change it.”

In hindsight, what’s notable about Biden’s statement is not how it presaged the populist concerns of this year’s Presidential election but the fact that he referred to his neighbors—steelworkers, denizens of factory towns—as middle class, not as working class. In fact, the phrase “working class” came up twice during the debate—but it was Palin who said it, not Biden. Things didn’t change much rhetorically in the 2012 election. Obama and Mitt Romney, in the course of three Presidential debates, invoked the “middle class” forty-three times but never mentioned the proletariat.

For decades, both American culture and American politics have elided the differences between salaried workers and those who are paid hourly, between college-educated professionals and those whose purchasing power is connected to membership in a labor union. Some ninety per cent of Americans, including most millionaires, routinely identify as middle class. For many years, this glossing over of the distinctions between the classes served a broad set of interests, particularly during the Cold War, when any reference to class carried a whiff of socialist sympathies. Americans considered themselves part of a larger whole, and social animosities were mostly siphoned off in the direction of racial resentment. But, this year, Americans are once again debating class.

We are clearly out of practice. The current language of “income inequality” is a low-carb version of the Old Left’s “class exploitation.” The new phrase lacks rhetorical zing; it’s hard to envision workers on a picket line singing rousing anthems about “income inequality.”

Monday, April 11, 2016

O "modelo sueco" anti-prostituição, o "tráfico humano" e as manipulações semânticas

Há dias, o Expresso noticiava a aprovação da nova lei francesa sobre a prostituição:

Mais de dois anos depois de ter sido apresentada, a legislação foi aprovada por uma maioria simples dos deputados da câmara baixa do Parlamento francês para combater redes de tráfico. País segue exemplo da Suécia, um dos primeiros do mundo a penalizar não as prostitutas mas os que pagam pelos seus serviços. (...)
A lei foi aprovada na câmara baixa com 64 votos a favor, 12 contra e 11 abstenções. Sublinha o "Le Monde" que esta legislação estava a ser debatida há mais de dois anos por causa de diferenças de opinião entre a câmara baixa e a câmara alta do Parlamento francês. Durante o debate final, cerca de 60 prostitutas manifestaram-se frente ao Parlamento, em Paris, com cartazes onde se lia "Não me libertem, eu tomo conta de mim própria", noticiou a AFP.

Ao longo destes dois anos de discussão, membros do sindicato de trabalhadores do sexo, o Strass, disseram que, a ser aprovada, a legislação iria ter um impacto negativo nas condições de vida de entre 30 e 40 mil prostitutas do país. Os que apoiam a medida dizem que é o melhor instrumento para combater as redes de tráfico humano que operam dentro e fora de França.
Para começar é curiosa essa maneira de descrever a lei sueca - poderiam simplesmente dizer que penalizam os clientes, mas em vez disso dizem que penalizam os clientes e não as prostitutas. Imagine que alguém descrevia o hábito asiático de comer cães nos seguintes termos "no extremo-oriente come-se cães e não pessoas"; tecnicamente era verdade, mas não me parece que essa formulação, implicando quase uma alternativa entre comer cães ou pessoas, fizesse grande sentido. Da mesma maneira, dizer-se que na Suécia ou em França pune-se os clientes e não as prostitutas (em vez de simplesmente se dizer que se pune os clientes) parece-me uma forma de criar uma oposição imaginária entre as duas políticas ("És contra a penalização dos clientes? Quer dizer que achas que quem deveria ser punido eram as prostitutas? Monstro!") que não faz qualquer sentido (afinal, em grande parte dos países civilizados, incluindo Portugal, nem uns nem outros são punidos).

Já agora, a tal conversa da relação entre a prostituição e as "redes de tráfico humano" também merece ser escrutinada: "tráfico humano" é uma expressão muito ambígua; na prática, é pouco mais do que uma forma particularmente assustadora de dizer "imigração ilegal"" (poderíamos chamar-lhe um "disfemismo" - o oposto de um "eufemismo"). Atendendo a que, nos países ricos, os trabalhos mal pagos, penosos e/ou socialmente mal-visto tendem a ser feitos desproporcionalmente por imigrantes de países pobres (logo, grande parte das prostitutas serão imigrantes); atendendo também que não deve ser muito fácil (tanto por razões legais - quer nos países de origem como de destino - quer por tabus morais) uma potencial imigrante conseguir um visto de trabalho para vir exercer a profissão de prostituta, é natural que muitas dessas imigrantes sejam ilegais (logo, "vítimas de tráfico"); ainda por cima, mesmo nos casos de imigração legal (p.ex., entre países do espaço Schengen) há a tendência para falar de "tráfico humano" quando a atividade de destino é a prostituição (veja-se as noticias que de vez em quando surgem sobre a contratação de mulheres na Roménia para trabalhar como prostitutas na Alemanha, em que tal é invariavelmente associado a "redes de tráfico humano"), o que torna muitas prostitutas "vítimas de tráfico" quase por definição.

[Um post que talvez escreve uma dia: analisar políticas como punir os clientes mas não as prostitutas, ou punir os médicos de abortos mas não as mulheres que abortam, tomando em consideração o conceito de incidência económica do imposto]

Friday, April 08, 2016

Merle Haggard (1937-2016)

Merle Haggard, RIP, por Jesse Walker (Reason):

Haggard's most famous record—or infamous, in some circles—is "Okie from Muskogee," the Silent Majority's great culture-war anthem of 1969. At the time, people took it as a song for hardhats who hated hippies: Spiro Agnew mashed up with the Grand Ol' Opry. Years later, it became common to claim the tune was intended as a joke. When a man who smokes pot starts a song with the words "We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee," you have to wonder whether he was speaking for himself. And Haggard undeniably enjoyed his pot. "Son," he told one interviewer, "Muskogee's just about the only place I don't smoke it."

Haggard himself was always cagey about what he meant by the song, and the answers he gave to interviewers weren't always consistent with one another. But the best way to understand the record, I've long thought, is to take it as a dramatic monologue. "Okie" reports how a conservative character feels about the counterculture, and whether you take his views as inspiring or hilarious is up to you. The fact that it can work either way is a tribute to Haggard's skills.
Antes da Internet, só tinha ouvido uma vez essa música, numa viagem de autocarro de Lisboa para Portimão (mas é uma letra que fica no ouvido, mesmo que a reação do ouvinte seja "mas que reacionarice é esta!?").

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Conservadores e Comunistas

Tories and Communists, por Chris Dillow:

This might seem odd to those who remember Conservatives’ attacking Communism for its appalling human right record. But those attacks were always hypocritical. Many right-wing cold warriors variously supported Macathyism; Pinochet’s murder of dissidents; the slavery that was the draft and National Service; the brutal repression of homosexuals; and the denial of the most basic rights of self-ownership to women – marital rape was not criminalized in England until 1991. And they were deplorably silent about apartheid’s denial of basic human rights.

What Tories objected to in Communism was not its denial of freedom generally, but rather the denial of a particular form of freedom – the freedom of a few bosses to make money at the expense of others. Because China grants this freedom, Tories have no gripe with its form of Communism.

From this perspective, Conservatism and Communism have much in common. Both support inequalities of power which deny autonomy and self-determination to workers.  (...)

The main difference between Communists and Conservatives is not one of principle but of degree: Conservatives applaud centrally planned economies within companies, but Communists think it should be extended to the whole economy.

Friday, April 01, 2016

"É legal? Não. Pode-se fazer? Pode-se."

Durante algumas horas, Donald Trump defendeu que, se o aborto fosse ilegalizado, as mulheres que abortassem deveriam ser punidas; parece que pouco depois alguém lhe explicou que a posição pró-vida é que só os fornecedores de abortos devem ser punidos, não as clientes (uma curiosidade: a direita pró-vida e a esquerda escandinava anti-prostituição convergem em considerar que as mulheres são seres incapazes de tomarem decisões e que devem ser, perante a lei, tratadas como tal).

Um exemplo interessente dessa posição e as suas implicações é o artigo "Trump Attempts To Abort Candidacy", de Rod Dreher, em The American Conservative. Quer o artigo (onde o autor expõe a clássica posição pró-vida de só punir os "técnicos"), quer sobretudo os comentários, em que a maior parte dos leitores (tanto pró-vida como pró-escolha) demonstram que essa posição não faz grande sentido.

Alguns comentários:

- "A nice illustration of the vacuity of the pro-life movement. Of course banning abortion requires punishing at least some women who attempt or get abortions. That’s what it means to outlaw something! But more to the point, that’s what happened when abortion was generally illegal. Some women who sought abortions were prosecuted. Many women who sought abortions were ostracized by their communities and families. Expelled from schools and churches, fired from jobs. (...) Banning something – whether legally, morally, or socially – requires that offenders be punished. Without punishment, there is and can be no ban, no taboo, no norm. We need to face up to the moral accounting honestly, and be certain that the good we hope to do outweighs the harm in terms of lives derailed and families broken by prosecution, imprisonment, ostracization, and the like. If outlawing abortion is worth the costs to women who will in point of fact be prosecuted and shunned from their communities and families, fired from their jobs, expelled from their schools, fine. But to say that there will be no such costs, only benefits, is a lie"

- "I’m glad Trump said what he did regarding women being punished for having an abortion. He exposed the pro-life movement as a movement that doesn’t really think abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent child or they never would treat the poor little women as victims."

- "Let me get this straight. Pro-life candidates are perfectly fine with robotic abortion factories. Its just the manually operated ones they object to?"

- "From what I’ve read a lot of abortions these days–particularly early in pregnancy–are pharmaceutical and not medical procedures. So there’s no doctor performing a procedure to hold responsible. So who do you go after for violating the law–the medical professional who wrote the prescription? The pharmacist who filled it? The person who smuggled the drug into this country if the drug was banned here? The woman who sought out, sourced, and voluntarily took the drug, understanding full well what the known and recognizable consequences of her actions were–in actuality, seeking out those known and recognizable consequences? (...) Telemedicine is rapidly advancing. It will be possible in the near future to set up “remote” surgical centers where doctors who are miles away–say, in another country–perform the abortion. So how do you handle a surgical center, one where a multitude of operations are performed (scoping knees, colonoscopies, removing cancers, etc) that also had doctors residing in locations where abortion is legal accomplishing the teleoperating? When you can’t swoop in and arrest them, but the individual demanding the illegal procedure, who set up the whole thing, does reside in the jurisdiction where that procedure is illegal to perform?"

Também sobre isto, "Trump's Politically Incorrect Abortion Comments Complicate Republican Narrative", por Elizabeth Nolan Brown, na Reason:

But here's what neither Camosy, Hemingway, Scheidler, or any of the major pro-life voices have addressed: What happens when there is no abortion doctor? No sketchy clinic. No nagging or coercive partner. What happens when a woman decides to terminate her pregnancy and takes matters into her own hands?

Women have been self-inducing abortions for time immemorial. Herbs. Coat hangers. Mifepristone. It's that last one, used in conjunction with another drug (misoprostol), that's likely to be most common for illegal 21st Century abortions. This two-pill regimen, referred to as "medical abortion" (as opposed to surgical abortion), is currently a common method for legal first-trimester abortions in America. (...)

Trump's original statements on abortion might not have been politically correct from a conventional conservative perspective, but they were the closest to honesty or authenticity we've gotten from a pro-life politician in a long time.
Na verdade o que eu suspeito é que muitos pró-vida defendem é sobretudo o chamado "papel pedagógico da lei" - a ideia de que ao se proibir algo (mesmo que nunca ou raramente a proibição seja aplicada e os infratores punidos), está-se a enviar um sinal de que esse comportamento não é aceitável, e assim se reduza significativamente o comportamento em questão (não tento por os potenciais infratores fazerem um cálculo intelectual custo-beneficio, e chegarem à conclusão que os custos da punição conjugados com o risco de serem apanhados são mais altos que os benefícios de empreender a ação em causa, mas sobretudo pela relutância intuitiva que grande parte dos seres humanos têm em fazer algo que vá contra as regras "da tribo"). Diga-se que eu acho que a ideia do "papel pedagógico da lei" é algo pouco conciliável com a filosofia de base de uma sociedade democrática (pode ser que algum dia escreva algo sobre isso).