Friday, May 25, 2018

A dupla ameaça à democracia liberal

The Double Threat to Liberal Democracy, por Dani Rodrik:

Illiberal democracy – or populism – is not the only political menace confronting Western countries. Liberal democracy is also being undermined by a tendency to emphasize “liberal” at the expense of “democracy.”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Liberdade de expressão, "discurso de ódio", etc.

A Socialist Approach to Free Speech, por Samuel Farber (na revista Jacobin):

Following the Obama administration’s historic suppression of government whistleblowers, Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the media, and controversies on college campuses nationwide, Timothy Garton Ash’s Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World is well-timed.

Garton Ash offers a wide-ranging exposition on the right to self-expression and a coherent defense of free speech from an explicitly liberal point of view. Socialist theory and practice has never satisfactorily established the place of free speech in the struggle for social transformation and in a future socialist society — all the more reason to seriously grapple with the challenge posed by Garton Ash’s new book. (...)

Garton Ash’s confusion over free speech and power becomes most clear in his defense of Larry Summers, the economics professor who was force to resign as president of Harvard University after suggesting that the “low proportion of women in science and engineering might result from innate differences in ability and inclination, as well as the pressures of family life and other factors.”

Garton Ash returns to John Stuart Mill to argue that Summers’s statement was intended to advance knowledge. He asks, “Was Summers trying to insult or demean women? Or was he, however provocatively, genuinely trying to advance scientific understanding? Looking at the evidence,” Garton Ash concludes, “I judge that it was the latter.” Aside from the fact that Summers’s statement rested at least partially on discredited theories of genetic difference, Garton Ash’s conclusion fails to adequately address the context in which Summers spoke.

As an economist, Summers has no credible expertise on gender difference. Further, the protests against his remarks did not imperil his academic freedom as a professor in economics, but rather his position of power as university president. From the protesters’ perspective, Summers had used his position against the interests of women. Contrary to what Garton Ash implies, this had nothing to do with freedom of expression, but rather with an expression of power.

The same confusion crops up when liberal pundits criticize student protests against political figures invited to speak on campus. Garton Ash misrepresents these demonstrations, imagining that they primarily occur when speakers are invited to defend their positions on some controversial matter. In fact, many of these protests take place when the person arrives to be honored by the university.

For example, in 2014 Rutgers University invited Condoleezza Rice to serve as commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree. Rice’s withdrawal in the face of student and faculty protest does not represent a defeat for free speech, but instead a small but real victory for those objecting to Rutgers’s decision to celebrate a figure who embodies American imperialist policies.

Similar considerations should apply to calls to rename Calhoun College at Yale University and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, institutions that honor well-known racists. Disputes about how institutional honors like these enhance their recipients’ reputations do not relate to free speech, but to the legitimation of power holders, and their political and cultural uses.

When we turn to public figures invited to speak about controversial topics, we must distinguish between racist persuaders and violent racist intimidators. People like Arthur Jensen, Richard Herrnstein, and Charles Murray, who propagate offensive racist myths under the guise of social science, are racist persuaders. Their pronouncements take place entirely within the realm of discourse, to which opponents can respond through rational discussion and careful refutation.

Other free speech rights, including the venerable traditions of picketing and heckling, stop short of using force to stop figures like these from speaking. Even the sharpest ideological struggle abides by implicit rules that social movements have occasionally violated when they have replaced persuasion with the use of force. This not only violates the speakers’ fundamental rights, but is also bad strategy. Protests ignoring the right to free speech alienate both the audience attending the event, whom protesters should be trying to win over, and those who wish to preserve free speech.

This differs from racist or antisemitic acts of intimidation perpetrated by organized groups with a history of physical violence. The 1936 march organized by the British Union of Fascists in the Jewish-majority East End of London illustrates this distinction. Oswald Mosley, the demonstration’s leader, did not intend to persuade the Jews living in that neighborhood to join their group. Rather, he wanted to terrify them. Nor did the American neo-Nazi group that applied for a march permit in the also heavily Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie in 1978 set out to convert the residents, many of whom were Holocaust survivors, into Nazis. (...)

These same considerations should influence our analysis of the recent controversy surrounding Milo Yiannopoulos, whose appearance at Berkeley was canceled following a massive demonstration and the actions of a small group of fifty to one hundred people who engaged in the destruction of university property. His previous political record shows Yiannopoulos as a racist persuader of a particularly reactionary and obnoxious kind who, as we argued above, certainly requires that the protesting students exercise their free speech rights with massive picketing and heckling while respecting the principles of free speech, stopping short of a forceful suppression of the event.

However, some have claimed that Yiannopoulos had planned to reveal the names of undocumented students. Had he tried to do so, then the clash between him and the protesters would have moved to a different ground beyond persuasion, and the audience would have been entitled to shut him off immediately.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

O Partido Republicano dos EUA e a imigração

Why did Republicans become so opposed to immigration? Hint: It’s not because there’s more nativism, por Margaret E. Peters (Monkey Cage / Washington Post; pode ser preciso abrir como "janela privada" no browser para aceder ao link):

To the surprise of some, the Republican Congress largely supports Trump’s restrictionist approach to immigration. Apparently Republicans are favoring their nativist base over their traditional allies in business. Why?

The Republican Party has long been the party of both business and nativists. For most of its history, the party’s business wing has reined in the nativists. But aside from a few individual industries, businesses overall are less interested in open immigration — freeing Republican members of Congress to cater to the nativists. It’s not that nativism is increasing; it’s that fewer businesses demand low-skilled immigrants.

The Republicans’ anti-immigration stance might make sense if nativism was on the rise. But contrary to conventional wisdom, nativism is not increasing in the United States. As you can see in the figure below, anti-immigrant sentiment reached its most recent height in the mid-1990s.

Recent surveys from Gallup show that more and more Americans are happy with the status quo — or even want more immigration. (...)

So why are nativists having so much success — arguably even turning into the swing vote for the president? As I show in my book, nativists have increased influence not because more Americans agree with them, but because most businesses no longer care about immigration. Increased globalization has changed the amount and kind of labor that most U.S. businesses need. (...)

As President Trump has noted, because of decreasing trade barriers, many U.S. manufacturing companies have closed — especially those that employed large numbers of low-skill immigrant workers. Those employers are no longer around to lobby for immigration. For the same reason, those U.S. companies that do rely on manufacturing have moved their factories overseas. Why should businesses fight to bring Chinese workers to the United States when they can move factories to China?

Furthermore, companies have increasingly automated production and so need fewer workers. The U.S. steel industry, for example, produces as much steel today as it did in 1960, but it does so with a third of its former workforce. Companies also stop lobbying for immigration when they need fewer workers because of automation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

O capitalismo e o imperialismo segundo Schumpeter

Schumpeter’s two theories of imperialism, por Branko Milanovic:

Schumpeter’s theory is interesting for several reasons. It was formulated at the same time as Lenin’s and Luxemburg’s and clearly with the knowledge of the two. It reacts to the exactly the same events as theirs. It is different though and it was held by Schumpeter throughout his life. The key text for Schumpeter’s theory is “The sociology of imperialisms” (note the  plural) published in 1918-19. It is a very long essay of some tightly printed 80 pages in its English translation.  (...)

What Schumpeter says is the following. Imperialism, most purely defined, is “objectless”, that is, it is not directed against something or somebody that can be shown to impede one’s interest. It is thus not rational: it is a simple will to power. The canonic examples, according to Schumpeter, are Assyrians, Persians, Arabs and Franks (...)

Now, imperialism as such is atavistic and in contradiction with “normal” capitalism which is rational and individualistic and whose objectives can be much better achieved in peace and by peace. We should thus expect imperialism to diminish as capitalism becomes stronger. The least imperialistic are the most capitalistic countries like the United States. (...)

However, I think that an alternative reading of Schumpeter is possible, based on his own writings and view of capitalism.

In “Imperialisms…” Schumpeter allows that imperialism can appears in capitalistic societies. But there “we must evidently see [imperialistic tendencies] only as alien  elements carried into the world of capitalism from the outside, supported by non-capitalistic factors in modern life”. (p. 194).

But (and it is a crucial “but”) if capitalism is not the one of perfect competition and free trade but capitalism of monopolies then Schumpeter allows that “organized capital may very well make the discovery that the interest rate can be maintained above the level of free competition if the resulting surplus (my emphasis) can be sent abroad” (p. 200). “Organized capital” may realize that it has a lot to gain from having colonies.  (...)

In this description of the role of monopoly capital in fostering colonization and imperialism Schumpeter is hardly a hair's breadth away from Lenin and Luxemburg. Perhaps so, it could be argued, but these are, according to Schumpeter, special conditions of monopoly (“trustified”) capitalism that cannot be identified with “normal” or “usual” free market capitalism.

But this is not what Schumpeter says in [Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy]. There the point is forcefully made that the key feature of capitalism (what makes it grow) is innovation and that it is possible only if capitalism is monopolistic, or if it is not, innovation itself will lead to monopolies (...).

But if the normal form of capitalism is monopolistic, then the “normal” form of behavior of such capitalism is as forcefully described in “Imperialisms….”: trying to keep the domestic rate of profit above the “natural” level by exporting capital to colonies, aiming to control cheap labor and resources, and likely running into struggle and conflict with other monopolized national capitalisms. So this is the normal modus operandi of capitalism—according to Schumpeter.

The contention that perfect competition and free trade would be incompatible with imperialism becomes really irrelevant: even if the contention is valid, it refers to a textbook case of capitalism that, Schumpeter tells us, is bound to lose out and yield to a more dynamic and innovative monopolistic capitalism.

Putting these two things together then gives us a reformulated Schumpeter’s theory of imperialism which comes exceedingly close, nay is practically identical even in its emphasis on the low domestic rate of return, to classical Marxist theories of imperialism. Whether Schumpeter would be appalled, or whether he might have been aware of it, is relevant for la petite histoire. But it seems to me that the logical proximity of the two theories cannot be denied.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Rendimento Básico Incondicional versus empregos garantidos

Basic Income, not Basic Jobs: Against Hijacking Utopia, por Scott Alexander:

Some Democrats angling for the 2020 presidential nomination have a big idea: a basic jobs guarantee, where the government promises a job to anybody who wants one. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders are all said to be considering the plan. (...)

I am totally against this. Maybe basic jobs are better than nothing, but I have an absolute 100% revulsion at the idea of implementing basic jobs as an alternative to basic income. Before getting into the revulsion itself, I want to bring up some more practical objections:
1. Basic jobs don’t help the disabled (...)
2. Basic jobs don’t help caretakers (...)
3. Basic jobs don’t help parents (...)
4. Jobs are actually a big cause of poverty (...)
5. Basic jobs may not pay for themselves by doing useful work (...)
6. Private industry deals with bad workers by firing them; nobody has a good plan for how basic jobs would replace this
Suppose someone does accidentally leave a stove on and burn down the soup kitchen. You transfer them to an agricultural commune and they crash the tractor into a tree. You transfer them to some kind of low-risk paper-pushing job, but they’re late to work every day and skip it entirely once or twice a week, and important papers end up tragically un-pushed. After a while, you decide they are too incompetent to add non-negative value to any of the programs on offer. What do you do with them?
If you fire them, then you’re not a basic jobs guarantee. You’re a basic-jobs-for-skilled-workers-whom-bosses-like guarantee. We already have one of those – it’s called capitalism, maybe you’ve heard of it. But a real solution to poverty would have to encompass everybody, not just people who are good at working within the system.
And if you don’t fire them, what’s your plan? (...)
Or transfer them to a job in a padded room putting blocks in stacks and knocking them down again, in a way that inconveniences nobody because nobody cares about it? Abandon all pretense at creating anything other than busy-work for poor people out of an all-consuming desire to make sure nobody can live comfortably unless they have spent forty hours of every week in boredom and misery? (...)
This isn’t speculation about some vague future. These questions get played out all around the country in our existing “government must take everyone no matter how little they want to be there” institution, ie public school." (...)
7. Private employees deal with bad workplaces by quitting them; nobody has a good plan for how basic jobs would replace this
And if you think this is a problem for the managers, just wait until you see what the employees have to put up with.
Some bosses are incompetent. Some are greedy. Some are downright abusive. Some don’t have any obvious flaw you can put your finger on, they just turn every single day into a miserable emotional grind.  (...)
In private industry, people cope by leaving their job and finding a better one. It’s not a perfect system. A lot of people are stuck in jobs they don’t like because they’re not sure they can find another, or because they don’t have enough money to last them through the interim. And this is one reason why poor people who can’t easily change jobs have worse working conditions than wealthier people who can. (...)
What about the people who can’t get any jobs besides the guaranteed basic ones? How do they deal with abusive working conditions?
Probably somebody will set up some system to let you quit one basic job and go to a different one in the same city. But probably it will end up being much more complicated than that. How do you deal with the guy who quits every job after a week or two, looking for the perfect cushy position? How do you deal with the case where there’s only one basic job available within a hundred miles? How do you deal with the case where everyone wants the same few really good jobs, and nobody wants to work at the awful abusive soup kitchen down the road? (...)
10. Basic income puts everyone on the same side; basic jobs preserve the poor-vs-the-rest-of-us dichotomy
Welfare users often talk about the stigma involved in getting welfare. Either other people make them feel like a parasite, or they just worry about it themselves. Basic jobs would be little different. There will be the well-off people with jobs producing useful goods and services. And there will be the people on guaranteed basic jobs, who know their paychecks are being subsidized by Society. In the worst case scenario, people complaining about workplace abuses at their guaranteed basic job will be told how lucky they are to have work at all.
Basic income breaks through that dichotomy. Everybody, from Warren Buffett to the lowliest beggar on the street, gets the same basic income. We assume Warren Buffett pays enough taxes that the program is a net negative for him, but taxes are complicated and this is hard to notice.  (...)
There will be people on basic income who have no other source of money. There will be people who supplement it with odd jobs now and then. There will be people who work part-time but who plausibly still get more than they pay in taxes. There will be people who work full-time and maybe pay more than they get but aren’t really sure. At no point does a clear dichotomy between “those people getting welfare” and “the rest of us who support them” ever kick in.
11. Work sucks
Either one of basic jobs or basic income could be potentially the costliest project the US government has ever attempted. Government projects usually end up cash-constrained, and the costliest one ever won’t be the exception. The pressure to cut corners will get overwhelming. It’s hard to cut corners on basic income – either citizens get their checks or they don’t. It’s simple to cut corners on basic jobs. You do it the same way Amazon does – you let working conditions degrade to intolerable levels. What are your workers going to do do? Quit? Neither Amazon nor government-guaranteed basic jobs need to worry about that – both know that their employees have no good alternatives.
Gathering a bunch of disempowered poor people in a place they’re not allowed to opt out of, with budget constraints on the whole enterprise, is basically the perfect recipe for ensuring miserable conditions. I refuse to believe that they will be much better than private industry; the best we can hope for is that they end up no worse. But the conditions in private industry are miserable, even for people with better resources and coping opportunities than basic jobs recipients are likely to have.
It would be unfair to make this argument without responding to jobs’ proponents points, so I want to explain why I don’t think they provide a strong enough argument against. These will be from the Sarris piece. I don’t want to knock it too much, because it’s a really fair and well-written piece that presents the case for jobs about as well as it can be presented, and any snark I might give it below is totally undeserved and due to personal viciousness. But it argues: (...)
iv) Without work, people will gradually lose meaning from their lives and become miserable
Social responsibility. Sense of purpose. Community. Meaningful ways to spend your time. This is some big talk for promoting jobs that in real life are probably going to involve a lot of “Do you want fries with that?” Getting a sense of purpose from your job is a crapshoot at best. Getting a sense of purpose outside your job is a natural part of the human condition. The old joke goes that nobody says on their deathbed “I wish I’d spent more time at the office”, but the basic jobs argument seems to worry about exactly that.
And let’s make the hidden step in this argument explicit. Everyone on basic income will have the opportunity to work if they want. In fact, they’ll have more opportunity, since people who hate working will have dropped out of the workforce and demand for labor will rise. So the basic jobs argument isn’t just that people need and enjoy work. The argument is that people need and enjoy work, but also, they are too unaware to realize this, and will never get the work they secretly crave unless we force them into it.