quinta-feira, 27 de dezembro de 2012

Crematística e Economia


Crematística é a busca incessante por dinheiro, por acumulação de riqueza. Foi definida por Aristóteles. Será que é nisto que se tornou a economia, podemos definir a economia como a busca incessante por dinheiro? Tenho certeza que muitos economistas, especialmente aqueles do mercado financeiro, achariam uma boa definição, afinal o que importa é ganhar cada vez mais e ser o mais rico. Parecem o Gollum do filme Senhor dos Anéis (foto acima).

Abaixo vai um texto de Anthony Esolen da revista Crisis Magazine, costumo gostar muito dos textos dele. Neste artigo ele menciona crematística para discutir a importância do casamento.

Healthy Societies Need Successful Marriages

The great error of most economic thinking these days is not that it is too keenly focused on the economy, but that it has all but forgotten it.  A good friend of mine, a wise theologian, has encouraged his students to distinguish between what Aristotle calls chrematistics, the craft of amassing wealth, which Aristotle viewed with a healthy suspicion, and economics, the laws governing the management of an oikos, a household.  Another way to put this is that man is not made for an economy, but economy is made for man, who is ineluctably a social being, or, as Aristotle put it, a political being.

Aristotle did not mean that man is made for the ridiculous charade of self-government that we Americans enjoy every four years, with its heaves of moronic marketing, evasion, and dishonesty. Aristotle is the pagan with the flat feet. He stands squarely on the ground of common things. A political animal is a rational creature who thrives best within a polis, a smallish community of people who do not suffer edicts from afar, but who adjust their civil laws to the laws of man’s nature, to secure amongst themselves the common good.

There’s a nice analogy to draw, between mass politics which overwhelms the polis, along with its ally in mass “economics” or chrematistics whether of the left or the right, which ignores what man is made for, and society properly conceived, fashioned by healthy and thriving households.  Catholic Social Teaching will not allow us the ease of abstraction, as if “society” could denote any aggregate of human beings organized (or disorganized) according to any financial and, for want of a better word, political laws whatsoever.  In short, a society must be social—it must be based upon the human good of friendship and what the medieval English called “neighborhood,” meaning the virtue of getting along with and assisting those among whom we live most closely.  An economy, too, must be economic—it must be based on the good of households, and must aim, though in sometimes an intricate or circuitous way, at that same good.

We cannot make any headway understanding the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII unless we keep these things firmly in mind.  The Pope’s teachings on the nature of man, his eternal destiny, the sanctity of marriage, the good of the family, and social and economic justice are all one coherent and harmonious vision.  So then let us turn to his encyclical on Christian marriage, Arcanum divinae (1880), for this too is eminently a social letter.

Leo begins by observing that Christ came among us, as Saint Paul says, “to re-establish all things” in Him—all things, not just the Sunday things, as it were.  Just as, in Aeterni patris, Leo affirmed the assistance that faith lends to reason, elevating it to heights it could never have scaled on its own, while reason in turn clarifies faith and protects it from lapsing into error, so too this new instauration in Christ “imparted a new form and fresh beauty to all things, taking away the effects of their time-worn age.”  That refreshment came in the order of nature, too, redounding to the good of nations and families.  “The authority of rulers,” he writes, “became more just and revered; the obedience of the people more ready and unforced; the union of citizens closer; the rights of dominion more secure.”  Indeed, the Christian faith could hardly have done more to procure the truly good things of a common life, had it been instituted solely for that purpose.

Such is the context for Leo’s discussion of marriage—and marriage, in turn, is the context for his economic and political thinking. The first thing he insists upon is that marriage is not a human creation, much less a creation of the State, but is of divine origin. Its fruition is not in the satisfaction of individual desires, as potent or as harmless as some of those may be. It is, because it is divine, by necessity oriented towards the being of God Himself. Its fruitfulness participates in His creative bounty. Its unity reflects the inner life of love that is the Trinity. Its exclusivity and perpetuity reflect His faithfulness and His eternity.

When Jesus teaches us that the two great commandments are like unto one another, we are apt to remember that we cannot love God aright unless we love our neighbor; but apt to forget that our love of neighbor cannot be divorced from the love we owe to God. If, then, we sin against marriage, demoting it to the status of a contract, which in pagan times could be abrogated by the husband at a whim (and which now can be so abrogated by either party), we sin against God and neighbor both. We sow dissolution in what should be a society but degenerates into a mass, an aggregate, a confounding of wills.

Thus, according to Leo, it was an act of the highest mercy and justice at once, when Jesus blessed marriage at Cana, and went on to bring back “matrimony to the nobility of its primeval origin,” in his role as “supreme Lawgiver.”  We misread things if we assume that only a prohibition against divorce is involved.  The marriage of man and woman, grounded in their biological, earthly nature, is divine in origin and end; it is the sphere in which most of us will be called to holiness, with a procreation both physical and spiritual: “By the command of Christ, [marriage] not only looks to the propagation of the human race, but to the bringing forth of children for the Church, fellow-citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God (Eph. 2:19).”  Leo is ever at pains to show that the Church does for the State what the State cannot well do for itself: she makes citizens of the city of God, citizens who make for something like a just city here below.

If we consider the matter carefully, we see not only that Christian marriage is the foundation for a genuine society.  It is a society in itself, and a model for the society at large.   Thus when Leo describes the inner dynamic of a Christian marriage, it is in social terms.  “The mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined,” he writes, “and their several rights accurately established.  They are bound, namely, to have such feelings for one another as to cherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help.”  The key words here are mutual and several.  They have profound implications for all genuine Catholic teaching on the just society.

We have almost lost the sense of gift implied by the word mutual.  For us, it means that if John does something, then Mary does the same, and so on, until the end of time.  We take it to imply a flat identity.  But the inner meaning of the word involves an exchange of gifts, a reciprocity that is not arithmetical but human.  Thus the mutuality of the love between husband and wife is implied in their several or separate, distinct duties.  It is precisely because the husband and wife are not the same in their mode of being human and even in their physical relations to one another that they can most fully embody the complete gift of self that love demands.  Each complements the other; each completes the other, and this completion is not subjective but an objective, incarnate fact.  The two are one flesh.  The man is for the woman, the woman for the man, and both, as individuals and as a married couple, are for God.

From Christian marriages, says Leo, “the State may rightly expect a race of citizens animated by a good spirit and filled with reverence and love for God, recognizing in it their duty to obey those who rule justly and lawfully, to love all, and to injure no one.”  What, by contrast, might we expect from an anti-society of self-will and divorce?  For some hedonists delight in riches, and others delight in sex, and still others in prestige or ease or hectic excitements.  Leo won’t mince words.  When Christian marriage is deprecated, man sinks “into the slavery of [his] vicious nature and vile passions,” and nothing, says Leo, “has such power to lay waste families and destroy the mainstay of kingdoms as the corruption of morals.”  Or are we to believe that men who are shameless and shiftless in the most intimate and most socially productive of human relations will, in any great numbers, be animated by civic responsibility and love of neighbor in their other public actions, where their duties are less clear, and the opportunities for self-serving almost limitless?

Every sin against marriage is a sin against the very possibility of any kind of society at all.  Every Christian marriage begun in purity and continued in faithfulness and duty and love is an exemplar for all social relations, and allows us to imagine something better than the loneliness of self-will “wedded,” in ghastly symbiosis, to the inhumanity of economics without households, and a state without citizens.

segunda-feira, 3 de dezembro de 2012

Capitalismo protege Ricos, assim com o Socialismo

Publiquei este post originalmente no meu outro blog (Thyself, O Lord), porque o assunto ultrapassa a questão econômica.

Um dos maiores defeitos do capitalismo, o socialismo não oferece cura, é a defesa ados privilegiados. Há sempre uma turma de privilegiados nos dois modos de produção. Os dois gráficos abaixo mostram este defeito do capitalismo.

Os Estados Unidos estão em crise desde 2008, o pais mantém uma taxa de desemprego próxima de 8%, o que está bem acima da média hsitórica do país, a dívida pública já é maior do que o PIB (Obama pegou o estoque da dívida em 10 trilhões e aumentou em 6 trilhões em menos de quatro anos), e o crescimento econômico é vacilante (por volta de 1,5%). Obama tem uma pívia média de crescimento econômico nos anos de seu governo. Além disso, a capacidade de negociação do Obama com o Congresso é medíocre, e o país corre o risco de enfrentar o chamado "abismo fiscal" (aumento de impostos e corte de gastos) no próximo ano, se eles não entrarem em um acordo este mês.

Mas com todo este cenário, o lucro das empresas bate recorde de alta nos Estados Unidos, enquanto a participação dos salários na economia americana bate recorde de baixa. Isto é, as empresas estão protegendo suas margens de lucro da crise econômica, enquanto demitem gente.

É o que mostram os dois gráficos do site Business Insider.

1) Lucro das empresas sobre PIB

2) Participação dos salários na economia:

O capitalismo sozinho não cura a pobreza, há necessidade de que questões morais e sociais sejam executadas pelas pessoas. Não devem ser impostas pelo governo, pois isso provoca apenas a fuga das empresas e se cria um novo grupo de privilegiados. É uma questão de educação e moral cristã.

(Agradeço os dois gráficos ao site New Advent)

domingo, 2 de dezembro de 2012

Como nasceu o Euro?


Texto de Raymond Zhong no Wall Street Jorunal recomenda o livro acima de Harold James, que fala do processo de formação da União Européia. Pareceu bem interessante pelas vertentes política e cultural que parecem conter o livro.

Leiam o texto de Zhong abaixo:

Follow the Money 

The euro was the product of more than a dozen committees and governmental bodies that met hundreds of times over a period of 40 years. Each involved representatives of as many as 12 European nation-states, many of which had met each other in battle not long before. A single currency wasn't the project's original objective, as Harold James notes in his meticulous account of their deliberations, and as Europe crept its way toward the introduction of the euro in 1999, policy makers' steely resolve to build a new continent ran up against their inability to get along. Reading "Making the European Monetary Union," it seems miraculous that anything came out of the process at all.

Mr. James, a historian at Princeton, begins with the 1957 creation of the European Economic Community (EEC), a customs union between six Western European states, and concludes with the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which set the stage for a common currency. But the impetus for European monetary integration began earlier. Under the Bretton Woods system, created in 1944 as the basis of a postwar monetary order, participant countries were obliged to accumulate reserves to maintain a stable exchange rate against the U.S. dollar. Washington thus enjoyed the "exorbitant privilege," as French finance minister Valéry Giscard d'Estaing called it in 1965, of using monetary policy to stimulate its domestic economy while partner countries were forced to match the flood of dollars with monetary expansion of their own, in order to prevent speculative runs on their currencies.

At the same time, economic imbalances within Europe produced tensions among member countries. West Germany became an industrial power in the late 1950s and began to run persistent current-account surpluses. This forced its trading partners to apply fiscal brakes to defend the value of their currencies. Such measures were anathema in free-spending France—a rift that divides Europe still. Mr. James quotes Raymond Barre, the French vice president of the EEC Commission, advising Germany to take "energetic measures for speedier growth and the stimulation of imports." That was in 1968, but it could easily be today.

A series of crises in the EEC provoked experiments in integration. Inflation in the 1970s, after the Bretton Woods regime crumbled, convinced European leaders that monetary policy could be a stabilizing force. In 1979, after an attempt at loosely linking European exchange rates failed, the European Monetary System was introduced, in which a weighted basket of European currencies served as the unit of account. But this too fell prey to speculative attacks, as markets doubted that squabbling politicians could hold the system together.

By the end of the 1980s, European decision makers concluded that the internal anchor of price stability was more easily enforced than the external anchor of exchange rates. Germany's central bankers had held such hard-money values all along, of course, and Mr. James's book allows one to see that the overarching narrative of the half-century is one of the intellectual tide across Europe moving in the Bundesbank's direction. The Spanish and Italian governments had come to see monetary union—and the attendant interest-rate convergence with Germany—as a way to save money on their borrowing costs. François Mitterrand ceded the French Republic's grip on the Banque de France once he realized that Paris could exercise political influence over European monetary policy only from within the new, "Germanic" system. It was a conversion, not a surrender.

The value of "Making the European Monetary Union" is in showing how these ideological swerves played out in real meeting rooms, with real finance ministers, central bankers and heads of government. Commissioned by the Bank for International Settlements and the European Central Bank (ECB), the book benefits from unprecedented access to both institutions' archives. Mr. James's fly-on-the-wall accounts of committee meetings and central-bank deliberations offer illuminating detail about how the precise wording of important agreements came to be decided.

A 1990 meeting of the EEC Monetary Committee, for instance, saw a debate on whether it should be an "objective" of the new system of European central banks to "preserve the integrity of the financial system." Bundesbank board member Hans Tietmeyer said it should be a "task," not an "objective." Eventually it was agreed, at Germany's urging, that the new system wouldn't act as a classical lender of last resort. "Preserve" became "support"; "integrity" became "stability." In the final ECB statute, Article 3 "tasks" the central banks "to promote the smooth operation of payment systems."

Europe finally agreed to go ahead with a single currency and a single monetary policy in 1992. "The most fundamental problems of European coordination—exchange rate and monetary policy issues—were solved as it were by the waving of a wand," Mr. James writes. But were they really? European borrowing costs of course converged under the ECB's single monetary policy. The question ought to have been why: Did banks and investors in the 2000s buy Spanish debt at German rates because they expected Spain's economy to become more like Germany's—or because they expected the euro zone to bail Spain out in the event of a crisis? As it turned out, payments imbalances that previously showed up in exchange rates and central-bank reserves instead showed up as misdirected investment: blowout public spending in Greece and Portugal, housing bubbles in Spain and Ireland. Europe failed to enforce its fiscal rules simply because it was "hard to imagine that balance-of-payments problems would arise in a monetary union," Mr. James writes.

"Making the European Monetary Union" is a book for wonks. Anyone not already well-versed in economics will find it hard going. But Mr. James has produced a valuable companion to today's headlines, a comprehensive primer on how Europe got to its unhappy state. My take-away is that the highly imperfect euro that resulted may be the only euro that a politically dysfunctional and economically unbalanced Europe could have produced. Reading the book is like watching a horror film whose ending you know in advance. At every turn, you want to cry out, Stop!


segunda-feira, 26 de novembro de 2012

"Doutrina Católica para Justificar Gastança Pública é como usar Michelangelo para justificar Pornografia"


Gostei muito deste texto de Anthony Esolen publicado na Crisis Magazine:

Catholic Social Teaching: It’s Time to End the Misrepresentations

Imagine someone appealing to Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, to justify the activities of gangs in Los Angeles. Why not?  Lord Baden-Powell wanted boys to do risky things, and what’s more dangerous than running guns or smuggling cocaine or fighting another gang in a shooting spree?  He enjoined upon the Scouts a stern code of honor and loyalty, and who is more loyal than a new recruit for the Crips?  Who is more willing to shed his blood for the honor of the gang?

Imagine someone appealing to Michelangelo to justify porn.  Why not?  Michelangelo painted nudes all over the Sistine Chapel, and Hustler and Penthouse are full of nudes.  Michelangelo endured the disgruntlement of the prudish, so that the figures in his Last Judgment were later provided with discreet veils and tunics and loincloths.  And aren’t Hustler and Penthouse stuck underneath the counter at convenience stores?  Michelangelo admired the sculpture of ancient Greece; those ancient Greeks, for their part, traded in vases depicting acts of pedophilia.  So why should a busy stockbroker in a hotel not be allowed to relax in front of a television, watching whatever delights his sophisticated tastes?

Imagine someone appealing to Florence Nightingale to justify doctor-dosed suicide.  She wanted to relieve suffering, didn’t she?  Imagine someone appealing to Saint Francis of Assisi to justify looting for fun and profit.  His heart was with the poor, no?  Imagine someone appealing to Saint Catherine of Siena to justify the modern feminist.  Why, Saint Catherine dared to rebuke cardinals and popes!

Imagine a lawyer returning his fee when he loses a case; imagine a television pundit suddenly admitting that he doesn’t know what he is talking about; imagine a Hollywood starlet speaking English; imagine the Cubs winning the World Series; imagine anything most absurd, and you have not yet approached the absurdity of those who claim that Catholic Social Teaching implies the existence of a vast welfare state, bureaucratically organized, unanswerable to the people, undermining families, rewarding lust and sloth and envy, acknowledging no virtue, providing no personal care, punishing women who take care of their children at home, whisking the same children away from parental supervision and into schools designed to separate them from their parents’ views of the world, and, for all that, keeping whole segments of the population mired in a cycle of dysfunction, moral squalor, and poverty, while purchasing their votes with money squeezed by force from their neighbors.

I’m sick of it.  I’m sick of hearing that Catholic teaching regarding sex and marriage is one thing, in that old-fashioned trinket box over there, while Catholic teaching regarding stewardship and our duties to the poor is another thing, on that marble pedestal over here.  I’m sick of hearing that Catholic teaching regarding the Church and her authority is one thing, the embarrassing Latinate red-edged tome tucked away in that closet, while Catholic teaching regarding the laity is another, and pass that bread this way!  No, it is all of a piece.  What the Church says about divorce is inextricable from what she says about the poor.  What she says about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is inextricable from what she says about the respects in which all men are created equal—and the many respects in which she insists upon a salutary inequality.  When we fail to see the integrity of the faith, not only do certain truths escape our notice; the rest, the truths we think we see, grow monstrous, like cancers, and work to destroy the flesh they once seemed to replace.
Pope Leo XIII is credited as being the founder of Catholic Social Teaching.  He would have been appalled by the credit.  He intended nothing other than to apply to current concerns what Jesus taught his apostles and what they handed down to their successors.  His thoughts prescind not from the nature of the spanking new modern state, nor from social advances sometimes more apparent than real, but from the changeless nature of man, discoverable both by reason and by humble attention to the revealed word of God.  Leo never supposed that one could devise any Social Teaching without understanding what a society is to begin with, which requires that we understand what human beings are, and why they are—for what end God made them, male and female, in His image and likeness.  Leo surveys the world from the mountaintop of the faith—not from the mercurial ingenuity of a vain scholar, or the meddlesome pride of an innovator.

In this series, I shall discuss exactly what Pope Leo XIII had to say, when the name of “socialism” first burst upon the ear, and apply it to current controversies and miseries.  His words sting like the first antiseptics, carbolic acid and iodine.  They sting, but they cleanse.  Or perhaps we should prefer to lay honey to our wounds?

Let’s begin at the beginning, with Inscrutabili (1878).  Here Leo inveighs against a radical secularism which seeks, by calumny, to bring the Church of God into odium, resulting in laws that obstruct bishops in their duties, and confiscate “property that was once the support of the Church’s ministers and of the poor.”  That confiscation detaches “public institutions, vowed to charity and benevolence, … from the wholesome control of the Church.”  Leo sees the connection between this seizure and a spreading amoralism among the young, whose education is also removed from the Church’s purview.

Note that well.  It is a gross violation of the Church’s Social Teaching, to wrest her schools from her direction.  Do you hear, Catholics of Ontario?  It is a gross violation of the Church’s Social Teaching, to demand that she cooperate in the State’s evil of the day if she is to continue to exercise charity for the poor and the orphaned.  Are you listening, Catholics of Massachusetts?  It is a gross violation of the Church’s Social Teaching, to suborn her institutions to assist the state in perverting the natural law, severing sex from marriage and snuffing out the life of the newly conceived.  Do you understand that principle, Americans first and nominal Catholics later?  The Church claims her liberty.  Deny her that liberty, and you will soon find the chains chafing your own wrists.  Begin as nominally Catholic, end as nominally free.

Don’t suppose that the Pope is merely grumbling.  He knows that one cannot build anything upon the secularist sands: “It is perfectly clear and evident, Venerable Brothers, that the very notion of a civilization is a fiction of the brain if it rest not on the abiding principles of truth and the unchanging laws of virtue and justice, and if unfeigned love knit not together the wills of men, and gently control the interchange and the character of their mutual service.”

Let’s pause a moment, catch our breath, and think hard about what he’s just said.  Catholics often hear that we intend to “impose our morality” upon our neighbors, and that this can’t be done in a truly free, that is to say thoroughly secular society.  Set aside the plain fact that all law imposes a moral vision, though it is seldom consistent or adequate, and it is sometimes perverse.  The fact is, morality admits no peculiar possessives.  If a morality is only mine, it isn’t morality but meaningless predilection.  Either a moral law exists, applying to everyone at all times, or it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t, there is no moral reason to prefer civilization to savagery; the latter can be a lot more fun.  But we won’t have that choice anyway, because we will lose civilization itself.  What we now call “civilization” and “culture,” Pope Leo calls “a fiction of the brain,” a vain idea, when the reality is gone.

That loss of morality understood as what we receive, not what we create; not what shackles us, but what sets us free to realize our human potential, implies already the loss of “unfeigned love” which should knit together “the wills of men, and gently control the interchange and the character of their mutual service.”  We must insist upon this connection.  I cannot give amoral love.  But human beings need love; they need the love that brings them deeper into the truth.

An unmarried friend of mine is with child.  That’s not good.  But the child needs love, and the mother and father need to return to a world of moral law—the real world, not the fantasy islands of hedonism.  They too need love.  That’s where the Church and the faithful Christian come in.  So we do, if we’re given half a chance!  It is calumny to say that we care only about fetuses and not about families.  But the secular state cares for neither.  The secular state is an amoral cash extractor and dispenser.  If the mother repeats the wrong, more money comes.  If she and the father try to right the wrong by marrying, they risk losing the money.  She can leave the child fatherless and, most of the day, motherless by going to work, and the state will pay.  None of this is oriented towards virtue.  Therefore none of it is really social; no more than rust is steel.

Does Catholic Social Teaching mandate such a thing?  Do architects build with rust?

segunda-feira, 22 de outubro de 2012

A Visão Católica Chegou no FMI?


O analista do The Telegraph chamou isto de 'O Plano para Eliminar as Dívidas e Destronar os Banqueiros".

Ele está falando de um paper do FMI que diz que a solução para a crise é o governo retomar o controle do dinheiro, elimando dos bancos a capacidade de criar dinheiro do nada.

Ué, eu já li esta proposta várias vezes dentro do Distributismo.

Leiam o texto de Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

IMF's epic plan to conjure away debt and dethrone bankers

One could slash private debt by 100pc of GDP, boost growth, stabilize prices, and dethrone bankers all at the same time. It could be done cleanly and painlessly, by legislative command, far more quickly than anybody imagined.

The conjuring trick is to replace our system of private bank-created money -- roughly 97pc of the money supply -- with state-created money. We return to the historical norm, before Charles II placed control of the money supply in private hands with the English Free Coinage Act of 1666.

Specifically, it means an assault on "fractional reserve banking". If lenders are forced to put up 100pc reserve backing for deposits, they lose the exorbitant privilege of creating money out of thin air.

The nation regains sovereign control over the money supply. There are no more banks runs, and fewer boom-bust credit cycles. Accounting legerdemain will do the rest. That at least is the argument.

Some readers may already have seen the IMF study, by Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof, which came out in August and has begun to acquire a cult following around the world.

Entitled "The Chicago Plan Revisited", it revives the scheme first put forward by professors Henry Simons and Irving Fisher in 1936 during the ferment of creative thinking in the late Depression.

Irving Fisher thought credit cycles led to an unhealthy concentration of wealth. He saw it with his own eyes in the early 1930s as creditors foreclosed on destitute farmers, seizing their land or buying it for a pittance at the bottom of the cycle.

The farmers found a way of defending themselves in the end. They muscled together at "one dollar auctions", buying each other's property back for almost nothing. Any carpet-bagger who tried to bid higher was beaten to a pulp.
Benes and Kumhof argue that credit-cycle trauma - caused by private money creation - dates deep into history and lies at the root of debt jubilees in the ancient religions of Mesopotian and the Middle East.
Harvest cycles led to systemic defaults thousands of years ago, with forfeiture of collateral, and concentration of wealth in the hands of lenders. These episodes were not just caused by weather, as long thought. They were amplified by the effects of credit.

The Athenian leader Solon implemented the first known Chicago Plan/New Deal in 599 BC to relieve farmers in hock to oligarchs enjoying private coinage. He cancelled debts, restituted lands seized by creditors, set floor-prices for commodities (much like Franklin Roosevelt), and consciously flooded the money supply with state-issued "debt-free" coinage.

The Romans sent a delegation to study Solon's reforms 150 years later and copied the ideas, setting up their own fiat money system under Lex Aternia in 454 BC.

It is a myth - innocently propagated by the great Adam Smith - that money developed as a commodity-based or gold-linked means of exchange. Gold was always highly valued, but that is another story. Metal-lovers often conflate the two issues.

Anthropological studies show that social fiat currencies began with the dawn of time. The Spartans banned gold coins, replacing them with iron disks of little intrinsic value. The early Romans used bronze tablets. Their worth was entirely determined by law - a doctrine made explicit by Aristotle in his Ethics - like the dollar, the euro, or sterling today.

Some argue that Rome began to lose its solidarity spirit when it allowed an oligarchy to develop a private silver-based coinage during the Punic Wars. Money slipped control of the Senate. You could call it Rome's shadow banking system. Evidence suggests that it became a machine for elite wealth accumulation.
Unchallenged sovereign or Papal control over currencies persisted through the Middle Ages until England broke the mould in 1666. Benes and Kumhof say this was the start of the boom-bust era.

One might equally say that this opened the way to England's agricultural revolution in the early 18th Century, the industrial revolution soon after, and the greatest economic and technological leap ever seen. But let us not quibble.

The original authors of the Chicago Plan were responding to the Great Depression. They believed it was possible to prevent the social havoc caused by wild swings from boom to bust, and to do so without crimping economic dynamism.

The benign side-effect of their proposals would be a switch from national debt to national surplus, as if by magic. "Because under the Chicago Plan banks have to borrow reserves from the treasury to fully back liabilities, the government acquires a very large asset vis-à-vis banks. Our analysis finds that the government is left with a much lower, in fact negative, net debt burden."

The IMF paper says total liabilities of the US financial system - including shadow banking - are about 200pc of GDP. The new reserve rule would create a windfall. This would be used for a "potentially a very large, buy-back of private debt", perhaps 100pc of GDP.

While Washington would issue much more fiat money, this would not be redeemable. It would be an equity of the commonwealth, not debt.

The key of the Chicago Plan was to separate the "monetary and credit functions" of the banking system. "The quantity of money and the quantity of credit would become completely independent of each other."
Private lenders would no longer be able to create new deposits "ex nihilo". New bank credit would have to be financed by retained earnings.

"The control of credit growth would become much more straightforward because banks would no longer be able, as they are today, to generate their own funding, deposits, in the act of lending, an extraordinary privilege that is not enjoyed by any other type of business," says the IMF paper.

"Rather, banks would become what many erroneously believe them to be today, pure intermediaries that depend on obtaining outside funding before being able to lend."

The US Federal Reserve would take real control over the money supply for the first time, making it easier to manage inflation. It was precisely for this reason that Milton Friedman called for 100pc reserve backing in 1967. Even the great free marketeer implicitly favoured a clamp-down on private money.

The switch would engender a 10pc boost to long-arm economic output. "None of these benefits come at the expense of diminishing the core useful functions of a private financial system."

Simons and Fisher were flying blind in the 1930s. They lacked the modern instruments needed to crunch the numbers, so the IMF team has now done it for them -- using the `DSGE' stochastic model now de rigueur in high economics, loved and hated in equal measure.

The finding is startling. Simons and Fisher understated their claims. It is perhaps possible to confront the banking plutocracy head without endangering the economy.

Benes and Kumhof make large claims. They leave me baffled, to be honest. Readers who want the technical details can make their own judgement by studying the text here.

The IMF duo have supporters. Professor Richard Werner from Southampton University - who coined the term quantitative easing (QE) in the 1990s -- testified to Britain's Vickers Commission that a switch to state-money would have major welfare gains. He was backed by the campaign group Positive Money and the New Economics Foundation.

The theory also has strong critics. Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research says banks are in a sense already being forced to increase reserves by EU rules, Basel III rules, and gold-plated variants in the UK. The effect has been to choke lending to the private sector.

He argues that is the chief reason why the world economy remains stuck in near-slump, and why central banks are having to cushion the shock with QE.

"If you enacted this plan, it would devastate bank profits and cause a massive deflationary disaster. There would have to do `QE squared' to offset it," he said.

The result would be a huge shift in bank balance sheets from private lending to government securities. This happened during World War Two, but that was the anomalous cost of defeating Fascism.

To do this on a permanent basis in peace-time would be to change in the nature of western capitalism. "People wouldn't be able to get money from banks. There would be huge damage to the efficiency of the economy," he said.

Arguably, it would smother freedom and enthrone a Leviathan state. It might be even more irksome in the long run than rule by bankers.

Personally, I am a long way from reaching an conclusion in this extraordinary debate. Let it run, and let us all fight until we flush out the arguments.

One thing is sure. The City of London will have great trouble earning its keep if any variant of the Chicago Plan ever gains wide support.

quarta-feira, 5 de setembro de 2012

Economia do Desejo: Cristianismo e Capitalismo


Foi lançado o livro The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World, de Daniel M. Bell.

Muito interessante. O site Center for Law and Religion Forum relata que:

Bell engages the work of two important postmodern philosophers, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, to illuminate the nature of the postmodern world that the church currently inhabits. He considers how the global economy deforms desire in a manner that distorts human relations with God and one another. In contrast, he presents Christianity and the tradition of the works of mercy as a way beyond capitalism and socialism, beyond philanthropy and welfare. Christianity heals desire, renewing human relations and enabling communion with God. This book will work well for courses in theology and ethics, philosophical theology, discipleship, and Christianity and culture. Pastors and church leaders will also find it enlightening.

Este eu vou comprar.

terça-feira, 21 de agosto de 2012

Padre Barron e os dois pilares da Doutrina Social da Igreja


O grande padre Robert Barron, o homem que nos conduziu na grande série Catholicism e que costuma tecer opniões no seu site Word on Fire, escreve um artigo sobre os dois pilares do pensamento social da Igreja Católica: subsidiaridade e solidaridade, para o site Real Clear Religion, relacionando este assunto com a escolha do católico Paul Ryan para candidato a vice-presidente na chapa de Mitt Romney, contra Obama.

Texto abaixo:

The Great Bi-Polar Catholicism

By Father Robert Barron

For many on the left, Paul Ryan is a menace, the very embodiment of cold, indifferent Republicanism, and for many on the right, he is a knight in shining armor, a God-fearing advocate of a principled conservatism.

Mitt Romney's choice of Ryan as running mate has already triggered the worst kind of exaggerated hoo-hah on both sides of the political debate. What is most interesting, from my perspective, is that Ryan, a devout Catholic, has claimed the social doctrine of the Church as the principal inspiration for his policies. Whether you stand with First Things and affirm that such a claim is coherent or with Commonweal and affirm that it is absurd, Ryan's assertion prompts a healthy thinking-through of Catholic social teaching in the present economic and political context.

Ryan himself has correctly identified two principles as foundational for Catholic social thought, namely subsidiarity and solidarity. The first, implied throughout the whole of Catholic social theory but given clearest expression in Pope Pius XI's encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, is that in the adjudication of matters political and economic, a preferential option should be given to the more local level of authority.

For example, when seeking to solve a traffic-flow issue in a suburb, appeal should be made to the municipal authority and not to the governor, even less to the Congress or the President. Only when a satisfactory solution is not achieved by the local government should one move to the next highest level of authority, etc.

This principle by no means calls into question the legitimacy of an over-arching federal power (something you sense in the more extreme advocates of the Tea Party), but it does indeed involve a prejudice in favor of the local. The principle of subsidiarity is implied in much of the "small is beautiful" movement as well as in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, which exhibits a steady mistrust of imperial power and a steady sympathy for the local, the neighborhood, the small business.

Now in Catholic social theory, subsidiarity is balanced by solidarity, which is to say, a keen sense of the common good, of the natural and supernatural connections that bind us to one another, of our responsibility for each other. I vividly remember former New York Governor Mario Cuomo's speech  before the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco in 1984, in the course of which he effectively lampooned the idea that individual self-interest set utterly free would automatically redound to the general welfare.

Catholic social thought does indeed stand athwart such "invisible hand" theorizing. It also recognizes that, always in accord with subsidiarity, sometimes the federal and state governments are the legitimate vehicles by which social solidarity is achieved. Does anyone today, outside of the most extreme circles, really advocate the repeal of Social Security, unemployment compensation, medical benefits for the elderly, food stamp programs, etc.?

Solidarity without subsidiarity can easily devolve into a kind of totalitarianism whereby "justice" is achieved either through outright manipulation and intimidation or through more subtle forms of social engineering. But subsidiarity without solidarity can result in a society marked by rampant individualism, a Gordon Gekko "greed is good" mentality, and an Ayn Rand/Nietzschean "objectivism" that positively celebrates the powerful person's dominance of the weak.

Catholic social theory involves the subtle balancing of these two great principles so as to avoid these two characteristic pitfalls. It does, for example, consistently advocate the free market, entrepreneurial enterprise, profit-making; and it holds out against all forms of Marxism and extreme socialism. But it also insists that the market be circumscribed by clear moral imperatives and that the wealthy realize their sacred obligation to aid the less advantaged. This last point is worth developing.

Thomas Aquinas teaches that ownership of private property is to be allowed but that the usus (the use) of that privately held wealth must be directed toward the common good. This is because all of the earth and its goods belong, finally, to God and must therefore be used according to God's purpose. Pope Leo XIII made this principle uncomfortably concrete when he specified, in regard to wealth, that once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest of what one owns belongs to the poor. And in saying that, he was echoing an observation of John Chrysostom: " If you have two shirts in your closet, one belongs to you; the other belongs to the man who has no shirt."

In his wonderful Orthodoxy, written over a hundred years ago but still remarkably relevant today, G.K. Chesterton said that Catholicism is marked  through and through by the great both/and principle. Jesus is both divine and human. He is not one or the other; nor is he some bland mixture of the two; rather, he is emphatically one and emphatically the other. In a similar way, the Church is radically devoted to this world and radically devoted to the world to come. In the celibacy of its priests, it is totally against having children, and in the fruitful marriage of its lay people, it is totally for having children.

In its social teaching, this same sort of "bi-polar extremism" is on display. Solidarity? The Church is all for it. Subsidiarity? The Church couldn't be more enthusiastic about it. Not one or the other, nor some bland compromise between the two, but both, advocated with equal vigor. I think it would be wise for everyone to keep this peculiarly Catholic balance in mind as the debate over Paul Ryan's policies unfolds.

Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary. 

terça-feira, 14 de agosto de 2012

Hoje é dia do Patrono do Blog


Hoje comemora-se o dia de São Maximiliano Kolbe, o homem do Bloco 11, Cela 18, que se ofereceu para morrer de fome no lugar de um pai em Auschwitz, há 71 anos (14 de agosto de 1941).

Este blog nasceu no dia que visitei a cela dele, onde João Paulo II colocou flores.

Que São Maximiliano me ajude na minha caminhada e nas caminhadas dos amigos deste pequeno blog dedicado à economia.

Vejam o relato do Rome Reports, abaixo.

August 14, 2012. (Romereports.com) August 14 is the feast day of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe. His given name was Raymond but upon entering the Franciscan seminary he changed it to Maximilian. He was born in the small Polish village of Zdunska Wola on January 8, 1894.

He is admired for the heroic gesture of offering his life to save the life of a parent. It happened on August 3, 1941 at the Auschwitz concentration camp when a prisoner escaped, ten others were sentenced to death. Seeing that one of those sentenced to die was a father, Maximilian volunteered to take his place. His request was granted and was sentenced to death by starvation. He died on August 14, 1941.

The father that was saved by Maximilian noted that he “not only died a saint, but also lived as a saint”. During his last days spent in prison, Maximilian still found a way to celebrate Mass.

In 1917 he launched the “Militia of the Immaculate,” an association of the faithful dedicated to his return to Poland. He also helped create different magazines as well as two religious communities known as “cities of the Immaculate,” one in Poland and one in Japan.
He was a saint, who as John Paul II once said, “did not suffer in death, but gave the gift of life”.

terça-feira, 7 de agosto de 2012

Standard Chartered e o Irã


Hoje foi anunciado que o principal órgão regulador do mercado financeiro de Nova York acusou o banco britânico Standard Chartered de administrar de forma inidônia, de ser um "banco pária" (rogue bank). Standard Chartered é acusado de ocultar na sua contabilidade mais de US$ 250 bilhões em transações irregulares com o Irã. O Banco nega, mas caso seja verdade o envolvimento do banco com o Irã, um estado que financia o terrorismo, pode deixar no chão o relacionamento que foi descrito aqui anteriormente entre o HSBC e o terrorismo e os chefões das drogas. Além do Irã, há indícios de relacionamento criminoso entre o Standard Chartered e Líbia, Burma e Sudão.

Vejam o texto da BBC.

Standard Chartered bank 'in $250bn scheme with Iran'

The New York State Department of Financial Services said that the bank hid 60,000 secret transactions for "Iranian financial institutions" that were subject to US economic sanctions.
It labelled UK-based Standard Chartered a "rogue institution".
The bank has been threatened with having its US banking licence revoked.
The allegations are far larger than those involving HSBC, which was recently accused by the US Senate of failing to prevent money laundering from countries around the world including Mexico and Iran. It has set aside $700m to deal with any fines and penalties arising from those allegations.
The bank is ordered to appear before the regulator soon to "explain these apparent violations of law" from 2001 to 2010.
The regulator also said that it would hold a formal hearing over the "assessment of monetary penalties".
"If the allegations are proven true, it does show there was a systematic policy in place to strip these wires of the necessary information," Farhad Alavi, a lawyer at BHFA Law Group in Washington DC, told the BBC.
"Because the transactions have to pass through the US [because they are in US dollars] this is one area where the US can exert its power."

Other schemes found
The regulator also said it had uncovered evidence with respect to what are apparently similar schemes to conduct business with other countries under sanctions - Libya, Burma and Sudan.
"Investigation of these additional matters is ongoing," it added.
The regulator said that its nine-month probe, which involved looking through more than 30,000 pages of documents, including internal Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) emails, showed that the bank reaped "hundreds of millions of dollars in fees".
"SCB's actions left the US financial system vulnerable to terrorists, weapons dealers, drug kingpins and corrupt regimes, and deprived law enforcement investigators of crucial information used to track all manner of criminal activity," it said.

'Staggering cover-up'
The bank was also accused of falsifying SWIFT wire payment directions by stripping the message of unwanted data that showed the clients were Iranian, replacing it with false entries.
Senior management were also said to have codified their illegal procedures in formal operating manuals, including one labelled "Quality Operating Procedure Iranian Bank Processing".
"It provided step-by-step wire stripping instructions for any payment messages containing information that would identify Iranian clients," the complaint said.
In numerous emails going back as far as 1995, the bank's lawyers advised on ways to go about circumventing US sanctions.
In March 2001, Standard Chartered's legal advisor counselled that "our payment instructions [for Iranian clients] should not identify the client or the purpose of the payment".
By 2006, there were concerns raised about the bank's conduct in its New York branch.
The chief executive for the Americas sent an email to London saying the programme needs to "evaluate if its returns and strategic benefits are... still commensurate with the potential to cause very serious or even catastrophic reputational damage to the group".
But those warnings were ignored by senior management in London in what the regulator called a "staggering cover-up".
'Obvious contempt' Iran has been subject to US economic sanctions since 1979, and the laws were toughened by Executive Orders signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 over US dollar transactions with Iran.
The US-dollar transactions in question originated and terminated in European banks in the UK and the Middle East, and were cleared through its New York branch, the complaint said.

Among the violations of the law, the bank is accused of:
  • falsifying business records
  • failing to maintain accurate books and records
  • failing to report misconduct to the regulator in a timely manner
  • evading Federal sanctions
In the 27-page complaint, the New York State Department of Financial Services said that Standard Chartered showed "obvious contempt for US banking regulations" and pointed to an email reply from a bank executive director to a New York branch officer.
"Who are you [Americans] to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians," the complaint quotes the director as saying.
Standard Chartered said: "The group is conducting a review of its historical US sanctions compliance and is discussing that review with US enforcement agencies and regulators.
"The group cannot predict when this review and these discussions will be completed or what the outcome will be."
The US Treasury, which implements the sanctions, said that it "treats sanctions violations extremely seriously".

segunda-feira, 30 de julho de 2012

Monges que fizeram o Ocidente Rico


Um trabalho do Departamento de Economia da Universidade de Copenhague, discute por que alguns países ficarm ricos e outros ficaram pobres. O ponto é formação de uma ética do trabalho, com isso discute-se o trabalho de Max Weber que dizia que o espírito protestante de trabalho duro com reinvestimento dos lucros. Para os autores, na verdade o espírito protestantes foi formado antes do protesntantismo, por uma ordem católica, a Ordem dos Cistercienses.

Os autores do trabalho são Thomas Andersen, Jeanet Bentzen, Carl-Johan Dalgard e Paul Sharp e pode ser lido clicando aqui.

O site Science Nordic fez um comentário sobre o trabalho dos autores

Muito interessante.

quarta-feira, 18 de julho de 2012

HSBC, Terrorismo, Máfia e Drogas


Publiquei este post inicialmente no meu outro blog Thyself O, Lord.

O site Business Insider revela hoje uma investigação do senado dos Estados Unidos sobre o HSBC, mostrando o relacionamento do banco com financiamento ao terrorismo, às máfias internacionais, ao tráfico de drogas.No caso do terrorismo, o banco tem histórico de participar do financiamento do Hamas e da Al Qaeda.

A investigação do senado americano pode ser lida, clicando aqui ou  aqui.

O senado americano diz que encontrou as seguintes vulnerabilidade no HSBC:

• Fornecimento de contas de correspondentes norte-americanos para os afiliados do HSBC de alto risco sem a realização da devida análise, incluindo uma filial mexicana com controles não confiáveis de lavagem de dinheiro;

•Não evitou conduta enganosa por parte de filiais do HSBC para contornar um dispositivo de rastreio que  bloqueia transações de terroristas, chefões do tráfico e de nações párias como o Irã;

• Fornecimento de contas bancárias para bancos estrangeiros com ligações com o financiamento ao terrorismo;

• Lavar milhões de dólares em cheques de viagem em dólares, apesar de circunstâncias suspeitas, e

• Fornecimento de contas suspeitas que facilitam atividades escusas.

Para ficar em apenas um caso, vou destacar o relacionamento com um banco da Árabia Saudita que financia a rede terrorista al Qaeda. Diz a subcomissão do senado que estuda co caso:

Uma terceira questão envolve o fato de que o HSBC atuar em regiões do mundo com desafios significativos de terrorismo, ao mesmo tempo demonstrando uma vontade preocupante de fazer negócios com os bancos que têm links para o financiamento do terrorismo. Um exemplo envolve Al Rajhi Bank, o maior banco privado na Arábia Saudita. Após o ataque 9/11 terrorista aos Estados Unidos, surgiram evidências de que o fundador do banco era um benfeitor financeiro da al Qaeda e este fundado fornecia contas para clientes suspeitos. 

Em 2005, o Grupo HSBC disse aos seus filiados para cortar os laços com o banco, mas fez uma exceção para o HSBC no Oriente Médio. Quatro meses depois, sem explicar o motivo, o Grupo HSBC voltou atrás e disse todas as suas filiais poderia decidir fazer negócios com o Al Rajhi Bank.  Em 2006, depois de Al Rajhi ameaçar retirar todos os seus negócios com o  HSBC, se a filial americana do HSBC não restabelecesse negócios, o HSBC cedeu Ao longo dos próximos quatro anos, o HSBC dos Estados Unidos forneceu quase US$ 1 bilhão ao Al Rajhi, parando apenas quando o HSBC fez uma decisão global de deixar a negociação de notas bancárias de forma geral, não apenas com o Al Rajhi.

 O site Businesss Insider descreve o relacionamento do banco Al Rajhi com o terrorismo.

O executivo do HSBC, David Bagley, renunciou após o relatório do senado. 

O jornal inglês The Telegraph repercute o caso e chama atenção para o envolvimento de um padre da Igreja Anglicana que foi chefe executivo do HSBC e até escreveu um livro sobre a moralidade das finanças, Lord Green.  

Obviamente, como o relatório deixa claro, o HSBC não é o único caso de facilitar e financiar o terrorismo, o tráfico de drogas e as máfias no mundo. Basicamente, as organizações criminosas mexem com muito dinheiro, muitas vezes financiadas pelos próprios estados, na ânsia do lucro qual banco no mundo recusa a participação no esquema?

(Agradeço a indicação do assunto ao site Jihad Watch)

terça-feira, 17 de julho de 2012

Um Frei, Pai da Contabilidade, Professor de Leonardo da Vinci

A Bloomberg lembrou hoje do pai da Contabilidade, que foi professor de matemática de Leonardo da Vinci, além de ter escrito a primeira enciclopédia de matemática da Europa, demonstrando a álgebra, o frei franciscano Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli.

Ficou muito bom o texto.

How a Medieval Friar Forever Changed Finance

Consider some headlines from the past week. China announced its gross domestic product had slowed to a three-year low of 7.6 percent in the latest quarter. The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecasts to 3.9 percent for 2013. And Citigroup Inc. announced its net income was down 12 percent.
The system that generates these 21st-century accounting figures -- the numbers that run our nations and corporations -- was first codified by a Renaissance friar named Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli. He was at one time more famous, as a mathematician, than his collaborator Leonardo da Vinci.
Pacioli is remembered today, if he’s remembered at all, as the father of accounting. He wrote the first mathematical encyclopedia of Europe, which made two critical contributions to modern science and commerce: It was the first printed book to explain Hindu-Arabic arithmetic and its offshoot, algebra, and it contained the first printed treatise on Italian accounting.
Algebra would underpin the Scientific Revolution; Italian accounting, the Industrial Revolution.

Double Entry

As his encyclopedia was going to press in Venice in 1494, Pacioli added a 27-page summary of a new form of accounting that had first emerged in Italy around 1300 and been perfected by the merchants of Venice. He called the addition a “special treatise which is much needed” to help merchants keep their accounts in an orderly way.
Known in the 15th century as accounting “alla Veneziana,” the system is now called double-entry bookkeeping and is standard practice throughout the world. In 1494, it was exceptional -- and in his treatise Pacioli recommended it above all others.
In their ledgers, Venetian merchants separated debits and credits, dividing them into two columns. As Pacioli wrote: “All the creditors must appear in the Ledger at the right-hand side, and all the debtors at the left. All entries made in the Ledger have to be double entries -- that is, if you make one creditor, you must make someone debtor.”
Pacioli’s system was revolutionary because it allowed merchants to calculate increases and decreases in their wealth, recorded in their capital account. In other words, it allowed them to determine that driver of capitalism: profit (or loss). Pacioli wrote that the purpose of every business was to make a lawful and reasonable profit, which could be tallied with Venetian bookkeeping. And thus the seed of capitalism was planted.
Because Pacioli used the recently invented printing press to record and disseminate Venetian double entry, the system swept across Europe during the next two centuries and then to the U.S.
By the 18th century, Italian bookkeeping had become so pervasive that it had spread beyond the realm of commerce and into culture. Daniel Defoe famously applied it in his 1719 novel “Robinson Crusoe” when the shipwrecked Crusoe uses double entry to assess his life, drawing up his “State of Affairs” and comparing “very impartially, like Debtor and Creditor, the Comforts I’d enjoyed, against the Miseries I suffered.”

A New Profession

Fittingly, it was in the economic heart of the Industrial Age -- Great Britain -- that Venetian bookkeeping came into its own. The rise of factories and the flourishing of the joint-stock company transformed double-entry bookkeeping into a brand new profession: accounting.
The huge amounts of capital expenditure required to build railways -- raised from private investors on stock exchanges and managed by joint-stock companies -- brought new issues of accounting and accountability. By the 1860s, accountants were legally required in Britain at every phase of a company’s life: at its formation, during its operation and at its liquidation.
Although financial statements had been an incidental product of a company’s bookkeeping in 1800, they had become its raison d’etre by 1900. Venetian bookkeeping proved to be the perfect mechanism for generating these financial statements. It could accurately record capital and income as required by law and investors, it could distinguish between private expenses and corporate costs, and it could produce data that helped evaluate past investment decisions.
Venetian double entry thus became essential to the modern corporation. In the 20th century, it became equally essential to the nation state. With the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929, and the Great Depression that followed, the laissez-faire principles that had previously informed government approaches to economic affairs suddenly seemed insufficient. At sea in their response to the crisis, the administrations of Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned comprehensive estimates of the income of the U.S. to guide their policies.
Soon after Roosevelt succeeded Hoover as president and began the New Deal, the British economist John Maynard Keynes travelled to the U.S. to see the policies in action. In Washington, Keynes said: “Here, not in Moscow, is the economic laboratory of the world.”

Theory, Practice

This signified a momentous change in government practice, and in economic theory. If Roosevelt’s response to the Depression was the New Deal, then Keynes’s was his “theory of effective demand.” Published in 1936, it provided a theoretical basis for the measurement of national income, consumption, investment and savings.
Both Roosevelt’s program and Keynes’s theory entailed the creation of national accounting systems, a massive undertaking that was carried out using the principles of double-entry bookkeeping.
At Keynes’s instigation, the first British accounts were made during World War II. Following the war, national accounts were created in countries across Europe as part of the framework of the Marshall Plan. And under the aegis of the newly created United Nations, national accounts were subsequently adopted by almost every nation on Earth.
Today, we depend on the numbers generated by the accounts of nations and corporations to direct our governments, businesses and societies. And so it happened that a medieval Italian accounting system codified by a friar in 1494 now governs the global economy.

domingo, 15 de julho de 2012

A História da Moeda por David Graeber


Abaixo um excelente texto de John Médaille sobre o livro Debt: The First 5000 Years (Dívida: Os Primeiros 5000 anos) do antropólogo David Graeber. O livro questiona o ensinamento econômico que o homem primeiro trocou mercadorias, depois criou a moeda e depois criou o crédito. O livro mostra que, pelo contrário, o ser humano primeiro criou o crédito, por uma questão social. Além disso, o livro criritca o modelo do sistema bancário moderno.

Friends and Strangers: A Meditation on Money

I start my meditation with a true story that will serve as a parable. On his 21st birthday, the nature writer Francis Thompson was presented by his father with a bill for all the expenses of his upbringing including the costs of his birth and delivery. Francis paid the bill, but he never spoke to his father again. This story is recounted in David Graeber’s Debt: The First Five Thousand Years, an excellent account of the history of money. Yet Graber titled his book “debt”; did he just get it wrong, or did he uncover the essential nature of money?
We are immediately repelled by this story, yet at the same time, we have to concede a strange kind of justice to it. There is no doubt that the father was correct to point out to his son the obligation that he had, but in quantifying that obligation, he converted it into a debt, for that is the difference between an obligation and a debt: an obligation becomes a debt when you can put a number on it. “I owe you one” is an obligation; “I owe somebody $10″ is a debt. Obligations bind people together even after they have been “paid.” But debts bind us only for as long as the debt exists. The relationship dies on payment of the debt. We might say that obligations bind us together, while debts drive us apart. By quantifying the obligation, Thompson’s father offered him the opportunity to dissolve it, to discharge it, and in doing so to end their relationship; his son took the offer and was no longer his son.

The economists tell us a neat story about the development of money. The primitive world, they tell us, begins in barter, develops in money, and matures in credit systems. The problem however, is that the historians and the anthropologists have been telling the economists, and telling them for over 100 years, that they can find no record of this development; in fact, the actual history seems to be just the opposite: first comes credit, then money, and finally barter systems. Widespread barter systems only come about after the collapse of monetary systems, and even then money is still used as a unit of account, as a way of equating dissimilar items.

Economic life begins in the family and the village, and in these structures, there is no accounting for debt. Rather, there are long chains of mutual obligations. In general, people do not barter goods; these are gift economies where each person’s surplus freely circulates throughout the village and the family as gifts. The fisherman, when he wants a pair of shoes, does not, as in the economists’ myth, search out a cobbler who wants some fish. Rather, he freely gives away his surplus fish, an act which gains him honor in the village; he is a man who can contribute to the village, and therefore worthy of honor. Perhaps some woman will notice that he is wearing tatty moccasins, which is not appropriate for a man of honor. She will undertake to make him some moccasins and thereby gain honor for herself. In village life, “honor” is the coin of the realm, and the economic system aims at circulating goods in such a way as to bind the members of the village together in a long chain of mutual obligations.
Barter does not work for two reasons. The first is that natural goods mature in due season. This means that for most of the year, the farmer has nothing to trade with the hunter save his promise to pay when the crop comes in. The second is that even simple production takes place in many steps and stages and over a period of time. Until the work is complete, there are no tradable goods, only a work-in-progress. This cannot be financed by barter, but only by a promise to pay when the work is completed and the product is sold.

Some barter does take place, but only with outsiders, with strangers. With visiting tribes or wandering strangers, there will often be an exchange of gifts that is indistinguishable from barter. The reason for this is obvious: since they will not meet again, or will meet only at odd intervals, the exchange must be immediate, and if honor is to be maintained, the gifts must be of equal value.
Money could not purchase anything because there was nothing to buy; there were no markets. Again, this was not because villagers are ignorant of markets, but rather because they made deliberate efforts to prevent the formation of markets, to bind the village together in long chains of mutual obligations. But such efforts are impossible with the growth of the village into the town and the city. When most of the people you meet are strangers rather than friends, the whole idea of the gift economy becomes impossible. Still, the idea of the obligation never disappears because society can never be anything more than a long chain of mutual obligations.

And herein lies the real power of money: it coordinates the actions of millions of strangers. Our lives are critically dependent on the actions of others; thousands of people contribute daily to our well-being, and all but a tiny fraction of them are strangers to us. How shall we acknowledge our debt to them, and they to us, except by the medium of money? Money then, is not so much a medium of exchange as a record of the obligations we have to each other, a series of debits and credits. A dollar in our pocket is at once the symbol of the labor we have performed for others, and an acknowledgment of the debt they have to us. Our dollar is a visible credit, a claim on that portion of all the goods and services that are being offered for sale. It is a token of exchange only by being the symbol of the debt.

And the history of money bears this out. Money existed as a unit of account for debts for nearly two millennia before it existed as coins and currency. As early as 3500 BC, Babylon developed as a sophisticated society with great cities, and all without the use of money, or at least without the use of currency. Currency would not begin until about 700 B.C. in Greece. In the great temples and palaces of the Babylonians (which served as the banks) we find extensive commercial records preserved in cuneiform tablets. This unit of account was the gur, the measure of barley that constituted the monthly ration, or it was the Shekel, a weight of silver whose value was arbitrarily set to the gur. Domestic debts were computed in gur, while foreign trade was conducted in silver that the temples advanced to the merchants. Debts were paid in real goods, which might be silver or barley or any other worthwhile product.

The use of money introduced something completely new into economic life, namely the invention of interest. Interest most likely began as a way of participating in the profits of the merchants. The Temple advanced silver to the merchants, and received interest as a convenient way of participating in profits. No arguments arose about how much profit was made and what the Temple’s share ought to be; the Temple’s share was fixed in advance. But what likely began as commercial loans, quickly spread to domestic loans; that which proved beneficial for Shekel debts proved disastrous for the barley debts. Farming is a hazardous occupation, and crop failures are inevitable. Debts piled up, and large parts of the population sank into debt peonage and slavery, destabilizing both the economy and the social order. In order to remedy this, the kings would, from time to time, declare a debt amnesty, canceling all the barley debts (but not the Shekel debts) and freeing the slaves. It is noteworthy that the first written use of the word “Freedom” occurs in one of these amnesty proclamations. The cuneiform symbols for “freedom” actually mean “return to mother,” signifying the return of the slave to his family. The famous Rosetta Stone is also a record of one of these amnesties. It became the custom that every king would begin his reign with a debt amnesty, and these amnesties became the “Jubilee” of the Hebrews when they returned from the Babylonian captivity. Ironically, the Jubilee was more favorable to lenders than the older Sabbath codes in Deuteronomy, which mandated a debt amnesty every seven years.

Usury was the bane of the Mesopotamian kingdoms, but in the amnesties they recognized the communal nature of society; while maintaining a strict commercial order, they recognized that debts could not multiply without it being the end of all social order. Usury was also the great social evil of the Roman Empire, as more and more farms disappeared into the great Latifundia, the estates of the aristocrats who were able to seize the land of the citizens who were off fighting Rome’s extensive wars. Daniel Graber notes that the Roman solution was not to declare amnesties, but to throw money at the problem. The wealth of the provinces poured into Rome to create a vast welfare state that demoralized the people while leaving the power of the aristocrats intact.

Rome and Greece were money societies where usury reigned, and the poor became, increasingly, the slaves of the rich. But neither slaves nor state dependents made good soldiers, and the armies became not so much a group of citizens defending their homes, as a group of professionals engaging in a trade. It took vast amounts of coinage to support these armies, and vast amounts of taxes or plunder to support the army; Alexander’s army of 120,000 men required half a ton of silver each day for their pay. Money and militarism went together. Basically, the government issued coins to pay their debts, and then demanded them back in the form of taxes. This set up a circulation of coinage which, as a by-product, set up the kinds of markets that we have today.

With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, society reverted to credit systems. There was coinage to be sure, but its value was not fixed, nor its metallic content nor purity. Kings would routinely “cry down” the value of their currency in order to dissolve their debts. This was actually a form of taxation in an era that did not have much in the way of taxes, and worked rather well so long as it was not abused. But much of commerce was carried on simply as credits and debits, often recorded in the form of tally sticks. A tally stick was a bit of hazel wood upon which a debt was recorded in the form of notches; the stick was then split in half. The creditor’s half was called the “stock,” which made him the stockholder, and the debtors half was called the stub. The stock would circulate as money, and as long as the stub remained it was impossible to change the debt.

Tally sticks circulated in England for 500 years. It is worth noting that when the Bank of England was founded, in 1694, one quarter of its capital was in the form of tally sticks. But the bankers wished to monopolize the creation of money, and immediately set out on a long campaign to get the tally sticks outlawed. And they got their wish when the Liberal party came to power in 1832. One of their first acts was to fulfill the agenda of the Bank of England. All of the tally sticks were gathered together and burned in a stove in the House of Lords. However, the fire got out of hand and burned down the Houses of Parliament. When we view Turner’s magnificent paintings of this event, we should keep in mind what it was all about.

Medieval merchants and local markets would also produce tokens or vouchers for their goods. Thus, for example, a baker would issue his own “money” which could be redeemed for his bread, while the butcher or the cobbler would do the same for their meat and shoes. These tokens would circulate as money on market day, and at the end of the day the merchants would settle accounts between them. Note that the baker would not issue more tokens than the bread he could bake nor the cobbler for the shoes he could make; the supply of this market money was always more or less equal to the goods the money could buy.

The banks triumphed in the end, even if it meant that they had to burn down the symbols of democratic order to do so. But a bank is not like a baker; a baker can issue credits only for the bread he can bake; a banker can issue credits in infinite amounts. We have in our mind a picture of the banks as lending out the deposits they receive, as serving as mere financial intermediaries. But this is not the case. A banker will never lend out the money you deposit; this he holds as reserves against losses, and for day-to-day cash transactions. No, the “money” he lends out is simply credits he creates by pressing a few buttons on the computer or by making a few entries in a ledger. The borrower may write checks against these credits, and at the end of the day the bankers settle up the checks between each other; no cash is involved. Now, this would not be a problem if the money was always lent for productive purposes. But insofar as the money is lent for speculation, then the money supply expands faster than the goods and services it is supposed to represent.

New money is injected into the economy, but unlike the baker’s money, that money matches no new goods. The claims on the existing stocks of goods and services are multiplied, but those stocks are not. The power of a small group of citizens is multiplied by the monopoly granted by the government. Compare the situation of the farmer and the banker: the farmer may increase his wealth only by work, the hard work of growing corn; the banker may increase his wealth, or at least his assets, by pressing a few buttons on the computer.

Herein lies the great secret of our money system: before you signed the mortgage to buy your home, or the note to buy your car, or the credit slip to buy a hamburger at McDonald’s, the money to buy the home, the car, or the burger did not exist; it comes into existence in the very act of borrowing it. Henry Ford once said, “If people understood how money was created, there would be a revolution before breakfast.” But Mr. Ford was wrong; there will be no revolution because people will simply not believe that money can be created so easily. But alas, that is indeed the way the system works.
Here we may return to our original parable, the sad tale of how indissoluble obligations were turned into temporary debts; of how the ties that bind are easily dissolved by putting a number on them. We cannot help but be a society of strangers, yet underneath this, we cannot be a society at all unless we recognize our mutual obligations to one another. It is possible that our rude ancestors had it right all along: that obligations are more important than debts, and that amnesties are the key to economic and social order. Surely this question faces us now with a force that cannot be ignored. We are truly in each other’s debt, but it is a debt that extends beyond the mere payment of the sum of money. Money is a useful, even a marvelous tool, but like a fire it can either warm or destroy us. In his latest encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI saw in the root of all financial dealings, a “principle of gratuitousness,” a principle that binds society together in a way that exceeds mere money debts. Money itself is merely the credit we extend to each other, and that “credit” has as its root credo, “I believe.” For along with faith in God we need faith in each other; credo in unum Deo cannot be replaced with credo in unum dollar.