Sunday, November 23, 2014
11

Re-Capturando os Friedman

BERKELEY – Sobre a minha secretária estão agora mesmo o novo livro do repórter Timothy Noah The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It (A Grande Divergência: a Crescente Crise de Desigualdade da América e o Que Podemos Fazer Sobre Ela – NdT) e o clássico de Milton e Rose Friedman Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (Livre para Escolher: um Depoimento Pessoal – NdT). Considerando-os em conjunto, a minha conclusão esmagadora é que os Friedman achariam hoje muito mais difícil a sua tarefa de justificar e defender o libertarismo do governo limitado, como aconteceu em 1979.

Nessa altura, os Friedman fizeram três poderosas afirmações factuais sobre como o mundo funciona – afirmações que pareciam verdadeiras ou talvez verdadeiras ou pelo menos discutivelmente verdadeiras na altura, mas que parecem agora ser claramente falsas. O seu caso para um libertarismo de governo limitado baseava-se grandemente nessas afirmações, e agora esse caso ruíu grandemente, porque o mundo, afinal, discordou deles relativamente ao modo como funciona.

A primeira afirmação era que as dificuldades macroeconómicas são causadas pelo governo, e não pelo instável mercado privado, ou, melhor, que a forma de regulação macroeconómica requerida para produzir estabilidade económica é directa e facilmente conseguida.

Os Friedman quase sempre fizeram a afirmação na sua primeira forma: disseram que o governo “causou” a Grande Depressão. Mas quando examinamos detalhadamente o seu argumento, acontece que o que eles realmente queriam dizer era a segunda: de todas as vezes que a instabilidade do mercado privado ameaçou causar uma depressão, o governo podia impedi-la ou produzir uma rápida recuperação simplesmente comprando obrigações suficientes para que o dinheiro inundasse a economia com liquidez.

Por outras palavras, a intervenção governamental estratégica necessária para assegurar a estabilidade macroenómica não era apenas directa, mas também mínima: as autoridades só precisam de gerir uma taxa estável de crescimento de oferta da moeda. A intervenção agressiva e geral que os Keynesianos invocavam como necessária para gerir a procura agregada, e que os Minskyitas invocavam como necessária para gerir o risco financeiro, era inteiramente injustificada.

Os verdadeiros libertários nunca aceitaram a afirmação dos Friedman de que defendiam um regime monetário de mercado livre e “neutral”: Ludwig von Mises famosamente apelidou Milton Friedman e os seus seguidores monetaristas de bando de socialistas. Mas, independentemente da embalagem, a crença de que a estabilidade macroeconómica só requer intervenção mínima do governo é simplesmente errada. Nos Estados Unidos, o Presidente da Reserva Federal Ben Bernanke tem executado o livro de instruções Friedmanita sem falhas na actual recessão, e ossp não tem sido suficiente para preservar ou rapidamente restaurar o pleno emprego.

A segunda afirmação era que as externalidades seriam relativamente menores, ou que seriam pelo menos melhor geridas por via de contratos e do direito civil do que por regulação governamental, porque as desvantagens da regulação governamental ultrapassavam o dano causado por essas externalidades que o sistema legal não podia endereçar devidamente. Aqui, também, a realidade não parece ter subscrito Free to Choose. Nos EUA, isto é bastante evidente na mudança de atitudes relativamente a processos judiciais de negligência médica, porque os libertários já não vêem o sistema judicial como a arena preferida para tratar o risco e erro médicos.

A terceira, e mais importante, afirmação é o tema de The Great Divergence de Noah. Em 1979, os Friedman podiam confiantemente afirmar que, na ausência de discriminação mandatada governamentalmente (por exemplo, as leis segregacionistas de Jim Crow, do Sul dos EUA), a economia de mercado produziria uma distribuição de rendimentos suficientemente igualitária. Afinal, assim parecera acontecer – pelo menos para aqueles que não sofriam com a discriminação legal ou com as suas consequências – para todo o período do pós-2ªGG.

Portanto, os Friedman argumentavam que uma rede de segurança mínima para aqueles a quem a má sorte ou a falta de prudência tinham levado à falência, e a eliminação de todas as barreiras legais à igualdade de oportunidades, levariam aos resultados mais equitativos. Empregadores motivados pelo lucro, utilizando e promovendo os talentos humanos, levariam-nos tão perto de uma sociedade livre de produtores associados, como seria possível nesta triste esfera sublunar.

Aqui, também, as esperanças dos Friedman foram frustradas. O fim da preeminência Americana na educação, o colapso dos sindicatos do sector privado, a emergência de uma economia da era da informação em que o vencedor fica com tudo, e o regresso da Idade do Ouro da alta finança produziram uma distribuição de rendimentos antes de impostos extraordinariamente desigual, que constituirá um fardo para a próxima geração e que troçará da igualdade de oportunidades.

Teria sido simpático se o programa político descrito há uma geração em Free to Choose tivesse cumprido o plano dos Friedman. Teria sido simpático se uma sociedade relativamente igualitária e próspera com pleno emprego e igualdade de oportunidades tivesse derivado de um governo afastado da economia e que não fornecesse mais que uma rede de segurança mínima, tribunais, e uma oferta de moeda constantemente crescente.

Mas, lamentavelmente, esse não parece ser o mundo onde vivemos.

Traduzido do inglês por António Chagas

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    1. CommentedLudwig van den Hauwe

      But note that Milton Friedman (with Anna Schartz) in 1986 published a paper "Has Government Any Role in Money?" in the Journal of Monetary Economics in which he came perhaps as close as he ever did to the viewpoint of the "real libertarians", as you call them, by concluding that "leaving monetary and banking arrangements to the market would have produced a more satisfactory outcome than was actually achieved through governmental involvement." The view of these "real libertarians" is that we are experiencing the present troubles because of credit expansion and interest rate manipulation engineered by the central banks (among other forms of intervention) and that the true solution is to be found not at the level of monetary policy, but at the level of institutional reform, in particular the abolishment of central banks and the establishment of free banking. It is quite understandable that academics at leading universities cannot afford to risk their reputations by discussing such revolutionary proposals, given that these are poltiically totally infeasable in the forseeable future anyway, but I haven´t heard any one good theoretical argument refuting the views of the free bankers. The free banking argument is a particular application of Mises´ more general argument tending to demonstrate the impossibility of socialism; prices are bottom-up social phenomena and when you start manipulating them (or trying to do so) in a top-down fashion, the result can only be chaos and economic discoordination.

    2. CommentedDarko Oracic

      Milton Friedman criticized central banks for creating economic instablity by overreacting. Central bankers tend to overreact because they lack both knowledge and patience. No other theory describes better what has happened in recent years. Both the Fed and the ECB overreacted to high inlation (caused by previous overly expansionary policy), raised interest rates too high and caused the Great Recession. The fact that leading economists don't see the obvious reflects the sorry state of today's macroeconomics. We miss Milton Friedman dearly.

        CommentedCraig Hardt

        Actually, Darko, the great recession happened because of artificially high prices in the U.S. housing market stemming from the financial innovation known as mortgage-backed-securities (MBS). As interest rates were low, investors looked for higher yields both in emerging markets and in bond-like securities created to satisfy demand for these supposedly less risky (relative to equities) assets. Unfortunately, as ratings agencies continued to offer high credit ratings on these MBS, most failed to realize that mortgages were being handed out like candy to home buyers completely incapable of staying on top of their overpriced mortgages. When the inevitable crash in housing prices happened, investors were suddenly left with huge amounts of valueless MBS. Due to another financial innovation (credit-default swaps) they were usually highly leveraged in these untenable investment positions. The result was the collapse of the financial markets around the world, and subsequently, the great recession.

        Central banks raising interest rates had nothing to do with causing the great recession. In fact, had the raised interest rates earlier on during the housing boom, it may have limited exposure in the financial markets to MBS as more investors would have put their money in traditional bonds.

    3. CommentedJonathan Lam

      Gamesmith94134: Re-Capturing the Friedmans

      “Alas, that did not happen. And it did not happen because the world described by the Friedmans is not the world in which we live.”

      Friedman did give credits in the monetarism that small-government libertarianism in stimulating the economy in selling bonds to produce growth and stabilize the social development. The theory on liquidity and sustainability came across the margin of affordability made the resources finite and perpetuity on growth should aligned with its modifications like inflation and deflation to adjust the pace of growth. However, our government sees monetarism as the tool to eliminate inflation and deflation; and the recent social safety net like education and medical shifted to commercialism that broke line; since then, the government attempt to shift its cost to the public. Later, the sub-prime rate lending to house laid a heavy load on the government when the economy was overly stimulated with lesser employment or out-sourced from the factories, which caused the stagnated labor cost and created a downward spiral in the margin of affordability that the most middle class supports and grows on.

      At first, the suppression of recession by cutting interest rate and reality of the support of the margin of affordability, our government lied about the reality of the sub-prime housing debtors which relied on the inflated price of their house to sustain its margin of affordability. The capitalization of the real estate market collapsed after the halt of inflation and stagnated labor cost and job positions were out-sourced.

      Secondly, the cut of the support from the middle class in the financial make most capital market search on the short term investment and commodity market, it made the capital market worse that it went to the emerging market nations for a short term investment and lesser for the local development after the local real estate market turned sour.

      Thirdly, Americans, the consumers of the world, were heavy in debts after the credit exhausted. Then the flight of cash flow toward the emerging market nations took the credits with them when the banks are insoluble and bankrupted. Our government bailed them out with trillions of bonds that FED loaned with low interest. Then, the argument on the sustainability and liquidity is greatly disrupted by the margin of affordability that our government took its liberty to marketing the capitals of social goods like education and medication to fit its budgets.

      Perhaps, what we talk about undercutting the recession or depression, government participates in shifting the cost of social goods to its publics and deforming the nature of the business cycles like inflation, recession that made monetarism works on its own merits. I certainly said we deserve a depression locally and globally if we subjectively let monetarism works to adjust to all claims including government’s too.

      May the Buddha bless you?

    4. CommentedElizabeth Pula

      Here's a link to a super little interview that adds a bit of aspects and in depth perspective to DeLong's super little article:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/how-economists-have-misunderstood-inequality/2012/05/03/gIQAOZf5yT_blog.html

    5. CommentedElizabeth Pula

      Absolutely excellent analytical report, and methodology report on EPI.org.Written by Lawrence Mishel and Natalie Sabadish-05/02/2012
      http://www.epi.org/publication/ib331-ceo-pay-top-1-percent/
      The report is comparison of top 350 CEO salaries and options etc. to production workforce since the 1970's and through 2011- As factual as can be available from as reliable sources as possible.

    6. CommentedElizabeth Pula

      The only problem today is that we are no longer dealing with market economies. There is no egalitarian distribution of income because we are dealing with various systems of organizational rotating exploitation. Economies are only one activity of the systems.

    7. CommentedLanny Arvan

      "But, whatever its packaging, the belief that macroeconomic stability requires only minimal government intervention is simply wrong. In the United States, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has executed the Friedmanite playbook flawlessly in the current downturn, and it has not been enough to preserve or rapidly restore full employment."

      The above seems to be a closed economy analysis. Don't we need as well an open economy perspective and consider what European (and Asian) central bankers have done? Perhaps in the 1930s, a closed economy analysis was sufficient. How can one believe that now? I'm no fan of Milton Friedman, but were he alive today wouldn't he be talking about global monetary policy?

      He would then lose on the point that the right stabilization was straightforward and minimal, but he could still win on the idea that if the central bankers coordinated in the right way they could restore things.

    8. CommentedPaul A. Myers

      What now seems desirable is that government through fiscal and other policy techniques maintain a constant level of growth of demand that would result in a steadily growing employment base. Monetary policy should be a subordinate tool used to attain the overall goal.

      A very overlooked aspect of government regulation and programs is that government is the big instrument of risk reduction. Risk reduction is crucial to stable growth and provides the social framework in which private capital can earn its best rate of return. The striking example of government's role in risk reduction was the great success of postwar government-sponsored mortgage finance, which was possibly the single biggest contributing factor to sustainable, stable economic growth.

      That the Bush administration so recklessly supported the undermining of this pillar of stability still does not get the level of opprobrium that it so richly deserves, probably because so many other failures have crowded this failure to the sidelines.

      The policy architects of the modern Republican party have used Friedmanism as a pretext to undermine the effectiveness of government in what too often is just a cheap arbitrage against public policy and public welfare.

      Everything around us in the economic sphere says that Keynesian demand management works and that over-reliance on monetary policy as a silver bullet doesn't. And way too many Democrats in Washington DC simply don't grasp the Keynesian framework; they think the chairman of the Federal Reserve is the sole official responsible for the prosperity of the American economy. Then of course we could start talking about Europe....

    9. CommentedKonrad Kerridge

      The Author understates his points. Perhaps because he is a product of and immersed in US-based economic thinking and perhaps is targeting US readers. I believe there are few non US educated serious economists (perhaps a few, say in the UK) who would still argue that the points that Friedman made provide the most useful economic framework. To most, this is an old discredited paradigm of economics. To many economists outside of the US, I suspect that the importance and omnipresence of market failures means that they are central to any new paradigm of economics. Additionally, I suspect that the dominant non-US view is that 'laissez faire' economics CREATES inequality and can also create poverty when and where growth is inadequate, which is frequently. Finally I suggest that Freidman's view that economics and politics can be separated and that only minimal government involvement is required in markets is anachronistic. Government failures are acknowledged as are market failures but it perhaps is not useful to think of them as such separate entities in such an interwoven system.

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