Nuevo examen del mercantilismo

CAMBRIDGE – Un empresario acude a la oficina de un ministro del Gobierno y dice que necesita ayuda. ¿Qué debe hacer el ministro? ¿Invitarlo a una taza de café y preguntarle cómo puede serle útil el Gobierno? ¿O echarlo conforme al principio de que el Gobierno no debe repartir favores a los empresarios?

Esa cuestión constituye una prueba de Rorschach para los encargados de la formulación de políticas y los economistas. En un bando se encuentran los entusiastas del mercado libre  y los economistas neoclásicos, partidarios de una separación total entre el Estado y las empresas. En su opinión, el papel del Gobierno es el de establecer normas y regulaciones oficiales claras y después dejar que los empresarios se salven o se hundan por sí solos. Los funcionarios públicos deben mantenerse a una distancia prudencial de los intereses privados y nunca trabar relaciones de amistad con ellos. Son los consumidores y no los productores los que mandan.

Esa opinión refleja una tradición venerable que se remonta a Adam Smith y pervive con orgullo en los libros de texto de economía actuales. Es también la perspectiva predominante en la gobernación de los Estados Unidos, Gran Bretaña y otras sociedades organizadas conforme a esa concepción anglosajona, si bien en la práctica real con frecuencia se desvía de los principios idealizados.

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