terça-feira, 8 de novembro de 2011

Economia não tem receituário

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Estou cansado de ver que economias que não seguem o receituário liberal e a falsa idéia da salvação via reformas não necessariamente apresentam uma má performance e muitas vezes totalmente ao contrário. Isso mostra que a economia está longe de ser uma ciência exata e está repleta de idéias pré-concebidas que levam a um distanciamento da realidade social, cultural, ambiental e política em proporções dantescas.  Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen alertou isso na sua época, quando estudou nas melhores universidades dos Estados Unidos e quando voltou ao seu país de origem, Romênia, pobre, agrário e super populoso, descobriu que tudo que aprendeu em nada servia para ajudar seu país. Desferiu a primeira crítica ao pensamento econômico dominante: procura ser uma  fórmula igual para todos, varre do mapa as diferenças e se transforma num verdadeiro fracasso onde quer que consiga implementar esse modelo único.

Sobre o texto que segue:

The Emerging Market Adviser 
Overview: Don’t Read This 
Walter Molano

Heresy is wicked. It is one of the most heinous crimes, punishable by the most horrendous means. Heresy can shake the pillars of society. That is why the works of scholars, such as Galileo and Copernicus, who challenged the accepted realities of the Medieval World, were considered to be so dangerous. Early society used religious explanations to understand many of the mechanisms of nature. Mystery is an essential element of any religion. This is why blind faith is required to adhere to a dogma that cannot be explained logically. The advent of modern science helped people understand many of the things that previously were explained religiously. This led some philosophers, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, to proclaim the death of  God. Nevertheless, modern day life is still riddled with unexplainable trends, forces and events, that only mystical explanations can be used to understand them. Interestingly, economics helped fill the void vacated by the demise of religion. 

Economics is very religious. We dedicate newspapers, magazines and television channels to it. We make tributes to it, including the coveted Nobel Prize in Economics. Like religion, the cult is full of code and ambiguities that no one understands—except a few high priests (and even they don’t). It has regularly-held rituals, celebrations and canonizations. People react violently whenever someone question its logic and tenets. These individuals are labelled heretics, nut-cases and unorthodox. Yet, everyday life is full of phenomenon that flies in the face of sound economic theology. One such example is the case of Chile and Argentina. On one hand, Chile is the paradigm of proper economic conduct. The Chilean model was redacted four decades ago by a group of young graduates from the 
University of Chicago--the Vatican of economics. On the other hand, Argentina is the truant of economic management. It is considered by everyone to have done everything wrong. Yet, a recent article in the Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio, comparatively examines the  data from the two countries and comes to a startling conclusion. During the last seven years, Argentina posted an average growth rate of 7.7% almost twice as high as Chile’s average growth rate of 4.3%. More interestingly, this was more than 10 times the average growth rate of 0.7% that was reported during the decade when Argentina was the IMF’s poster child. The country’s numbers are truly amazing. Argentina’s debt to GDP is 32% versus 120% in 2003, and not that bad in comparison with Chile’s 8% of GDP. Its unemployment rate is 7.1% versus Chile’s 7.4%. Gross fixed investment is 25% of GDP, versus Chile’s 23% of GDP. Last year, Argentina posted a current account surplus of 2% of GDP, while Chile reported a surplus of 1.5% of GDP. Indeed, Argentina’s per capita income is now $1,000 higher than its trans-Andean neighbour. It even has an urban poverty rate of 11%, much lower than most developing countries. This, of course, is pure heresy, and you should stop reading if your blood vessels are starting to pop.

It’s true that Argentina benefitted enormously from the rise in grain prices. However, Chile also profited from the spike in copper prices. Soybean prices jumped 125% since 2003, but copper prices tripled. Therefore, Chile should have done better. Argentina undoubtedly deviated from the economics rule book. It nationalized the pension funds, controlled energy prices and placed tariffs on exports. It was slow in settling with external creditors and used its own funds to cover its financing needs instead of tapping into the international capital markets. At the same time, Chile followed the rules to the letter of the law. It established a copper stabilization fund, saving the windfall in metal prices. It implemented an anti-cyclical fiscal policy, and employed inflation targeting. If there was any country that Wall Street derided, it was Argentina, and if there was any country that Wall Street lauded, it was Chile. The problem is if the Argentines were doing it all so wrong, why did they do so well? The impropriety of such heretical questions would make a high priest of economics go beet red. However, the success of the Argentine model is what allowed President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner sweep into victory. Perhaps, economics needs to take a closer look at its models before pronouncing edicts on management techniques. One of the things that clearly make the Argentine model superior to the Chilean is the atomization of production through the agricultural sector. This allows the windfall to be spread across a wide swath of society. Meanwhile, Chile’s copper output is controlled by the state and a few multinationals that send the windfall abroad in dividend payments. In any case, the next years ahead may paint a different story, but Argentina did something right during the last seven years. However, you never read this.

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