sexta-feira, março 25, 2005

Um experimento progressista

Depois de anos debatendo Filosofia Política e assuntos afins em fóruns de discussão na Internet, que foram para mim o que passeatas e organizações estudantis foram para a geração de meus pais, finalmente me aventurei a escrever alguma coisa a respeito. Não lembro de quem foi a idéia, se minha ou do meu caro amigo Felipe Svaluto, mas o fato é que ela surgiu numa janela de ICQ. Debatíamos a legitimidade do sucesso dos famosos Wunderbloggers e começamos a imaginar como seria um empreedimento próprio. Um mote comum era o alastramento de um tipo particularmente pernicioso de direita conservadora pelos meios virtuais brasileiros, em parte liderada por Olavo de Carvalho, e que tem se difundido principalmente entre jovens universitários. Essa corrente tem se espalhado com certa rapidez em sites, fóruns de debates e, mais recentemente, também na blogosfera. Apesar de, na prática, ser um grupo ínfimo, a Internet tem ampliado consideravelmente o seu alcance e feito emergir certas questões e idéias que, qualquer que fosse o seu impacto no mundo real, merecem uma resposta. Em parte constituída de teorias requentadas dos tempos da Guerra Fria, liberalismo econômico a qualquer custo e noções vagas de nome venerável como "civilização judaico-cristã", essa direita raivosa já cativou mais de uma mente talentosa dentre os meus conhecidos. E cativaria ainda mais se não houvesse quem, ao contrário do que tantos intelectuais de torre de marfim que julgam o movimento indigno de sua sapiente atenção, se dão ao trabalho de examinar as idéias do grupo e refutá-las. Afinal, nada mais perigoso que uma idéia sem réplica.

O resultado, após meses de delongas e ajustes, finalmente se materializou em Estão todos convidados a conhecê-lo. Serão muito bem-vindos.

domingo, março 13, 2005

Slavery in the 21st Century

The Economist
Mar 9th 2005 
A botched release of slaves in Niger points up an ugly truth: bondage is alive and well around the world
SLAVERY is like polio. Most westerners associate it with earlier, darker times in human history. Its eradication is a sign of human progress. And yet despite these perceptions slavery, like polio, has not in fact been eradicated. The fact of modern slavery was brought home again this week by the story of a botched manumission in Niger.
Anti-Slavery International, a London-based human rights group, estimates that 43,000 slaves are held in Niger, which the United Nations reckons to be the second-least-developed country in the world. Slaves in the landlocked west African country form a stigmatised, closed class. Even freed slaves carry the taint of their hereditary status, and their former masters or parents' masters may claim some or all of their income, property and dowries.
In 2003, Niger finally got around to amending its laws to make slave ownership punishable with up to 30 years in prison. (The practice was outlawed with Niger's independence from France in 1960, but carried no penalty.) Facing jail, a chieftain in western Niger offered to free the 7,000 slaves held by him and his clansmen in a public ceremony, due to take place on Saturday March 5th. But in the week leading up to the event, Niger's government came to fear that a massive release of slaves would draw unwelcome attention to slavery's existence in the country. The government declared that slavery does not exist in Niger, the ceremony was cancelled and the slaves left as slaves. Far from avoiding a public embarrassment, Niger has multiplied its worldwide shame.
Niger is far from alone. Its class-based form of slavery exists in neighbouring Chad, Mali and Mauritania, too. In Mauritania, estimates SOS Esclaves, another anti-slavery campaigner, 40% of the population are slaves or ex-slaves, who suffer the same stigma and lack of rights as their brethren in Niger. In Sudan, too, slavery is widespread. Some 14,000 people were abducted and forced into slavery during the country's two-decade-long civil war between the Arab-run government in Khartoum and blacks in the south. Most of these were women and children forced into domestic work and herding. Many children of abductees, fathered by the slaves' masters, in turn become slaves. Around 12,000 Sudanese remain in bondage. And according to a recent UN report, abduction and slavery have been extended to Darfur in western Sudan, where a separate conflict rages.
Most people associate "slavery" with the transatlantic chattel slave trade that ended in the 19th century as the United States and later Brazil, the biggest recipients of black African slaves, abolished first the trade and then the practice of slavery itself. But slavery persisted, so much so that the UN made 2004 the snappily-titled International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition. December 2nd 2004 was designated the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, to commemorate the adoption of a 1949 convention against human trafficking. But that convention is still widely flouted.
The form of slavery that perhaps affects the greatest number of people is bonded labour, which is particularly rife in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Desperate workers are given a loan for as little as the cost of medication for a child, and are forced to work to repay the loan and "interest". But no clear contract is offered--the unfortunate bonded labourer often winds up working years to repay such loans, and the bond is even often passed on to children after the original labourer's death. Because of the apparently voluntary nature of the bondage, many do not see it as slavery. But the labourer is often so desperate for a loan, without other sources of credit, that there is little real choice involved. And once bonded, the threat of violence and the limitations on personal freedom involved make the practice in effect no different from chattel slavery.
Many other slavery-type practices remain widespread, despite having been forbidden by UN conventions. These include forced marriage, wife-transfer, child marriage and the sale of children for labour. In Brazil, forced labourers clear Amazonian jungle at gunpoint. In western Europe, prostitutes from the former Soviet block are forced to work without any choice of which or how many clients they sleep with, and with the threat or use of force curtailing their freedom. And in the United States, Free the Slaves, another anti-slavery group, found illegal forced labour in at least 90 cities, involving over 19,000 people. The CIA has estimated the number of slaves in America at 50,000. Chinese, Mexicans, Vietnamese and others work against their will in the sex trade, domestic service, farms and sweatshops.
In America and Europe, there is at least some hope of recourse to the authorities. India and Pakistan have banned debt bondage but struggle to enforce the law. Sudan is a criminal state actively encouraging rampaging militias. And Niger has been a rickety democracy for just over five years, unable even to admit its problem, much less tackle it. Like many things that should have been stamped out a long time ago, slavery, it seems, is alive and well.

See this article with graphics and related items at

sábado, março 12, 2005

Marxism of the Right

by Robert Locke

Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism, the idea that individual freedom should be the sole rule of ethics and government. Libertarianism offers its believers a clear conscience to do things society presently restrains, like make more money, have more sex, or take more drugs. It promises a consistent formula for ethics, a rigorous framework for policy analysis, a foundation in American history, and the application of capitalist efficiencies to the whole of society. But while it contains substantial grains of truth, as a whole it is a seductive mistake.

There are many varieties of libertarianism, from natural-law libertarianism (the least crazy) to anarcho-capitalism (the most), and some varieties avoid some of the criticisms below. But many are still subject to most of them, and some of the more successful varieties­I recently heard a respected pundit insist that classical liberalism is libertarianism­enter a gray area where it is not really clear that they are libertarians at all. But because 95 percent of the libertarianism one encounters at cocktail parties, on editorial pages, and on Capitol Hill is a kind of commonplace “street” libertarianism, I decline to allow libertarians the sophistical trick of using a vulgar libertarianism to agitate for what they want by defending a refined version of their doctrine when challenged philosophically. We’ve seen Marxists pull that before.

This is no surprise, as libertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.

The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. Simple physical security, which even a prisoner can possess, is not freedom, but one cannot live without it. Prosperity is connected to freedom, in that it makes us free to consume, but it is not the same thing, in that one can be rich but as unfree as a Victorian tycoon’s wife. A family is in fact one of the least free things imaginable, as the emotional satisfactions of it derive from relations that we are either born into without choice or, once they are chosen, entail obligations that we cannot walk away from with ease or justice. But security, prosperity, and family are in fact the bulk of happiness for most real people and the principal issues that concern governments.

Libertarians try to get around this fact that freedom is not the only good thing by trying to reduce all other goods to it through the concept of choice, claiming that everything that is good is so because we choose to partake of it. Therefore freedom, by giving us choice, supposedly embraces all other goods. But this violates common sense by denying that anything is good by nature, independently of whether we choose it. Nourishing foods are good for us by nature, not because we choose to eat them. Taken to its logical conclusion, the reduction of the good to the freely chosen means there are no inherently good or bad choices at all, but that a man who chose to spend his life playing tiddlywinks has lived as worthy a life as a Washington or a Churchill.

Furthermore, the reduction of all goods to individual choices presupposes that all goods are individual. But some, like national security, clean air, or a healthy culture, are inherently collective. It may be possible to privatize some, but only some, and the efforts can be comically inefficient. Do you really want to trace every pollutant in the air back to the factory that emitted it and sue?

Libertarians rightly concede that one’s freedom must end at the point at which it starts to impinge upon another person’s, but they radically underestimate how easily this happens. So even if the libertarian principle of “an it harm none, do as thou wilt,” is true, it does not license the behavior libertarians claim. Consider pornography: libertarians say it should be permitted because if someone doesn’t like it, he can choose not to view it. But what he can’t do is choose not to live in a culture that has been vulgarized by it.

Libertarians in real life rarely live up to their own theory but tend to indulge in the pleasant parts while declining to live up to the difficult portions. They flout the drug laws but continue to collect government benefits they consider illegitimate. This is not just an accidental failing of libertarianism’s believers but an intrinsic temptation of the doctrine that sets it up to fail whenever tried, just like Marxism.

Libertarians need to be asked some hard questions. What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free? What if it needed to limit oil imports to protect the economic freedom of its citizens from unfriendly foreigners? What if it needed to force its citizens to become sufficiently educated to sustain a free society? What if it needed to deprive landowners of the freedom to refuse to sell their property as a precondition for giving everyone freedom of movement on highways? What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?

In each of these cases, less freedom today is the price of more tomorrow. Total freedom today would just be a way of running down accumulated social capital and storing up problems for the future. So even if libertarianism is true in some ultimate sense, this does not prove that the libertarian policy choice is the right one today on any particular question.

Furthermore, if limiting freedom today may prolong it tomorrow, then limiting freedom tomorrow may prolong it the day after and so on, so the right amount of freedom may in fact be limited freedom in perpetuity. But if limited freedom is the right choice, then libertarianism, which makes freedom an absolute, is simply wrong. If all we want is limited freedom, then mere liberalism will do, or even better, a Burkean conservatism that reveres traditional liberties. There is no need to embrace outright libertarianism just because we want a healthy portion of freedom, and the alternative to libertarianism is not the USSR, it is America’s traditional liberties.

Libertarianism’s abstract and absolutist view of freedom leads to bizarre conclusions. Like slavery, libertarianism would have to allow one to sell oneself into it. (It has been possible at certain times in history to do just that by assuming debts one could not repay.) And libertarianism degenerates into outright idiocy when confronted with the problem of children, whom it treats like adults, supporting the abolition of compulsory education and all child-specific laws, like those against child labor and child sex. It likewise cannot handle the insane and the senile.

Libertarians argue that radical permissiveness, like legalizing drugs, would not shred a libertarian society because drug users who caused trouble would be disciplined by the threat of losing their jobs or homes if current laws that make it difficult to fire or evict people were abolished. They claim a “natural order” of reasonable behavior would emerge. But there is no actual empirical proof that this would happen. Furthermore, this means libertarianism is an all-or-nothing proposition: if society continues to protect people from the consequences of their actions in any way, libertarianism regarding specific freedoms is illegitimate. And since society does so protect people, libertarianism is an illegitimate moral position until the Great Libertarian Revolution has occurred.

And is society really wrong to protect people against the negative consequences of some of their free choices? While it is obviously fair to let people enjoy the benefits of their wise choices and suffer the costs of their stupid ones, decent societies set limits on both these outcomes. People are allowed to become millionaires, but they are taxed. They are allowed to go broke, but they are not then forced to starve. They are deprived of the most extreme benefits of freedom in order to spare us the most extreme costs. The libertopian alternative would be perhaps a more glittering society, but also a crueler one.

Empirically, most people don’t actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don’t elect libertarian governments. Irony of ironies, people don’t choose absolute freedom. But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it. Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.

The political corollary of this is that since no electorate will support libertarianism, a libertarian government could never be achieved democratically but would have to be imposed by some kind of authoritarian state, which rather puts the lie to libertarians’ claim that under any other philosophy, busybodies who claim to know what’s best for other people impose their values on the rest of us. Libertarianism itself is based on the conviction that it is the one true political philosophy and all others are false. It entails imposing a certain kind of society, with all its attendant pluses and minuses, which the inhabitants thereof will not be free to opt out of except by leaving.

And if libertarians ever do acquire power, we may expect a farrago of bizarre policies. Many support abolition of government-issued money in favor of that minted by private banks. But this has already been tried, in various epochs, and doesn’t lead to any wonderful paradise of freedom but only to an explosion of fraud and currency debasement followed by the concentration of financial power in those few banks that survive the inevitable shaking-out. Many other libertarian schemes similarly founder on the empirical record.

A major reason for this is that libertarianism has a naïve view of economics that seems to have stopped paying attention to the actual history of capitalism around 1880. There is not the space here to refute simplistic laissez faire, but note for now that the second-richest nation in the world, Japan, has one of the most regulated economies, while nations in which government has essentially lost control over economic life, like Russia, are hardly economic paradises. Legitimate criticism of over-regulation does not entail going to the opposite extreme.

Libertarian naïveté extends to politics. They often confuse the absence of government impingement upon freedom with freedom as such. But without a sufficiently strong state, individual freedom falls prey to other more powerful individuals. A weak state and a freedom-respecting state are not the same thing, as shown by many a chaotic Third-World tyranny.

Libertarians are also naïve about the range and perversity of human desires they propose to unleash. They can imagine nothing more threatening than a bit of Sunday-afternoon sadomasochism, followed by some recreational drug use and work on Monday. They assume that if people are given freedom, they will gravitate towards essentially bourgeois lives, but this takes for granted things like the deferral of gratification that were pounded into them as children without their being free to refuse. They forget that for much of the population, preaching maximum freedom merely results in drunkenness, drugs, failure to hold a job, and pregnancy out of wedlock. Society is dependent upon inculcated self-restraint if it is not to slide into barbarism, and libertarians attack this self-restraint. Ironically, this often results in internal restraints being replaced by the external restraints of police and prison, resulting in less freedom, not more.

This contempt for self-restraint is emblematic of a deeper problem: libertarianism has a lot to say about freedom but little about learning to handle it. Freedom without judgment is dangerous at best, useless at worst. Yet libertarianism is philosophically incapable of evolving a theory of how to use freedom well because of its root dogma that all free choices are equal, which it cannot abandon except at the cost of admitting that there are other goods than freedom. Conservatives should know better.

Negro e pobre freqüentam universidade federal

Não é bem isso o que eu via nos meus tempos de universidade pública, mas, enfim, o que é uma constatação individual frente à precisão fria das estatísticas? Mas seria interessante ver em que cursos essas pessoas se concentram.

Pesquisa mostra que acesso às instituições federais de ensino
superior existe mesmo sem política de cotas

Pesquisa realizada pelo Fórum Nacional de Pró-Reitores de Assuntos
Comunitários e Estudantis (Fonaprace) e pela Associação Nacional dos
Dirigentes das Instituições Federais de Ensino Superior (Andifes),
com o apoio do Ministério da Educação, mostra que boa parte dos
estudantes pobres têm acesso ao ensino público superior e que a
proporção de negros e pardos nas universidades federais é semelhante
à registrada pelo Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística
(IBGE) na população do país.

O levantamento, que ouviu 34 mil alunos de 47 universidades públicas
federais, mostra que 42,8% dos estudantes dessas instituições têm
renda familiar até R$ 927 e que 46,2% fizeram o ensino médio em
escolas públicas. "Ao contrário do que muitos acreditam, do mito que
existe, a maior parte dos estudantes das universidades públicas são
das classes C, D e E", afirmou a pesquisadora Thèrèse Hofmann ao
Jornal Nacional.

A pesquisa investigou também como são os estudantes universitários.
Quando indagados sobre a cor da pele, as respostas mostraram que a
quantidade de pretos, pardos e brancos nas instituições públicas de
ensino superior segue praticamente a mesma proporção de habitantes
das cidades do Brasil.

O critério foi o mesmo adotado pelo IBGE: a autodeclaração. Assim,
declararam-se pretos 5,9% dos estudantes, exatamente o mesmo
percentual de pessoas que se autodefiniram como negras na Pesquisa
Nacional por Amostra de Domicílio (Pnad) de 2003, do IBGE. Os
estudantes brancos somaram 59,4% do total, pouco mais do que os
52,1% registrados pela Pnad. E disseram-se pardos 28,3% dos alunos
entrevistados. De acordo com o IBGE, 41,4% da população brasileira é

"O que a pesquisa mostra é que existe, sim, um acesso de negros e
pardos nas universidades, nas instituições federais de ensino
superior. É um mito de que o acesso só é dado a estudantes brancos.
Existe, sim, esse acesso. As características da população
universitária são muito semelhantes às características da população
onde a universidade está localizada", afirmou Ana Maria Nogales,
professora da Universidade de Brasília. O levantamento, no entanto,
não mostrou a proporção de pretos, pardos e brancos por cursos.

O Ministério da Educação considerou o resultado da pesquisa
positivo, mas informou que manterá a política de cotas para as
universidades. O governo determinou a reserva de parte das vagas
para índios, afro-descendentes e estudantes de escolas públicas.

"Representa um avanço dos negros, do seu movimento, da sua
consciência, da sua cidadania. Mas a pesquisa revela um problema com
relação aos pardos, e portanto, esta política não é apenas para a
população negra. Mas para todos os afro-descendentes", justificou
Jairo Jorge, secretário- executivo adjunto do MEC.

Os dados do 2º Perfil Socioeconômico e Cultural dos Estudantes de
Graduação das Instituições Federais de Ensino Superior (IFES), que
serão divulgados na segunda-feira, foram antecipados pelo Jornal
Nacional na noite desta sexta. A da pesquisa visa a oferecer
subsídios para a definição de políticas para o ensino superior
público no Brasil.

O atual levantamento atualiza os dados do primeiro trabalho,
realizado no segundo semestre de 1996. Na época, foram pesquisados
328 mil alunos, e a pesquisa identificou que 44% dos estudantes
matriculados vinham de famílias das classes C, D e E e que 14% deles
demandavam programas de assistência para poder concluir o curso