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O paradoxo dos indignados

por Samuel de Paiva Pires, em 17.10.11

Um excelente artigo, a não perder, por Axel Kaiser, "The Paradox of the Outraged", de onde destaco os seguintes parágrafos:


«The perception that something is fundamentally wrong in Western societies explains why Hessel has sold millions of copies of his brief and provocative pamphlet, triggering social movements in France and Spain. It also explains the emergence of Occupy Wall Street in the United States, a movement that officially declares itself to be inspired by the Spanish acampadas ("camper-protestors"). The galvanization effect of Hessel's pamphlet has reminded us that intellectuals and opinion leaders, as Karl Popper insisted, have to be particularly careful and responsible with the ideas they proliferate. One should never forget Isaiah Berlin's warning that "when ideas are neglected by those who ought to attend to them — that is to say, those who have been trained to think critically about ideas — they sometimes acquire an unchecked momentum and an irresistible power over multitudes of men that may grow too violent to be affected by rational criticism."[1] This is a lesson of the history of Marxism and National Socialism that we cannot forget.


Dangerously, Hessel has failed to recognize that he is endorsing the same attitude that ended up in Nazism and Communism: collectivism. Indeed, both National Socialism and socialism were derived from a rejection of the individualistic philosophy that laid the foundations of Western civilization.




The fiction that government can safeguard a common good that transcends the diverse and irreducibly complex world of individual interests necessarily entails the idea that it can also provide for our necessities. This fallacy is the origin of the fatal myth of the welfare state — an idea brought about by French rationalist liberalism. This kind of liberalism, as Friedrich von Hayek noted, saw no limits in the power of human reason to plan social life and the economy, becoming thus the predecessor of collectivist movements such as socialism and fascism.


No one understood the implications of this myth better than Frédéric Bastiat, a French intellectual who is barely known in his own country. Writing shortly after the constitution of 1848 was created, Bastiat argued that unlike the Americans, who did not expect anything but from themselves, the French had transferred the province of social construction on to the abstraction of government. It was the responsibility of the state to elevate society to a higher level of morality, happiness, and material well-being.




Bastiat' s words turned out to be prophetic. The myth of the welfare state spread from France and Germany to the rest of the Western world, leading to an explosion of welfare transfers and an equal explosion of the people's expectations with regard to their so-called social rights.


Self-reliance was progressively replaced by a mentality of rights with no duties. As a result, a gigantic disconnect arose between what people are willing to pay in taxes and what they expect in return in the form of government benefits. Because promising welfare is the easiest way to win elections, politicians kept expanding the size of government over the decades. And because the public would not have tolerated an honest increase in taxes to finance the new welfare programs, governments started borrowing the money necessary to finance them. Thus, governments became dangerously in debt. Then the financial crisis came, to a large extent caused by government actions: welfare programs to make true the progressive "homeownership-society" dream in the United States created the structural conditions. Government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who bought and guaranteed around 50 percent of the total US mortgage market, offered the financial vehicle to transfer the wealth; and the Federal Reserve provided the easy money necessary to finance it. In addition, the US government was borrowing and spending money at an all-time record in order to finance its warfare/welfare policies.


In Europe the situation was not that different. The creation of a single currency, again a government decision that in many cases was not even submitted to popular scrutiny through a referendum, enabled countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain to borrow money at very low interest. The market rightly assumed that if some of these countries defaulted, Germany and France would rescue them. This explains why private investors considered Greek bonds to be as good as German bonds. Using this unique opportunity, politicians in southern countries started an orgy of credit. Their purpose was to win more elections through the promise of more welfare policies. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank was keeping interest rates artificially low, inflating housing bubbles in Spain and Ireland. For a time everyone was happy: politicians were being reelected, the people were getting new government benefits every year, bankers were making tons of money, and industries were booming. It was all an illusion. When the bubble burst in the United States, it quickly became clear that Europe's economic and fiscal situation was also unsustainable.


Now it's time to pay for the party. Inevitably, this means a dramatic reduction in our standard of living. Because people do not understand that the source of the crisis was government, as Bastiat predicted, they now go on the streets demanding even more of what caused the problem in the first place: government. That is the paradox of the outraged.»

publicado às 21:59


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