Hasta la victoria siempre

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Progres economic si deteriorare sociala

Maurizio Pugno este profesor de economie la Universitatea din Cassino. Pugno este autorul unui excelent articol numit "THE HAPPINESS PARADOX: A FORMAL EXPLANATION FROM PSYCHO-ECONOMICS".
Lucrarea sa nu aduce nimic radical nou fata de ceea ce am prezentat pe acest blog in nenumarate randuri deja legat de relatia dintre succesul economic si fericire, insa autorul rezuma foarte bine cateva dintre principalele concluzii si, in plus, subliniaza pertinent importanta relatiilor sociale pentru fericire si diluarea lor in societatea contemporana, capitalista.
Sa-l urmarim deci punct cu punct.
Dovezi ca banii in exces nu produc fericire: Paradoxul fericirii
"The happiness paradox was first raised by Easterlin (1974). By measuring happiness by means of self-reported ratings on subjective well-being (SWB), he shows that in the US happiness has not exhibited a definite rising trend since WWII, whereas real income per head has instead done so.
The evidence from recent econometric studies reinforces the paradox and makes it even more puzzling. In fact, the trend of SWB between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s in the US is clearly downwards, and the same pattern emerges for Belgium and for the young component of the population of the UK. This strengthening of the paradox is not emphasised by the literature, although the SWB index has been successfully tested for reliability and validity by various methods.
Easterlin‘s finding of no significant trend of SWB has been recently confirmed for the EU and for many European member-states. Japan has also been often cited as a striking case, because real income per head rose sixfold in that country between 1958 and 1991, while proportion of people rating themselves as ”very happy‘ did not seem to change over the same period.
The strong version of the paradox is also supported by other well-known facts, like the recent increase in mental depression, which has been tested as strictly inversely correlated with SWB. Several studies show that depression has significantly increased in the US and other major developed countries since WWII, sometimes specifying that the phenomenon recurs across generations.
Particularly worring is the rise in other mental sufferings among children and adolescents as evidenced by the threefold increase in their psychotropic medication, and in particular in treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder between 1987 and 1996 in the US. Worrying rises in the incidence of —pervasive developmental disorder“, depression, and suicides among young people have also been found in the UK.
An even more dramatic index of declining well-being in various countries is the
suicide rate. Strictly speaking, this concerns only a small amount of the population, but it may represent the deeper-lying malaise of a larger fraction of it, insofar as suicide may be attempted or even seriously considered but not committed (Oswald 1997). The suicide rate increased for the US, the EU and Japan from the mid-1960s until the 1980s. Lester-Yang‘s (1997) survey of several studies shows that the correlation between income per head and suicide rates has been positively significant for the US since WWII, and for a cross-section of the European countries.
The picture appears less bleak since the 1980s, in that suicide rate has declined for the US, Japan, and for many European countries. However, it has risen for Ireland and Spain, and the suicide rate among adolescents and young adults has also risen in the US, and in the four major European countries (Putnam 2000:262; Lane 2000:23). The striking difference in the dynamics of the suicide rate between age groups suggests that the deterioration of well-being takes place across successive generations, although the passage to adulthood may enable each generation to improve its well-being with more efficacy."

Pana aici, retinem din expunerea lui Pugno:
1. Paradoxul fericirii, descoperit de Richard Easterlin, arata ca in ciuda cresterii economice a unei tari, fericirea populatiei ramane constanta sau scade.
2. Paradoxul a fost confirmat de numeroase ori, atat pentru SUA cat si pentru tari europene precum Belgia si alte state bogate, ca Japonia.
3. Cresterea economica e insotita de cresterea depresiei psihice si a numarului de sinucideri.

Progresul tehnic = munca in exces:
"Technical progress and improved material well-being have not induced people to
reduce their working time, as one would expect. In the US both average annual and average weekly hours for men, but especially for women, have risen in the past two decades. Since the late 1970s, overtime has increased as well (Golden 1998). However, Americans do not appear to be satisfied; rather they exhibit stress due to overwork. In the EU working time per employee has declined, mainly because of the introduction of regulations on the standard workday. However, the dynamics have decelerated in recent decades, and women‘s participation especially has greatly increased, so that the average rate of the working age population has increased as well. Canada seems to exhibit the same pattern. A detailed study conducted in Germany between 1985 and 1994 reveals that people, on aver age, would like to work less hours than they actually do. The study is interesting because it also reveals that the constraint on people‘s desire to work less does not lie in the labour market, since macroeconomic conditions worsened between the two years considered, and mobility towards greater participation by women and part-time jobs for all greatly increased. It seems to lie instead in familiar conditions at home."

Asadar, progresul tehnologic, in loc sa conduca la un numar scazut de ore de munca, a avut efectul diametral opus. Relevent e si faptul ca oamenii isi doresc sa munceasca mai putine ore.

In continuare, Pugno vorbeste despre importanta pentru fericire a relatiilor interpersonale, explicat ca deterioararea lor, cuplata cu o crestere a apetentei pentru materialismul financiar, au dus la nefericita situatie din prezent, descrisa de paradoxul amintit mai sus. Fara a intra in detalii, citez cateva dintre afirmatiile sugestive facute in articol:

Importanta relatiilor inter-personale pentru fericire
"The importance of personal r elationships, especially of intimate ones, for well-being
has been documented not only by several subfields of psychology but also by psychiatry, sociology and anthropology, and, very recently, by economics. The research methods employed for this purpose include surveys, experiments, cross-cultural comparisons, case studies and, finally, econometrics.
On surveying a wide spectrum of the psychology literature on almost 300 items, Baumeister-Leary (1995) conclude that the desire for interpersonal attachments is a
fundamental human motivation. [...]
The importance of personal relationships has also been recently confirmed by various
econometric studies. These show that marital status is the single most important (partial) correlate to self-r eported SWB index. Easterlin (2004) further points out
that the change in marital status is not completely eroded by adaptation. However, marital status is not the best proxy for evaluating the importance of personal relationships. In fact, —home life“ seems an even stronger partial correlate, depriving marital status of significance, while associationism, civic virtue, trust, democratic participation also capture significant positive effects of relationships on well-being."

Deteriorarea relatiilor inter-personale in societatile actuale:
"Unfortunately, several studies in sociology, psychology, and epimediology show that
social and personal relationships have deteriorated in recent years for significant groups of people. All the indices used incur some bias, but the quantity and the variety of evidence for deterioration is substantial indeed.
Despite the increasing frequency of divorce, whose incidence shows no signs of
diminishing even recently in the US, the marriages that survive appear to be less happy, especially if marital interaction and time spent together are considered across generations. Increasing cohabitation, from 10% to 50% during 1972-94 in the US, which would imply that getting married is a more informed choice, appears instead to have worsened the quality of marriage, and to have destabilised it. [...]
On the contrary, the evidence available from econometric studies shows a significant, although small, negative correlation both for the US and for Europe. Within family tragedies occur with increasing frequency in the US. The homicide rate of babies aged 1 year or less rose from 51 per million-population in 1974-78 to 84 in 1995-99.
Equally worrying are the data on increased homicides among adolescents. Sociologists observe that loneliness is a typical malaise of recent times, while psychologists point out that loneliness crucially correlates with suicide as well as with depression."

Iata asadar ca in anii de boom economic, relatiile inter-umane se deterioreaza vizibil si in mod grav. Astfel, rata divorturilor e in crestere, fericirea in interiorul casniciilor care dureaza e in scadere, coabitarea si relatiile mai putin stabile incep sa ia locul casatoriei, numarul agresiunilor asupra nou-nascutilor s-a dublat in ultimii 30 de ani, omuciderile in randul adolescentilor sunt in crestere, la fel ca si singuratatea.

Materialismul ia locul valorilor sociale
"This paper argues that the deterioration of relational goods induces people to shift
their expectations from relational goods to market goods. This shift is confirmed by a large body of psychology and sociology literature that discusses the issue under the heading of ”materialism‘. For example, poll-surveys on the values expressed by successive cohorts of college freshmen in the US show a rise from about 40% in the late 1960s to 75% in the late 1990s of those who rated —being very well off financially“ as a very important personal objective.
A specific stream in the psychology literature adduces ample empirical evidence on
two effects of the orientation to materialism. The first effect is a worse disposition to
relationships, less co-oper ation, and a lower quality of relationships. The second effect is described thus by Ryan-Deci‘s (2001:153) survey: —people who place a strong value on wealth relative to goals such as close relationships, [and] personal growth […] should show lower well-being“, more depression, more anxiety, less vitality, and an even greater propensity for mental illness."

Rezultatele expuse de Pugno nu ar trebui sa surprinda pe nimeni: in societatile dominate de obsesia cresterii economice, e normal ca totul, inclusiv timpul si atentia necesare construirii si pastrarii relatiilor personale sa fie sacrificate pe altarul hei-rupismului general, ceea ce duce la deteriorarea acestor relatii, fundamentale pentru fericire, si aparitia pasiunii materialiste, opuse fericirii. Astfel se explica si existenta Paradoxului fericirii: progresul economic necontrolat, considerat ca un bun in sine, nu face decat sa ne departeze de adevaratele surse de fericire si sa ne iluzioneze ca vom gasi fericirea in domenii complet nepotrivite.

Concluziile lui Pugno, confirmate doi ani mai tarziu:
In 2007, a aparut un alt studiu, intitulat "Did the Decline in Social Capital Decrease American Happiness? A Relational Explanation of the Happiness Paradox", coordonat de S. Bartolini de la Universitatea din Siena, la care a participat si Pugno.
Aici se confirma concluziile studiului prezentat anerior: scaderea fericirii in ciuda progresului material se explica prin deterioarea capitalului social, care masoara gradul de implicare civic si social. Dintr-o prezentare sumara a studiului, aflam:

"Based on General Social Survey (GSS) gold-standard data from 1975-2004, Steven Bartolini and 2 other researchers presenting a paper at Italy’s Siena University blamed America’s decline in happiness on declines in social capital (our civic and social engagement).Reuters reports that they “concluded a person with no friends or social relations with neighbours would have to earn $320,000 more each year than someone who did to enjoy the same level of happiness.

“And while the average American paycheck had risen over the past 30 years, its happiness-boosting benefits were more than offset by a drop in the quality of relationships over the period. “‘The main cause is a decline in the so-called social capital — increased loneliness, increased perception of others as untrustworthy and unfair,’ said Stefano Bartolini, one of the authors of the study.”"

Din articolul propriu-zis:

"Most popular explanations of the happiness paradox cannot fully account for the lack of growth in U.S. reported well-being during the last thirty years (Blanchflower and Oswald (2004)). In this paper we test an alternative hypothesis, namely that the decline in U.S. social capital is responsible for what is left unexplained by previous research. We provide three main findings. First, we show that the inclusion of social capital does improve the account of reported happiness. Second, we provide evidence of a decline in social capital indicators for the period 1975-2004, confirming Putnam's claim to a large extent. Finally, we show that failed growth of happiness is mostly due to the decline of social capital and, in particular, to the decline of its relational and intrinsically motivated component."

IN CONCLUZIE, ne-am convins o data in plus ca progresul economic e incapabil de a spori fericirea si ca aceasta poate fi gasita in domenii care nu se pot dezvolta armonios intr-o societate axata de competitie, consum si idei materialiste. Ceea ce castiga aceasta societate este, pe de o parte, in mare lipsit de importanta si, pe de alta parte, contrar altor surse de fericire, pe care le marginalizeaza.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Despre criza capitalista din prezent

La 17 martie 2009 am citit in Gandul ca „Americanii din marile orase se muta la cort si cresc gaini”. Citez de acolo: „În timp ce administraţia americană pompează sute de miliarde de dolari pentru refacerea economiei şi a încrederii în sistemul bancar, americanii de rând încearcă să găsească metode concrete de supravieţuire. În metropole precum New York sau Los Angeles, oamenii ajunşi deja la sapă de lemn s-au apucat să crească animale pe lângă bloc, relatează Le Figaro. California, ce întruchipa împlinirea visului american, devine, pe zi ce trece, un coşmar: şomajul a atins cote alarmante (de peste 15% în anumite zone ale statului zeci de mii de oameni şi-au pierdut deja casele.

Mulţi dintre cei care nu şi-au mai permis să îşi plătească ratele la bănci s-au mutat la cort, chiar în centrul unor oraşe precum Sacramento (capitala statului California).

Însă oraşul de corturi din Sacramento este doar unul din cele câteva zeci care au împânzit America. În Santa Barbara, municipalitatea a cedat celor rămaşi fără case un parc de maşini şi camionete vechi. Din statul Washington şi până în Nevada, Georgia şi chiar Florida, grupurile care militează pentru cei fără adăpost şi agenţiile guvernamentale raportează cea mai mare creştere de zeci de ani încoace a numărului oamenilor ce se instalează în tot felul de locuinţe improvizate.”

Intr-un alt text pe o tema similara, publicat in Adevarul, citim ca „Recesiunea, care a început ca o criză a locuinţelor, în care mulţi americani nu îşi mai puteau plăti ipotecile, s-a împrăştiat în toate sectoarele economice. Numai în februarie, 650.000 de americani şi-au pierdut locurile de muncă, şomajul înregistrând cea mai mare cotă din ultimii 25 de ani, 8,1%. Circa 12,5 milioane de oameni caută de lucru, adică mai mulţi decât întreaga populaţie a statului Pennsylvania. Nimeni nu este imun la criză, nici măcar cei cu o pregătire universitară. Rata şomajului între absolvenţii de facultate a atins şi ea un punct maxim. Lucrătorii organizaţiilor de caritate spun că cei care au ajuns fără locuinţe sau în pragul acestei situaţii disperate nu sunt numai din clasa muncitoare săracă, aşa cum se întâmpla până acum doi ani. Au început să fie afectate persoane din clasa mijlocie, oameni care câştigau bine înainte de criză, însă nu aveau economii. Este vorba uneori de familii întregi de trei sau patru persoane.”

Nici Romania nu a fost ocolita de acest tsunami economic, afland de curand ca pana la sfarsitul lui 2009, vom avea 800.000 de someri.

Cum s-a ajuns la dezastrul economic din prezent?

1. Eronata ideologie capitalist-liberala
Joseph Stiglitz, castigator al Premiului Nobel pentru economie in 2001 si profesor de Stiinte Economice la Universitatea Columbia, USA, cuprinde explicatia intr-un singur paragraf al articolului sau din ianuarie 2009 intitulat simbolic „Capitalist Fools”.

„The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, “I have found a flaw.” Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working.” “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.”

Criza din prezent a inceput de la o masura a lui Alan Greenspan, fostul presedinte al Rezervei Federale, cat se poate de liberala (el insusi un minarhist convins), anume deregularizarea instrumentelor financiare derivate. Ca si cum masura sa nu era indeajuns, a mai si luptat din rasputeri impotriva Commodity Futures Trading Commission, condusa de Brooksley E. Born, cand a incercat sa impuna limitari in acest sens. De altfel, Greenspan nu a facut decat sa raspunda in disperare de cauza in fata unei recesiuni care se prevestea la inceputul anilor 2000.

In articolul numit What Went Wrong”, Anthony Faiola, Ellen Nakashima and Jill Drew subliniaza din nou influenta daunatoare a lui Greenspan si a gandirii sale libertariene in aparitia crizei economice globale de azi:
„In private meetings and public speeches, Greenspan also argued a free-market view. Self-regulation, he asserted, would work better than the heavy hand of government: Investors had a natural desire to avoid self-destruction, and that served as the logical and best limit to excessive risk.. Besides, derivatives had become a huge U.S. business, and burdensome rules would drive the market overseas.”
Alan Greenspan insusi si-a admis vina, recunoscandu-se uimit in fata impotentei pietei libere: `Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress on Thursday he is "shocked" at the breakdown in U.S. credit markets and said he was "partially" wrong to resist regulation of some securities. [...] Greenspan softened his longstanding opposition to many forms of financial market regulation, acknowledging in an exchange with Waxman that he was "partially" wrong in his belief that some trading instruments, specifically credit default swaps, did not need oversight. Waxman cited a series of public statements by Greenspan saying the market could handle regulation of derivatives without government intervention.`
(sursa aici.)

Observam deci ca dezastrul economic de proportii globale pe care il resimtim in prezent este rezultatul ideologiei economice liberale, profund capitaliste, nimic altceva decat un adevarat fundamentalism al pietei libere. Al carei paroxism s-a inregistrat inca de pe vremea lui Reagan, cu rezultate dintre cele mai dezastruoase. Dupa cum caracterizeaza acelasi Stiglitz aceasta credinta in laissez faire, aceasta nu e nimic altceva decat o religie, o superstitie:

`Economic theory—and historical experience—long ago proved the need for regulation of financial markets. But ever since the Reagan presidency, deregulation has been the prevailing religion. Never mind that the few times “free banking” has been tried—most recently in Pinochet’s Chile, under the influence of the doctrinaire free-market theorist Milton Friedman—the experiment has ended in disaster. Chile is still paying back the debts from its misadventure. With massive problems in 1987 (remember Black Friday, when stock markets plunged almost 25 percent), 1989 (the savings-and-loan debacle), 1997 (the East Asia financial crisis), 1998 (the bailout of Long Term Capital Management), and 2001–02 (the collapses of Enron and WorldCom), one might think there would be more skepticism about the wisdom of leaving markets to themselves.” (sursa aici)

2. Capitalismul, un sistem neputincios
Richard Wolff, profesor de economie la Universitatea din Massachusetts, a publicat la 26 septembrie 2008 in Monthly Review un articol denumit „Capitalist Crisis, Marx's Shadow”. Conform lui Wolff, capitalismul contine in el insusi germenii propriei distrugeri, fiind cşladit pe contradictii si conflicte interne ireparabile:

„The so-called financial crisis today is a symptom. The underlying disease is capitalism: an economic system that weaves implacable and destructive conflict into its production and distribution of goods and services. Employers and employees need to cooperate to make the economy work, but they are forever adversaries whose conflicts periodically burst into crises. So it is today. Capitalism also locks employers into those endless struggles with and against one another that we call competition. It too periodically erupts into conflicts and crises. And so it is today.
Employer-employee conflict contributed to today's global capitalist meltdown as follows. In the 1970s, employers found a way to stop the long-term slow rise in real wages of their employees. By outsourcing jobs overseas to take advantage of cheaper wages, by drawing US women into the labor force, by substituting computers and other machines for workers, and by bringing in low-wage immigrants, employers drove down their employees' wages even as they produced ever more commodities for sale. The results were predictable. On the one hand, company profits soared (after all, workers produced ever more while not having to be paid any more). One the other hand, after a few years, stagnant workers' wages proved insufficient to enable them to buy the growing output of their labor. Given how capitalism works, employers unable to sell all that they produce lay off their own employees. And of course, that only compounds the problem.”

Intr-adevar, capitalismul este cladit pe conflicte permanente, intre angajator si angajati pe de o parte, si agajator si restul angajatorilor pe de alta (procesul numit competitie). In plus, trebuie sa remarcam sursele prosperitatii marilor capitalisti: goana dupa munca ieftina din afara (de obicei din tarile Lumii a Treia), angajarea imigrantilor, inlocuirea muncitorilor cu masini si roboti, cresterea numerului de ore muncite pe zi etc. In acest fel, salariile lucratorilor chiar din tari avansate precum SUA au fost tinute sub control, ele nemai crescand din aproximativ anul 1970.

Cum se explica insa faptul ca din 1970 societatea americana a inregistrat progrese economice relevante? Wolff o spune clar: imprumutul de bani, creditarea.

„Thus, in the 1970s, another capitalist crisis loomed as a bad recession hit hard. But that crisis was kept short because US capitalism found a way to postpone it: massive debt. Since employers succeeded in keeping wages from rising, the only way to sell the ever-expanding output was to lendworkers the money to buy more. Corporations invested their soaring profits in buying new securities backed by workers' mortgages, auto loans, and credit-card loans. Owners of such securities were thereby entitled to portions of the monthly payments workers made on those loans. In effect, the extra profits made by keeping workers' wages down now did double duty for employers who earned hefty interest payments by loaning part of those profits back to the workers. What a system!
Postponing the solution to crisis of the 1970s only prepared the way for the bigger one now. Booming consumer lending in the 1980s, 1990s, and since 2000, especially in the deregulated financial world of Reagan and Bush America, provoked wild profit-driven excesses and corruption (the stock market "bubble" and then the real estate "bubble”). It also loaded millions of Americans with unsustainable debts. By 2006, the most stressed borrowers -- "sub-prime" -- could no longer pay what they owed. This house of debt cards then began its spiraling descent.”

Pe scurt, capitalistii au dorit in acelasi timp sa vanda din ce in ce mai multa marfa pentru a-si spori profiturile, insa nu au fost dispusi nici sa creasca salariile angajatilor, acestia fiind determinati sa apeleze la creditele bancare. Milioane s-au imprumutat astfel sub impulsurile consumeriste, insa a venit vremea cand nu au mai reusit sa-si achite datoriile. Ceea ce a cauzat prabusirea bancilor, fapt ce a antrenat la randul sau caderea economiilor.

Solutia: economia condusa de muncitori in avantajul muncitorilor, in care proprietatea privata este abolita

Wolff nu ezita cand propune o solutie radicala pentru iesirea din impasul economiei capitaliste. Conflictele dintre patronat si angajati, adica lupta de clasa, in termeni marxisti, nu pot fi inlaturate decat prin inlaturarea patronatelor, ceea ce se rezuma la inlaturarea proprietatii private asupra mijloacelor de productie. Si, am putea aduga noi, redistribuirea averilor, asigurarea traiului decent, dar deloc luxos, pentru toti membrii societatii, in paralel cu imlementarea egalitarismului pentru descurajarea consumului exagerat, sunt solutii ce pot impiedica pe viitor crize precum cea de azi.

„For example, if workers in each enterprise became their own collective boards of directors, the old capitalist conflicts between employers and employees would be overcome. If state agencies coordinated enterprises' interdependent production decisions, the remaining enterprise competition could be limited to focus on rewards for improved performance. The US government might not just bail out huge financial institutions but also require them to change into enterprises where employers and employees were the same people and where coordination and competition became the major and minor aspects of enterprise interactions. The US government took over Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, it changed neither the organization of these enterprises nor the destructive competition among them. That was a tragically lost opportunity. If the political winds continue to change far enough and fast enough, solutions responding to the current crisis by moving beyond capitalism might yet be tried.”

3. Rolul inegalitatilor socio-economice in aparitia crizei
Dedrick Muhammad a publicat la 28 septembrie 2008 pentru saitul Extreme Inequality articolul „The Fundamental Problem with the Economy”. Autorul subliniaza corect importanta monstruoaselor inegalitati socio-economice in aparitia dezastrului prezent:

„Our current financial crisis and the subprime crisis are both symptoms of a larger economic problem: an economy that no longer sustains a middle class and instead, allows the wealthiest elite to gamble massive fortunes regardless of its possible impact. Historically, what has made the US economy strong has been an economy that fed and strengthened the middle class. Over the last 30 years we have seen the American economy go in the wrong direction. Instead of a growing and prosperous middle class, wealth has become concentrated in the hands of the rich, leaving middle class and working class America cash poor.

Today the wealthiest 10% control 70% of America’s wealth. In the last 35 years, the richest one percent of Americans witnessed a 62% drop in their federal tax rate, while their incomes have increased over 80%. Meanwhile, payroll taxes that directly affect middle and working class Americans has increased 25%, while their wages have remained stagnate. The average American has used debt to try to compensate for stagnate wages and increasing health care, education, energy, and other basic costs. Wall Street bought and sold this debt, making billions for themselves, but leaving the financial system of the country in ruins.

Wall Street got so carried away making massive profits off of the debt of average Americans that they lost sight of what was obvious: the already economically squeezed American did not have the means to pay the debt that was being sold as a commodity. As I stated in a January 2008 Democracy Now interview, this debt would have to be paid at some point and it appears that time is now. Too much of the debt that Wall Street was so happy to buy and profit off of is now recognized as not being worth much more than the paper it was written on.”

In concluzie:
Dezastrul economic din prezent este rezultatul ideilor si practicilor capitaliste, sistem care a reusit performanta de a se prabusi de la sine, in conditiile in care domina vasta majoritate a Pamantului. Liberalismul, contradictiile si conflictele capitalismului, consumerismul, creditarea, inegalitatile-socio economice, toate au avut rolul lor in nasterea realitatii economice contemporane.
Egalitarismul, moderatia, redistribuirea marilor averi si abolirea proprietatii private asupra mijloacelor de productie sunt solutii viabile de iesire definitiv din seria crizelor capitaliste.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Articol vechi, extrem de actual

Pe acest blog am publicat in special articole recente si foarte recente, pentru a demonstra ca ideile expuse de ele sunt de actualitate si sunt tezele sustinute in prezent in domeniile care se ocupa de aceste chestiuni. Azi fac o exceptie, prezentand un articol din 1992, mai exact, publicat in New Renaissance magazine Vol.3, No.3. Textul, intitulat "The Dubious Rewards of Consumption", este semnat de Alan Thein Durning, cercetator pentru World Watch Institute.
Vom vedea cu aceasta ocazie ca dovezile stiintifice contra consumerismului au o traditie relativ indelungata, ele fiind astfel rezultatul a decenii de cercetari atente, toate convergente aceleiasi concluzii, la fel de valabila si azi ca acum 17 ani.

Anti-materialism stravechi:
"The avarice of mankind is insatiable," wrote Aristotle 23 centuries ago, describing the way that as each desire is satisfied, a new one seems to appear in its place. That observation forms the first precept of economic theory, and is confirmed by much of human experience. A century before Christ, the Roman philosopher Lucretius wrote: "We have lost our taste for acorns. So (too) we have abandoned those couches littered with herbage and heaped with leaves. So the wearing of wild beasts' skins has gone out or fashion....Skins yesterday, purple and gold today--such are the baubles that embitter human life with resentment."Nearly 2,000 years later, Leo Tolstoy echoed Lucretius: "seek among men, from beggar to millionaire, one who is contented with his lot, and you will not find one such in a thousand....Today we must buy an overcoat and galoshes, tomorrow, a watch and a chain; the next day we must install ourselves in an apartment with a sofa and a bronze lamp; then we must have carpets and velvet gowns; then a house, horses and carriages, paintings and decorations."

Opiniile stravechi, confirmate in prezent "Contemporary chroniclers of wealth concur. For decades Lewis Lapham, born into an oil fortune, has been asking people how much money they would need to be happy. "No matter what their income," he reports, "a depressing number of Americans believe that if only they had twice as much, they would inherit the estate of happiness promised them in the Declaration of Independence. The man who receives $15,000 a year is sure that he could relieve his sorrow if he had only $30,000 a year; the man with $1 million a year knows that all would be well if he had $2 million a year....Nobody," he concludes, "ever has enough."
If human desires are in fact infinitely expandable, consumption is ultimately incapable of providing fulfillment--a logical consequence ignored by economic theory. Indeed, social scientists have found striking evidence that high-consumption societies, just as high-living individuals, consume ever more without achieving satisfaction. The allure of the consumer society is powerful, even irresistible, but it is shallow nonetheless."

Fericirea natiunilor, putin dependenta de realizarile lor materiale "Measured in constant dollars, the world's people have consumed as many goods and services since 1950 as all previous generations put together. Since 1940, Americans alone have used up as large a share of the earth's mineral resources as did everyone before them combined Yet this historical epoch of titanic consumption appears to have failed to make the consumer class any happier. Regular surveys by the National Opinion Research Centre of the University of Chicago reveal, for example, that no more Americans report they are "very happy" now than in 1957. The "very happy" share of the population has fluctuated around one-third since the mid-fifties, despite near-doubling in both gross national product and personal consumption expenditures per capita.
A landmark study in 1974 revealed that Nigerians, Filipinos, Panamanians, Yugoslavians, Japanese, Israelis, and West Germans all ranked themselves near the middle on a happiness scale. Confounding any attempt to correlate material prosperity with happiness, low-income Cubans and affluent Americans both reported themselves considerably happier than the norm, and citizens of India and the Dominican Republic, less so. As psychologist Michael Argyle writes, "There is very little difference in the levels of reported happiness found in rich and very poor countries." Any relationship that does exist between income and happiness is relative rather than absolute.
The happiness that people derive from consumption is based on whether they consume more than their neighbours and more than they did in the past. Thus, psychological data from diverse societies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Brazil, and India show that the top income strata tend to be slightly happier than the middle strata, and the bottom group tends to be the least happy. The Upper classes in any society are more satisfied with their lives than the lower classes are, but they are no more satisfied than the upper classes of much poorer countries--nor than the upper classes were in the less affluent past. Consumption is thus a treadmill, with everyone judging their status by who is ahead and who is behind."

Luxul devenit necesitate
"The reason, argues Stanford University economist Tibor Scitovsky, is that consumption is addictive: each luxury quickly becomes a necessity, and a new luxury must be found. This is as true for the young Chinese factory worker exchanging a radio for a black-and-white television as it is for the Sherman junior executive trading in a BMW for a Mercedes. Luxuries become necessities between generations as well. People measure their current material comforts against the benchmark set in their own childhood. So each generation needs more than the previous did to be satisfied. Over a few generations, this process can redefine prosperity as poverty. The ghettos of the United States and Europe have things such as televisions that would have awed the richest neighbourhoods of centuries past, but that does not diminish the scorn the consumer class heaps on slum dwellers, nor the bitterness belt by the modernised poor.

With consumption standards perpetually rising, society is literally insatiable. The definition of a "decent" standard of living--the necessities of life for a member in good standing in the consumer society-endlessly shifts upward. The child whose parents have not purchased the latest video game feels ashamed to invite friends home. Teenagers without an automobile do not feel equal to their peers. In the clipped formulation of economists, "Needs are socially defined, and escalate with the rate of economic progress." The relationships between consumption and satisfaction are thus subtle, involving comparisons over time and with social norms. Yet studies on happiness indicate a far less subtle fact as well. The main determinants of happiness in life are not related to consumption at all--prominent among them are satisfaction with family life, especially marriage, followed by satisfaction with work, leisure to develop talents, and friendships."
Cele trei surse de fericire: relatiile sociale, munca si timpul liber
"Oxford University psychologist Michael Argyle's comprehensive work The Psychology of Happiness concludes: "The conditions of life which really make a difference to happiness are those covered by three sources-social relations, work and leisure. And the establishment of a satisfying state of affairs in these sphere does not depend much on wealth, either absolute or relative." Indeed, some evidence suggests that social relations, especially in households and communities, are neglected in the consumer society; leisure likewise tares worse among the consumer class than many assume. The consumer society fails to deliver on its promise of fulfillment through material comforts because human wants are insatiable, human needs are socially defined, and the real sources of personal happiness are elsewhere. Indeed, the strength of social relations and the quality of leisure--both crucial psychological determinants of happiness in life--appear as much diminished as enhanced in the consumer class. The consumer society, it seems, has impoverished us by raising our income."

Desi textul nu aduce nimic nou fata de cele prezentate pana acum pe acest blog, el are meritul de a demonstra ca filosofia si stiinta anti-materialista si anti-consumerista au o imensa traditie si continuitate. Faptul ca aceleasi rezultate, aceleasi dovezi ale neputintei banilor de a spori fericirea, au fost gandite si, ulterior demonstrate in repetate randul, de-al lungul unor mari perioade de timp, este in sine un argument ce atesta valabilitatea lor.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Microbi neoliberali

Un grup de trei cercetatori de la Mount Saint Vincent University, in speta Sue L. T. McGregor, Janice Doull, & Larry Fisk, au publicat la 5 noiembrie 2004 un articol intitulat "Neoliberalism, Microbes, and Peace: A Human Ecological Perspective". Textul este o pertinenta critica a neoliberalismului, ideologia politica dominanta din prezent, aratand cum asmenea unui microb, liberalismul favorizeaza aparitia bolilor, atat fizice cat si spirituale, in randul populatiilor.

Prezentare generala

"The intent of this discussion is to draw links between the neoliberal ideology, microbes, and peace. Stranger bedfellows there may never have been; however, the premise of this paper is that there are powerful connections between these three notions, connections that can be perceived from a human ecological perspective. We argue that embracing a particular ideology explains the sanctioning of patterns of behaviour and lines of thinking that affect, and are affected by, peace in a society. [...]
Our basic line of reasoning is that adhering to the neoliberal ideology provides justification for exploiting both people and the ecosystems of the world. This exploitation leads to oppression and povertization of people and to the destruction of ecosystems. The latter can lead to the freeing of viruses and bacteria (microbes) from their conventional habitats and modus operandi, culminating in old microbes appearing in new places adapting to current antibiotics, or both. The former can lead to unsanitary conditions and overcrowding which create a ripe environment for the proliferation of illness due to viral outbreaks of infectious diseases. Microbes are also being used as biological weapons in instances of conflict, outbreaks of violence, and dissidence, jeopardizing peace. Indeed, we hope to show, from a human ecological perspective, that embracing the neoliberal ideology justifies, what seems to be, totally unjustifiable, culpable behaviour, all in the name of profit, power, and control."

Ce este neoliberalismul?
One basic assumption of neoliberalism is that human beings will always try to favour themselves. As they do this, they need have no concern for others or the environment. This absence of concern can exist because each person is assumed to act absolutely independently of others and is assumed to be restricted only by the natural surroundings and NOT by any other human being (Rösch, 1998). The tenets of neoliberalism have absolutely no concern for the impact of current decisions and patterns of behaviour on others elsewhere, not yet born, or the ecosystem. Other values of neoliberalism are ownership of private property, competition and an emphasis on individual success measured through endless work and ostentatious consumption (Acción Zapastista de Austin, 1996). These values reflect three basic tenets of neoliberalism: (a) the necessity of free markets (where we work and consume), (b) individualism, and (c) the pursuit of narrow self-interest rather than mutual interest, with the assumption that these three tenets will lead to social good."

Asadar, neoliberalismul este ideologia egoismului si individualismului, cinismului, consumerismului si goanei nestavilite dupa profit. Conform liberalilor, nimic nu trebuie sa stea in calea lacomiei, singurul rol al statului, restrand la minim, fiind acela de a asigura existenta "pietei libere". Cuvantul libertate aici nu inseamna decat "fiecare pe cont propriu", in care, evident, castigatorii din start sunt marii proprietari de capital.

"Neoliberalists eliminate the concept of the public good and the community and replace it with individual responsibility. Advocates of neoliberalism believe in pressuring the poorest people in a society to find their own solutions to their lack of health care, education, and social security all by themselves. They are then blamed and called lazy if they fail (Martinez & Garcia, 2000). Remember that neoliberalism focuses on the individual. People embracing the neoliberal ideology truly believe that ethics, morality, and social ideals are the responsibility of each individual person, not the state and certainly not private enterprise (Rösch, 1998). Also, under neoliberalism, people do not care about the social conditions of production but they do respect private property and they do get their personal identity through private consumption. They live to buy (Lauesen, 1996). Transactional corporations live to sell, be damned the social, equity, or ecological consequences and feel quite justified in doing so."

Neoliberalismul, dusmanul pacii si omenirii:
"Concern for equality, justice, gender, rights, and morality is foreign to anyone embracing neoliberalism. The only legitimate role for government is to make sure the free economy can run unencumbered. Ironically, neoliberalists will argue that healthy economic development is essential to peace, security, human rights, social justice, cultural pluralism and diversity, and democracy. These same people think neoliberal economics is regarded as the key to all doors for trade (finances and merchandise) and find it natural to measure the worth of men, women, and children by their effectiveness as an economic tool. This view is in total opposition to peace proponents who envision a world where economic, political, and social institutions exist to serve humanity not the other way round (International Movement for a Just World, 1997).

The militarization of societies, in response to the weapons industry and the increased social unrest, is a permanent characteristic of neoliberalism. Worse yet, under neoliberalism, the weak state tends to dedicate important human and nonhuman resources to the protection and subsidy of corporations and to deny protection to marginalized groups and the vulnerable ecosystems (Rodriguez, 1994). Under neoliberalism, the state is not the source of power; rather, power is held by the corporations and the financial centres of the world, comprising financial institutions that lend money to businesses. Their power exists because the capitalist (neoliberalist), who buys and sells money (called currencies), can sell a country’s money if he does not like the policies put in place by the country. He especially is inclined to do this if those policies infringe on profit, property ownership, or movement of goods and services. It is noteworthy that neoliberalists do not oppose government policies that favour subsidies or tax breaks for businesses. They do not, however, like government to spend money on social services or community because they do not concern themselves with the social conditions of their labour pool except to guarantee minimum wages, unorganized labour, and no worker conditions that interfere with production and profit. Recall that positive peace represents the presence of economic practices that contribute to the safe, fair, and healthy living of citizens. Lack of sanitary and safe working conditions can lead to "crowd" infectious diseases that flourish in densely populated areas with poor sanitation leading to civil unrest and lack of peace. This is another example of the implicit link between neoliberalism, peace, and microbes."

Divizarea societatii
"It may seem contradictory but neoliberalistic globalization actually produces a fragmented world, full of isolated pieces, often in conflict with each other. Acción Zapastista de Austin (1996) discusses neoliberalism and violence explaining that neoliberalism seeks to disempower marginalized and fragmented groups by converting their differences and diversity into antagonisms along the lines of income, race, gender, and ethnicity. Neoliberalism's divide and conquer tactic, by turning people against each other, is completely justified given that it assumes that everyone acts independently of others and only in their own self-interest. Central to this antagonism is violence, which is especially manifested in situations characterized by poverty, hunger, urbanization, undereducation, disenfranchisement, and exposure to avoidable diseases. Violence is a form of negative peace."

In concluzie, "where there is war, violence, injustice, exploitation, absence of liberty, and curtailment of popular movements (including movements related to labour, consumer, women, children, environment, and civil rights), there is no peace. We are hard pressed not to say simply that where there is neoliberalism, there can ultimately be no peace."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Timpul liber si simplitatea voluntara

Bryan Smale preda la Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. In articolul sau "Voluntary Simplicity Lifestyle and the Realationship between Leisure and Psychological Well-Being", Smale evidentiaza importanta pentru fericire si bunastarea personala a timpului liber si recreatiei, aratand totodata ca trecerea de la un stil de viata consumerist la unui relexat, al simplitatii voluntare, amplifica efectele benefice ale timpului liber.

Importanta pentru fericire a timpului liber
"Leisure typically has been regarded as a positive component in people's lives, enriching their well-being and providing balance in otherwise hectic lifestyles. In fact, Kelly and Godbey (1992) have suggested that there is "evidence that leisure may be central rather than peripheral to life's central concerns" (p. 270). From early days, leisure has been attributed with the potential to achieve self-actualization and self-development (Dumazedier, 1967; Pieper, 1963), to help cope with stress (Caltabiano, 1994, 1995; Coleman & Iso-Ahola, 1993), to lead to higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction, and psychological well-being (Iso-Aholo & Weissinger, 1984; Mannell & Kleiber, 1997; Smale & Dupuis, 1993), and to enhance personal and family relationships, build communities and foster expressions of citizenship (Arai & Pedlar, 1997; Hemingway, 1999) and respect for the environment (Devall, 1988). Indeed, Weinblatt and Navon (1995) argue, "studies of leisure generally emphasize leisure's contribution to both the individual and society... [leisure is] conducive to psychological well-being, to physical health, and to the stability of social groups" (p. 309).""

Asadar, departe de a fi o distractie sterila sau individualista, activitatile din timpul liber au rolul de a spori bunastarea psihicia, sanatatea fizica, stabilitatea si coeziunea sociala.

Virtutile timpului liber, viciate de societatea de consum
"The extent to which we are able to reach the potential that leisure provides for achieving such outcomes very much depends on the role that leisure plays in our lives, how we experience our leisure, and whether the conditions are present to facilitate positive outcomes (Kleiber, 1999). In this regard, Hemingway (1996), among others, has expressed the concern that our leisure is becoming increasingly instrumentalised by the technical, consumerist nature of modern society, and therefore is offered much more as a product to be consumed rather than an independent
process, voluntarily undertaken, to achieve certain outcomes (Kelly & Godbey, 1992; Wearing & Wearing, 1992).
As a consequence, the consumer society compels us to "act" more so than to "think" or "feel" in our leisure. Hemingway (1996) goes further and argues that unless leisure is freed from this "instrumental deformation", we will be unable to encounter or experience the emancipation leisure has to offer us. Indeed, Durning (1993) suggests that our personal happiness is lessened by consumerism and leisure fares much worse among the consumer class than many might assume because "the very sources of satisfaction tend to get squeezed out as individuals pursue their high-consumption lifestyles" (p. 21). Hence, the commodification of leisure may in fact inhibit our ability to realise the positive benefits of leisure."

Pe scurt, in loc ca activitatea de recreere sa fie una aleasa de buna voie, in acord cu nevoile psihice personale, ea a devenit o activitate ghidata de societatea de consum, un simplu instrument si oportunitate de a consuma si mai mult.

Ce este simplitatea voluntara?
"An individual's lifestyle can be described as the behaviours and attitudes that characterise one's existence (Sessoms, 1980). It is, in essence, a value orientation reflected in the activities in which we engage and the beliefs we hold (Mitchell, 1983). However, lifestyle has not lent itself easily to measurement. In this study, lifestyle has been conceptualised and operationalised using a "voluntary simplicity" value orientation, first put forward by Gregg (1936).
In essence, "voluntary simplicity" provides a conceptual framework that encompasses the main defining dimensions (or values) of a typical lifestyle, such as work, family, leisure, spirituality, citizenship, community, and relationship to the environment. Drawing on the work of authors such as Elgin and Mitchell (1977), Shama and Wisenblit (1984), Elgin (1993), and Burch (1997), four basic dimensions can be consistently identified as defining a voluntary simplicity lifestyle: (1) material simplicity, which reflects a non-consumptive, less materialistic orientation;
(2) self-determination, which reflects the desire to assume greater control over personal destiny;
(3) ecological awareness, which recognises the interdependency of people and environmental resources; and
(4) personal growth, which reflects a desire to explore and develop the "inner life". Proponents of voluntary simplicity argue that individuals who reflect these dimensions in their lifestyles are more process-oriented and derive greater satisfaction and psychological well-being from their activities by resisting more consumer-oriented, product-driven lifestyles."

Asadar, stilul de viata al simplitatii voluntare se caracterizeaza prin simplitatea materiala, un control sporit asupra vietii personale, atitudini ecologiste si, in general, o atentie mai mare acordata valorilor intelectuale, intrinseci decat celor exterioare precum bogatie materiale, moda, aspect fizic, ascensiune sociala etc.

Mai departe, Bryan Smale realizeaza un studiu in care isi propune sa verifice daca intr-adevar, adeptii simplitatii voluntare au capacitatea de a se bucura mai intesn de timpul lor liber decat consumeristii.
"Using the concept of a voluntary simplicity lifestyle, the purpose of this study was to examine the role that lifestyle dimensions play in the relationship between leisure and psychological well-being. More specifically, the basic question underlying this inquiry is whether specific lifestyle orientations are, in fact, better able to facilitate positive well-being through leisure. Given the concerns expressed by Hemingway (1996) and others, some related research questions include: (a) is the experience of leisure and levels of psychological well-being for those who reflect a voluntary simplicity lifestyle significantly more positive than for those who do not?; (b) are certain lifestyle dimensions more strongly related to higher levels of psychological well-being?; and (c) are some leisure activities more often associated with a voluntary simplicity lifestyle and ultimately better able to facilitate the positive benefits of leisure?"

Raspunsul lui Bryan Smale? Downshifter-ii, cei care au ales simplitatea voluntara, se bucura, intr-adevar, mai mult de timpul lor liber pe care il fructifica intr-un mod superior. Nu e de mirare, din moment ce simplitatea voluntara se axeaza mai mult pe valorile intrinseci iar, dupa cum am vazut, timpul liber este folosit la maxim atunci cand presupune dezvoltarea personala, evitarea stresului, imbunatatirea relatiilor familiale si sociale.

"Lifestyles that more strongly embraced voluntary simplicity were associated with higher levels of challenge (r= .296, p<.001) and awareness (r= .326, p<.001), and lower levels of anxiety (r= -.215, p=.001) and boredom (r= -.356, p<.001) in the experience of leisure. Finally, when examining the relationships of dimensions of a voluntary simplicity lifestyle with psychological well-being, lower levels of material simplicity were significantly related to higher levels of psychological well-being (r= -.139, p=.034) and higher levels of personal growth were notably, albeit not significantly, related to higher levels of psychological well-being (r= .128, p=.052). When all the factors are taken together, a significant proportion of psychological well-being is explained (R2=.245, p<.001) by the experience of leisure, especially high challenge (BETA=.248, p=.001) and not participation, and by a more voluntarily simplistic lifestyle that is most characterised by the material simplicity dimension (BETA= -.169, p=.037).

These results, then, suggest that regardless of the kind and intensity of involvement we have in our leisure time, if higher challenge and lower anxiety are sought through leisure, especially as expressed within a voluntary simplicity lifestyle, then higher levels of psychological well-being might be achieved. Indeed, by reducing complexity and lessening the focus on consumerism, the inherent value of leisure to our well-being might well emerge to a greater degree."

Ceea ce e suficient sa retinem din articolul lui Bryan Smale este ca 1. activitatile din timpul liber au o importanta deosebita pentru viata personala si sociala, nefiind deloc doar actiuni sterile si simplu "distractive" si 2. adoptarea unui stil de viata precum cel propus de miscarea simplitatii voluntare si valorile presupuse de ea ajuta la utilizarea timpului liber la maxim, extragand din activitatile incluse in aceasta categorie maxim de satisfactie psihica.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Neajunsurile cresterii economice

Tejvan Richard Pettinger a studiat Politica, Filosofia si Economia la universitatea din Oxford, in prezent predand economie la Cherwell College, Oxford. Pe saitul sau, Economics Help, Pettinger a postat la 26 martie 2007 un articol intitulat "Does Economics Growth Bring Increased Living Standards?", in care arata cateva dintre neajunsurile majore ale cresterii economice, explicand astfel de ce progresul economic si material nu a dus la cresterea fericirii populatiei din tarile bogate.
Motivele sunt, in ordinea prezentata de autor:

1.Satisfactia si rostul date de bogatie scad treptat

If a section of the population is living in absolute poverty, economic growth enables people to have higher incomes and therefore they will be able to afford the basic necessities of life such as; food, and shelter. When economic growth can overcome this type of poverty there is a clear link with improved living standards. However, when incomes increase from say $35,000 a year to $36,000 the improvement in living standards is harder to justify. Diminishing returns is a basic economic concept, which suggests the tenth unit of a good will give much less satisfaction than the first. If we already have 2 cars, does our living standards really improve if we now have the capacity to own 3 cars? Often as economic growth increases incomes, people increasingly save their money (higher marginal propensity to save) this is basically because they struggle to find anything meaningful to spend their money on."

Altfel spus, cresterea economica se justifica atunci cand ridica segmente importante din populatie deasupra pragului saraciei pana in punctul in care isi permit sa achizitioneze hrana si un adapost. mai departe insa, diferenta dintre a avea doua automobile sau trei este practic nula, astfel incat unii oameni cu bani ajung sa economiseasca bani din simplul motiv ca nu au pe ce sa-i mai cheltuiasca.

2. Externalitatile cresterii

"Economic Growth with involves increased output causes external side effects, such, as increased pollution. Global warming from pollution is becoming a real problem for society. The economic and social costs could potentially be greater than all the perceived benefits of recent economic growth. However, it is worth noting that economic growth doesn’t necessarily have to cause pollution. The benefits of growth could be used to develop better technologies that create less pollution. It is just at the moment this has been a low priority."

Cresterea economica inseamna si poluare si risipa de resurse, astfel incat pe termen lung ea e probabil sa dea nastere unor probleme de mediu extrem de serioase. Pettinger se arata optimist in privinta gasirii unor posibile tehnologii care sa mentina ritmul crescut economic din anumite tari fara a dauna mediului, desi pe de alta parte recunoaste ca nu s-au facut deloc progrese in acest sens si o asemenea agenda ecologista ramane in continuare o prioritate scazuta.

3. Saracia relativa

"It is perhaps a paradox that higher economic growth can cause an increase in relative poverty. This is because those who benefit from growth are often the highly educated and those who own wealth. In 1980s and 1990s higher growth in the UK and US has resulted in increased inequality. However, it depends on how growth is managed; economic growth can be used to reduce inequality. This occurred in 50s and 60s."

Pettinger nu ocoleste nici problema cresterii inegalitatilor sociale, odata cu imbogatirea economica a unei societati. Se naste astfel saracia relativa, creata involuntar dar cu urmari reale in starea debine a populatiei. Cei care au prosperat mai putin decat ceilalti se simt marginalizati, frustrati si saraci, chiar si daca nu e vorba de o saracie absoluta.

4. Cresterea infractionalitatii

"It is another paradox that as incomes increase and people are better off the level of crime has increased as well. This suggests that crime is not motivated by poverty but perhaps envy. One reason why crime rates increase is that quite simply there are more things to steal. Back in the 1930s auto theft, mobile phone theft e.t.c were rare or non-existent. Economic Growth has created more goods to steal. However the link isn’t absolute for example in recent years crime rates in US have reduced from their peak. But there has been a general association between growth and crimes."

Autorul argumenteaza ca progresul economic nu duce, asa cum ne-am astepta la o prima vedere, la o scadere a infractionalitatii, ci la o crestere a sa. Intr-adevar, cu cat apar mai multe bogatii materiale in societate, cu atat tentatia de a fura este mai mare. De fapt, chiar si daca per total numarul de infractiuni se mentine constant (in loc sa creasca) in ciuda cresterii economice, demonstreaza ineficienta acestei cresteri, printre care ar fi trebuit sa fie si scaderea criminalitatii.

5. Cresterea orelor de munca

"In the beginning of the industrial revolution, higher growth led to people working lower hours. However, in the past couple of decades higher incomes have actually led to people working longer hours. It seems people are unable to enjoy their higher incomes. Feeling the necessity or preferring to work longer hours. This suggest people are valuing earning money more than leisure. However, this trend may also be due to companies wanting people to work longer hours."

Deci desi suntem mai bogati, muncim mai mult, ceea ce inseamna ca progresul economic este insotit de deteriorarea vietii personale si a timpului nostru liber.

7. Bolile bogatiei

"Economic Growth has enabled improved health care treatments, but at the same time there has been an unexpected rise in the number of diseases and illnesses related to increased prosperity. One example is obesity. Modern lifestyles and modern diets have created an epidemic of obesity, with significant proportions of the population expressing a desire to lose weight. It could be argued that problems such as obesity and stress related illnesses are not a direct consequence of growth. This is true, but, it is symbolic of the fact increased prosperity has created as many new problems as it has solved."

Dupa cum bine puncteaza autorul, cresterea economica a rezolvat atatea probleme de sanatate ale populatiei pe cat a creat, ceea ce per total, nu e un motiv de a o continua.

E bine de avut in vedere aceste scurte argumente impotriva cresterii expuse de Pettinger atunci cand le raspundem adeptilor progresului economic si opozantilor filosofiei anti-materialiste si a timpului liber promovate de downshifting.

Doua studii recente despre inegalitatile economice si adaptarea la venitul ridicat

Studiul numarul 1:
Primul studiu prezentat aici, aparut la 17 noiembrie 2008, ii apartine doctorandului Jean-Benoit Gregoire Rousseau si este intitulat `Happiness and Income Inequality`. Principalele sale teze sunt urmatoarele trei:

1. incepand cu 1975, in SUA principalele castiguri materiale au fost acaparate de cei mai bogati 20% dintre locuitori, inegalitatile socio-economice adancindu-se intre cei mai bogati si restul societatii.

2. in `Capitala capitalului`, fericirea bogatasilor a stagnat in acelasi interval de timp (in ciuda imbogatirii lor consistente), pe cand cea a restului societatii a scazut.

3. 10 ore de timp liber echivaleaza in domeniul bunastarii cu o crestere de peste 6% a veniturilor materiale.
In cuvintele autorului,

"This paper shows that the lack of growth in average well-being, despite substantial GDP per capita growth, in the US is not a paradox. It can be explained by changes in the income distribution and the concavity of the happiness function. Since 1975 in the United-States practically all of the income gains that have accrued to households have gone to the richest 20%; income inequality has increased signi cantly over that period.
A similar pattern can be observed in subjective well-being measures: the happiness gap between the rich and the poor has widened over the last decades. Happiness has stagnated for the rich and fallen for the poor. Formal analysis suggests that the happiness function can be approximated by a log-linear relationship and con rms that there is no satiation in the function. The analyses present corrections of the slope of the happiness function for taxes, the transitory nature of income and leisure. In the
US, 10 hours of weekly leisure have a similar e ect on individual happiness as a 6.25% raise in income."

Ingrijoratoare sunt statisticile mentionate de Rousseau cu privire la cresterea inegalitatilor socio-economice din ultimele trei decenii in SUA:
"Income inequality has grown among the GSS respondents [The General Social Survey (GSS) is a repeated micro-level cross section survey of about 1600 Americans covering the years 1972 to 2006 (with some gaps)] over the last decades. Real income for the bottom and second quintile has decreased by an average of 0.58% and 0.55% a year respectively. Real incomes for the third, fourth and top quintile has increased by an average of 0.15%, 0.79% and 0.90% a year respectively. The gap between the 1st and 5th quintile has grown by about 1.5% per year.
While the average income of the top quintile was about 9 times that of the bottom's in 1973, by the end of 2006 it was close to 10.5 times larger. These patterns are somewhat representative of the American population; income inequality measured by data from the Current Population Survey exhibits similar trends. Real income for the bottom, second, third, fourth and top quintile grew respectively by 0.57%, 0.45%, 0.58%, 0.87% and 1.40%. The income gap between the top and bottom quintile has been growing by an average 0.82% a year. The average income of the top quintile was about 10 times that of the bottom's in 1972 and by the end of 2006 it was close to 13.5 times larger."

Drept urmare, "Also, not only has income inequality increased since the mid seventies but real income for the poorest two quintiles has dropped
over that period. The observed happiness trends are consistent with the proposed explanation: happiness has barely increased for the rich and it has dropped for the poor." Si inca: "Over the last thirty- ve years the happiness gap between the rich and the poor has widened in pair with income inequality. Although the relative income of the top earners has increased
their happiness has not. Alternatively, happiness has fallen for the poor."

Pe langa neputinta capitalismului de a spori fericirea totala a populatiei, din cauza inegalitatilor pe care le favorizeaza si a incapacitatii bogatiei in sine sa aduca fericire, aceste statistici demonteaza o gandire raspandita, aceea a "trickle down effect". Adeptii sai sustin ca imbogatirea celor deja bogati e benefica pentru restul societatii, care isi va vedea la randul sau veniturile crescute, chiar daca in proportii mult mai modeste. Iata, deci, ca in realitate pe cand cei mai bogati se imbogatesc, cei mai saraci saracesc sau, in cel mai bun caz, stagneaza.

Al doilea studiu:
Al doilea studiu pe care il voi trece in revista, datand din decembrie 2008, le apartine cercetatorilor Rafael Di Tella si Robert MacCulloch, purtand titlul "Happiness Adaptation to Income Beyond Basic Needs". Cei doi puncteaza si confirma descoperirile altor numeroase articole similare, anume ca odata trecut pragul saraciei, adica ce nevoile de baza sunt satisfacute, veniturile suplimentare au in cel mai bun caz un impact modest asupra fericirii. Astfel, pentru tarile bogate, progresul economic inregistrat in ultimele aproximativ patru decenii este in buna masura inutil:

"We test for whether, once "basic needs" are satisfied, there is happiness adaptation to further gains in income using three data sets. Individual German Panel Data from 1985-2000, and data on the well-being of over 600,000 people in a panel of European countries from 1975-2002, shows different patterns of adaptation to income across the rich and poor.
We find evidence that for wealthy Germans, and for the rich half of European nations, higher levels of per capita income don’t buy greater happiness.
The reason appears to be adaptation. However even for the rich half of European nations such habituation may take over 5 years so the happiness gains that they experience, whilst not permanent, can still be relatively long-lasting.
Finally we study a cross section of nations in 2005 from the World Gallup Poll and find that the past 45 years of economic growth (from 1960-2005) in the rich half of nations has not brought happiness gains above those that were already in place once the 1960s standard of living had been achieved. However in the poorest half of nations we cannot reject the null hypothesis that the happiness gains they have experienced from the past 45 years of growth have been the same as the gains that they experienced from growth prior to the 1960s."

Concluziile lucrarii nu lasa loc de interpretari, desi trebuie subliniat ca desi bogatia aduce o crestere a satisfactiei ce poate dura in jur de cinci ani, aceasta este practic inexistenta, de 0,15 unitati pe o scara de la 1 la 10: "The coefficient is positive and highly significant – suggesting that the log of income is a significant determinant of happiness. However the size of the effect is not large: a doubling of income would move one up just 0.15
units on the 0-10 happiness scale."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tom Wessels si mitul progresului

Tom Wessels este specialist in ecologie si preda la Antioch New England Graduate School. In lucrarea sa „The Myth of Progress”, aparuta la University of Vermont Press in 2006, Wessels combate importanta pe care multi o acorda progresului material ce a avut loc in unele segmente ale populatiei din unele tari din Occident. Pe scurt, desi admite ca durata vietii a crescut datorita progreselor tehnologice, calitatea ei lasa mult de dorit. De pilda, faptul ca traim mai mult nu inseamna ca suntem si mai sanatori. Totodata, succesele materialiste aduc cu ele un pret greu de platit, precum cresterea stresului zilnic, depresiei, anxietatii, obezitatii si izolarii sociale. Iar peste toate aceste nenorociri, troneaza dezastrul ecologic, batjocorirea mediului inconjurator cauzata de mania materialist-consumerista.

Mizeriile materialismului
„The more affluent people become, the greater the rates of anxiety, depression, and social isolation. Studies also show that with increased affluence people use more drugs and alcohol and have decreased levels of vitality. As previously mentioned, the indicators of progress that we most commenly use relate to material progress—GDP, per capita income, and increasing life expectancy—and they are all measures of quantity rather quality. Let us look at the last indicator: life expectancy. People in the United States are living longer due to medical technology—a form of material progress—but are they living physically healthier lives? I pointed aut in the introduction that one aut of three Americans is overweight and obesity has seriously increased by more than 400 percent in the last two decades. Asthma rates continue to increase, particularly in children. An estimated 6,5 percent of Americans are diabetic, many of these due to obesity. Heart disease continues to be the number one killer. These are all diseases that have a strong environmental basis. They are indicators of a society in which the physical well-being of citizens is deteriorating, not progressing, and contribute to the annual rise in healthcare costs.

A similar trend can be seen in emotional well-being: Skyrocketing rates of environmentalyy induced unipolar depression and suicide hold as the eighth leading cause of premature death. Yes, we are living longer due to medical interventions, but do these trends suggest we are living better? When people gains too much material affluence, their focus is often turned to their possessions and the maintenance of an affluent lifestyle. It is true that possessions can bring ephemeral pleasure, but as Kasser`s work points out, rarely does consumption lead tu fulfillment. When an individual`s focus is primarily directed at material wealth, his attention is drawn inward, shrinking his emotional sphere. Even though he may have the financial means to promote community outreach, it isn`t necessarily on his screen. In this way possessions can develop ownership over people as they become enslaved to a material-rich life-style—an enslavement that can erode both physical and emotional well-being. I contend that our society has focused far too long on materialism as a means to progress, halting real societal progress.

Today there is a loud call to rework our educational system to prepare a more sophisticated work force that will be able to handle the new, highly skilled jobs that globalization will produce. I hear fewer voices out there calling for changes in education to promote social capital or engaged citizenship; as a matter of fact, voting rates in the United States have dropped below 50 percent. How is it that a country that is thye hallmark of democracy has witnessed the erosion of civic responsibility? I believe that the pursuit of material progress has usurped the sociopolitical ideals on which the Unites States was founded.”

Care este solutia propusa de Wessels? O reintoarcere la valorile colectiviste, la simplitate, la desfiintarea proprietatii private a mijloacelor de productie, la egalitarismul societatilor tip vanator-culegator.

Schita pentru o societate normala
"Economist Herman Daly has already developed a model for a socioeconomic system thatfunctions in dynamic equilibrium. David Korten, in his book The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, goes further in modeling “living economies” that function under the same principles as life’s complex systems. Korten’s basic attributes of living economies grow out of the concept of selforganization in biological systems—that systems increase complexity, diversity, integration, and stability through time. Korten advocates replacing huge multinational corporations with smaller local and regional businesses that are specifically adapted to the region they serve. If these businesses are publicly owned, the ownership is by citizens of the region. In this way businesses and their shareholders will work for the good of their community and regional environment rather than solely attempting to maximize profit. Businesses should share information and work to support each other rather than engaging in competitive exclusion. This cooperation would result in more specialized and integrated commercial enterprises. Businesses should strive to be frugal and very efficient in their use of material and energy resources. This would not only decrease consumption and waste but allow more resources to be available for other businesses."

Comunitatile vanator-culegator, un exemplu de viitor
„Hunter-gatherer desert culture was based in nomadic clans of a few dozen people. Within theclan group each person had a specific role, and the entire clan group relied heavily on each other and shared all that it had. Like all hunter--gatherer groups, if someone was successful in a hunt, the meat was shared with those who didn’t have success. If any individual accumulated too many possessions, a giving-away ceremony took place so that no one individual had too much. In this way, these ancient people practiced reciprocal altruism as a means to survive in this harsh environment. There was no room for personal greed. All individuals had a direct voice in how the affairs of the clan would develop—whether they should move to the next tank, celebrate a particular occasion, or conduct a sacred ritual. For these people the idea of needing to create community would have been absurd.

They were community—on the deepest of levels. Through stories and rituals, in joy and sorrow, they shared the very core of their lives. I believe that this very strong sense of community, where each member was truly an integral part, greatly enriched their experience of life.Not only did each individual have a critical place within the clan, each individual also clearlyknew his or her place within the world. Through rich traditions, in the form of stories, rituals, and sacred practices (all of which had been passed from generation to generation for hundreds, possibly thousands of years), these people were seamlessly woven into their landscape. As hunter-gatherers they saw themselves as a part of the land, not apart from it, sharing it with all the other plants and creatures on whom they depended for survival. Their world made sense—it was truly their home.

Finally, like all hunter-gatherers, they had plenty of time to socialize, tell stories, make crafts,and reflect on their existence. Reflective practice is essential to convert knowledge into understanding and, eventually, wisdom.”

Fragmentele citate pot fi gasite in context la adresa: