Dos Princípios, do Contexto e dos Imperativos Categóricos

Anda aqui um tipo a tentar argumentar os finer points da filosofia e acaba acusado de não ter princípios e defender o socialismo desde que existam suficientes vítimas para a expropriação. De igual modo, desconfio que há pelo menos uma pessoa na Alemanha que já me classificou irremediavelmente como um parasita sulista alérgico ao trabalho. Correndo o risco de estar a escrever algo que vai cair em saco roto, não vou deixar de aproveitar a deixa para desenvolver um argumento que é especialmente close to my heart.

Immanuel Kant defendia que determinadas acções são obrigações morais em quaisquer circunstâncias; que existem imperativos categóricos que implicam normativamente que determinada acção seja tomada, independentemente do contexto ou das consequências. Um dos exemplos mais frequentemente citado é o da obrigação de nunca mentir que Kant defendia. Fulano pretende matar Beltrano. Este, sabendo das intenções do primeiro, foge, auxiliado por Sicrano. Fulano encontra Sicrano e pergunta-lhe se este sabe do paradeiro de Beltrano. Imbuído da mais pura razão kantiana, Sicrano diz a verdade. Fulano encontra – e mata – Beltrano.

Eu tenho alguns problemas com esta posição. Não indo ao ponto de considerar Immanuel Kant o pior de todos os homens na história do universo, não posso deixar de considerar alguns dos seus contributos para a filosofia como bastante infelizes; para não dizer nada das entorpecedoras horas passadas a estudá-lo, irrecuperáveis. Para mim, os princípios não são axiomas, embora dependam deles, nem existem no vácuo. Qualquer princípio de conduta ou acção depende das circunstâncias específicas que rodeiam o agente, o seu contexto; tal como depende das consequências expectáveis. Isto não é uma posição relativista ou subjectivista. Para um dado contexto, a aplicação do princípio é normativa. Mas se ignorarmos o contexto, a sua aplicação deixa de ser virtuosa e limita-se a ser o papaguear de normas reveladas ou descobertas (por quem? como?) baseadas em verdades intrínsecas.

Voltando ao assunto que deu origem a este comentário: Deve ou não Portugal sair do euro?

Se Portugal fosse um país onde existisse uma cultura de ortodoxia na estabilidade de preços; se fosse um país onde a maioria da população não dependesse do estado para o seu rendimento; talvez fosse possível equacionar uma saída do euro ou a introdução de uma segunda moeda em paralelo com ele. Sendo Portugal como é, uma saída do euro implicaria inflação galopante, restrições draconianas à movimentação de capitais, congelamento de depósitos bancários, extinção da classe média, destruição de capital e riqueza acumulada, penalização de todos os aforradores a favor dos beneficiários do estado, entre outras coisas péssimas.

Por melhores que sejam os princípios e intenções de quem defende uma saída do euro por razões liberalizadoras (e em momento algum eu assumo que quem discorda de mim é obrigatoriamente socialista ou sem princípios), o contexto invalida-os. A situação resultante da acção é pior do que a situação original que a motivou. Beltrano kaputt.

29 pensamentos sobre “Dos Princípios, do Contexto e dos Imperativos Categóricos

  1. Ricardo G. Francisco

    Por causa de concordar com os 3 primeiros parágrafos levei com 10 a ética empresarial pelo Prof. César das Neves.

  2. Caro Miguel

    Como o título do meu texto indica (“O contexto é rei mas os princípios são a rainha”), o contexto é importante mas os princípios são igualmente importantes (quiçá com preferência). Como tal, o intransigente princípio da ética kantiana não de ajusta minimamente ao que defendi e não serve para explicar praticamente nada nesta discussão.

    PS: ” Sendo Portugal como é, uma saída do euro implicaria inflação galopante, restrições draconianas à movimentação de capitais, congelamento de depósitos bancários, extinção da classe média, destruição de capital e riqueza acumulada, penalização de todos os aforradores a favor dos beneficiários do estado, entre outras coisas péssimas.” Isto é o fim do mundo, um cenário dantesco que nem o misantropo crónico (anti-kantiano) Woody Allen postularia.

  3. Sandra

    “Sendo Portugal como é, uma saída do euro implicaria inflação galopante, restrições draconianas à movimentação de capitais, congelamento de depósitos bancários, extinção da classe média, destruição de capital e riqueza acumulada, penalização de todos os aforradores a favor dos beneficiários do estado, entre outras coisas péssimas.”

    I am sure that in Zimbabwe there is hyperinflation, price instability, restriction to the movements of capital, no middle class, destruction of capital and accumulated wealth. Since Portugal is better off and because there must also be people in Zimbabwe that didn’t behave irresponsibly, if the context arrises, would you (Miguel) like the Portuguese taxpayers to be expropriated by an external institution to pay for the mismanagement of Zimbabwe?

  4. “Como o título do meu texto indica (“O contexto é rei mas os princípios são a rainha”), o contexto é importante mas os princípios são igualmente importantes (quiçá com preferência).”

    Caro Filipe,

    Independentemente da posição sobre o euro, não creio que as duas coisas possam ser desligadas. A aplicação dos princípios exige a consideração do contexto e por sua vez a própria avaliação dos contextos pressupõe a existência de princípios que são independentes de contextos particulares.

  5. “Independentemente da posição sobre o euro, não creio que as duas coisas possam ser desligadas. A aplicação dos princípios exige a consideração do contexto e por sua vez a própria avaliação dos contextos pressupõe a existência de princípios que são independentes de contextos particulares.”

    Caro André,

    Completamente de acordo e em linha com o que tentei mostrar com a metáfora “O contexto é rei mas os princípios são a rainha”.

  6. “if the context arrises, would you (Miguel) like the Portuguese taxpayers to be expropriated by an external institution to pay for the mismanagement of Zimbabwe?”

    Dear Sandra,

    I believe Miguel is not trying to offer a rationale for mass expropriation. The way I see it, there are two main points at hand:

    1 – That Portugal is more likely to implement market oriented reforms if it stays in the eurozone than if it abandons the euro.

    2 – That leaving the euro in present circumstances would likely lead to very unpleasant consequences for Portuguese economy and society.

    Both points are debatable and in my case I must confess that I have serious doubts in this matter. But they are perfectly compatible with an opposition to bailouts.

  7. Sandra

    Dear André,

    Clearly, I do not agree with those two points you mentioned above. However, I also do not believe that it is a sustainable position to want Portugal inside the Euro and at the same time to oppose bailouts. It was not only excessive borrowing which brought Portugal in its current position. In fact, Portugal does not have a noteworthy industry that promises economic growth in the near future. The Portuguese economy is stagnating for a decade now and I cannot see this one changing from one day to the other in order for Portugal to pull itself up by it’s own bootstraps.

    If Portugal remains in the euro, and if bailouts disappear, Portugal defaults immediately because it cannot borrow from markets anymore at sustainable interest rates. This means that it is not possible to argue that Portugal should remain in the euro without the money from the bailouts. If one does not want to revert to the Escudo because of the costs that would have on the population, imagine Portugal defaulting inside the euro without the money from the bailouts; this would mean that without its own currency, the population would be devastated by a country without liquidity from one day to the other. Hence, to defend Portugal in the euro under the current “context” is to support bailouts and foreign expropriation, even if tacitly.

  8. «Portugal is more likely to implement market oriented reforms if it stays in the eurozone than if it abandons the euro.»

    To be fair, I’m not even sure of that. Certainly if there are any significant bailouts without sufficient pain (for those that benefit from state largess), the incentives to allow things to stay the same will be there. In that case, rather than reforms in the strict sense, I expect at some point the government will run out of money and will simply be forced to cut spending. This will also be painful, but at least if will affect mostly the unproductive part of the country.

    To be able to make reforms without major disruptions, they should have started 20 p.p. of debt/GDP ago. Anything that happens now will be disruptive. Bailouts are counter-productive as they delay the disruptions very probably leading to bigger disruptions later. In theory, a responsible government could start the cuts before the money runs out, but I’m not very hopeful of that.

  9. I’m always amazed by how the inevitable is so often unthinkable just before it actually happens. 75% of government spending is health care, social security and education. Can anyone seriously argue that in the event of having no money the government will not be able to make deep cuts in these areas? (Actually, it will simply have to. That’s the nature of reality.)

  10. “If Portugal remains in the euro, and if bailouts disappear, Portugal defaults immediately”

    I agree, at least in the sense of not paying 100% of the debt but if the option is to get nothing or to get something the rational thing to do would be for creditors to accept a substantial haircut and restructuring.

    “imagine Portugal defaulting inside the euro without the money from the bailouts; this would mean that without its own currency, the population would be devastated by a country without liquidity from one day to the other”

    That strikes me as a rather statist view. No bailouts while remaining inside the euro would mean the Portuguese state would have to balance the budget immediately and a severe liquidity crisis, but the adjustment could be made through equally severe deflation.

    I see much more devastation in a scenario of leaving the euro, even if that devastation is masked trough inflation.

  11. Euro2cent

    > onde a maioria da população não dependesse do estado para o seu rendimento

    Bom, isso é conforme os estados, mas todos dependem. Nalguns casos só precisam que o estado forneça justiça e defesa, noutros recebem dinheiro vivo …

  12. Sandra

    The question here was, is it possible to argue for Portugal to stay in the Euro and still oppose all bailouts?

    Theoretically speaking, if we isolate all variables and leave Portugal alone in the equation, yes. If we include all the other variables with the EU and other countries the answer is no.

    When isolating Portugal, it strikes me as odd that you claim that a default with liquidity from the printing press is more devastating than one without it. I agree with you when you say that the first option is rather statist compared to the second one and that ideologically speaking the second one would probably lead to a better end in the long run, but to say that a country with a government spending of roughly 50% can simply adjust the budget from one day to the other and let it deflate is to probably incur in social rebellion or simply a military coup, because a big part of the country would literally stop. Nevertheless, in theory that default can happen, but I doubt that any portuguese libertarian that supports Portugal in the euro wants that scenario when defending the single currency.

    If we add other variables to have something closer to reality, this default inside the Euro without EU assistance cannot happen because that would mean that: a) Portugal would probably leave the Euro immediately in order to provide liquidity for the default or b) other countries would default too (via the domino effect) and that would be the end of the Euro, which would again take Portugal into the Escudo. So the scenario of defaulting inside the Euro without the injection of “european taxpayers money” is simply impossible in practice.

    In my view, it is not possible in reality to argue for Portugal to stay in the Euro without bailouts, and I am sure that most libertarians that do it can only do it by closing their eyes to the “bailout side of it”. Furthermore, I find it bizarre that most libertarians in other countries reject the Euro by principle but in Portugal the fear of local autonomy is so big that they end up supporting the Euro, even knowing that the full ultimate cost of it is probably the socialist federation of europe.

  13. “When isolating Portugal, it strikes me as odd that you claim that a default with liquidity from the printing press is more devastating than one without it.”

    That is because I don’t think inflation makes anything better.

  14. “but to say that a country with a government spending of roughly 50% can simply adjust the budget from one day to the other and let it deflate is to probably incur in social rebellion or simply a military coup”

    That might well happen, but in my view leaving the euro doesn’t necessarily lead to a better outcome even in that regard.

  15. “If we add other variables to have something closer to reality”

    If we add other variables to have something closer to reality, then we also have to consider that leaving the euro in present circumstances will mean mass expropriation through inflation.

  16. “I find it bizarre that most libertarians in other countries reject the Euro by principle but in Portugal the fear of local autonomy is so big that they end up supporting the Euro, even knowing that the full ultimate cost of it is probably the socialist federation of europe.”

    I think that is your strongest argument and it is indeed a good point.

  17. “I find it bizarre that most libertarians in other countries reject the Euro by principle but in Portugal the fear of local autonomy is so big that they end up supporting the Euro, even knowing that the full ultimate cost of it is probably the socialist federation of europe.”

    I think that is your strongest argument and it is indeed a good point.

    Actually there’s nothing bizarre about it. Portugal doesn’t have and never had what you would call a society. Unlike every other European Country nothing ever was done or created without the State’s influence/command, since day one at the 12th Century. So oddly enough, it’s more likely that the Portuguese find some economic and political freedom with the Euro, than without it and it takes time to change things
    Anyway, among other things I am a revelian réactionnaire and I believe the revolution is plain stupidity, so…

  18. “Portugal doesn’t have and never had what you would call a society”

    Portugal does not have and will not have a society for a very simple reason: “there is no such thing as society” Margaret Thatcher

    The crystallization of the concept “society” is simply impossible. There is clearly not an overlap between State (jurisdiction) and society, they are not one and the same. So something else must define it; culture, language, race, habits ? but all those things cannot be exactly pin-pointed, are not remotely stable and just because we have many individuals in a specific territory does not imply that we have a society. Community is a bit simpler to define because it is more of a self-selected club; not society. Society is an abstraction used by those who pretend that we are not bound together only by the state. What we have in real terms are individuals.

    “Unlike every other European Country nothing ever was done or created without the State’s influence/command, since day one at the 12th Century.”

    Im sorry to say it, but I find this offensive to all the millions of great portuguese that created amazing things in the past DESPITE the State’s influence. Moreover, all other european countries had the same great people doing great things DESPITE their States (and they also had quite oppressive ones).
    All free marketeers would refrain from wanting massive liberal reforms if they thought that the people is misadjusted and incapable of doing anything without the state.

    “So oddly enough, it’s more likely that the Portuguese find some economic and political freedom with the Euro, than without it and it takes time to change things”

    By this token, you must enjoy the new European superstate, you will still live in socialism or “burosocialism” (which is probably much worse), with very little economic freedom (because I can tell you that eurocrats are everything but free marketeers) and your chances of changing anything in Brussels will be reduced by 1/60, with the bonus of not even having fiscal and monetary competition between sovereign states. This would very much give free license to the UESSR to tax, print, transfer and regulate out of existence. Only by ignoring the iliberal nature of the european project one can say that to stay in the euro (which is the tool of federalist integration) is more likely to lead to economic and political freedom than to have local autonomy and competition between sovereign states, regardless of our local problems.

    Frankly, I find this idea that the portuguese are a group of incapable mismanaging socialists that will always be self-destructive very much appalling. The idea that others will manage ourselves better than we do is doubly appalling and it represents an extremely biased vision of history. Germany has defaulted several times in the 20th century, had hunger and 2 major wars and we now say that we cant manage ourselves but others in central europe can? Sounds absurd. Yes we have problems and we had problems and we will have problems, but they will always be better solved by the people that live in this area that we now call Portugal. The principle: “if you want something to be well done, do it yourself “also applies to local inhabitants and local governance.

    Finally, I hope you don’t consider that to leave the euro is a revolution, because if you do, you would be calling my proposal a stupidity and that would not be civil.

  19. Sandra

    ” … it’s more likely that the Portuguese find some economic and political freedom with the Euro, than without it”

    This reminds me of a speech Margaret Thatcher gave on the european commission and on those who want to deliver local autonomy to a european superstate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tetk_ayO1x4

  20. Filipe:

    Portugal does not have and will not have a society for a very simple reason: “there is no such thing as society” Margaret Thatcher

    Two misunderstandigs. “Uma sociedade civil”, se quiseres, por oposição ao estado. E é dessa que nascem os indivíduos capazes das “grandes coisas”. E o comentário da Tatcher sobre a sociedade respeita à “vontade geral” porque é óbvio que a sociedade existe, resulta da interacção de indivíduos com vontade própria e livre arbítrio. O que a frase da Tatcher diz é que não é um organismo borg. No resto do comentário acima cometes um erro frequente, o de pressupor que se se é contra isto é-se a favor daquilo obrigatoriamente. Há mais que um caminho para ir dar a Roma.
    Quanto ao mismanaging, os portugueses são tão ou mais capazes que qualquer outro de se governar, individualmente considerados, o que se discute é uma governação colectiva e nisso, perdoa que discorde, mas somos nítida e obviamente incapazes. Umas nódoas do pior. Talvez pela enorme virtude do nosso individualismo e, sinceramente, não me incomoda por aí além. É-me perfeitamente indiferente quem governa o rectângulo mas de preferência que não seja nascido nas Beiras.
    Quanto à revolução, não sei se a defendes ou não (diria que não), mas que é uma consequência do que propões, não tenho qualquer dúvida. If it’s civil or not, believe me, that’s the last of my concerns.

  21. Sandra,

    unfortunately, Portugal is not the UK and a Country’s governance is hardly “local autonomy”. Anyway, there are other solutions, among them, yes, more local autonomy. A lot more than we have now and it is possible to find different ways to get there. Think about it. Why not?

  22. Caro Helder

    Os meus ímpetos revolucionários são tão baixos que tenho de pensar muito bem sempre que tenho de trocar de restaurante.
    Mas já mudei muitas vezes e, tirando algumas desilusões, faço uma avaliação gastronómica positiva 🙂

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