Book Reviews

25 março, 2007

105) Historia economica da Europa desde 1945, por Barry Eichengreen

The New York Times Book Review, March 25, 2007
Boom and Bust

Coordinated Capitalism and Beyond.

By Barry Eichengreen.
495 pp. Princeton University Press. $35.

Postwar European history falls neatly into two periods. From 1945 to 1973, the countries of Western Europe recovered rapidly from the almost unimaginable devastation caused by World War II and then took off, growing faster than the United States and more than twice as fast as their own historical trends. From 1973 to the present, however, their economies have struggled with low growth and high unemployment, lagging behind both international competitors and their own earlier success.

As a result of this divided history, the so-called European model has both cheerleaders and naysayers. Social democrats and others on the left focus on the first period, applauding the continent’s ability to generate high living standards while cushioning individuals and societies from the ravages of unfettered markets. Right-wing critics and free marketeers focus on Europe’s contemporary problems, arguing that the continent’s generous welfare benefits and heavy regulation condemn it to continuing decline.

Both views contain some truth. But since the same conditions that led to success in one era have produced problems in the next, neither interpretation fully explains the story. In “The European Economy Since 1945,” Barry Eichengreen, a professor of economics and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, presents not only a comprehensive account of Europe’s postwar economic experience but also an important analysis of capitalist development more generally.

Drawing on his credentials as both an economist and a political scientist, Eichengreen argues that the key to understanding Europe’s initial triumphs and later troubles lies in recognizing that the recipe for growth varies, depending on one’s position in the economic race. In the years after 1945, Europe needed to recover from the war and catch up with the United States. This involved what economists call “extensive growth” — essentially, increasing the number of workers doing familiar kinds of jobs. Extensive growth requires adopting existing technology, using labor more efficiently and generating high levels of investment. After the war, Europe developed a variety of institutions well suited to these tasks.

Large trade unions, employer organizations and corporatist arrangements, Eichengreen shows, helped labor-market partners reach and sustain long-term agreements to limit wage demands, ensure high levels of investment and plan for routine industrial restructuring. Unions agreed to hold down labor costs and in return were given either representation on corporate boards (Germany), influence over government planning and policy making (Sweden and France) or the ability to dole out government jobs and funds (Austria). Strong welfare states helped cement this bargain, providing workers with generous benefits to offset their wage restraint and the unemployment generated by industrial restructuring.

Schools and training programs, meanwhile, were designed to turn out workers adept at handling existing technology and equipment. Banks developed long-term relationships with their corporate clients, lending money for business expansion that relied on known technologies. And the government bureaucracies of nationalized industries helped mobilize and coordinate the resources necessary for the relatively clear-cut tasks associated with catch-up growth.

All this worked just as it was supposed to, generating prosperity across the continent. By the early 1970s, however, the potential for extensive growth had been largely exhausted. Europe’s businesses and infrastructure had been rebuilt, its labor force transferred from agriculture to manufacturing, the latest technology imported and adopted. At this point, Eichengreen says, “the continent had to find other ways of sustaining its growth. It had to switch from growth based on brute-force capital accumulation and the acquisition of known technologies to growth based on increases in efficiency and internally generated innovation” — that is, to “intensive growth.”

The problem, of course, was that Europe was now saddled with institutions ill suited to the creativity and flexibility that intensive growth demands. As Eichengreen puts it, “the continent’s very success at exploiting the opportunities for catch-up and convergence after World War II doomed it to difficulties thereafter.” The new situation called for flexible and mobile work relationships, technological novelty and the financing of risky ventures — none of which Europe’s postwar institutions were good at. In other words, the same structures and practices that had led to the continent’s golden age have now produced a malaise. (Eichengreen adds that a similar dynamic has played out in Eastern Europe, since Soviet institutions were not bad at extensive growth but awful at intensive growth.)

Eichengreen backs up his argument with reams of data and detailed examples, yet he writes well enough to make his book accessible to general readers. He reminds us that economic development calls for much more than simply the unleashing of market forces; it demands institutions capable of generating the resources, skills and relationships necessary to handle the particular economic challenges a country has to face at a particular time. And by demonstrating how institutions helpful in one era can become counterproductive in another, Eichengreen has important lessons about the future to teach both policy makers and publics.

“The European Economy Since 1945” should make readers wary of universal prescriptions for economic policy, since it shows how the fit between policies and circumstances is clearly more important than the nature of either in isolation. The strategies and institutions a country should adopt will depend not only on its particular preferences, but also on what role it can reasonably expect to play in the international economy.

So what should the nations of Europe do now that the advantages of their “economic backwardness” have been fully exploited? Without settling the debate between the European model’s supporters and detractors, Eichengreen suggests that international competition is compelling Europe to abandon its distinctive model and become more flexible.

This will not be easy. Eichengreen himself stresses the difficulty of institutional change, and so readers may come away from his book concluding that Europe’s economic future is bleak — at least in a contest with other developed countries that provide few government benefits.

Yet thanks to political will and creative policymaking, as Eichengreen points out, some countries on the continent, particularly the Nordic ones, have managed to adapt successfully. They are keeping themselves internationally competitive even while continuing to provide social benefits in health, education and social insurance far above American standards. Others, like France and Germany, will have to follow their lead. Otherwise, they will probably face the decline the pessimists have long been predicting.

Sheri Berman, who teaches political science at Barnard College, is the author of “The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century.”


First Chapter
‘The European Economy Since 1945’

In the second half of the twentieth century, the lives of Europeans were transformed almost beyond recognition. In 1950, many of the continent's residents heated their homes with coal, cooled their food with ice, and lacked even rudimentary forms of indoor plumbing. Today, their lives are eased and enriched by natural-gas furnaces, electric refrigerators, and an array of electronic gadgets that boggles the mind. Gross domestic product per capita, what the income of a typical resident of Europe will buy, tripled in the second half of the twentieth century. The quality of life improved even more than suggested by this simple measure. Hours worked declined by one-third, providing an enormous increase in leisure time. Life expectancy lengthened as a result of improved nutrition and advances in medical science. To be sure, not all was sweetness and light. Unemployment rose. Tax burdens soared. Environmental degradation, political repression, and limits on consumer sovereignty were pervasive under the authoritarian regimes that dominated Eastern Europe for four decades after World War II. But by any objective standard, the last half century has left Europeans today enormously better off than their grandparents were fifty years ago.

Not all parts of the continent shared equally in this prosperity, of course, and not all portions of the last half century were characterized by equally rapid growth. Southern Europe grew faster than Northern Europe. Western Europe grew faster than Eastern Europe. Growth was slower after 1973 than before. This slowdown was most pronounced in Eastern Europe, where it culminated in a crisis of central planning that brought down not just the command economy but its authoritarian political superstructure as well. These are important qualifications, but they do not change the fact that the post- World War II period, and specifically the quarter century from 1948 to 1973, was a period of extraordinarily rapid change and a veritable golden age of economic growth.

What made possible the rapid economic growth of a continent that was devastated by World War II? Initially, Europe could grow rapidly simply by repairing wartime damage, rebuilding its capital stock, and redeploying men drafted into the wartime task of destroying output and productive capacity to the normal peacetime job of creating them. The rapid economic expansion of the early postwar years largely reflected this process of "catch-up growth." The continent could then sustain its rapid growth by exploiting the backlog of new technologies developed between the two world wars but not yet put to commercial use. The 1920s and 1930s had been decades of instability and crisis, to be sure, but they were also a period of rapid technical change. Among other things, they saw the development of Lucite, Teflon, and nylon, improvements in the design of the internal combustion engine, and organizational changes such as the spread of assembly-line methods and modern personnel-management practices. Most of these innovations were developed in the United States. But a depressed investment climate and then the disruptions of war made the 1930s and 1940s less than propitious times for Europe to emulate America's example. Consequently, by the end of World War II, the United States had opened up a huge lead in levels of output and productivity. But this also meant that there existed an extraordinary backlog of technological and organizational knowledge ready for Europe's commercial use. By licensing American technology, capitalizing on American produ ers' knowledge of mass-production methods, and adopting American personnel-management practices, Europe could close the gap. This aspect of growth in the second half of the twentieth century is known as "convergence," the tendency for levels of per capita income and productivity to converge toward those prevailing in the United States.

For all these reasons, 1945 was a favorable jumping-off point for the European economy. Looking back on the extraordinary economic progress of the subsequent fifty years encourages a tendency to regard what followed as preordained. In fact, many things had to go right, and there was considerable uncertainty about whether they would. Catch-up, which entailed capital formation, the reallocation of labor, and the efficient use of these factors of production, required Europe to mobilize savings, finance investment, and maintain wages consistent with full employment and respectable profit rates. It required getting a range of complementary industries, each of which was necessary for the viability of the others, up and running simultaneously. Convergence required mechanisms for transferring to Europe and adapting to its circumstances the backlog of technological and organizational knowledge developed in the United States.

These were complex tasks. When we place ourselves in the position of contemporaries at the start of the period, as we will do in chapter 3, it becomes clear that any number of things could have gone wrong, as they had in the 1920s and 1930s.

That they did not go wrong now reflected the fact that Europe possessed a set of institutions singularly well suited to the task at hand. Catch-up was facilitated by solidaristic trade unions, cohesive employers associations, and growth-minded governments working together to mobilize savings, finance investment, and stabilize wages at levels consistent with full employment. The problem of getting a set of interdependent industries up and running simultaneously was solved by extramarket mechanisms ranging from government planning agencies, state holding companies, and industrial conglomerates in Western Europe to wholesale nationalization and central direction of the economy in the East. The capacity expansion needed to efficiently operate these scale-intensive technologies was financed by patient banks in long-standing relationships with their industrial clients.

In a nutshell, then, opportunities for catch-up and convergence were realized because of the conformance, or more colloquially the "fit," between the structure of the Western European economy and the economic and technological imperatives of the day. The result was a period of exceptionally rapid growth from the end of World War II through the 1960s.

Critical to Western Europe's success was the security of private property rights and reliance on the price mechanism. But the rapid growth of the postwar golden age depended on more than just the free play of market forces; in addition it required a set of norms and conventions, some informal, others embodied in law, to coordinate the actions of the social partners and solve a set of problems that decentralized markets could not. Hence the "coordinated capitalism" of this book's title.

This codified set of norms and understandings-what economists mean when they refer to institutions-did not materialize overnight. To a large extent it was inherited from the past. It is not surprising that inherited institutions could be adapted to the needs of post-World War II growth, since the challenges of this period resembled those that had confronted Europe in earlier years. Modern industry had developed later on the continent than in Britain and the United States, at a time when the capital intensity of industrial technology was greater. These more demanding capital needs were met by great banks capable of mobilizing resources on a large scale. As industrial production grew more complex and industrial sectors grew increasingly interdependent, it became more pressing to get a range of industries up and running simultaneously; hence the more prominent role of the state. Late-industrializing economies whose initial growth spurt depended as much on assimilating and adapting existing technologies as on pioneering new ones naturally developed systems of human capital formation emphasizing apprenticeship training and vocational skills as much as university education. Thus, it was no coincidence that Europe had in place following World War II a set of institutions useful for relaxing the constraints on growth. It was also fortuitous that the inheritance was favorable, since these kinds of deeply embedded social institutions are slow to change.

Catch-up was similarly the forte of planned economies organized along Soviet lines. Bureaucrats decided how many factories to build, instructed state banks to mobilize the necessary resources, and limited consumption to what was left. They decided what foreign technologies to acquire, whether through licensing or industrial espionage. Because success measured in tons of steel production depended more on brute-force capital formation and the assimilation of standard technologies than on entrepreneurship and innovation, the centrally planned economies of Eastern Europe were able, initially at least, to perform tolerably well. The institutions of the command economy had severe limitations, as we will see, but they were best suited to the circumstances of catch-up growth.

Just as this inheritance of economic and social institutions contributed to the extraordinarily successful performance of the European economy in the third quarter of the twentieth century, it was equally part of the explanation for Europe's less satisfactory performance in the subsequent twenty-five years. As the early opportunities for catch-up and convergence were exhausted, the continent had to find other ways of sustaining its growth. It had to switch from growth based on brute-force capital accumulation and the acquisition of known technologies to growth based on increases in efficiency and internally generated innovation. This transition is sometimes described as the shift from extensive to intensive growth. By extensive growth I mean growth based on capital formation and the existing stock of technological knowledge. It is the process of raising output by putting more people to work at familiar tasks and raising labor productivity by building more factories along the lines of existing factories. Intensive growth, in contrast, means growth through innovation. A larger share of the increase in output is accounted for by technical change, and less by the growth of factor inputs.

Thus Europe, which had relied on extensive growth in the 1950s and 1960s, had no choice but to switch to intensive growth from the 1970s on. The problem was that institutions tailored to the needs of extensive growth were less suited to the challenges of intensive growth. Bank-based financial systems had been singularly effective at mobilizing resources for investment by existing enterprises using known technologies, but they were less conducive to growth in a period of heightened technological uncertainty. Now the role of finance was to take bets on competing technologies, something for which financial markets were better adapted. The generous employment protections and heavy welfare-state charges that had given labor the security to accept the installation of mass-production technologies now became an obstacle to growth as new firms seeking to explore the viability of unfamiliar technologies became the agents of job creation and productivity improvement. Systems of worker co-determination, in which union representatives occupied seats on big firms' supervisory boards, had been ideal for helping labor to verify that owners were investing the profits resulting from its wage restraint but now discouraged bosses from taking the tough measures needed to restructure in preparation for the adoption of radical new technologies. State holding companies that had been engines of investment and technical progress were no longer efficient mechanisms for allocating resources in this new era of heightened technological uncertainty. They were increasingly captured by special interests and used to bail out loss-making firms and prop up declining industries.

Increasingly, then, the same institutions of coordinated capitalism that had worked to Europe's advantage in the age of extensive growth now posed obstacles to successful economic performance. In this sense, the continent's very success at exploiting the opportunities for catch-up and convergence after World War II doomed it to difficulties thereafter. And the durability and persistence of institutions, which had worked to Europe's advantage after World War II, were now less positive attributes than impediments to growth.

Eastern Europe manifested this problem in its most extreme form. The centrally planned economies were particularly inept at innovation, since new knowledge generally bubbles up from below rather than raining down from above. More than nearly any other activity, innovation responds to incentives, which were in chronic short supply in the command economies. This weakness of central planning came back to haunt the Eastern bloc once the party was over, the technological pantry was bare, and a premium was placed on innovation.

This, in bare-bones form, is the story told in this book. It is a way of understanding the golden age of growth that prevailed for twenty-five years after World War II and the subsequent slowdown. It explains how the average annual rate of growth of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Western Europe could have fallen by more than half between the 1950-1973 period and the 1973-2000 period. It similarly explains why the deceleration between these periods was even more dramatic in Eastern Europe and why the planned economies collapsed at the end of the 1980s. To be sure, no single explanation for these complex phenomena can possibly be complete. For example, Europe's growth deceleration was surely also affected by global factors beyond its control. It is revealing, though, that the rate of growth of output per hour declined more sharply in Europe than in the United States, which was affected by the same global forces. The exhaustion of the technological backlog and the difficulty of adapting inherited institutions to changed circumstances go a long way toward explaining this fact.

As these last sentences remind us, the story of Europe's postwar growth-indeed, the story of its growth over the entire second half of the twentieth century-cannot be told in isolation from developments in the rest of the world. This directs our attention to another aspect of the inheritance shaping growth in the third quarter of the twentieth century: the Great Power conflict. Countries falling within the ambit of the United States or the Soviet Union came under pressure to adopt the same form of economic and social organization as the power under whose security umbrella they sheltered. After a brief period of uncertainty, Western Europe was decisively propelled toward market capitalism and Eastern Europe toward state socialism. This choice became the single most important determinant of growth performance in the two halves of the European continent.

The nature of the conflict permitted Western Europe to free ride on the security system provided by the United States. Less defense spending allowed Western European countries to devote more government revenues and investment to private ends. In effect, the subsidiary role that Europe played in the Great Power conflict yielded a peace dividend that freed up resources for productive capital formation. Eastern Europe was the recipient of an analogous dividend; it imported energy and raw materials at submarket prices from the Soviet Union in return for the stationing of Soviet troops in the region.

In addition, the Cold War provided an impetus for regional integration. The United States would not have acquiesced to the creation of a customs union of European nation-states capable of discriminating against American exports except for the priority it attached to building a bulwark against communism. And the Soviets would not have insisted so strongly on the integration of the Eastern bloc but for the example of Western Europe and the incompatibility of their own economy with those of Western European countries. . . .

Excerpted from The European Economy since 1945 by Barry Eichengreen Copyright © 2006 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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21 março, 2007

104) Lessons of Bretton Woods

Barry J. Eichengreen:
Global Imbalances and the Lessons of Bretton Woods
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. xix +187 pp. $26 (cloth), ISBN: 0-262-05084-6.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Anna J. Schwartz, National Bureau of Economic Research.

Barry Eichengreen has committed to print four lectures he delivered in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He starts out in the first lecture by challenging the view that Michael Dooley, David Folkerts-Landau and Peter Garber presented in a series of articles to the effect that there are similarities between the Bretton Woods System of 1958 to 1973 and the present international monetary system. The center country in the Bretton Woods system, as well as since its demise has been the United States. Its balance of payments was in deficit earlier as well as currently; it was a source of foreign reserves to countries in surplus on the periphery both earlier and currently; it was open to exports from countries around the world earlier as well as currently; finally, surplus countries then and now have resisted revaluation of their under-valued currencies for fear of negative consequences for export-led economic growth, and for capital losses on their reserves stock.
Eichengreen's reponse to this list of similarities is a list of differences between then and now.

1. The possibility of reserve allocation did not exist in the Bretton Woods era. Then, the U.S. trade and current account balances were in substantial surplus, mitigating concerns about the stability of the dollar. The U.S. was saving more then than it was investing at home. It was investing abroad on net. Its accumulation of foreign assets on which it earned income betokened that the U.S. balance of payments would improve over time, but markets were not reassured that the system would endure, since the current account surplus began a decline in the second half of the 1960s.

2. Asian countries now constitute the periphery, whereas then, European countries dominated the periphery. Commonality of purpose and mutual trust are less advanced in the former than they were in the latter. Now China would prefer regional integration, but Japan favors bilateral agreements. Collective action sustained Bretton Woods from 1958 to 1971. Limited possibilities for collective action currently dim the forecast of the number of years the present system will survive.

3. One example of successful financial cooperation by the Asian periphery is the Asian Bond Market Initiative to encourage investment of reserves in local currency bonds, an avenue for reserve reallocation likely to grow over time. In the 1960s there was no comparable means of reallocating reserves.

4. Under Bretton Woods, the U.S. relied on regulations and controls to keep private investors from shifting dollar-denominated assets to foreign ones and short-selling dollars. Now there is less regulation, so private investors will have the option in the future if asset prices change to forsake dollar assets for other more attractive ones.

5. Domestic financial market structures differ from those that existed forty years ago. Then forced savings could be channeled through regulation into capital formation in the traded goods sector. Japan did so, as did European countries also. Thus then the distortions of undervalued exchange rates, repressed consumption and forced savings in the periphery offset other distortions that would have resulted in too little investment in the highly productive traded goods sector. Since then, in the 1990s, with persisting undervalued exchange rates, in a more deregulated financial environment, low interest rates and ample credit were available for the non-traded goods sector and the property market. Some Asian countries experienced property market booms that weakened their financial institutions. Currently, the same policies have led to real estate booms in coastal China. Asian authorities are aware that the export benefits of their exchange rate policy are offset by heightened financial risks.

Eichengreen predicts that Asian authorities will let their exchange rates rise, and will emphasize expansion of domestic demand, not of exports, that they recognize that traded goods are not the sole center of productivity and growth externalities. They will therefore promote balanced investment in both non-traded and traded goods.

To allow real exchange rates to rise, the cartel of Asian countries that have maintained the dollar's rate will need to cut back on intervention in the foreign exchange market, allocating part of their reserve portfolios, preferably to assets denominated in regional denominated currencies. This will cause the dollar to decline and may force the Fed to raise interest rates, curbing domestic absorption. The euro may rise against the dollar, harming European exports.

Eichengreen's final thought is that the end of the present international monetary regime is not far off.

Eichengreen asks whether more monetary and fiscal restraint by the U.S. would have lengthened the life of Bretton Woods, and whether a dollar devaluation against gold and foreign currencies would have countered a secular decline in the current account surplus.

Had the U.S. raised taxes and the Fed raised interest rates, domestic demand would have been curbed, and export competitiveness enhanced, strengthening the current account, but other countries' exports might have fallen, owing to the decline in U.S. domestic demand. Lower U.S. inflation might have stimulated capital inflows, and the drain on U.S. gold reserves slowed. In 1969, Germany might not have revalued the mark and delayed the end of the dollar standard.

Eichengreen believes that by raising the price of gold, expectations would have arisen that the step would be repeated, increasing the likelihood of a run on the U.S. gold reserve. A better course would have been floating the price of gold, but the authorities resisted severing the dollar-gold link until there was no other alternative. Also, had the U.S. raised the $35 per ounce price of gold, other governments might well have followed suit

In the present situation, Asian central banks foil the U.S. desire by buying dollars to prevent appreciation of their currencies, using the dollar accumulation as a hedge should the dollar decline against the euro.

In short, Eichengreen doubts that changed U.S. policies could have significantly prolonged the life of Bretton Woods. Countries would have needed additional reserves as the world economy grew, and gold and liquid claims on the U.S. were the available ones. As changed U.S. policies weakened their current accounts and increased capital outflows to the U.S., these countries might have responded by also tightening monetary and fiscal policies. World economic growth would have slowed and also demand for international reserves. But this would not have solved the Triffin dilemma that for other countries to acquire dollars, the U.S. had to run deficits that diminished confidence in the dollar. Bretton Woods would last only a little longer.

In the second lecture, Eichengreen reviews the reasons for the collapse of the Gold Pool. It was based on the idea that collective action by a cartel of countries would support the $35 price of gold. Divergent views of its members destroyed the Pool after six years. He sees a parallel in the cartel of Asian countries that by collective action seek to prevent appreciation of their currencies. Members' views are beginning to diverge, so cooperation becomes problematic, although the timing of the collapse of this cartel may differ from that of the Gold Pool.

In the third lecture, Eichengreen offers the example of how at the end of Bretton Woods Japan, which for two decades had pegged the yen at 360 to the dollar, on 28 August 1971 loosened the peg, as a precedent for China to follow in decisively allowing the exchange rate of the yuan greater flexibility.

The title of the fourth lecture, "Sterling's Past, Dollar's Future," succinctly describes the content. Eichengreen notes that the holdings by foreign central banks of U.S. liquid liabilities which are large relative to holdings of foreign liquid liabilities by the Fed and U.S. government are not a threat to the reserve currency status of the dollar. Similarly, before 1914, Britain borrowed short and lent long, and liquid claims of foreign official creditors exceeded British liquid assets, yet Britain ran current account surpluses. However, what makes the U.S. case currently a worry is that it occurs when the banker to the world has been running large ongoing current account deficits. Importing short-term capital and exporting long-term capital, Eichengreen argues, do not require a current account deficit. The deficits and U.S. growing net foreign debt threaten the U.S. hegemony.

With no change in U.S. policy, but a rise in inflation because of a falling dollar, foreigners will decline to add dollar-denominated securities to their portfolios. Once the dollar exchange rate falls in response, a flight from dollars may result. In Eichengreen's view, only if the Fed can raise interest rates just enough to contain inflation without producing a severe recession, will a financial crisis be avoided and correction of the current account deficit ensue.

Sterling's loss of international preeminence followed repeated inflation episodes and devaluations against the dollar. Given good economic management, the dollar need not lose its reserve currency status but it will share it by 2020 or 2040 with the euro, assuming the health of the European economy improves. Eichengreen believes it is premature to consider the yuan as a possible new reserve currency.

There is much to learn from these lectures about the past and current international monetary arrangements. I disagree with Eichengreen's reference to the twin deficits as an important factor that explains the current account deficit. The relationship has sometimes been observed, and at other times not. This is true for the U.S. as well as other countries. I also do not share his view that the persistent current account deficit is a U.S. problem that only the U.S. can solve. The current account deficit is a global problem that other countries as well as the U.S. must cooperate to manage. The leading capital exporters to the U.S. (Japan, China, Germany, Russia) with current account surpluses are required to reduce their own and the U.S. imbalances. What the U.S. can contribute is a program to raise national savings.

Anna J. Schwartz is writing a monograph on the history of U.S. official intervention in the foreign exchange market (with Owen Humpage and Michael Bordo).

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19 março, 2007

103) Nueva Gramatica de la Lengua Espanola

CULTURA: La Nueva Gramática refleja el español de todas las latitudes

Madrid, 19 mar (EFE).- La "Nueva Gramática de la Lengua Española", cuyo texto básico será aprobado el próximo día 24 en la ciudad colombiana de Medellín, es un paso histórico en la unidad del español y refleja por vez primera la realidad lingüística de todos los países hispanoamericanos.
Este carácter panhispánico ha sido destacado por los directores y presidentes de las 22 Academias de la Lengua Española, que durante diez años han consensuado el contenido de esta obra.
La nueva gramática -la edición anterior data de 1931- tendrá 2.500 páginas, aunque se publicará además un compendio para usuarios no especializados.
La obra "describirá el uso de la lengua hoy", es decir, hará "una radiografía del uso del español en el mundo hispanohablante", dijo a Efe el director de la Real Academia Española, Víctor García de la Concha.
Y este reflejo de la realidad lingüística de las dos orillas del Atlántico constituye el "logro más importante", a juicio de la Academia colombiana, anfitriona del XIII Congreso de Asociaciones de la Lengua, que se celebrará en Medellín y que será clausurado por los Reyes de España.
El secretario ejecutivo de dicha academia, Jaime Bernal, opinó que la nueva gramática recoge todos "los usos y abusos de los países hispanoamericanos".
La obra enumera las variantes de un fenómeno lingüístico en cada zona, dijo García de la Concha, al explicar que "las líneas imaginarias del mapa de la lengua no están compartimentadas por países", sino por áreas.
Para el presidente de la Academia argentina, Pedro Luis Barcia, la obra "es representativa" de las ocho áreas lingüísticas en las que se ha ordenado el mapa del español.
Se trata de la región Andina (Ecuador, Perú y Bolivia), Chile, Río de la Plata (Argentina, Uruguay y Paraguay), Caribe Continental (Venezuela y Colombia), México y Centroamérica, las Antillas (Puerto Rico, República Dominicana y Cuba), Estados Unidos y España.
La nueva gramática es definida por el presidente de la Academia venezolana, Oscar Sambrano, como un "paso histórico" y un "gran reconocimiento de la diversidad".
Pero estas diferencias que presenta el español no dividen a los países, a juicio del director de la Academia de Perú, Marco Martos, porque tienen en "común la estructura del español, que es monolítica".
"Sin estructura no puede haber lengua. Y la gramática no es más que estructura", dijo el director de la Academia de Uruguay, Jorge Arbeleche.
Para el director de la Academia Mexicana, José G. Moreno de Alba, la nueva gramática representa una "fotografía científica precisa y una descripción completa y pormenorizada", que permitirá que el buen conocimiento de la lengua llegue a los niños en la escuela.
El presidente de la Academia chilena, Alfredo Matús, destacó el "avance poderoso" que supone, ya que no es "una mera revisión de la anterior gramática, sino una descripción radicalmente diferente", con una metodología que responde a la perspectiva "panhispánica" en la que hoy la Academias enmarcan todos sus trabajos.
Ello significa "que los fenómenos idiomáticos se enfocan desde toda la lengua española, en su potente unidad y en su rica variedad".
Para el director de la Academia puertorriqueña, José Luis Vega, ninguna de las variedades que se descubrirán, "aún las más importantes, necesariamente significan un impedimento de comunicación entre todos los usuarios".
Y es que una "de las riquezas" que la lengua española permite, según el secretario de la Academia nicaragüense, Francisco Arellano, es "la comunicación oral o escrita, sin ninguna dificultad", entre un argentino y un nicaragüense o entre un español y un dominicano.
Precisamente, el director de la Academia dominicana insistió en que "hay diferencias de pronunciación o en el significado de las palabras, pero no en la escritura, que es una pauta común determinada por la gramática y la ortografía", señaló.
Las nuevas reglas de la obra vienen "a responder a lo que los hispanohablantes practican", aseguró el presidente de la Academia de Costa Rica, quien coincidió con el representante salvadoreño, David Escobar, que opinó que "responde a las necesidades actuales del español en nuestro mundo hispanohablante y en general en todas partes, porque es un idioma universal".
A la expansión del español se refirió el director de la Academia cubana, Lisandro Otero, para quien ese "crecimiento desmesurado ha constituido el principal riesgo: el peligro de la fragmentación".
El director de la Academia Norteamericana, Odón Betanzos, definió al español como una lengua "completa", aunque advirtió de la inclusión de "anglicismos innecesarios, que no son más que calcos".
Pero, para el director de la Academia de Guatemala, Mario Antonio Sandoval, muchas de las palabras de origen indígena o anglosajón se han "españolizado" y se utilizan con significado común y universal.
La gramática, según el director de la Academia de Bolivia, Raúl Rivadeneira, llenará un "enorme vacío", porque como afirma también la representante panameña, Margarita Vásquez, "sistematiza en común una materia que recoge principios y leyes generales".

17 março, 2007

102) Um livro-homenagem a Jean-Francois Revel

El honor del espíritu
Por Mario Vargas Llosa
El País, 17/03/2007


EL libro que Pierre Boncenne acaba de publicar sobre Jean-François Revel (Pour Jean-François Revel, Plon) es el primero, pero no será el último, que se escribe sobre el autor de La tentación totalitaria y El conocimiento inútil , un pensador y polemista que, estoy seguro, será recordado como uno de los intelectuales más lúcidos de los tiempos que hemos vivido, un escritor que, a la manera de George Orwell -a quien tanto se parece- en el período que a él le tocó, salvó en cierta forma el "honor del espíritu" defendiendo la libertad, cuando tantos intelectuales la traicionaban por oportunismo, fanatismo o ceguera, y denunciando sin tregua todas las imposturas que por obra de las modas, la vanidad o la simple vacuidad han empobrecido el quehacer intelectual contemporáneo.
El libro de Boncenne no es un estudio académico, aunque en sus páginas se encuentra una descripción muy solvente de la vasta obra de Revel en todos sus aspectos. Es un ensayo polémico, irreverente y por momentos belicoso, que documenta los ataques innobles y las pequeñas insidias de que fue víctima Revel por atreverse a criticar a la intocable izquierda, y que aparecieron en órganos a veces tan aparentemente respetables como Le Monde , France Observateur o Libération . Lo que indigna a Boncenne, y con toda razón, no eran las críticas, sino las calumnias, esa manía tan arraigada en el gremio intelectual de descalificar moralmente al adversario para exonerarse de tener que refutarlo con argumentos y razones.
Boncenne no se limita a reseñar el valeroso combate de Revel en defensa del sistema democrático contra todos los totalitarismos (el nazismo, el comunismo soviético, el maoísmo, las dictaduras militares, las satrapías religiosas, el castrismo), sino también, y estas páginas son para mí las mejores de su libro, contra la jerigonza filosófica, la charlatanería sociológica, la logorrea hueca de cierta crítica literaria, psicológica o psicoanalítica que, detrás de unos lenguajes supuestamente especializados, oculta la nimiedad o el puro vacío intelectual.
Este es un aspecto del quehacer intelectual de Revel que convenía celebrar, tan osado y valioso como el que libró contra el dogmatismo y el fanatismo ideológico. Nadie antes que él se atrevió a señalar que buena parte de los escritos de Lacan, Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu y otras estrellas de la inteligencia francesa no eran incomprensibles por profundos, sino porque detrás de su tiniebla verbal, sólo había pretensión, vacío y lugares comunes emperifollados de inextricable retórica.
Revel sabía de lo que hablaba, porque había recibido la formación académica más exigente: Ecole Normal y la agregation . Todo lo predisponía a hacer una gran carrera universitaria y a destacar en el establecimiento intelectual más selecto. Pero él abandonó pronto ese destino para dedicarse a un género que sus colegas miran por sobre el hombro: el periodismo. Como Orwell, en lugar de rebajar sus topes intelectuales, Revel elevó el periodismo a la categoría de obra de arte, de ensayo creativo, de vehículo de ideas, como lo había hecho en España un José Ortega y Gasset. Hacer periodismo no significó para Revel vulgarizar ni banalizar el pensamiento, sino encontrar un lenguaje limpio, accesible, elegante e inteligente para hablar con el máximo rigor de los problemas políticos y culturales al lector promedio, a lo que su admirado Montaigne llamó "el hombre del común".
Revel mostró que la cultura no tenía por qué apartarse de los hombres y las mujeres comunes y corrientes, y encerrarse en "cábalas de devotos" para ser rigurosa y original. Y, también, que ese comercio continuo de las ideas con un amplio público las vivificaba, las mantenía en una estimulante prueba de fuerza con la actualidad. Eso es lo que da a las recopilaciones de artículos de Revel - Idées de notre temps , por ejemplo, o Fin de siècle des ombres - su naturaleza candente de textos nacidos como respuesta a problemas neurálgicos y necesidades urgentes.
El libro de Boncenne diseña también la curiosidad voraz de Revel por todas las manifestaciones del espíritu: la filosofía, la política, la literatura, la crítica de arte, la gastronomía, la música. Y la magnífica labor que llevó a cabo como editor, dirigiendo, entre otras, esa maravillosa colección de panfletos Libertés , en la que seleccionó a todos los grandes polemistas de la lengua francesa, desde Pascal a André Breton, demostrando que el género de la diatriba no estaba siempre reñido con el buen gusto, la sabiduría, la inteligencia y la más refinada erudición.
Aunque admira a Revel, Boncenne no es un hagiógrafo. Señala los errores en que incurrió y las injusticias que cometió (algunas de las cuales lamentó amargamente en su hermosa autobiografía) ese Revel que comenzó diciendo en El ladrón en la casa vacía que, a diferencia de muchos de sus colegas, muy satisfechos consigo mismos, él se había pasado la vida equivocándose y arrepintiéndose de sus equivocaciones.
Y sí lo decía, lo creía. Porque era un intelectual honrado, incapaz de hacer trampas, a sus lectores o a sí mismo. Ahora bien, aunque sus juveniles entusiasmos por Gurdjieff desconciertan en un racionalista tan empeñoso, la verdad es que en política casi siempre vio claro y actuó con una consecuencia tan admirable como su clarividencia. Fue resistente contra los nazis y socialista a la liberación, cuando el socialismo parecía una doctrina generosa, hecha de pasión por la justicia y la libertad. Fue un crítico precoz e insobornable de De Gaulle y la 5a. República, porque vio, en ambos, síntomas de autoritarismo. Y luego, con poquísimos intelectuales de su tiempo, como Raymond Aron, se enfrentó a la oceánica ofensiva de los marxismos que devoró a Occidente, defendiendo lo que todos éstos, pese a sus querellas internas, atacaban con más saña: la cultura de la libertad. Fue un liberal en el país donde esta palabra -esta idea, este valor- fue encarnecida y envilecida más que en ninguna otra sociedad, en nombre de la utopía colectivista, sin dejarse intimidar por el odio y la hostilidad que sus ensayos y críticas provocaban a su alrededor (Boncenne ofrece un terrorífico muestrario de todo ello en su libro).
Ahora, por fortuna, las cosas han cambiado mucho en Francia gracias a ensayistas y filósofos libertarios como André Glucksman, Pascal Bruckner o Alain Finkielkraut. Pero, si retrocedemos a los años sesenta o setenta, el panorama intelectual parecía poco menos que monopolizado por las distintas variedades de lo que Kostas Papaioannou llamó "el pensamiento frío", es decir, el marxismo.
La revista de moda Tel Quel , inspirada por el exquisito Roland Barthes, alternaba las indescifrables disquisiciones de teoría literario-lingüística con el esnobismo político, y defendía a Mao y la revolución cultural china, a la que se había convertido también, en la última de sus acrobacias ideológicas, Jean-Paul Sartre, director, por un tiempo, recordemos, de La cause du peuple , el periódico de los "maos" franceses.
¿Quiénes, en esos años, desde la cultura democrática, se atrevían a recordar que la revolución cultural china estaba aniquilando a millones de millones de personas en un holocausto tan estúpido y monstruoso como los perpetrados por Hitler y Stalin? Raymond Aron y Revel, y muy pocos otros. Boncenne recuerda en su libro el vergonzoso cierra filas de la intelectualidad "progresista" francesa contra Simon Leys, cuando este destacado sinólogo, que conocía de primera mano los crímenes del maoísmo, publicó sus primeros libros en Francia, y la batalla que debieron librar Revel y otros demócratas para que la campaña de descrédito de la izquierda censora no los sofocara antes de que pudieran llegar a los lectores.
Todo ese combate permanente que fue su vida intelectual hizo de él una persona que, al principio, parecía tosca y dura. Pura apariencia. En verdad, había en él un gozador de la cultura y de la vida, de las ideas, los buenos libros, la comida y el vino. Podía ser un conversador deslumbrante, irónico, simpático, un contador de anécdotas divertidísimo y un amigo generoso y leal.
"En honor del espíritu" es una de esas frases que en francés lucen muy bien, aunque, traducidas, suenan cursis. Pero a mí me conmovió la manera en que Pierre Boncenne la usa para indicar lo que para él fue uno de los grandes méritos de Revel. No traicionar la propia vocación, mintiendo. Más bien, honrarla, tratando siempre de decir la verdad, de la manera más cristalina y bella posible. Porque pensando y escribiendo con esta divisa, "se honra el espíritu". Para los agnósticos, como Revel y como este escriba, el "espíritu" hace las veces de todo aquello en lo que no creemos. Y Revel, en efecto, como muy pocos en su tiempo, siempre lo honró.

Reproduido en LA NACION | 17.03.2007 | Página 29 | Opinión