Corrupción en año electoral

La semana pasada realicé una presentación de los indicadores económicos para Centroamérica y un punto en especial me pareció doloroso: en Guatemala un 24% de la población vive en Pobreza con menos de $3.20 por día (PPP) y 8.7% vive con menos de US$1.90 por día (PPP).  Ese es un número muy grande y duro de asimilar porque sus impactos negativos en la salud, bienestar y calidad de vida causan daños irreversibles en el desarrollo de las personas. La respuesta a por qué 1 de cada 4 guatemaltecos vive en la pobreza está en la corrupción y la falta de un plan nacional claro que incluya programas asistencialistas y de desarrollo. 


Video: El dinero sale; los pobres, no

La corrupción engendra pobreza. Esa es la conclusión del Informe sobre el Desarrollo Mundial en el que el Banco Mundial citó  “evidencia de que los niveles más altos de corrupción están asociados con un menor ingreso per cápita”. La historia muy bien conocida por todos nosotros es que los sobornos aumentan los costos de hacer negocios, por lo que los países más corruptos atraen menos inversión extranjera directa, lo que reduce las tasas de crecimiento y los ingresos per cápita.

Sin embargo, esto enmascara una distinción importante entre el soborno de empresa a empresa (B2B) y de empresa a gobierno (B2G). Lo primero a menudo se resuelve mejor, ya que es rápidamente corregido por la ley de la oferta y demanda en condiciones de mercado libre. Sin embargo, la corrupción B2G es un monopolio muy protegido y vigilado por quienes se benefician de esta.

En su forma más suave y benigna, el soborno B2B puede facilitar la comunicación (reducir los costos de información) y ayudar a consolidar las relaciones entre los principales (por ejemplo, en una cadena de suministro). Los “pagos de facilitación” (desde comisiones generosas hasta membresías en clubes de golf, invitaciones a almorzar, regalos y viajes de ocio gratis) pueden reemplazar los costosos contratos contingentes con contratos implícitos que aseguran que se cumplan los requisitos de calidad, cantidad y programación.  Esta práctica vieja y por todos conocida ha empezado a eliminarse conforme muchas empresas establecen códigos de ética más estrictos al respecto. En este caso, el soborno B2B tiene un beneficio compensatorio, aunque no ético, que en la red reduce los costos de transacción y engrasa las ruedas del comercio.

Los casos graves de soborno B2B suelen implicar una ganancia privada por parte de un empleado sin beneficios compensatorios. Esta forma más insidiosa es como un gusano que se come las ganancias corporativas. Por ejemplo, si, como se afirma, los ejecutivos de las grandes empresas petroleras hicieron pagos laterales sutiles (negocios de dirección) a socios como Arthur Andersen para promover y/o ocultar actividades de contabilidad y financiamiento fraudulentas, entonces los accionistas son las víctimas.

Image result for corrupción el fo prensa libre guatemala

En marcado contraste, los casos graves de soborno B2G implican ganancias privadas que se han repetido en TODOS los gobiernos que hemos tenido (generalmente por parte de corporaciones afines al gobierno de turno y empleados públicos) a expensas de empresas competidoras y del público en general. La gran diferencia entre el soborno B2B y B2G es el gobierno. Los funcionarios del gobierno tienen el poder de cambiar las reglas del juego y ostentan el poder monopólico sobre legislar y controlar las instituciones que gobiernan la actividad de mercado.  En los últimos meses un monopolio naciente que se disfraza de beneficio público ha sido la legislación en municipalidades y en el Congreso que prohíbe ciertos productos desechables plásticos y favorece al cartón, vidrio, bioplásticos y aluminio. El gobierno crea un monopolio no por el interés ambiental o del pueblo sino para favorecer una industria específica disfrazada de responsable filantropía.

No es sorprendente que una forma popular de soborno B2G implique la “búsqueda de rentas” de la que tanto hablamos en los cursos de economía en la UFM.  Esta práctica en nuestra región es muy intensa y busca influir en el diseño o la aplicación de reglas, regulaciones, evaluaciones de impuestos, zonificación, contratos, etc. Desafortunadamente, como Mises enfatiza en Acción Humana, en el caso de la corrupción B2G, “por regla general, un individuo o un grupo de individuos se enriquece a costa de otros individuos o grupos de individuos”. En contraste con algunos sobornos B2B que realmente pueden beneficiar a ambas partes, el soborno B2G es, en el mejor de los casos, un juego de suma cero tal y como siempre recodaba el Muso Ayau.


En lugar de simplemente redistribuir la pizza, un juego de suma cero (lo que yo gano, tú pierdes), en este caso, el soborno B2G reduce el tamaño de la pizza, un juego de suma negativa (todos perdemos).

Cuando una empresa o industria guatemalteca o extranjera intenta obtener una ventaja competitiva a través del soborno B2G, esto provoca que otras industrias y grupos de consumidores se defiendan. Incluso en los casos en que una empresa puede sobornar a los funcionarios para que no cumplan con las regulaciones verdaderamente malas, esto provoca una presión contra el lobby por parte de las empresas que se benefician de estas regulaciones. En los últimos años esta práctica se evidenció cuando industrias específicas patrocinaron y sobornaron a partidos políticos específicos que llegaron al poder. Hemos vivido los desastres del extractivismo en su máxima expresión.  A veces, estas regulaciones no son más que barreras poco veladas para proteger a las empresas predominantes (nacionales) de la competencia (extranjera) como ocurrió en la década de 1960-70s. Sin embargo, economistas como Gordon Tullock y otros han demostrado que la suma de los recursos agotados en el soborno ofensivo y defensivo B2G puede ser mucho mayor que el valor de la decisión favorable o del contrato gubernamental.

Menos gobierno es igual a menos corrupción. Las empresas siempre buscarán favores del gobierno. Mises en su obra Acción Humana nos recuerda que “la corrupción es un evento regular de intervencionismo“. Por lo tanto, cuantas menos reglas, regulaciones, contratos, etc., los funcionarios del gobierno tengan la discreción de escribir, modificar o hacer cumplir, menos oportunidades de corrupción. Cuanto más transparentes sean sus acciones y cuanto más tengan que perder, mejor. Concuerdo con los economistas de la cosa pública que alentar a los gobiernos a emplear menos funcionarios públicos con menos poder y más salarios es un paso en la dirección correcta.

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Promover la transparencia es malo los corruptos, tanto B2B y B2G, pero esta es la clave para minimizar la corrupción. Acá, corresponde a los ciudadanos guatemaltecos restringir el poder del gobierno y exigir la transparencia de sus funcionarios públicos con candidatos que tengan esto entre sus planes políticos en la primera página.

Las regulaciones demasiado complejas son especialmente problemáticas porque fomentan la corrupción. Por ejemplo, el Ranking Doing Business informa que para iniciar un negocio en Guatemala se requiere casi un mes y 18% del PIB de una persona para iniciar un negocio; mientras que en Australia solo se requieren dos pasos, dos días y el 2% de los ingresos. En lugar de proteger a los consumidores y las empresas, las regulaciones gubernamentales fuera de control aplastan la actividad del mercado y actúan como un caldo de cultivo para la corrupción.

El camino que debemos seguir es el de reducir el poder de los funcionarios públicos y abordar la forman en que funcionan sus incentivos para exigir sobornos. La prensa libre del mundo, las organizaciones gubernamentales sin fines de lucro como Transparency International y las instituciones multinacionales como la CICIG, la OCDE, el FMI y el Banco Mundial pueden y deben desempeñar funciones activas de apoyo y debemos apoyarlas. Busquemos este año electoral a esos candidatos que nos ofrezcan soluciones para reducir el poder de los funcionarios y que busquen promover la transparencia. En ellos está el futuro de un mejor país.

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Course on Human Action starts tomorrow!!!

Starting Tomorrow:

Human Action, Part 1

Instructor: David Gordon
Cost: $79 (50% off!)
Dates: September 12 – November 6, 2012
Length: Eight weeks

Register Now!

It is perhaps the most important and profound book ever written. Yet how many, in their attempts to read it, have been stopped in their tracks by Part I? In those 7 chapters, Mises lays out the philosophical underpinnings of economics and social philosophy. So they are crucial for understanding the rest of the treatise. Yet, for the reader not versed in philosophy, the technical terminology and references can be daunting.

In this course, David Gordon will clearly explain everything you need to know to make sense of the concepts presented in these chapters. He will define the terms, provide background for the references, and make clear exactly what it is that Mises is saying in these passages.

If this classic has been sitting on your shelf or in your Kindle, just waiting for you to tackle it, there is no better way to start than with this course, which will be followed by subsequent courses taught by Mises Academy faculty, covering the rest of Human Action.

Lectures

The video lectures are online. Lectures will be Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:00 pm Eastern time. They will be recorded and made available for enrolled students to download.

Reading:

All readings will be free and online. A full hyper-linked syllabus with readings for each weekly topic will be available for all students.

Grades and Certificates

The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. This course is worth 3 credits in our own internal system. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.

Refund Policy

If you drop the course during its first week (7 calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.

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About David Gordon

David Gordon is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He was educated at UCLA, where he earned his PhD in intellectual history. He is the author ofResurrecting Marx: The Analytical Marxists on Exploitation, Freedom, and JusticeThe Philosophical Origins of Austrian EconomicsAn Introduction to Economic Reasoning, and Critics of Marx. He is also editor of Secession, State, and Liberty and co-editor of H.B. Acton’s Morals of Markets and Other Essays.

Dr. Gordon is the editor of The Mises Review, and a contributor to such journals as AnalysisThe International Philosophic Quarterly,The Journal of Libertarian Studies, and The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

Recommended Articles: Business, Economic and Financial History

List of selected articles that I read last week that may be of your interest:

  1. Super-cycles of commodity prices since the mid-ninteenth century. Bilge Erten
  2. Against Liberty: Adorno, Levinas and the Pathologies of Freedom. Nelson, Eric S.
  3. Lords of Uhuru: the political economy of elite competition and institutional change in post-independence Kenya. Bedasso, Biniam
  4. The Euro crisis: a historical perspective. Mourlon-Druol, Emmanuel
  5. Economics and ethics: a historical approach. Ciani Scarnicci, Manuela

On the fallacies of an Emerging Global Left

Socialism is unrealizable as an economic system because a socialist society would not have any possibility of resorting to economic calculation. This is why it cannot be considered as a system of society’s economic organization. It is a means to disintegrate social cooperation and to bring about poverty and chaos.” Ludwig von MisesMoney, Method, and the Market Process.

Recently, an article from the blog Poverty Matters (supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) authored by Jayati Ghosh in the Guardian elaborates on how a new global left is emerging as a result of a transcendance of the traditional socialist paradigm.  Ghosh explains that this new global left has is currently transcending the traditional socialist emphasis on “centralised government control over an undifferentiated mass of workers, to incorporate more explicit emphasis on the rights and concerns of women, ethnic minorities, tribal communities and other marginalised groups, as well as recognition of ecological constraints and the social necessity of respecting nature.”  This transcendance is occurring via what Ghosh considers to be seven common threads that are not new but a result of a “collective failure of memory”.

These threads are:

  1. An attitude to what constitutes democracy,
  2. the rejection of overcentralisation,
  3. a more complex approach to property rights,
  4. a discourse in the language of “rights”,
  5. a realization that addressing issues only in class terms is not sufficient,
  6. a emphasis on gender as a a cause for addressing issues,
  7. an emphasis on environmental conservation, the protection of ecosystems, biodiversity and the integrity of a country’s genetic assets.

I wonder what Ghosh considered to be the traditional socialist paradigma.  Socialism and the ideas behind this socioeconomic system of collective ownership of the means of production is very diverse and it is incorrect and inaccurate to speak of a single socialist paradigm.  More so, what seems a New emergence of the left is in fact not occurring anywhere in the world.

Collectivism (inaccurately generalized as “the left”) in its many names and shapes continues developing itself within the same framework of ideas that have been used for centuries. While the historical context has changed the principles continue being the same.  As such, the thread number 1 which seems for Ghosh as a new attitude toward democracy is the result of the failure of the previous collectivist governments that have ruled the world.  There is no real change in the attitude toward democracy since collectivist ideas consider democracy as a means to the value they aim to achieve: collective power over the collective.  The only way of having a new attitude toward democracy would be in fact to reject it as a mean to achieve any end successfully.  This of course is not happening anywhere in the collectivist groups of the world.

As well, the point number two of overcentralisation is false since collectivism is a centralized system of organization in which at the end of the day the sole power over everything resides in the collective government.  The only change is not of how centralization happens but on how many people are to be managing that collective government (the Party, elites, corporations, oligarchies, et al).

Point number three and four have nothing new and are the same exact approaches that collectivism has had since it origin in regard to property and rights.  Collectivist philosophies consider all in essence the private ownership of the means of production to be evil, static in nature and inefficient to satisfy the needs of humanity. Its approach to rights is rooted on the principle that the only important rights are those of the collective and thus reject the individual rights of its members.

Points five, six and seven have also not changed in the collectivist mindset since they are rooted in the principles of class struggle that have only continued the trend of understanding society as a competing/destructive system based on gender, race, culture, religion, etc.  The principle continues the same: The so called  tension or antagonism continues to exists in their interpretation of society due to competing socioeconomic interests between people.

By definition, the only way in which any real change, evolution or overcoming of a collectivist philosophy in the globe will arise when the discourse starts by rejecting the philosophical principles in which they are rooted.  As such, unless they understand how and why the collectivist philosophy is full of fallacious principles that have caused death and poverty for centuries, there is nothing that will change.  There is no emergence of a new left, there is no resurgence of collectivism and the dialectics of historical materialism continue existing in the core of all collectivist philosophies.  It will be only until intellectuals have the common-sense and moral courage to question their philosophies of life that we may seem an end to centuries of collectivist failed projects of organizing society.  Until that day what we will continue seeing is the same social system that has destroyed the best within man for ages.

Travel Diary: Prices, Unions and Freedom in one of the richest countries of the World

Prices in a capitalist economy reflect the relative scarcity of a good or service as well as the amount and intensity of consumer demand. Free-market prices are the only viable means of rational economic calculation. If a good or service becomes in shorter supply, for whatever reason, its price will rise, all other things being equal. The higher price will give consumers the proper incentive to do what is needed whenever anything becomes scarcer: conserve, or cut back on consumption. DiLorenzo in “How Capitalism Saved America

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Oslo Objectivist Conference 2012 in Oslo, Norway in which I enjoyed a weekend of Philosophy, Objectivity and a celebration of Individual Rights.  On Monday before returning to my base in Leipzig, I decided to spend the day enjoying the parks and streets of the city (one of my favorites) and during lunch I went to eat buffalo wings in front of the City Hall Park.

That noon I was reading the last pages of the book “How Capitalism Saved America” by Thomas DiLorenzo and was writing extensive notes in my notebook criticizing many of his arguments in favor of capitalism due to lack of consistency and integration.  Leaving those morality issues aside, I was very interested in his historical explanation on the role that Unions (and privileged groups of interest) have had in destroying the foundations (principles) of capitalism in the United States since the foundation of the country.  Curiously, that same day the Farmers Union of Norway gathered in front of the park to do a countrywide protest (news).

As DiLorenzo writes, Unions have claimed for decades to be representatives of the “interests” of society, workers, middle class, proletarians and et. al. However, it has been actually only in the interests of the Union’s leadership and their pursuit of cronyism that they have actually worked by being concerned only in “their own membership rolls and dues revenues”. Examples from the Unions intervention in the destruction of the most successful industries of the  United States are explained by DiLorenzo’s book.

On Monday, the disgruntled Norwegian farmers decided to take the streets against the recent decisions of the government in April, 2012 to subsidy of Agriculture by granting only 625 million Norwegian Kroner instead of the 2.2 billion they asked.  The Norwegian Farmers’ Union (NFU) decided to take their trucks and cows and occupy the doors of the City Hall in Oslo; in other cities and towns the mayors were even kidnapped by the unionists.

This protest arise after the Parliament decided that that food prices should rise 20 percent in the next 20 years in line with expected population growth, providing sufficient income to both achieve this and ensure continued recruitment to farming (this reminds me of Hayek’s ideas on the Fatal Conceit). The NFU doesn’t agree.  They consider that the average annual incomes are under 300,000 kroner per man-labour year, whilst it is 469,000 on average in other sectors.  They also claim to represent the “interests” of 100,000 jobs in agriculture and food industry and not only to be seeking for more money for farmers (yeah, right).

Norway is one of the richest countries in the world and its society lives in very comfortable conditions.  The Leviathan in government charges immense amounts of taxes and inflation is incredible.  Just to illustrate the size of Leviathan: The buffalo wings and a beer cost me the high price of 250 krone (aprox. 33 euro or US$41.00 in T.G.I. Friday’s) That same meal would have cost me much less if bought in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world .

How can they afford it? The population earns artificial higher incomes due to the government interventions in the economy and disrupts the economy of the country.  How did the country reached such a condition can only be understood by taking a close and detailed attention to the role interventionism has in a country’s economy.  The effect: high prices, unstoppable high taxes and widespread limitation of liberties behind the power that Unions, groups of interests, politicians and bureacrats have had in the economy for decades.

Slowly but consistently, the Unions and crony capitalists in the bureaucracy of the Norwegian country have made it impossible to be free to exchange products in the country without any type of government intervention.  While Norwegians seem to be free, their daily lives are unconsciously been managed and controlled by a gigantic government that regulated every instant of their lives.

As DiLorenzo described, “Ludwig von Mises initially explained back in the 50s in this theory of government interventionism: one intervention (such as subsidies for railroads) leads to market distortions, which create problems for which the public “demands” solutions. Government responds with even more interventions, usually in the form of more regulation of business activities, which cause even more problems, which lead to more intervention, and on and on. The end result is that free-market capitalism is more and more heavily stifled by regulation. And on top of that, usually the free market, not government intervention, gets the blame.”

I would love to go back to Oslo and if possibilities arise to settle and live there for a couple years. I wish that my passion for buffalo wings will bring me to experience a story to write about and meditate again.  As for now, I return to write about Capitalism while sitting in a desk in Leipzig, Germany.

Review of Austrian Economics—The Full Collection! (e-book format)

Review of Austrian Economics, Full Collection - Digital Book

This are great news for those of you interested in reading and learning more of the ideas that enabled a revolutionary development of new understandings on Economics and Human Action.

Murray Rothbard had long dreamed of an Austrian academic journal. In 1986, his dream came true. The Mises Institute published it, and it changed everything. Now they can be conveniently read on your digital device!

The individual issues have been nearly impossible to find, until now. Today you can own the entire set, learn from the pioneering articles that Murray and his co-editors saw as crucial, and see what gave the modern Austrian movement its scholarly momentum.”

GET THEM HERE

Interview: How Procter and Gamble Learned To Love YouTube

“Action is purposive conduct. It is not simply behavior, but behavior begot by judgments of value, aiming at a definite end and guided by ideas concerning the suitability or unsuitability of definite means. . . . It is conscious behavior. It is choosing. It is volition; it is a display of the will.” Ludwig von Mises

As a former employee of P&G I am always proud to learn from the future of one of the greatest companies on Earth.  P&G provides with hundreds of consumer goods to millions of human beings at competitive and wonderful prices.  Indeed, companies like P&G are the result of team working leaders who create a better future by giving irreplaceable experiences to its consumers.  In the following video, Melanie Healey (P&G Group President, North America) and Filippo Passerini (Group President, CIO, P&G) explain how success is about networked technology, big data analytics and 1-to-1 marketing.

As Passerini asserts, what we need right now is “business people that have passion for technology but (who don’t forget) that they are businesspeople”. Further, Healey elaborates on how global channels are currently working in global scale.  As Healy explains, they create plans that “deliver strategies faster, cheaper and better” in order to create business plans in order to fulfill the business needs.

Indeed, in a globalized world opportunities appear logarithmically while strengths are developed by giving always an added value for consumers.  Indeed, as philosophers like Ayn Rand and economist Ludwig von Mises so wonderfully elaborated as it is the philosophy of the entrepreneur what allows him to pursue successful projects.  What gives the entrepreneur the ability to succeed are market signals, which are necessary to determine what people might want and how well it was provided. Even the smartest person can’t learn if a teacher uses black chalk on a blackboard in a dark room. No entrepreneur can succeed in isolation.

Entrepreneurs and successful men with values like them are what we need in the world! People ready to create something better and work hard!