quinta-feira, março 18, 2010

Pensamentos inquietantes de um estranho liberal

«Since in this book we are mainly concerned with the limits that a free society must place upon the coercive powers of government, the reader may get the mistaken impression that we regard the enforcement of the law and the defence against external enemies as the only legitimate functions of government. (...) Far from advocating such a 'minimal state', we find it unquestionable that in an advanced society government ought to use its power of raising funds by taxation to provide a number of services which for various reasons cannot be provided, or cannot be provided adequately, by the market. Indeed, it could be maintained that, even if there were no other need for coercion, because everybody voluntarily obeyed the traditional rules of just conduct, there would still exist an overwhelming case for giving the territorial authorities power to make the inhabitants contribute to a common fund from which such services could be financed.» (p. 41)

«All we can attempt here in a single chapter is to indicate the wide range of such wholly legitimate activities which, as the administrator of common resources, government may legitimately undertake. The purpose of such a sketch can be no more than to prevent the impression that by limiting the coercive activities and the monopoly of government to the enforcement of rules of just conduct, defence, and the levying of taxes to finance its activities, we want to restrict government wholly to those functions.» (p. 42)

«(...) it is either technically impossible, or would be prohibitively costly, to confine certain services to particular persons, so that these services can be provided only klr all (or at least will be provided more cheaply and effectively if they are provided for all). To this category belong not only such obvious instances as the protection against violence, epidemics, or such natural forces as floods or avalanches, but also many of the amenities which make life in modern cities tolerable, most roads (except some long-distance highways where tolls can be charged), the provision of standards of measure, and of many kinds of information ranging from land registers, maps, and statistics to the certification of the quality of some goods or services offered in the market. In many instances the rendering of such services could bring no gain to those who do so, and they will therefore not be provided by the market. These are the collective or public goods proper, for the provision of which it will be necessary to devise some method other than that of sale to the individual users.» (p. 44)

«The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or a sort of floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself, appears not only to be a wholly legitimate protection against a risk common to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society in which the individual no longer has specific claims on the members of the particular small group into which he was born.» (p. 55)

«(...) it is merely common sense that government, as the biggest spender and investor whose activities cannot be guided wholly by profitability, and which for finance is in a great measure independent of the state of the capital market, should so far as practicable distribute its expenditure over time in such a manner that it will step in when private investment flags» (p. 59)

«(...) the problem of certification by government or others of the quality of some goods and services which may include a kind of licensing of particular activities by government. It can hardly be denied that the choice of the consumer will be greatly facilitated, and the working of the market improved, if the possession of certain qualities of things or capacities by those who offer services is made recognizable for the inexpert though it is by no means obvious that only the government will command the confidence required. Building regulations, pure food laws, the certification of certain professions, the restrictions on the sale of certain dangerous goods (such as arms, explosives, poisons and drugs), as well as some safety and health regulations for the processes of production and the provision of such public institutions as theatres, sports grounds, etc., certainly assists intelligent choice and sometimes may be indispensable for it. That the goods offered for human consumption satisfy certain minimum standards of hygiene, as for example that pork is not trichinuous or milk not tuberculous, or that somebody who describes himself by a term generally understood to imply a certain competence, such as a physician, really possesses that competence, will be most effectively assured by some general rules applying to all who supply such goods or services.» (p. 62)

Estes excertos fazem parte de um livro de um dos mais aclamados pensadores do liberalismo do Século XX. Quem será este estranho liberal que, se estivermos distraídos, quase tomamos por um social-democrata produzido em série numa escola pública? Ele é Friedrich Hayek, um homem que saiu da tradição de Mises para se juntar às más companhias de Chicago, produzindo isto que se lê aí em cima. O livro, composto de três volumes, é Law, Legislation and Liberty e não é todo mau; às vezes, porém, é perigoso, como nos exemplos citados, retirados do terceiro volume. Uma coisa pelo menos podemos dizer em abono de Hayek: não era Milton Friedman.