24 novembro 2014 | 15:54
A despesa pública no Brasil cresceu basicamente para atender a demanda da sociedade por mais justiça social e inclusão. Hoje, uma gigantesca teia de programas atende a dezenas de milhões de brasileiros, e o número de beneficiários não para de crescer. Tornar a rede de seguridade social mais eficiente, justa e compatível com a solidez fiscal é uma tarefa imprescindível, mas muito difícil politicamente. O diálogo com a população sobre essa agenda tem de começar já.
Existe um diagnóstico, amplamente aceito hoje em dia, de que a sociedade brasileira, por meio do voto, deu um mandato para que os sucessivos governos pós-redemocratização distribuíssem distribuir melhor a renda e corrigissem as graves injustiças sociais do Brasil. Mais recentemente, o economista Mansueto Almeida, do Ipea, mostrou que a explosão dos gastos públicos nas últimas décadas não deriva do inchaço da máquina, mas sim basicamente do crescimento contínuo das transferências previdenciárias, dos programas sociais e do custeio de funções sociais do Estado como saúde e educação.
Uma novidade dos últimos anos é o aumento do gasto com subsídios, uma conta que mistura um programa de significativo impacto social, o Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV), e subsídios a empresários do Programa de Sustentação do Investimento (PSI) do BNDES. Outra parcela dos subsídios ao capital corre por fora do Orçamento, no diferencial (excluindo PSI) entre as taxas cobradas pelo BNDES dos seus clientes e o custo de captação do Tesouro, que abastece o banco de fomento com boa parte dos seus recursos.
Assim, a despesa pública federal entre 1999 e 2014 (acumulada até setembro) aumentou 5,49 pontos porcentuais do PIB, de 14,49% para 19,98% do PIB. Deste incremento, uma parcela de 4,47 pontos porcentuais do PIB – ou 81% – vem do aumento de gastos com INSS, programas sociais e custeio de saúde e educação. Se forem incluídos os subsídios, chega-se a 5,31 pontos porcentuais, ou 97% do aumento da despesa da União como proporção do PIB. Se forem incluídos os investimentos, ainda pequenos (1,31% do PIB), o incremento da despesa vai para 6,12 pontos porcentuais do PIB, ou 111% do aumento total do gasto da União entre 1999 e 2014. Isto acontece porque, na verdade, dois itens recuaram como proporção do PIB: gastos com pessoal (incluindo Previdência do setor público), que caiu 0,29 ponto porcentual do PIB; e custeio administrativo, que caiu 0,34.
O diagnóstico é claro. Um Estado que reduz, como proporção do PIB, o quanto paga a seus funcionários ativos e inativos e que, na mesma óticaO , gasta menos com a máquina não pode ser acusado de sugar recursos da sociedade em benefício próprio (embora a Previdência do funcionalismo, muito mais generosa do que a do setor privado, permaneça como um exemplo de injustiça, ainda que contido como proporção do PIB). Na verdade, o Estado brasileiro cresceu nas últimas décadas para dar conta do mandato distributivo definido pela sociedade.
Uma outra questão é a eficiência para cumprir esse mandato. Com os mesmos recursos, pode-se fazer mais ou menos, ter mais ou menos qualidade na consecução dos objetivos. Além disso, nem todo o aumento das transferências previdenciárias e sociais pode ser considerado distributivamente justo. Há, por exemplo, evidentes exageros na benevolência das regras de pensão por morte (o tema inclui, naturalmente, o funcionalismo), que não necessariamente beneficiam os mais pobres. Da mesma forma, existe um claro uso oportunista do seguro-desemprego por pessoas que trocam de emprego num mercado de trabalho aquecido.
Dessa forma, uma agenda clara para as próximas décadas é aprimorar e tornar mais eficiente e justo o Estado de bem estar social brasileiro.
Não será uma tarefa fácil. Um dos problemas centrais é que os programas se agigantaram, e hoje quaisquer mudanças mexem com clientelas de milhões ou até dezenas de milhões de pessoas. A última campanha eleitoral mostrou que há uma tendência invencível no discurso político de pintar qualquer tentativa do adversário de reformular os programas previdenciários e sociais como maléfica intenção de prejudicar a população – especialmente a mais pobre – em seus direitos e conquistas. Quando essas propostas envolvem imensas fatias do eleitorado, a sua simples menção torna-se quase um suicídio político.
Os números impressionam. As famílias atendidas pelo Bolsa-Família saltaram de 6,6 milhões em 2004 para 14 milhões em 2014. Se forem consideradas um pouco mais que três pessoas por família, os beneficiados em sentido amplo se aproximam do número mágico de 50 milhões tantas vezes brandido pela presidente Dilma Rousseff durante a campanha.
Já as transferências para idosos pobres que hoje estão principalmente no LOAS (a conta inclui também outros benefícios vitalícios, como os de deficientes) saltaram de 1,7 milhão em 1997 para 4,3 milhões em 2014. O abono salarial, no mesmo período, saiu de 4,5 milhões para 21,3 milhões de beneficiários. O seguro-desemprego, de 4,4 milhões para 9,1 milhões (mesmo com o superaquecimento do mercado de trabalho). As aposentadorias do INSS, de 10,1 milhões para 18 milhões. As pensões por morte, de 4,7 milhões para 7,4 milhões.
Essas massas gigantescas de beneficiários da expansão do Estado de bem estar social brasileiro terão de ser convencidas da necessidade de se mudar regras, para corrigir injustiças e melhorar a eficiência. As mudanças também terão de colocar o avanço social dentro das possibilidades econômicas do País. Não adianta continuar a estender direitos se um belo dia simplesmente não houver como pagá-los (a inflação não é solução para isso, pois reduz o valor real dos benefícios). Será uma conversa dura e difícil cujos resultados afetarão diretamente a maioria dos brasileiros – e, com certeza, a grande maioria dos brasileiros mais pobres. Quanto mais rápido o governo iniciar esse diálogo, melhor.
Fernando Dantas é jornalista da Broadcast (email@example.com)
Esta coluna foi publicada na AE-News/Broadcast em 20/11/14, quinta-feira.
This is the third in a series of posts regarding the institutions literature. The first two posts dealt with original cross-country work on institutions and the attempt to identify the effects using settler mortality.
The third generation of institutions work is, in large part, a response to the empirical problems of the first 2 generations. These new papers avoid vague measurement of “institutions” by drilling down to one very specific institution, and do their best to avoid identification problems by looking for natural experiments that give them good reason to believe they are looking at exogenous variation in the institution.
The following are some good examples of this third generation. There are others that I haven’t listed, but these are ones I talk specifically about in class:
So, problem solved, right? We’ve got solid empirical evidence that institutions matter. Not necessarily.
What these papers demonstrate is that economic development is persistent. If you like, they are evidence that there are poverty traps. If something happens to knock you below some threshold level of development – slaving activity, the mita, arbitrary borders, bad landlords – then you can’t get yourself out of that trap. You are too poor to invest in public goods like human capital or infrastructure because you are spending all your money just trying to survive. So you stagnate. Pushing you into the trap was the result of an “institution”, if we call these historical experiences institutions, but it isn’t institutions that keep you poor, it’s the poverty itself that prevents development.
Take Dell’s paper. She does not have evidence that the mita reduced living standards while it existed, she has evidence that contemporary development in the area covered by the mita is lower, roughly two hundred years after the mita was abolished. Dell shows that education is lower and road networks are less dense in mita areas than in their close neighbors. So what explains the historical persistence? One possibility is that there was some other institutional structure left behind by the mita that limited development. But we have no evidence of any institutional difference between the mita areas and others. We simply know that the mita areas are poorer, and that could be evidence of a poverty trap rather than any specific institution.
The papers on India have a similar flavor. The British no longer are in charge in India, but there are some differences today related to how they did govern. With regards to the effects of direct British, we don’t actually know what the channel is leading to the poor outcomes. We just know that there is an effect. With regards to the effect of landlords or cultivator property rights, this isn’t about institutions, it’s about the distribution of wealth.
Think of the question this way. What specific policy change do any of these papers suggest would lead to economic development? “Don’t get colonized, exploited, or enslaved by Europeans” seems like it would be hard to implement retroactively.
Of the papers I listed, probably the strongest evidence that institutions actually matter is the Michalopoulos and Papaioannou work using African ethnicities. Geographic homelands of ethnicities cross national boundaries, and one can measure the economic development in one of these homelands by using satellite data on lights at night. What MP (I’m not spelling those again) find is that ethnicities that had stronger political centralization prior to being colonized – they had political systems beyond simple chief-led villages – are rich today relative to other ethnic groups within the same nation. But this still leaves unanswered what specifically about pre-colonial ethnic political centralization has been transmitted to current populations. The policy implication for development here is just “be descended from a more coherent political unit”.
Those same authors have another paper, by the way, that looks at the question from the other direction. They look within an ethnicity that spans a national border. Does the economic development level of the two parts depend on the national-level institutions? No. Measures of national-level institutions like those discussed in Part 1 have no explanatory power for development differences between the two parts of a partitioned ethnicity.
Understanding how a country/region/ethnicity got poor is not the same thing as understanding what will make them rich. “Institutions mattered” is different from “institutions matter”. I think the better conclusion from the 3rd generation of institutions research is that economies can fall into poverty traps from which escape is difficult if not impossible. Would better institutions allow these places to escape these traps? I don’t think we can say that with any confidence, partly because we have no idea what “better institutions” means.
I think the right null hypothesis regarding existing institutions is that they likely solving a particular issue for a particular group. Let’s call this the Elinor Ostrom hypothesis. I don’t think that the existing empirical institutions literature has provided sufficient evidence to reject the null at this point. Certainly not to the point that we can pinpoint the “right” institutions with any confidence.
Could I be wrong to be this skeptical? Absolutely. We may come up with concrete definitions of institutions that we can measure and use empirically. There may be research in the works right now that gives some definitive evidence that “institutions matter” for development, in the present, and that appropriately tweaking them will generate growth. If so, hallelujah. But until then, I remain skeptical.
Los Angeles-based photographer Zachary Scott of Sharpe & Associates was recently commissioned by New York Times Magazine to shoot a quirky series of portraits for a feature titled, “What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?” The piece was about the area of reverse aging research, so Scott’s task was to make a group of kids look like they had instantly aged 70 years or so.
Scott and his team used props, prosthetic makeup, and digital trickery to create their “believable time warp effect.”
Scott definitely has a knack for this type of work, but unfortunately for him, most people wish to look younger in portraits rather than older.
You can find more of his work over in his online portfolio.
(H/T Visual News)
Adam Victor Brandizzi
Hoje descobri que 'tilde' em espanhol é o acento agudo. E realmente faz falta hahahah
“Tales are powerful instruments and should be wielded skillfully.”
In December of 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, then in their twenties, published the first volume of what would become the world’s most enduring and beloved fairy tales, which have raised generations of children and inspired endless reimaginings, most recently by Neil Gaiman. But what most of us know today — the most commonly known Grimm tales, those most continually reprinted, widely translated, and even more widely celebrated — is the 1857 edition, which has very little to do with the original. Over the forty-five years and six editions in between, the Grimm brothers refined, revised, and wholly rewrote the tales beyond recognition. But in the preface to the magnificent The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition (public library), translator and Grimm scholar Jack Zipes argues that “the first edition is just as important, if not more important than the final seventh edition of 1857, especially if one wants to grasp the original intentions of the Grimms and the overall significance of their accomplishments.”
The original tales were pioneering examples of elements of creative culture we celebrate today as modern inventions — desk-bound scholars and philologists, the brothers were visionary crowdsourcers and deft remixers of folktales they collected from oral storytelling traditions. To that end, the tales also bespeak the central but unsung role of women in literary traditions — several well-educated young women from two local families played a significant role in gathering the tales and reciting them for the Grimm brothers to record; but the most significant contribution came from a tailor’s wife named Dorothea Viehmann, who lived in a nearby village and told the brothers more than forty tales.
Most significantly, the tales as originally envisioned were beautifully blunt and unaffected, not moralistic or didactic — as Christian and puritanical ideology would later censor them into being — but celebratory of the ennobling effect of poetry itself. The Grimms capture this beautifully in the preface to the 1812 edition, where they also speak with great elegance to the notion — shared by Tolkien and echoed by Neil Gaiman — that children shouldn’t be shielded from the dark:
In publishing our collection we wanted to do more than just perform a service for the history of [poetry]. We intended at the same time to enable [poetry] itself, which is alive in the collection, to have an effect: it was to give pleasure to anyone who could take pleasure in it, and therefore, our collection was also to become an intrinsic educational primer. Some people have complained about this latter intention and asserted that there are things here and there [in our collection] that cause embarrassment and are unsuitable for children or offensive (such as the references to certain incidents and conditions, and they also think children should not hear about the devil and anything evil). Accordingly, parents should not offer the collection to children. In individual cases this concern may be correct, and thus one can easily choose which tales are to be read. On the whole it is certainly not necessary. Nothing can better defend us than nature itself, which has let certain flowers and leaves grow in a particular color and shape. People who do not find them beneficial, suitable for their special needs, which cannot be known, can easily walk right by them. But they cannot demand that the flowers and leaves be colored and cut in another way.
But what makes this newly released original volume especially enchanting are the breathtaking illustrations by Romanian-born artist Andrea Dezsö. Her delicate ink-drawing vignettes — intended to invoke the magical cut-paper sculptures for which Dezsö is known — illuminate scenes from the Grimms’ tales through an extraordinary interplay of darkness and light, both of color and of concept.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Dezsö about her creative process, the enduring enchantment of fairy tales, the singular allure of papercraft, the relationship between horror and whimsy, and the joy of making art at a public library.
MARIA POPOVA: Your artwork is so intricate, so delicately detailed. Where does each piece begin, both in your mind and on the paper?
ANDREA DEZSÖ: Images can arrive fully-formed as I read the text, if it comes this way then it just pops out. Images that don’t come to mind fully-formed begin vague and undetailed, like something seen from a distance at night. In those cases, I sketch on the margins of the text or in a small notebook using a thick, blunt pencil that does not allow for precision. Through the act of drawing the image gets clearer and clearer. I start from marking what I know, what I can already see taking shape.
I made most of the Grimm sketches at a public library in New Jersey that had sturdy tables, great light, lots of books, people reading — a quiet and uplifted environment that made it easy to focus. I love to work outside of the studio — at libraries, in meetings, on the subway, while waiting around. Since you’re not expected to create great artwork in those places, it’s easy to relax and let the mind wander and find unexpected images.
A lot of the creative work and visual thinking happen up front, in the sketch phase. Loose sketch, detailed sketch. I typically show clients only highly detailed sketches that very closely resemble the finished illustrations — that’s the first they see of how I’ve translated the text into imagery.
MP: How did you choose which fairy tales and which particular scenes to illustrate?
AD: Jack Zipes asked that I illustrate the first and last tales (“The Frog King” and “The Golden Key”), and also suggested a group of other tales to consider, so I started by reading those. If I liked his suggestion, I illustrated it; if not, I picked another one. I chose tales to illustrate that gave me immediate, strong, clear mental images as I read them. The scenes to be illustrated popped into my mind, often fully formed — like the whale rearing from the water with a man sitting in a tiny boat in front of it. I love tales that feature the devil or other nonhuman creatures, so that influenced my choices, too.
MP: How long did each piece take, on average — both the mental incubation period and the physical crafting?
AD: This was a fast-paced project — I made the 20 illustrations and the cover over three months, working intensively. Each image took several days to complete. Some images took days just to conceptualize, while others popped into mind ready to be put on paper. Some of the sketch sheets are heavily worked-up, while others contain a single drawing which looks pretty much the same as the final image. Sketching takes hours, sometimes much longer. Once the publisher was happy with the direction of the sketches, I re-drew them from scratch, regardless of how detailed the sketch was, in order to get it perfect.
MP: Papercraft seems like a medium particularly well-suited to fairy tales — it is magical in and of itself. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Hans Christian Andersen was a paper-cutter himself.) Do you find that the magic of papercraft comes from the medium itself, or does the quality of immersive, patient attention imbue any medium upon which it is bestowed with magic? Or is it some combination of the two?
AD: I like the tension that arises from using a medium in a way that it’s not typically used. In the case of the Grimm book, these are ink drawings that I made to look like cut paper. This drawing technique presents a unique set of challenges, like solving a puzzle, so I didn’t simply cut paper to make these illustrations.
There’s an instinctive compatibility between folk and fairy tales and paper cutting, as you mention. When I first began cutting paper years ago, I cut and arranged detailed scenes into multi-layered tunnel books — cut paper sculptures of fantastical scenes from my imagination and nightmares in the guise of fairy tales. The initial impression of beauty conveyed by a delicate, lacy cut paper piece is challenged the moment the viewer realizes what’s actually taking place in the scene. The experience moves back and forth between the beauty of the medium and the edginess of the message.
This extends to media beyond paper, too. For example, I like to embroider images and words that subvert the notion of the feminine and domestic. These embroideries are decidedly outside the traditional sense of craft, though a superficial glance might signal quaint samplers.
MP: What drew you to papercraft in the first place?
AD: To me the perfect situation is when life and work are seamlessly integrated. I love the idea of working with everyday materials like pencils, papers, knives, thread and fabric, because those materials are always available, so nothing can prevent me from working. Paper is also just a perfect material in that way: ubiquitous, affordable and easy to work with. It’s versatile, physical, light yet strong, it folds flat but can also be made to pop up or built into three dimensional environments. It can be used large or small, cut, sewn, used as-is or painted, printed or glued, new or recycled, hand or machine made. A nice piece of paper never fails to inspire me.
My first notion of paper cutting came from Victorian toy theaters. From the start, I was interested in cut paper beyond its conveyance of narrative, and began experimenting with the possibilities of light and shadow and movement. After the initial tunnel book sculptures, I was invited to create gallery-sized cut paper installations and found it necessary to transition to laser-cutting in order to avoid destroying my hand from the repetitious act of cutting thousands of minutely-detailed figures. Making laser cuts involves drawing an image and digitizing it to send to the laser cutter; at that point the whole question of drawing and cutting has come full-circle. I started to play with that challenge.
MP: You, like myself, grew up in Eastern Europe, where the Grimm fairy tales weren’t sterilized out of their grimness. Many Western storytellers, including J.R.R. Tolkien, Maurice Sendak, Neil Gaiman, and Sophie Blackall, have argued that shielding children from the dark is a selfish act on behalf of grownups and that there isn’t really such a thing as writing “for children.” How do you, both as an artist and as someone with one foot in each culture of fairy tales, feel about the childhood/adulthood polarization and about the element of the dark in “children’s” storytelling?
AD: I don’t believe my grandmother, mother, or aunt left out any of the grimmer elements of the fairy tales they read to us as children. I guess there was a respect for the integrity of a tale — this idea that every story had a wholeness that should not be tampered with when it was told. I thought it entirely normal that scary things happened in fairy tales because scary things happened in the real world as well. Romania had serious food shortages when I was growing up and I remember thinking that my sister and I still had it pretty good compared to all those children in the fairy tales whose parents sent them off to the forest with a stale slice of bread when they could not feed them anymore.
The publishing industry has its conventions, but children like to be taken seriously sometimes. A few years ago I wrote and illustrated a children’s book, Mamushka, that appeared in Hungary. The book is a series of whimsical episodes, but is ultimately about a child working through her grief and finding consolation after the death of her grandmother. The illustrations are black-and-white graphite drawings. It’s an unconventional children’s book for Hungary, both because of the subject matter and the lack of color. Some readers indicated that they were ambivalent about giving the book to their children at first, but when they did the kids really took to the book and wanted it read over and over.
I guess it always depends on the individual child — some children may find some stories or characters disturbing, while others might find them relatable, and we as adults should be sensitive to that. There might be a cultural component at play — children raised in Eastern Europe might be expected to handle emotions provoked by folktales about betrayal and death, whereas in America maybe that’s considered challenging — though these same American kids see plenty of violence and death in popular culture, so there you have it. I think the right tale at the right time can be tremendously helpful, but tales are powerful instruments and should be wielded skillfully.
You can see more of Dezsö’s enchanting work on her site. Complement The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition with the best illustrations from two centuries of Grimm tales, then revisit Italian artist Lorenzo Mattotti’s illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s retelling of Hansel and Gretel.
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“George Boorujy was born to a family of Catholics in New Jersey. Charmed by his liberal attitudes and facility with numbers, they decided to keep him.” Boorujy is currently based out of Brooklyn, New York. His ink on paper works of animals and landscapes are remarkably rendered, and utilizes negative space wonderfully, creating a kind of surreal ambiance in each piece.
A British soldier hiding from the rain under an overturned Tiger tank. Italy, 1944.
Earlier this morning Twitter user Damana Madden shared a photo of a culinary abomination she called the "Cthuken," a reference to horror writer H. P. Lovecraft's octopus-head creature the "Cthulhu." The haunting photo went viral for obvious reasons, but the origin of the bizarre concoction remained a mystery... until now.
Rusty Eulberg, a database administrator from Lubbock, Texas, tells us he brought forth what he called the Cthurkey about two years ago. Reached by phone at work, Eulberg says, "Apparently my Cthurkey—I always called it a Cthurkey as opposed to a Cthuken (no duck)—blew up online. A buddy of mine just told me he found it on Tumblr."
According to Eulberg, he and wife Jennifer Robledo "wanted to do something unique for Christmas dinner with friends of ours. Jenny is a big fan of Cthulhu so we went and bought some crab legs and some octopus and bacon and cooked them all separate and slapped them together on a plate, and that was it. The next year I made a Cthicken; the same thing using squid instead of octopus and a chicken."
Eulberg says, "The universal reaction was, 'Oh my God, I couldn't eat that.' But each individual piece was cooked separately; all I did was set them together on the plate. It was delicious. The crab leg was awesome and the bacon added a nice flavor to the turkey. And for added horror, the serving platter is an old Nazi plate with a Swastika on the bottom that a friend bought in an old abandoned Luftwaffe base in Germany."
Asked how he'll ever top the Cthurkey, Eulberg tells us he might "do a full-on Cthulhu-themed dinner next Halloween. I don't know how we can make the turkey better, but maybe we can make tentacle cupcakes with gummy worms. And maybe deep fry the whole thing."
Adam Victor Brandizzi
Me arrependendo de ão ter comprado bitcoins.
O Bitcoin é provavelmente a moeda virtual mais conhecida do mundo. No início, ele ganhou força entre grupos de tendências anarquistas ou libertárias: seria uma forma se se livrar da influência dos bancos e dos governos. Mas aos poucos, ele vem assumindo um papel mais mainstream, sendo aceita por cada vez mais empresas – inclusive no Brasil.
Esta semana, a construtora Tecnisa anunciou que passará a receber bitcoins como parte do pagamento de seus imóveis, e promete que “futuramente, qualquer pagamento à Tecnisa poderá ser feito usando bitcoins”.
Por enquanto, a Tecnisa só aceita bitcoins no pagamento da primeira parcela da entrada, limitado ao valor de R$ 100.000. Também é preciso avisar ao seu corretor que você quer pagar com moeda virtual; a transação é feita através da parceira Bitinvest. Promocionalmente, a taxa de corretagem será paga pela construtora, e ela dará 5% de bônus no valor pago em moeda virtual.
No Brasil, já existem cerca de 100 estabelecimentos que aceitam bitcoins: em São Paulo, por exemplo, a moeda virtual é aceita em alguns bares, academias, em uma galeria de arte e até em uma clínica veterinária. Você pode conferir a lista completa no coinmap.org.
A moeda vem sendo adotada ainda mais amplamente no exterior. Em julho, a Dell passou a aceitar bitcoins em sua loja online de computadores nos EUA. E em setembro, o PayPal começou a permitir transações em bitcoin entre empresas e clientes na América do Norte.
Alguns serviços também vêm simplificando o uso da criptomoeda. O Coinbase e o Circle oferecem interfaces intuitivas para você conectar sua conta bancária à uma carteira bitcoin e comprar moedas. Realizar transações também é fácil: basta usar seu endereço bitcoin, uma sequência única de caracteres. Infelizmente, eles ainda não permitem que brasileiros comprem e vendam bitcoins.
Se você quiser comprar bitcoins, há diversas opções no Brasil: por exemplo, temos a Mercado Bitcoin, a BitcoinToYou e a já citada Bitinvest. Cada uma cobra diferentes comissões para cada transação (compra/venda/retirada em reais).
Na hora de se cadastrar, também é preciso enviar uma foto do seu RG e CPF (ou carteira de motorista), mais um comprovante de endereço. Há também uma série de casas de câmbio no exterior que vendem bitcoins para brasileiros – confira neste link.
Uma das vantagens do Bitcoin é transferir valores para onde você quiser, ou até mesmo fazer uma compra no exterior, sem pagar impostos por isso. No entanto, a Receita Federal já avisou que quem possui R$ 1.000 ou mais em Bitcoins precisa declará-los no imposto de renda.
E um dos problemas de armazenar valor no bitcoin é que ele é uma montanha-russa: após ultrapassar a marca dos US$ 1.000 no ano passado, ele caiu constantemente até atingir os atuais US$ 344. Um exemplo pessoal: em agosto deste ano, eu recebi US$ 10 em bitcoins; hoje, eles valem apenas US$ 6,60.
Ainda há o risco de perder dinheiro, se a casa de câmbio sofrer ataques. Este ano, a enorme casa de câmbio Mt. Gox desapareceu com o dinheiro dos usuários. Nos últimos três anos – basicamente a época na qual o Bitcoin se tornou relevante – foram cerca de US$ 623 milhões em moedas virtuais perdidas em ataques hacker.
À medida que vem sendo adotado por empresas convencionais, o Bitcoin vai perdendo a imagem de moeda usada para negócios ilegais. Ele esteve sob os holofotes no ano passado depois que o FBI apreendeu o Silk Road, então o maior site anônimo de venda de drogas.
Mas, aos poucos, o Bitcoin vai sendo regulamentado e usado para fins legítimos. Chris Skinner, do Financial Services Club, diz ao Financial Times:
Não se pode ter dinheiro sem governo: o dinheiro foi criado pelo governo para controlar as pessoas. Por isso, você precisa ter governos controlando o fluxo de valor, e é isso o que eles farão com o Bitcoin ou com qualquer outra troca de valor no futuro.
Além disso, as criptomoedas preenchem um espaço em um mundo onde as transações são cada vez mais virtuais. John Authers, do FT, diz:
O Bitcoin não vai derrubar governos, não vai substituir o ouro, mas nos bastidores, de formas que muitos de nós jamais verão, há uma grande chance de que ele vai revolucionar os bancos.
O post No Brasil, moeda virtual Bitcoin serve até na hora de comprar uma casa apareceu primeiro em Gizmodo Brasil.
Karen Armstrong has written histories of Buddhism and Islam. She has written a history of myth. She has written a history of God. Born in Britain, Armstrong studied English at Oxford, spent seven years as a Catholic nun, and then, after leaving the convent, took a brief detour toward hard-line atheism. During that period, she produced writing that, as she later described it, “tended to the Dawkinsesque.”
Since then, Armstrong has emerged as one of the most popular — and prolific — writers on religion. Her works are densely researched, broadly imagined and imbued with a sympathetic curiosity. They deal with cosmic topics, but they’re accessible enough that you might (just to give a personal example) spend 15 minutes discussing Armstrong books with a dental hygienist in the midst of a routine cleaning.
In her new book, “Fields of Blood,” Armstrong lays out a history of religious violence, beginning in ancient Sumer and stretching into the 21st century. Most writers would — wisely — avoid that kind of breadth. Armstrong harnesses it to a larger thesis. She suggests that when people in the West dismiss violence as a backward byproduct of religion, they’re being lazy and self-serving. Blaming religion, Armstrong argues, allows Westerners to ignore the essential role that violence has played in the formation of our own societies — and the essential role that our societies have played in seeding violence abroad.
Reached by phone in New York, Armstrong spoke with Salon about nationalism, Sept. 11 and the links between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Over the course of your career, you’ve developed something of a reputation as an apologist for religion. Is that a fair characterization? If so, why do you think faith needs defenders?
I don’t like the term “apologist.” The word “apologia” in Latin meant giving a rational explanation for something, not saying that you’re sorry for something. I’m not apologizing for religion in that derogatory sense.
After I left my convent I thought, “I’ve had it with religion, completely had it,” and I only fell into this by sheer accident after a series of career disasters. My encounters with other faith traditions showed me first how parochial my original understanding of religion had been, and secondly made me see my own faith in a different way. All the faith traditions have their own particular genius, but they also all have their own particular flaws or failings, because we are humans and we have a fabulous ability to foul things up.
The people who call me an apologist are often those who deride religion as I used to do, and I’ve found that former part of my life to have been rather a limited one.
Your new book is a history of religion and violence. You point out, though, that the concept of “religion” didn’t even exist before the early modern period. What exactly are we talking about, then, when we talk about religion and violence before modern times?
First of all, there is the whole business about religion before the modern period never having been considered a separate activity but infusing and cohering with all other activities, including state-building, politics and warfare. Religion was part of state-building, and a lot of the violence of our world is the violence of the state. Without this violence we wouldn’t have civilization. Agrarian civilization depended upon a massive structural violence. In every single culture or pre-modern state, a small aristocracy expropriated the serfs and peasants and kept them at subsistence level.
This massive, iniquitous system is responsible for our finest achievements, and historians tell us that without this iniquitous system we probably wouldn’t have progressed beyond subsistence level. Therefore, we are all implicated in this violence. No state, however peace-loving it claims to be, can afford to disband its army, so when people say religion has been the cause of all the major wars in history this is a massive oversimplification. Violence is at the heart of our lives, in some form or another.
How do ritual and religion become entangled with this violence?
Well, because state-building was imbued with religious ideology. Every state ideology before the modern period was essentially religious. Trying to extract religion from political life would have been like trying to take the gin out of a cocktail. Things like road-building were regarded as a sort of sacred activity.
Politics was imbued with religious feeling. The prophets of Israel, for example, were deeply political people. They castigated their rulers for not looking after the poor; they cried out against the system of agrarian injustice. Jesus did the same, Mohammed and the Quran do the same. Sometimes, religion permeates the violence of the state, but it also offers the consistent critique of that structural and martial violence.
Is it possible to disentangle that critiquing role from the role of supporting state structures?
I think in the West we have peeled them apart. We’ve separated religion and politics, and this was a great innovation. But so deeply embedded in our consciousness is the desire to give our lives some meaning and significance that no sooner did we do this than we infused the new nation-state with a sort of quasi-religious fervor. If you regard the sacred as something for which we are willing to give our lives, in some senses the nation has replaced God, because it’s now not acceptable to die for religion, but it is admirable to die for your country.
Certainly in the United States, your national feeling, whether people believe in God or not, has a great spiritual or transcendent relevance — “God bless America,” for example; the hand on the heart, the whole ethos. We do the same in the U.K. with our royal weddings. Even in our royal weddings, the aristocracy are all in military uniform.
Ah, that’s a great observation.
In your great parades, you know, when a president dies, there’s the army there.
The religiously articulated state would persecute heretics. They were usually protesting against the social order rather than arguing about theology, and they were seen as a danger to the social order that had to be eliminated. That’s been replaced. Now we persecute our ethnic minorities or fail to give them the same rights.
I’d like to go deeper into this comparison between nationalism and religion. Some people would say that the ultimate problem, here, is a strain of irrationality in our society. They would argue that we need to purge this irrationality wherever we see it, whether it appears in the form of religion or nationalism. How would you respond?
I’m glad you brought that up, because nationalism is hardly rational. But you know, we need mythology in our lives, because that’s what we are. I agree, we should be as rational as we possibly can, especially when we’re dealing with the fates of our own populations and the fates of other peoples. But we don’t, ever. There are always the stories, the myths we tell ourselves, that enable us to inject some kind of ultimate significance, however hard we try to be rational.
Communism was said to be a more rational way to organize a society, and yet it was based on a complete myth that became psychotic. Similarly, the French revolutionaries were imbued with the spirit of the Enlightenment and erected the goddess of reason on the altar of Notre Dame. But in that same year they started the Reign of Terror, where they publicly beheaded 17,000 men, women and children.
We’re haunted by terrible fears and paranoias. We’re frightened beings. When people are afraid, fear takes over and brings out all kind of irrationality. So, yes, we’re constantly striving to be rational, but we’re not wholly rational beings. Purging isn’t an answer, I think. When you say “purging,” I have visions of some of the catastrophes of the 20th century in which we tried to purge people, and I don’t like that kind of language.
Let’s try a different analogy: Perhaps our search for narrative and meaning is a bit like a fire. It can go out of control and burn people pretty badly. Seeing this destruction, some people say we should just put out the fire whenever we can. There are others who argue that the fire will always be there, that it has benefits, and that we need to work with it to the best of our abilities. And you’re sort of in the latter camp, yes?
I would say so … If we lack meaning, if we fail to find meaning in our lives, we could fall very easily into despair. One of the forensic psychiatrists who have interviewed about 500 people involved in the 9/11 atrocity, and those lone-wolves like the Boston Marathon people, has found that one of the principal causes for their turning to these actions was a sense of lack of meaning; a sense of meaningless and purposelessness and hopelessness in their lives. I think lack of meaning is a dangerous thing in society.
There’s been a very strong void in modern culture, despite our magnificent achievements. We’ve seen the nihilism of the suicide bomber, for example. A sense of going into a void.
In “Fields of Blood,” you explore how the material needs of people can give rise to more abstract ideas. So, speaking about nihilism as something particular to the modern era: Are there political or social conditions that underlie this sense of meaninglessness?
Yes. The suicide bomber has been analyzed by Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, who has made a study of every single suicide bombing from 1980 to 2004. He has found that it’s always a response to the invasion of the homeland by a militarily superior power. People feel their space is invaded, and they resort to this kind of action because they can’t compete with the invaders. [Suicide bombing] was a ploy [first] used by the Tamil Tigers, who had no time for religion. Of the many Lebanese bombings [in the 1980s], only seven of them were committed by Muslims, three by Christians. The rest, some 17 or so, were committed by secularists and socialists coming in from Syria.
I think a sense of hopelessness is particularly evident in the suicide bombings of Hamas, where these young people live in refugee camps in Gaza, with really very little hope or very little to look forward to. People who talk to survivors of these actions found that the desire to die a heroic death, to go out in a blaze of glory and at least have some meaning in their lives and be venerated and remembered after their death, was the driving factor.
There’s a line in your book that struck me: “Terrorism is fundamentally and inherently political, even when other motives, religious, economic, and social, are involved. Terrorism is always about power.”
I think I’m quoting some terrorist specialist there.
Even when [terrorists] claim to be doing it for Allah, they’re also doing it for political motives. It’s very clear in bin Laden’s discourse. He talks about God and Allah and Islam and the infidels and all that, but he had very clear political aims and attitudes towards Saudi Arabia, towards Western involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. The way he talked always about Zionists and crusaders rather than Jews and Christians — these are political terms. Since the early 20th century the term “crusade” has come to stand for Western imperialism.
In the Hamas martyr videos, the young martyr will segue very easily from mentioning Allah the Lord of the world, and then within a couple of words he’s talking about the liberation of Palestine — it’s pure nationalism — and then he’s into a third-world ideology, saying his death will be a beacon of hope to all the oppressed people who are suffering at the hands of the Western world. These things are mixed up in that cocktail in his mind, but there’s always a strong political element, not just a going towards God.
In fact, all our motivation is always mixed. As a young nun, I spent years trying to do everything purely for God, and it’s just not possible. Our self-interest and other motivations constantly flood our most idealistic efforts. So, yes, terrorism is always about power — wanting to get power, or destroy the current power-holders, or pull down the edifices of power which they feel to be oppressive or corruptive in some way.
How direct is the link between colonial policies in the Middle East and a terrorist attack in New York or London?
I think — and I speak as a British person — when I saw the towers fall on September 11, one of the many, many thoughts that went through my head was, “We helped to do this.” The way we split up these states, created these nation-states that ISIS is pulling asunder, showed absolutely no regard for the people concerned. Nationalism was completely alien to the region; they had no understanding of it. The borders were cobbled together with astonishing insouciance and self-interest on the part of the British.
Plus, a major cause of unrest and alienation has always been humiliation. Islam was, before the colonial period, the great world power, rather like the United States today. It was reduced overnight to a dependent bloc and treated by the colonialists with frank disdain. That humiliation has rankled, and it would rankle, I think, here in the States. Supposing in a few decades you are demoted by China, it may not be so pretty here.
Every fundamentalist movement that I’ve studied, in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is rooted in a profound fear of annihilation.
So, when we in the West talk about religion as the cause of this violence, how much are we letting ourselves off the hook, and using religion as a way to ignore our role in the roots of this violence?
We’re in danger of making a scapegoat of things, and not looking at our own part in this. When we look at these states and say, “Why can’t they get their act together? Why can’t they see that secularism is the better way? Why are they so in thrall to this benighted religion of theirs? What savages they are,” and so on, we’ve forgotten to see our implication in their histories.
We came to modernity under our own steam. It was our creation. It had two characteristics. One of these was independence — your Declaration of Independence is a typical modernizing document. And you have thinkers and scientists demanding free thought and independent thinking. This was essential to our modernity. But in the Middle East, in the colonized countries, modernity was a colonial subjection, not independence.
Without a sense of independence and a driving force for innovation, however many skyscrapers and fighter jets you may possess, and computers and technological gadgets, without these qualities you don’t really have the modern spirit. That modern spirit is almost impossible to acquire in countries where modernity has been imposed from outside.
When you hear, for example, Sam Harris and Bill Maher recently arguing that there’s something inherently violent about Islam — Sam Harris said something like “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas” — when you hear something like that, how do you respond?
It fills me with despair, because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps in Europe. This is the kind of thing people were saying about Jews in the 1930s and ’40s in Europe.
This is how I got into this, not because I’m dying to apologize, as you say, for religion, or because I’m filled with love and sympathy and kindness for all beings including Muslims — no. I’m filled with a sense of dread. We pride ourselves so much on our fairness and our toleration, and yet we’ve been guilty of great wrongs. Germany was one of the most cultivated countries in Europe; it was one of the leading players in the Enlightenment, and yet we discovered that a concentration camp can exist within the same vicinity as a university.
There has always been this hard edge in modernity. John Locke, apostle of toleration, said the liberal state could under no circumstances tolerate the presence of either Catholics or Muslims. Locke also said that a master had absolute and despotical power over a slave, which included the right to kill him at any time.
That was the attitude that we British and French colonists took to the colonies, that these people didn’t have the same rights as us. I hear that same disdain in Sam Harris, and it fills me with a sense of dread and despair.
Is Islamophobia today comparable to anti-Semitism?
Let’s hope not. It’s deeply enshrined in Western culture. It goes right back to the Crusades, and the two victims of the crusaders were the Jews in Europe and the Muslims in the Middle East.
Right, because Jews along the crusaders’ routes would be massacred —
They became associated in the European mind. We’ve recoiled, quite rightly, from our anti-Semitism, but we still have not recoiled from our Islamophobia. That has remained. It’s also very easy to hate people we’ve wronged. If you wrong somebody there’s a huge sense of resentment and distress. That is there, and that is part of it, too.
I remember speaking at NATO once, and a German high officer of NATO got up and spoke of the Turks resident in Germany, the migrant workers who do the work, basically, that Germans don’t want to do. He said, “Look, I don’t want to see these people. They must eat in their own restaurants. I don’t want to see them, they must disappear. I don’t want to see them in the streets in their distinctive dress, I don’t want to seem their special restaurants, I don’t want to see them.” I said, “Look, after what happened in Germany in the 1930s, we cannot talk like that, as Europeans, about people disappearing.”
Similarly, a Dutch person got up and said, “This is my culture, and these migrants are destroying and undermining our cultural achievements.” I said, “Now you, as the Netherlands, a former imperial power, are beginning to get a pinprick of the pain that happened when we went into these countries and changed them forever. They’re with us now because we went to them first; this is just the next stage of colonization. We made those countries impossible to live in, so here they are now with us.”
How should one respond to something like the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, or the threat of terrorism that originates in Muslim countries?
Saudi Arabia is a real problem, there’s no doubt about it. It has been really responsible, by using its massive petrol dollars, for exporting its extraordinarily maverick and narrow form of Islam all over the world. Saudis are not themselves extremists, but the narrowness of their religious views are antithetical to the traditional pluralism of Islam.
We’ve turned a blind eye to what the Saudis do because of oil, and because we see them as a loyal ally, and because, during the Cold War, we approved of their stance against Soviet influence in the Middle East.
Fundamentalism represents a rebellion against modernity, and one of the hallmarks of modernity has been the liberation of women. There’s nothing in the Quran to justify either the veiling or the seclusion of women. The Quran gave women rights of inheritance and divorce, legal rights we didn’t have in the West until the 19th century.
That’s what I feel about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. It’s iniquitous, and it’s certainly not Quranic.
Where do you, as someone outside of a tradition, get the authority to say what is or isn’t Quranic?
I talk to imams and Muslims who are in the traditions.
I think it’s easy to say, “Well the text isn’t binding” when you see something in there that you don’t like. But when you see something in the text that you do want to uphold, it’s tempting to go, “Oh, look, it’s in the text.”
Oh, it is. We do it with all our foundation texts — you’re always arguing about the Constitution, for example. It’s what we do. Previously, before the modern period, the Quran was never read in isolation. It was always read from the viewpoint of a long tradition of complicated, medieval exegesis which actually reined in simplistic interpretation. That doesn’t apply to these freelancers who read “Islam for Dummies” …
– and then do with it what they will.
Here’s one difference between me and Paul Krugman: He enthusiastically supports President Obama’s new immigration policy, which he calls a matter of human decency. I grudgingly support President Obama’s new immigration policy, which I call a bit less indecent than the policy it replaces.
Here’s another difference between me and Paul Krugman: I believe it’s the job of an economics journalist to call attention to unpleasant tradeoffs and offer frameworks for resolving those tradeoffs. Krugman apparently believes it’s the job of an economics journalist to sweep all tradeoffs under the rug in the name of advancing your policy agenda — appealing, if you will, to the stupidity of the American op-ed reader.
Krugman, for example, tells us that he opposes deportations because they’re cruel, but also opposes open borders because they’d make it both economically and politically impossible to maintain the modern American welfare state.
In furtherance of which, he offers this kind of claptrap:
Second, there are large numbers of children who were born here … but whose parents came illegally, and are legally subject to being deported.
What should we do about these people and their families? There are some forces in our political life who want us to … deport the undocumented parents of American children and force those children either to go into exile or to fend for themselves.
But that isn’t going to happen, partly because, as a nation, we aren’t really that cruel
Dammit, I hate this stuff. Krugman says (and I agree with him) that it’s cruel to deport people. He ignores the fact that it’s also cruel to keep other people out. Krugman says (and I agree with him) that letting more people in would put pressure on the welfare system. He ignores the fact that allowing people to stay also puts pressure on the welfare system. Why should we prioritize kindness to those who are already here over kindness to those who are clamoring to get here?
There might be a really good answer to that question, but you’d never know it from reading Krugman. In fact, the takeaway from Krugman’s column is that the cruelty of deportations is unacceptable only because Krugman says so, and the cruelty of closed borders is a necessary evil only because Krugman says that too. So the next time you want to know whether some other policy is unacceptably cruel or not, the only way to find out is to ask Paul Krugman.
And then there’s more:
The truth is that sheer self-interest says that we should do the humane thing. Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors.
Ummm…Paul? They are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors only if we let them stay. Do you know who else are potentially among tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors? The ones we’re not letting in.
Once again, there might be some reason why we benefit more from those who are already here than we’d benefit from those who have not yet arrived — but if Krugman knows that reason, he’s keeping it a secret. He makes absolutely no attempt to quantify his cost-benefit analysis, or even, for that matter, to be explicit about what he’s counting as a cost or a benefit. His arguments — both his moral arguments and his arguments from self-interest — apply equally well to current residents and to current non-residents. They are arguments either for mass deportations or for open borders, but not for the Obama policy.
If you want to make an honest case against open borders, you’ve got to start with this acknowledgement: Even if we grant for the sake of argument that the modern American welfare state is a good thing, and even if we grant for the sake of argument that open borders would fully undermine it, it does not follow that the enormous benefits of open borders would fail to offset that enormous cost. That requires an argument. Here’s what an argument would consist of:
1. Either a) some estimate of the benefits of open borders, a separate estimate of the costs, and a comparison between the two or b) some clever way of proving, without any actual measurement, that the costs must exceed the benefits, say by showing that each individual benefit comes packaged with a larger cost.
2. A clear statement of how much weight you’ve given to costs and benefits felt by Americans as opposed to the costs and benefits felt by Mexicans, preferably along with some justification for your weighting and a fair accounting of how your conclusions might change if you’d chosen different weights. This would, for example, lead to some arithmetic along the lines of what you see in Chapter 19 of The Big Questions. That arithmetic is surely not the last word on the matter, but that kind of arithmetic is precisely what economics can contribute to this debate.
Not only does Krugman offer no answers; he pretends the questions don’t exist. His agenda, for whatever reason, is to stop deportations without loosening up the borders. Rather than defend that agenda, he pretends that
a) It needs no defense.
b) And if you think otherwise, you’re a bad person. Sneer, sneer.
Look: The essence of Krugman’s position is that current non-residents should be treated more cruelly than current residents. That position is probably defensible. Economics teaches us that life is full of uncomfortable trade-offs, and that sometimes you’ve got to be cruel in one way to avoid being even crueler in another. But economics also teaches us that it’s important to face those trade-offs honestly, even to call attention to them, so that we don’t make our choices with blinders on.
That’s where Krugman becomes the anti-economist. As is his right, he supports the Obama policy. But he has far too much contempt for his readers to fashion an argument that might actually illuminate that policy. Instead he throws out a bunch of rhetoric that, when analyzed with an even slightly critical eye, offers exactly zero support for his position.
His arguments, after all, come down to this: “Deportations are cruel and for that reason alone must be bad policy”, or “Open borders are costly and for that reason alone must be bad policy”. But if those were valid arguments, then (as Krugman knows perfectly well), one could just as easily switch deportations with open borders and reach exactly the opposite conclusions. But Krugman doesn’t care about logic, because he’s too busy bashing the morals of anyone who dissents from his apparently random value judgments.
According to Krugman, if you support the cruelty of deportations, you’re an evil person, but if you support the cruelty of closed borders, you’re a pragmatic adult. Why? Because Paul Krugman said so. Might there be a subject — like, oh, say, economics — that can help us think more clearly and systematically about such issues? If so, you’d never learn about it by reading Krugman. He wouldn’t want to risk teaching his readers to think.
Why should he be allowed in if he didn't even help build it?!
Ben #1, 2014. Photo © Kevin Horan.
Sherlock #2, 2012. Ella #1, 2014. Photos © Kevin Horan.
Carl #1. Photos © Kevin Horan.
Xantippe #1. Lizzie #1. Photo © Kevin Horan.
Jake #1, 2012. Photo © Kevin Horan.
Sydney #3. Xenia #1. Photos © Kevin Horan.
Mr. Beasley #1, 2014. Photo © Kevin Horan.
Briede #1. Honey #3. Photos © Kevin Horan.
Honey #1, 2014. Photo © Kevin Horan.
When it comes to fancy studio portraits of pets, it’s no surprise people are willing to hire photographers for loving photos of their cats and dogs, we’ve even seen cameras thoughtfully trained on chickens and exotic snakes, but commercial photographer Kevin Horan decided it was high time for an artistically neglected group of barnyard animals to step into the spotlight: goats and sheep. In 2007, Horan moved from Chicago to Whidbey Island, Washington where he approached a neighbor about photographing one of his sheep. The neighbor agreed and his portrait series Chattel was born.
Lately, Horan photographs mostly sheep and goats from the New Moon Farm Goat Rescue in Arlington, WA, where he sets up a portable studio and works with assitants to achieve surprisingly emotive and humorous portraits that reveal the subtle personality of each animal. The wildly popular series was selected in Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50 for 2014, and one of the photos was acquired by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Prints are available upon request. (via Slate, PetaPixel)