Diferentes formas do Estado intervir (ou não) na economia

Beyond left and right, por Scott Sumner:

Is British public policy more left wing or right wing, compared to Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark? The Heritage rankings suggest they are about the same, with Denmark coming in at number 10 in the world (at 76.1), Britain number 14 (at 74.9), and Sweden number 20 (at 73.1).

And yet the two models differ in many respects. Most informed observers would probably argue that the Nordics have more “socialist” economies, perhaps much more socialist. On the other hand in many respects the Nordics are much more free market than even the US. Sweden has a 100% voucherized school system. Their Social Security is party privatized. Denmark has for-profit fire fighters. Several Nordic countries have privatized industries that are publicly owned in the US (airports, air traffic control, passenger rail, water companies, mail delivery, etc.) (…)

In some respects Sweden is more left wing than Britain; for instance it has higher top marginal income tax rates, and more income redistribution. In other respects Sweden is more right wing, it has a freer market in education, and a fee for use of health services. Is there any common theme here?

I believe the common theme is utilitarianism. Policy in the Nordic countries is motivated by utilitarian considerations to a greater extent than anywhere else on Earth. The right wing in Britain feels it isn’t “fair” for people to have to pay more than 50% of their earnings to the government. The left wing in Britain believes it isn’t “fair” that people have to pay for health care; it’s a basic “right” that should be free. Utilitarians tend to avoid concepts like “fair” and “rights”, and instead focus on maximizing aggregate happiness.

Does it work? Well there are a number of studies that suggest Denmark is the happiest country in the world.

Now for a curve ball. Although I am a utilitarian, I prefer a small government model like Hong Kong or Singapore to a big government model like Sweden or Denmark. Before explaining why, it’s important to note that these 4 countries are not as different as they seem. The conservative Heritage Foundation ranks Hong Kong and Singapore number one and two in the world in “economic freedom.” However if you restrict your analysis to the 8 categories out of 10 that exclude size of government (i.e. exclude the tax and spending categories) then Denmark is number one in the world in economic freedom.

Uma coisa que pode ser relevante aqui é que “size of government” (isto é, impostos e despesa pública) parece muitas vezes ir em contracorrente face às outras formas de intervenção estatal na economia; há tempos saiu um “paper” nesse sentido, Economic Freedom and the Size of Government:

This paper explores the relationship between government size and economic freedom, relating these patterns to theories of fiscal politics. In order to address current political controversies, it uses data on pre-1990 OECD members (minus Norway) for central government tax revenues and spending, as well as indicators of economic freedom derived from the Fraser Institute, ICRG, Heritage Foundation, and the World Bank. It finds that it matters a great deal whether we define size as expenditures or taxation. Spending has no relationship with freedom, or a negative one, across this data set. Initial tax revenue levels, however, positively predict subsequent changes in economic freedom. We find similar patterns using different measures of economic freedom and whether we use annual data (1995-2010) or overlapping six-year averages going back to 1970-75. These results challenge the common preconception that taxes and economic freedom are negatively related. In addition, the divergence between tax revenue and spending in this regard is more consistent with a “fiscal contract” model of the state, in which taxation and economic freedom go together, as governments attend to their legitimacy and the health of the private sector in order to increase revenue, but flag in these efforts when they enjoy sources of income other than taxes.

Dois comentários no blog Marginal Revolution sobre isso que podem ter a sua lógica:

Turkey Vulture: High taxes may indicate the government has used the tax system to achieve certain policy ends, rather than keeping taxes low but achieving those ends through extensive regulation. For instance, a pollution tax versus detailed emissions and building regulations for your factory

Adrian Ratnapala: Lets say that some law of electoral dynamics means that the government every rich democracy must do roughly the same amount of stuff. Then raising taxes as buying your desired outcome requires only one form compulsion. Whereas regulating it into existence involves myriads.

Uma coisa que me ocorre é que mesmo “Revoluções Liberais” dos séculos XVIII e XIX talvez tenham seguido esse caminho – penso que é mais ou menos assente que acabaram por produzir um estado maior (em percentagem do PIB), mas sem a carrada de micro-regulações que havia no Antigo Regime.

3 thoughts on “Diferentes formas do Estado intervir (ou não) na economia

  1. Este texto está mesmo muito interessante. Já me tinha ocorrido algum grau de oposição entre os dois tipos de intervenção, mas nunca imaginei que fosse tão profunda, e nunca pensei nisso tão a fundo.A única objecção que tenho é a noção que passa de que o sistema Sueco em relação às escolas não destoa da \”abordagem utilitarista\” que preferem. Na verdade, os resultados (nos testes PISA) foram tão maus, que vão repensar o sistema. Acho que é precisamente esta atitude repensar o sistema (e a própria direita concluir que não estava a dar bons resultados) que mostra a postura \”utilitarista\” deles.


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