End of Modernity?
Carlos Feu Alvim
"I am tired of being
modern, now I want to be eternal"
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
By recently endorsing the agreement that
suspended for one year the self-service in gas stations, President Fernando Henrique
Cardoso (FHC) has symbolically decreed the end of modernity or, at least the end of
modernity as a governmental dogma.
The precedent may constitute some risk to the
country 's development. Soon other automations will be challenged - from automated teller
machines to traffic control robots - which like self-service pumps substitute manpower.
The reason furnished for this exception is that these self-service pumps would not be safe
but this has no fundament since they have been used for decades in countries with long
tradition of respecting the citizen's safety.
One can speculate that the robots that produce
cars in Brazil with technology " just like that of Germany" will face a
humiliating deportation due to the plea made by car workers - from São Paulo or Bahia -
who will restore or establish the "Brazilian way" of fabricating vehicles.
One can make the point that the presidential act
is, to say the least, an isolated action and that it does not disrupt the
orientation that - clearly stated in the Collor Administration and publicly denied
(probably sincerely) by his successors - predominated in the present decade in Brazil and
in the so called emergent countries. Nevertheless, only time will show that this is only a
concession to the equally regenerated populism or a new economic direction.
The neo-liberal myth reneges on this presidential
intervention action. The neo-liberal theory prefers large-scale neo-interventionism in
interest rates, exchange policy and a series of monetary mechanisms such as the recent
reduction on the percentage of the compulsory deposit in the Central Bank imposed to
Modern financial sorcerers decide almost alone if
it is the time or not to stop the American economy growth, by changing half percent the
interest rates, which - according to some others - would provoke fantastic unbalances
Meanwhile, our apprentices apply two-figure
percent on interest rates in order to regulate the speculative capital flux on which we
now depend. This increase of the interest rates increases in tens of billion dollars our
accumulated public debt that will bequeathed to the next and future generations.
Nevertheless, FHC's attitude may be heartwarming
for those who within the government - up to now without much hope of success - resist and
prevent the use of public money at favorable interest rate for financing the elimination
A good example is the financing of electronic
ratchet that substituted bus conductors. In São Paulo alone about 30 thousand direct jobs
would be eliminated (a few indirect ones would be created).
Again, it is an automation practice already
adopted in several countries. What is not known is if they had official credit to do it.
In Brazil this seemed viable only with some type
of official subsidies, in spite of the saving due to the eliminated jobs and this saving
is amplified by a social and tax legislation that penalizes the work force vis-à-vis
other production factors
In this case there was no perspective to reduce
the bus fares where the benefit granted to the user should be compared to the loss of some
jobs. It would be certainly better to let the decision to the "market's wisdom"
instead of forcing the modernizing decision.