My HeyDay

Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful

Esperando a los bárbaros

Porque se ha hecho de noche sin que lleguen los bárbaros
y algunos que han venido de la frontera
van diciendo que ya no existen bárbaros.
Y ahora, ¿qué será de nosotros sin bárbaros?
Esta gente eran de algún modo una solución.
Konstantino Kavafis

In english


Taxes in a Globalizing World

Yesterday I went up to the Research Department at the Inter-American Development Bank to meet with the Principal Adviser. I was reading their preliminary paper about the political economy of taxation and I had plenty of suggestions and ideas about their work. No surprises: it's my topic.

So I was talking to them about how to improve the paper. My intention was to drive them to the realm of political science, tempting them with seductory spatial models to explain the median voter preferences. I was listening to their reactions, when "por el rabillo del ojo" I just noticed that, from the wide windows of that office, I had a magnificent view of the White House, just 70 meters away.

I love this feeling: being on board, on the top of the world. Aunque sea el ultimo mono.

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Closing Ranks Against The Barbarii

Essex, UK
Your topic, if I understood it correctly, though, sounds interesting, yet tricky. Given the special and close relationship between government and financial elite, how can there be not an enormous amount of control on the latter's part? And how can any government effectively act upon this?

Washington, DC
I remember a brilliant book by Lieberman (2003), comparing Brazil and South Africa. The question was, more or less, why do we observe such different patterns in taxation in two so similar countries (development, racial issues)? The author is especially intrigued by the presence of a strong income tax in South Africa. Supposedly, the white high class in South Africa would have been fighting that kind of pro-redistributive tax from the very beginning, as the wealthy did forever in the unequal Brazil. The guy went back to the past to analyze the circumstances in which the income tax emerged in South Africa (basically it was a "tax to the white citizens" to finance the apartheid system!!!). The wealthy-white conceded to pay it in a voluntary and systematic manner because, basically, they needed a strong state protecting the Apartheid system. So, when Mandela & cia brought democracy to South Africa, early in the 1990s, a strong and capable tax administration was at work, and the fiscal laws were in effect, and the taxpayers were registered and paying their due taxes.

Wars and deep economic crises generated special circumstances in which people is willing to accept and to pay income taxes to avoid the disaster. This was the case in the USA and many European countries. But still, these punctual explanations shall be fitted in a general framework in which people react to different circumstances and calculus (transfers-taxes, etc).

Essex, UK
Isn't it amazing to what extent people are willing to make sacrifices if only the constructed common cause appears to be strong enough? In the case of my beloved yet troubled birthplace (South Africa) it does not come as a big surprise that the white 'racial' community was willing to chip in to keep the other groups in their place which was a tremendously expensive endeavor.
Over the past years I have been watching the 'Western Civilization' close ranks against the contemporary Barbarians or terrorists in a futile attempt to buy a heightened sense of security at the price of civil liberties - a rather dear price, if you ask me. People never cease to puzzle me.

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"Do You Need A Ride?"

A veces despertarse puede ser un desastre, pero la vida puede echarte una mano:

Como de costumbre, apuro demasiado antes de salir de casa y me toca acelerar el paso antes de que el autobus asome su hocico por la calle, indicandome que tengo exactamente 8 segundos para llegar a la estacion si quiero tomarlo. Esta vez estaba demasiado lejos... Pero aun asi corri.

Esquivando a un senor que casi atropello; haciendo una pirueta por encima del coche de policia, para susto del guardia come-donuts que a dentro se desperezaba. Y cuando casi alcanzo la puerta del autobus, que se iba cerrando, veo la cara del conductor, tensa, acelerando. Y me quedo atras. Mis labios sueltan un fuck you, la mar de natural (sere ya medio gringo?). Miro al suelo.

El sol aprieta. Asi que me dispongo a caminar los 7 bloques (antes "manzanas") hasta la entrada de metro. Pero un vehiculo para a mi lado. Treintaytantos, afroamericano, en una SUV, y seguramente, por las manos con manchas de pintura, de profesion pintor (como mi padre, de brocha gorda). "Do you need a ride? You can catch still the bus. Jump in!". Y tres manzanas (esta vez si) despues, el conductor del autobus se las tuvo que ver de nuevo conmigo. :-)


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