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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

No Liberty without Justice

When G.W. Bush gave his second inaugural address, he chose the topic to be the Justice and Freedom conferred by the Constitution, and the lack thereof in other places:

"America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies. Yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators. They are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty."

The problem with Justice requiring Freedom, is that very often Freedom requires Justice too. How do you get to one without the other? Chicken and eggs.

So the short answer to Bret, who asks me "Is Liberty Erupting in Brazil?", is no, it is not, for we have no Justice.



When we last touched the subject here (see also the comments section), Brazil was rocked by the actions of a single judge (Sergio Moro) who started with a case of money laundering in a gas station a few miles from my home (rendering the name of the scandal: Car Wash operation), and end up with multi-billion corruption charges related to PETROBRAS (the Brazilian petroleum company) and our biggest Construction companies, siphoning off money to many politicians and parties.

Afterward, the President back then, Ms. Roussef, was impeached, and the Workers Party (PT) has been in free fall since the 2016 elections. The Vice-President, Michel Temer, did a U-turn on the leftist platform he was elected on, and a naive free-market-oriented external observer may well believe we are now in the right path: an addendum to the Constitution now forbids the growth of spending to exceed inflation rate for the next 20 years; several public programs have been reduced in size and scope (like public health system and public education); the pension system is being reformed as I type; and labor laws are being completely reviewed, with major protests from trade unions. 

Looks like the dream package for liberal reformers, so how come Liberty is not arriving?

The thing is, Brazil is not for amateurs. We have a long tradition of, as we say down here, doing things "para gringo ver" (to show up for foreigners). After all, our Elites were established by a foreign power (Portugal), and since then their business has been to show what they were asked to show - not necessarily doing it. It follows that we got our Independence blood free in the 1800's, but never our Liberty.


Mr. Temer's party (PMDB) has been in power - by giving their political force and support in Congress - since our redemocratization, in 1985, and many of its members were in power before that, during the Military Dictatorship (1964-1985), and yet even before that. It is an Establishment party. And the Establishment never gave us Liberty - why would it do that now?

I once pointed out to Bret that, though Mr. Moro was brave, the end game of his anti-corruption crusade would be our higher court, the analogue of SCOTUS, where eleven judges are appointed to by Presidents for life. Hey, what could go wrong?

I can't openly comment on the judges of this court - after all, this is not a free country - but let me say that it may have (very few) honest members (to the very limited extent of my knowledge -- legal disclaimer: for all purposes, I hereby declare I do not mean any of our judges could possibly be dishonest). Teori Zavascki, the judge assigned to oversee the Car Wash cases that touched politicians with special immunity from lower courts (which are all under present mandates), is one of those honest judges, in my limited opinion. Or he was.

Odebrecht - the biggest of the Brazilian contractors, a multi-billion company with international operations (did you notice they reformed the Miami airport, Erp?) - had its CEO (Mr. Marcelo Odebrecht) under "provisional" arrest since 2015, implicated in the Car Wash operation. It's been calculated they paid away more than one billion dollars in kickbacks throughout the last decade, for every political party and sub-relevant politician down here. In order to negotiate less prison time and fewer fines, he and dozens of executives at Odebrecht have agreed to a guilty plea, detailing all their corruption scheme and beneficiaries. Their confession was being hailed as the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) over our political system.

On January 19, the week right before Judge Zavascki was to validate that mighty bomb, an accident happened. He took a private airplane with a rich friend, to visit the friend's beach mansion at Rio de Janeiro's coast, with a highly experienced pilot (who used to teach younger ones how to fly under coastal conditions) in a Hawker Beechcraft King Air C90 aircraft (that's for Skipper) - and, for apparently no reason known, the pilot (or the plane) failed 2 miles before the landing field, while on descent under light rain.

Accidents. They happen, sometimes more often than others. Since the Car Wash operation started, 5 high profile people with possible connections to it (as bribers or bribed) died flying private airplanes. A number of other people committed suicides, under not very clear conditions, to say the least. 

But I digress. Our Supreme Court could not stay with only 10 judges, even more so when they have such a high profile case to judge. So our President, Mr. Temer, got to place a judge by his finger there now. Mr. de Moraes, his Minister of Justice (since the impeachment a few months back) was the man. I can not comment much about him - after all, this is not a free country - but there is good evidence he, among other iffy stuff, had in his CV a few millions earned from dubious companies, and was the lawyer for one of Brazil's most dangerous mafias (the PCC). You guys get Gorsuch, we got Mr. de Moraes. He is now appointed by the President to be one of the judges who will decide on the future of the same President, and his own pals back in his days of politics.

Though Judge Zavascki's death delayed the Odebrecht MOAB for a few months - buying time for President Temer to pass his reforms, and to appoint other judges to other positions where they will lead cases that hang on Mr. Temer's head - that bomb finally came through.

As per Odebrecht's own account (and of his father, the previous CEO), they have been bribing and buying our political system for 30 years. Our 5 last Presidents - which are all since we got elections back - are implicated. As is our President now, which personally coordinated at least two meetings where he asked for Odebrecht's money (of course, in exchange for overpriced public contracts, so in the end *our* money) totalling many dozens of millions.

To be precise, Odebrecht also points his finger to 415 politicians, among them 8 present ministers, 13 governors, 36 senators (24 present ones), many dozens of congressmen (of which 39 are today in Congress, including its higher chairs). Though the Worker's Party, which had the Presidency for the last 13 years, had all its main heads involved, they are easily outnumbered by PMDB and PSDB - the main parties that granted Roussef's impeachment last year, and make up the present Government by Mr. Temer.

What's more, another legal case - aimed to cancel the election of Ms. Roussef and Mr. Temer in 2014, due to the illegal money by Odebrecht and other constructors - under our higher courts has been further stalled since Mr. Temer got the chair. He also got to indicate other judges for this court in the last few months, and though Odebrecht's bomb clearly spell out the illegal money they gave for that election, there is no sign the case will be judged anytime soon.


Though I could go on for a long while, I hope I already gave a hint of why I believe we have no Justice. And will have no Liberty, anytime soon.

But surely the economic gains by those reforms will be a step up, won't it?

I don't know. I can point out a number of holes in each of those reforms, all giving more power to our corrupt political/judiciary system, while taking away resources - some of which were well employed, notwithstanding our many problems - from the public system serving the poorest.

Will they lead to growth only for the upper class, as happened in the 70's, when our economy had two digits growth but the largest formation of favelas ever seen?

Anyway, I much doubt the very same people who made fortunes of our statism and cronyism, will be the ones to lead us, finally, to Liberty.

29 comments:

erp said...

Bravo Clovis -- what a tour de force!

After reading it three times, I have a slight glimmer of the extent of the problem, but even from that glimmer it seems clear that you are correct and the only way to solve it from the grassroots (bottom up). Reforms enacted by the perps is just window dressing.

BTW - what's the reference to the Miami airport???? I've never even been there, nor do I know anything about nor have any interest in construction companies foreign or domestic.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Last time I've been to Florida - and visited you - Miami airport was under construction work. The contractor was Odebrecht - I saw their signs and got curious.

Clovis e Adri said...

Well, I missed explaining why Odebrecht's presence in the USA has any relevance. The text was already too big.

Odebrecht is listed in the USA stocks and needs to comply with many American laws. They are being sued in the USA for their corrupt practices down here. The teeth of US justice (and Swiss too, where they have used their banking accounts to operate their schemes) was a big reason they surrendered to a plea deal.

I also believe that many of their operations was caught under American intelligence surveilance, and that a good part of the Car Wash operation owns a share of their effectiveness to American help, though much of it is hidden from public view.

Hey Skipper said...

From the OP:

The problem with Justice requiring Freedom, is that very often Freedom requires Justice too. How do you get to one without the other? Chicken and eggs.

That's a true riddle. For those of us lucky enough to live in places with decent amounts of Justice and Freedom, it took hundreds of years to get here.

Bret said...

I've read the post a couple of times now, and it leaves me with more questions than answers.

I get that corruption is a major problem at the top levels of government.

But what's it like for the typical person?

For example, let's say you wanted to open a small cafe. Is there also a great deal of corruption at that level? Are property rights secure enough that you have collateral and can secure loans? Is the police force too corrupt to protect the business? Are the protection rackets overwhelming?

I see that the Brazilian government spends less than 20% of GDP, including corruption. For comparison, US governments (at all levels) spend double that and in absolute terms about 10 times as much per person as Brazil. Our government isn't more corrupt than average, just very inefficient. Yet because we have reasonable property rights and at least some economic freedom left (though dwindling every decade), the inefficiency and corruption in the government doesn't necessarily prevent us from creating wealth.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
But what's it like for the typical person?
---
It can be hellish.

I once mentioned here I wanted to build a house. It is not in Brasilia, but in a small county nearby. It took me one year and three months to get my project approved. The engineer in charge of approving it in the town hall office wanted something. Unfortunately, I am not the kind who pays. So the project was going nowhere.

The corruption in that county is at every level - I tried to contact the Director of the Department of Construction of the prefecture. He was the son of the Mayor, no less. After he got involved, the only difference is the price for getting it approved was now to be higher.

Well, I finally got it approved last month. But only because the mayor of the city changed (there were local elections last year), and there are other people in charge now.

---
For example, let's say you wanted to open a small cafe. Is there also a great deal of corruption at that level?
---
Sure there is.

In most big cities, you can easily take one year to get all the permits necessary for opening that little cafe, supposing you are trying hard - and that's only due to the standard usual bureaucracy, not taking in account the possibility of someone deliberately freezing the process in order to extract something from you. And that often happens too.

Or you can pay your way through the corrupt system and get it much faster.

And of course, things get more complicated, expensive and slower the more complex is the business you want to open up.

So in the end of the day, it is almost impossible to be a successful businessman in Brazil without practicing many, many acts of corruption trhoughout your life. It ends up being part of the 'culture' both for the private and public sectors.


---
Are property rights secure enough that you have collateral and can secure loans?
---
Yes, they are.

But those loans run at the highest interests of the planet, though at least that's a problem of another nature.



---
Is the police force too corrupt to protect the business?
---
Depends much of the place. There are cities, or sections inside very big cities, where that happens.

A problem of a related nature is that, even when the police is not too corrupt, they can be so far outnumbered by criminals (and/or by their own inefficiency, or the lack of public funds, etc) that, in the end of the day, you are by yourself anyway.


---
Are the protection rackets overwhelming?
---
They mostly happen only in the worst situations - very poor neighborhoods and favelas.

Bret said...

Clovis,

Thanks for the detailed response. It seems like a short summary is that corruption is pervasive everywhere and at all levels in Brazil.

Bummer! My interpretation of history is that as things continue to exist, corruption only ever increases and that's further exacerbated by the entity growing larger.

But good luck to you and Brazil!

Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] Bummer! My interpretation of history is that as things continue to exist, corruption only ever increases and that's further exacerbated by the entity growing larger.

Or not.

I tried to find something to substantiate my following subjective comments -- I'm not trying to pull a Harry here -- but I couldn't find anything within a few minutes of searching.

In Western Europe, corruption seems correlated with climate. Northern Europeans are less corrupt than southern Europeans.

Globally, Anglosphere countries seem much less corrupt than neighboring, non-Anglosphere countries. (See, in particular, North America vs. the rest of the Americas).

Some things that don't show up as corruption really should. On the face of it, Japan is spit-polish clean. However, it's economy is so rigged that the very nature of the country is corrupt. Legal, but corrupt, nonetheless.

Clovis, your post is endlessly depressing. Brazil is similar to Sicily (or when the Northeast US was mobbed up). Parasites dwelling in filth of their own creation, creating a situation impossible to escape.

erp said...

Skipper, IMO the reason northern Europe isn't as corrupt as southern Europe is the Protestant work ethic cum fire and brimstone vs Catholicism cum absolution and heavenly rewards combined along the Mediterranean coast -- Spain and Sicily, especially -- with Islamic influences from North Africa.

Hey Skipper said...

erp:

I get that, but Germany is very Catholic, but not corrupt. Anglicism is Catholicism once removed, but England isn't corrupt.

It is no more than a wild guess, but it might be that living in environments that are too permissive allows greater parasitism (after all, that is exactly what corruption is) to exist. Parasites can be more invasive in tropical and subtropical environments without killing the host.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
Clovis, your post is endlessly depressing.
---

You tell me. Imagine if you had to live with that.

Or in a less depressing note, Sicily (i.e. Italy), for all its problems, is rated as a first world country. So there may be hope for us too.


---
Parasites can be more invasive in tropical and subtropical environments without killing the host.
---
That's as good an explanation as any other, since it is noticeable the scarcity of sucessfull countries in hotter places.



As for your theory on religion, Erp, I would not only add the counter-examples Skipper cited, but the fact that, though Brazil may be considered a religious country by many standards, it really isn't.

Maybe the Protestant countries did better because they believed far more in the "absolution and heavenly rewards" than people in Catholic countries, particularly in Brazil.

We are a land of sin, Erp. The culture may've been labeled Catholic, but the afluence of sex and the other six capital vices (and fatherless children, with the societal problems that entails) has been always far more relevant than prayers and saints.

erp said...

Skipper,

Early Times: Necessity being the mother invention, cold climates where survival was difficult must have led to cooperation rather than corruption. Those who didn't pull their weight, didn't survive.

Cold weather also inspired people to invent things to make survival easier, while in warm climates, living was/is already easy.

So far, I agree with you, but if survival was already not that burdensome in the south, why would corruption develop there instead of where taking advantage of weakest members of the clan would have been a real plus?

Percentage of Catholics: Germany 31.79%; Great Britain 8.51%. While in early times, both countries were Catholic, they both were also the birthplaces of anti-Catholicism.

erp said...

I guess I need to work on my expository skills. I didn't say one area was more religious than another, only that religious practices changed radically after Martin Luther denounced the church and the Protestant Reformation began in the early 16th century.

No longer did the church through its hierarchy of local priests through the Pope dictate every aspect of people's lives -- kinda like socialism, dontcha know -- which is why I could never understand why the Soviets went out of their way close the churches.

Protestants ran their own churches and their pastors worked for them. They didn't give up the bible or the other precepts of Christianity, but since they were no longer under the thrall of the Catholic clergy, they were free to interpret Christianity as they saw fit, so as time went by, splinter groups formed and are still forming.

Clovis, neither sin, nor sex is at issue here and I'm guessing that last line should have had a s/off at the end.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

---
Early Times: Necessity being the mother invention, cold climates where survival was difficult must have led to cooperation rather than corruption.
---
From where it follows that Russia must be one of the least corrupt countries on Earth.

I guess we need to be cautious of our need for simple answers.


---
I guess I need to work on my expository skills.
---
Blogs are a limited medium, so it may be not your fault. But let me tell you what I understand from you saying something like:

"IMO the reason northern Europe isn't as corrupt as southern Europe is the Protestant work ethic cum fire and brimstone vs Catholicism cum absolution and heavenly rewards"

It looks like you see the people in those Catholic countries as naive fools meekly accepting their place under a religious hierarchy and not minding the present troubles, because they will be rewarded in heaven.

That's not my experience from living in the largest Catholic country in the world. And maybe things were different in the far past, but I doubt people were always naive fools with respect to religion. Even in the times when the Church Authority couldn't be questioned, I can see a lot of people with their doubts in their minds about all the canon and traditions. (Likewise, in a side commentary, people who believe Islamic terrorists do their things in exchange for those 72 virgins in paradise greatly misunderstand human nature)


So I don't buy anymore this Weberian idea that religion made the difference between Catholic/Southern Europe and Protestant/Northern Europe. I believe the causation is reversed. It is the particular culture of those places that selected the religion they followed. Maybe such aspects of those cultures were thereafter reinforced by their religion, since society and culture works in non-linear ways, but I think there is an excessive emphasis in religion -- nowadays, religion is mostly a secondary matter in the Western, so how can you explain the continued difference?


Harry Eagar said...

'For those of us lucky enough to live in places with decent amounts of Justice and Freedom, it took hundreds of years to get here.'

Not there yet in the part I come from

erp said...

Clovis, by early times, I meant pre-historic.

Even in historical times, people didn't have the luxury of choosing which religion they wanted until very recently. Those who doubted, didn't voice those doubts. In fact, Martin Luther and Henry VIII were a phenoms because they actually did voice their doubts.

Catholic countries weren't tolerant and people were meek -- couldn't read or write, were serfs and the property of the prince ... had absolutely no rights, etc.

That's why in England a bunch of people who wanted to live their own way, got on a tiny boat and sailed off to where the maps said: HERE BE DRAGONS." Pretty gutsy I'd say.

I've been writing rather clearly for a long time. My remark was facetious. Why civilization began in China and northern Europe is probably a matter of many things coming together. Why it didn't happen in on the steppes of Russia -- I don't know. Perhaps they didn't learn to cooperate, :-( but by modern times after the dark ages, the differences among people were very pronounced and like it or not, those differences made a huge difference in their respective countries that continue until the present day.

All of LA is the victim of the Jesuits. That's a fact.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

What you ignore is that, even when people were (or still are) meek, it is not because they necessarily believe in heavenly rewards. Many are only trying to not be crushed by whoever is the tyrant above.

erp said...

Clovis, that goes without saying. Meekness was the approved state.

Harry Eagar said...

I don't agree that northern European countries are uncorrupt. Or the U.S.

Think Warren Hastings.

Corruption has a style. In the U.S., the courts were completely corrupt in the South; while in other pats the corruption was corporate; or if you want to see rampant corruption in real time, tune in to a cable teevee religious program.
Or consider yesterday's vote for the directors of Wells Fargo bank.



Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] Or in a less depressing note, Sicily (i.e. Italy), for all its problems, is rated as a first world country. So there may be hope for us too.

I haven't been to southern Italy or Sicily, but I know people have spent significant amounts of time in both places. Northern Italy and southern Italy might as well be two different countries — one in Europe, and the other much closer to south America.

It isn't impossible to root out corruption. Certainly, in the northeast US, the mob is a shadow of its former self. But that took decades, and happened within a culture relatively intolerant of corruption.

Your situation is depressing to think about.

[erp:] No longer did the church through its hierarchy of local priests through the Pope dictate every aspect of people's lives …

Interesting comparison: Ireland v. England. Granted, England's treatment of Ireland was never great, and sometime abominable. But it is hard to avoid concluding the pervasive Catholicism in Ireland has contributed to it being much less developed than England.

[Clovis:] From where it follows that Russia must be one of the least corrupt countries on Earth.

I guess we need to be cautious of our need for simple answers.


Absolutely. However, in my defense, I think a climate that is challenging, but not rigorous, requires different ways of living that are less conducive to corruption. Doesn't mean it won't exist, or that communism — all pervasive in its moral depravity — didn't cause corruption that wouldn't have existed otherwise had Russia evolved without that cancer.

It looks like you see the people in those Catholic countries as naive fools meekly accepting their place under a religious hierarchy and not minding the present troubles, because they will be rewarded in heaven.

There is a distinct difference between New World countries with a Catholic heritage and those with a Protestant heritage. There certainly is a striking difference between British ex-colonies and ex-colonies of other European countries. Given a choice between Singapore or Hong Kong vs. the surrounding parts of Asia, I'd pick either of the former in a heart beat.

Spain, solely due to its overweening Catholicism, practically crushed individuality, and explicitly excluded publications deemed hertical, anti-clerical, or lascivious. The final Index Librorum Prohibitorum was published in 1948. That left a mark in strongly Catholic countries that simply didn't exist in Protestant countries.

And Protestant countries became less intolerant more quickly than Catholic ones.


[Harry:] I don't agree that northern European countries are uncorrupt. Or the U.S.

Strawman much? If you relied upon direct quotes, you wouldn't so often give the appearance of being unable to follow the conversation.

Harry Eagar said...

Well, I gave an example. Similar ones should, thus prompted, come up with others.

Lockheed, Boeing, PNB Paribas, Wells Fargo, Countrywide. I could go on and on.

It would be had to claim that western societies were intolerant of those corruptions.

erp said...

Sicily's history was far different from northern Europe and the Russian Orthodox church was, if anything, more aligned with the aristocracy and more doctrinaire with the peasants than the Catholic church, so, Clovis, I'm not sure what your point is above?

I saw an interesting article about a train from China to the UK and there is apparently also one from Madrid to China. Thinking about this rail line, it seems to me another example of the difference between a creative mindset (China) and one that is stuck in an authoritarian mindset (Russia).

The Russians have obsessed over access to the sea when they could have built rail lines to the east and west and traded that way instead they limited it to Siberia -- land bridges and/or undersea tunnels could have brought goods and people to North America. Countless things could have been done with cooperation among countries.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

I wonder what your point is.

Are you implying that regions touched by Muslims many centuries ago must be somehow inferior now due to some memory effect, DNA, or what?

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] It would be hard to claim that western societies were intolerant of those corruptions.

Behold the power of the direct quote. Who here made that claim?

erp said...

Clovis, I am referring to this comment: From where it follows that Russia must be one of the least corrupt countries on Earth.

And my point about Sicily is just what I said. Its history is far different than northern Europe. I neither said nor implied any inferiority after all my children are 1/4th Sicilian and they are as near to perfection as anything on earth.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,


Well, sure Sicily's history is different than northern Europe's. Geography matters. But then I would expect you were trying to make some further point.


You point out Muslim influence in Iberia and Sicily as if that was somehow unique. It isn't. The region has been disputed by people from Middle-East/North African heritage far before.

In what is now Tunisia, there was the great Carthage, a Phoenician province - meaning Semite people, the forefathers of present day Arabs and Jews - who first conquered the south of Spain, and parts of Sicily, almost one thousand years before Mohammed set foot on Earth.

In 218 BC, their greatest general, Hannibal, was invading Spain with an army near the size of the main armies the Romans were able to mount by then. He did the unbelievable feat of not only bringing 37 war elephants with him, but crossing both the Pyrenees and Italian Alps with those beasts too. It brought pure terror to the Roman soldiers fighting against him, for most of them never thought of fighting elephants on their own land.

But I digress. The point being, there was some degree of mixing (both DNA and culture) between all those populations of south Europe/Middle-East/North-Africa for some time, way before Islam.

erp said...

Clovis, I am somewhat of a history buff and a student of this area especially where my parents came from and where my husband's parents came from and am well aware of its history. My response was to Skipper's comment that Sicily is so different from northern Italy and I posited a reason for that difference.

Stop being so touchy. Things are what they are and whatever your ancestry, it's as good as anybody else's.

When our newest grandchild was born, her mother wanted a DNA report from all her grandparents, so we had one done. This little sweetheart sure has grab bag of genes to draw upon and it coalesced into an adorable little girl.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Touchy? Not at all. I just don't like arguments made by half, and yours is not even at that level yet. If you want to explain Sicily by its previous history, you need to step up your game.

erp said...

I'm not arguing or explaining Sicily. I am saying Sicily's history is different from the rest of Italy and northern Europe by virtue of its geography. The same can be said of every other part of the earth.

Sorry, but I can't figure out why this is a problem?