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Presentazione del libro “Global Sustainability – social and environmental conditions” (Palgrave Macmillan) di Alessandro Vercelli e Simone Borghesi

di - 22 Maggio 2009
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Liberal dilemma
Molto significativi sono i passi del saggio contenenti cenni al “liberal dilemma”. “In order to ‘filter’ the positive potentialities of globalization from its disruptive ‘side effects’, we have first of all to find the right balance between the main sources of economic power in order to minimize the economic failures originating from their weaknesses and misbehavior. This issue raises a dilemma. We defined as development the process of expansion of economic freedom. Globalization may contribute to development in this sense only by choosing a policy strategy consistent with individual freedom. At first sight this strategy should coincide with “laissez-faire” as any intervention of the state seems to interfere with free initiative, i.e. the exercise of individual freedom. The latter, however, may be limited not only by the state but also from other individuals and private organizations. In order to avoid these restrictions to individual liberty it seems convenient to resort to the state, notwithstanding all the risks of substituting the public restrictions of individual liberty for the private restrictions. This is what we call the “liberal dilemma”.
Nel concludere il ragionamento Vercelli e Borghesi, con un approccio estremamente attento alle tutele delle opportunità individuali e delle chances di vita dei singoli, così concludono: “A serious analysis of what we have here called the liberal dilemma would require another book. We end this one by observing that we may exploit the opportunities offered by globalization for expanding the economic liberty of people around the world only by strengthening effective democracy, not only political democracy but also corporate democracy”.

Ambiente, sviluppo sostenibile e “equal opportunities
La lettura del libro continua a suscitare grande interesse quando sono affrontate direttamente le questioni ambientali e le relative ricadute sulle tutele e le chances di vita individuali. Si parte dalle definizioni di sviluppo sostenibile: “We will adopt, as is customary, the now-famous definition introduced in 1987 by the so-called ‘Brundtland Report’: ‘Development is sustainable if it satisfies present-day needs without compromising the capacity of future generations to satisfy their needs’ (…). We will adopt the convention of calling this prerequisite of sustainability as the environmental condition, given that the real freedom of future generations will depend to a large degree on the state of the natural environment they inherit“. Chiara ed immediata appare la relazione tra libertà sostanziale degli individui e contesto ambientale di riferimento: “sustainable development should be interpreted in its broadest sense as development that gives ‘equal opportunities’ to all generations“. Chiara ed immediata appare la relazione tra i valori fondanti delle nostre “società aperte” e lo sviluppo sostenibile: “The two conditions of sustainable development that we have just defined are founded on ethical principles of equity, freedom, and equal opportunities, which are not necessarily in contrast with more prosaic, yet vital, economic objectivies. Equal access to all the basic economic opportunities is, after all, a fundamental condition of efficiency“.
Quanto sopra riporta alla mente una importante riflessione dell’economista statunitense Hyman Minsky: “Nessuna economia, regolata o meno che sia, è in grado di perpetuarsi restando libera, se essa non viene considerata equa e tendente a promuovere la giustizia sociale” (H.P. Minsky, Keynes e l’instabilità del capitalismo, Bollati Boringhieri, pag. 215).
Risulta evidente una oggettiva vicinanza del libro ad alcune importanti riflessioni effettuate nel tempo dal pensiero liberale più evoluto con riferimento alla tutela e allo sviluppo delle chances di vita individuali e alla necessità di assicurare nel tempo eguaglianza di opportunità per gli individui con una continua attenzione alle libertà politiche e sostanziali ed un continuo impegno per assicurare una effettiva tutela degli individui (“effective democracy“, come viene efficacemente definita dai nostri Autori): tale impegno si impone non solo per ragioni “filosofico-politiche” ma anche per finalità di efficienza economica e di sviluppo della produttività complessiva del sistema.

Appendix
Una ultima lode al libro si riferisce alla Appendix, dal titolo “The Meanings of ‘Economic Liberalism’: A Conceptual Clarification“. Questa parte del volume contiene una magistrale sintesi delle fondamentali tesi del Liberalismo economico (“Classical and updated liberalism”) e delle profonde differenze tra classical and updated liberalism e il “neoliberismo” di Hayek e Von Mises. Vale riportare ampi brani della Appendix in argomento:
All the varieties of economic liberalism share the following proposition, although it is expressed in different versions and argued with different degree of sophistication:
1. Invisible hand postulate. A perfect-competition market allocates the resources between alternative uses in the best possible way by coordinating the decisions of self-interested rational agents in such a way to maximize their welfare.
More controversial are the following propositions:
2. Limits to the invisible hand. Even an ideal model of perfect completion has strict limits in its power of coordinating the decisions of economic agents. In particular, it cannot solve the distributive problems, in the sense that the distribution of income, wealth and resources does not necessarily correspond to a given standard (ethical or of other nature). In addition the uniqueness of equilibrium and its stability are not granted (…).
3. Existence of a market gap. Between real markets and the ideal perfect-competition market there is a significant discrepancy, here called ‘market gap’, that is quite relevant for economic theory and economic policy. (…) markets are incomplete, and characterized by externalities, transaction costs, asymmetric information, and other intrinsic shortcomings.
4. Foundations of liberal policies. The ultimate rationale of liberal economic policies may be seen in the progressive reduction of the market gap. In order to provide general foundations to them we have thus to assume that, in principle, there is a monotonous correlation between the size of the market gap and the losses of social welfare brought about by this gap. This postulate is not made explicit but is logically necessary to justify the validity of liberal policies.
5. Limits to liberal policies. In principle, there are serious limits in the reduction of the gap between real markets and the ideal perfect-competitions market. (…) markets cannot be altogether completed, externalities cannot be completely internalized, transaction costs may be reduced but not fully eliminated, information may become less asymmetric but not fully homogeneous, and so on. (…).
(…) Classical and updated liberalism accept the five propositions above. (…) the updated liberalisms is characterized by different economic foundations, a different rhetoric orientated to define the limits of the market rather than its superior virtues, and a cautious and motivated extension of the role of the State to new fields.
If, from the logical point of views of this appendix, we compare classical and updated liberalism with neoliberalism we see a sharp distinction (…). Neoliberalism, in fact, accepts proposition 1, 3 and 4 but, differently from both classical liberalism and updated liberalism, does not accept or plays down propositions 2 on the limits of the invisible hand, and 5 on the limits of liberal policies.”

Conclusioni
Desideriamo concludere questa presentazione augurando alla versione inglese del volume dei Professori Vercelli e Borghesi la più ampia diffusione tra tutti coloro che sono interessati ad approfondire le grandi tematiche di teoria economica, le cruciali questioni di sostenibilità dello sviluppo e le problematiche connesse alle politiche di contrasto nei confronti dei ricorrenti fenomeni di instabilità economica e finanziaria: interventi di così alto livello intellettuale forniscono un importante contributo alla difesa delle chances di vita individuali, alla tutela della nostra “Terra-Patria” (per usare una espressione di Edgar Morin), e, in ultima analisi, alla salvaguardia dei fondamenti delle nostre società aperte.

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