Transparency And Independence: Think Tanks Rather Than Lobbying Tanks

Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 2/5/16 en: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2016/05/02/transparency-and-independence-think-tanks-rather-than-lobbying-tanks/#b4dcb8a72d73

 

Last week, the leaders of most of the most relevant think tanks in North America attended a meeting to discuss the major challenges they face today. The 3rd Annual North America Think Tank Summit was held under Chatham House rules so I will focus on the substance of the discussions and the published material rather than mention who said what. Eighty-five participants from 60 organizations took part in candid presentations and exchanges. The meeting was convened by The Think Tanks and Civil Society Program at the University of Pennsylvania and co-hosted by three prominent think tanks: the Hudson Institute, Brookings, and the Carnegie Endowment. The combined income of the U.S. non-profit organizations present at the summit amounts to over $1.2 billion (based on data from 2014), so this was a very relevant group.

This year, the topic of the meeting was “Assuring the Quality, Independence, and Integrity of Think Tanks.” It is healthy that think tanks in North America, especially those based in the United States, show concern for their reputation. Within the think tank sector, U.S. think tanks are the envy of the world; no country can boast such a wide variety of well-funded organizations. Think tanks are diverse not only in philosophy, as are more ideological think tanks like the Center for American Progress, Cato Institute or the Heritage Foundation, but also in focus, from the Urban Institute and the Rand Corporation (security and strategy) to the Acton Institute (religion and public policy).

Think Tank Leaders gather for the Third North American Summit at the Brookings Institution.

Think Tank Leaders gather for the Third North American Summit at the Brookings Institution.

Yet despite their deep pockets and hard earned global recognition as major policy players, U.S. think tanks are not always well regarded by the public. Dr. James McGann, who headed the conference, included in the conference materials a series of quotes to exemplify the media coverage that has shaped negative perceptions of U.S. think tanks. He cited the following widely read articles from respected publications such as the New York Times and the New Republic: “Fellows at think tanks accepting funding from lobbyists to publish findings without disclosing the funding source,” published in the New York Times; “Conflicts of interest in think tank scholars that are registered lobbyists” from the New Republic; and “Conflicts of interest in think tank funding from foreign governments and corporations” also in the Times. One expert who has been studying think tanks’ public perception noted that 95% of key media coverage and existing scholarly literature on U.S. think tanks presents these organizations negatively. Several leaders took offense at the comment, trumpeting their own accomplishments and listing counter-arguments to this assertion.

Negative perceptions of think tanks often rise from conflicting visions of the role and purpose of these types of organizations. Think tanks sometimes pursue opposite policy goals, that is to say, what one regards as an accomplishment, the other regards as a destructive result. Promoted by “progressives” and despised by conservatives, Obamacare is a case in point. The same with immigration. Often there is a perception that rather than basing their policy prescriptions on independent research, think tanks do the opposite: they start with a conclusion commissioned by donors and supporters, and then produce research to accommodate that predetermined narrative. This perception exists even among expert scholars and intellectuals: Nobel Laureates Paul Krugman and Vernon Smith famously differ on their views on the think tank sector. “Progressives” tend to applaud Krugman’s interventionist views while pro free economy groups (such as the Independent Institute, Manhattan Institute, Mercatus, and Cato, all of which participated at the summit) generally fall in line with Vernon Smith’s ideas.

When prompted to address the effects of this special election year on their work, most speakers acknowledged that as the major think tanks in the United States, they tend to be publically regarded as part of the elite, which has earned them distrust from conservative and socialist bases alike. Most of these meetings took place at Brookings and the Carnegie Endowment, located side-by-side in Washington D.C.’s Embassy Row. Indeed, gathering in such near palatial surroundings, inside a room full of people with graduate degrees from top schools makes it hard to refute the claim that think tank leaders are part of the elite. I heard only one speaker acknowledge that researchers should pay attention to the frustration from voters. Another speaker stressed the difference between philosophy and ideology as guides for the work of think tanks. Many ideologies are too rigid; from immigration to trade, it is all or nothing. And when relevant segments of the population believe that think tanks respond to concerns and challenges in a dogmatic fashion, they begin to discount them as merely another type of lobbyist, a stone’s throw away from those on the Hill.

Discussions then turned to how think tanks should respond to a changing political environment. Some reflected on the danger of being reactive to politics, but most argued that advocacy and educational efforts based on solid research are much needed mantles for think tanks to take on. Within the United States tax code, non-profit organizations that get involved in politics fall under section 501 (c) (4), which dictates that up to 50 percent of these organizations’ activities can be political in nature. Think tanks like Heritage have created their own section, Heritage Action. The Center for American Progress also has one. Representatives from this center and from Heritage mentioned that the foundation’s research arm has eight times more income than their political and advocacy arm. Rather than shying away from admitting involvement, several of the groups present were proud of their role in helping enact legislation. Among the cases presented were: Brookings and the drafting of the Marshall Plan in the late 1940s; the Heritage Foundation and its Mandate for Leadership reform manual during the Reagan Administration; and the Center for American Progress and its role in passing Obamacare.

Think tanks from Mexico and Canada had different concerns. The representatives from the Mexican organizations focused on other issues: Their think tanks are much smaller, mostly as the result of a weak philanthropic culture. The Canadians described their country’s more stringent provisions, which prevent think tanks from entering into political debates.

There was no consensus on how much additional transparency is needed. The most recent study to cause alarm was the 2015 think tank transparency report. Produced by Transparify.org, this report detailed the levels of financial disclosure of over 160 think tanks located in 47 countries worldwide. Pro free-market think tanks with outstanding reputations scored very low in that ranking. One of those, CEDICE Libertad, is in Venezuela, a country where the government detains political opponents. In countries with weak rule of law, the only think tanks that can be transparent are those who are allied with their corrupt governments. In the United States, the recent cases that bring the politicization of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to surface are cause of additional alarm. While all non-profits in the United States have to disclose their main donors to the IRS, no such obligation exists for state filings or for public disclosure. Several states, however, including New York and California, are requesting the same information that is submitted to the federal government. Due to fears that information will be leaked for political objectives, several think tanks are challenging this request. As I mentioned in an earlier column, when rule of law is politicized, transparency is a complicated topic.

A think tank leader from Canada, which scores very high on rule of law rankings, confided that as their publications and research usually cast doubt on government policies, they would lose a major portion of their income if they were forced to disclose the names of all their donors to the public. Corporations in particular are afraid to be associated with those who do not toe the official line. In the United States, only a small percentage of think tanks’ income derives from corporations (10% in average) while abroad, corporate donations account for usually a third or more of a think tank’s income.

U.S. Think Tank experts discuss how to position their work in the current political environment. (L to R): Winnie Stachelberg, Center for American Progress, Lee Edwards, Heritage Foundation, Tom Carver, Carnegie Endowment, David Boaz, Cato Institute, and William Galston, Brookings

U.S. Think Tank experts discuss how to position their work in the current political environment. (L to R): Winnie Stachelberg, Center for American Progress, Lee Edwards, Heritage Foundation, Tom Carver, Carnegie Endowment, David Boaz, Cato Institute, and William Galston, Brookings

The larger, Washington-based think tanks disputed the notion that the source of donations (that is to say, whether they are corporate, government, or from individuals and foundations) correlate with independence. Most noted that more and more, foundations have their own agendas and use think tanks as research arms. On the other hand, when think tanks become major institutions of civil society, corporations begin to donate to become part of the “club”—not necessarily because they agree with the organization’s policy positions. Think tanks that are seen as beneficial to their civil societies begin to attract donors in the same way as museums, hospitals, and universities. Representatives from the smaller think tanks present at the meeting, which were not many, chimed in on the problems that can come with accepting corporate or government donations.

Several new challenges faced by think tanks were mentioned during the meeting. One is the threat by city governments to disregard the non-profit status of think tanks in their tax collection efforts; Acton Institute recently won its case versus the city of Grand Rapids. Another challenge is the effort by several Attorney Generals to seek detailed donor information from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has produced major research on issues like global warming and climate change.

These challenges are not limited to the United States. Foreign governments are also using “transparency” as an excuse, in order to stifle divergent views. Only a couple of days after the end of the think tank summit, the Chinese government passed a lawrequiring full disclosure of foreign non-profit activities. It is clear that the Chinese government is more interested in control than transparency. Yes, transparency and independence are desirable—but when government authorities begin using selective and arbitrary requirements to define transparency and independence, then think tank leaders are right to be concerned. There may not yet be a consensus on how to achieve transparency, integrity, and independence, but increased competition and accountability to stakeholders—within an environment of governments and judicial systems that live by the principle of equality before the law—would be a start.

 

Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE.

Free Market Think Tanks: 2016 Website And Social Media Leaders

Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 22/2/16 en: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2016/02/22/free-market-think-tanks-2016-website-and-social-media-leaders/#7704265d18d7

 

I began tracking the social media presence of free-market think tanks three years ago and shared the results in this column in 2014 and 2015. This past year once again showed growth in most areas, with the exception of website traffic. Think tanks are attracting more followers on their Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn accounts but those who follow them on these social media platforms do not always go to their websites.

The Heritage Foundation ranked first among free-market groups. It ranks ahead Brookings in every social media platform except in its use of LinkedIn. Indeed, while the most recent think tank ranking list Brookings as the top think tank in the world, in the use of social networks, Heritage consistently edges out Brookings.

Below are the winning free-market think tanks in the U.S. and from around the world:

    • Most Facebook likes (U.S.): Heritage Foundation (1,920K); (Non U.S.): Instituto Mises, Brasil (175K)
    • Most Twitter followers (U.S.): Heritage Foundation (540K) ; (Non U.S): CEDICE, Venezuela (77K)
    • Most monthly visitors to website (SimilarWeb, U.S.): Heritage Foundation (2,700K); (Non U.S.): Instituto Mises, Brasil (570K)
  • Most subscribers to YouTube Channel (U.S.): American Enterprise Institute (71K); (Non U.S.): Fundación Libertad y Progreso, Argentina (13K)
  • Most views of YouTube video (last 12 months) (U.S.): Acton Institute (343K); (Non U.S.):Fundación Libertad y Progreso, Argentina (992K)
  • Most minutes viewed on a You Tube video (last 12 months) (U.S): Heritage (2,473K); (Non U.S.) Fundación Libertad y Progreso (6,274K)

The leaders in free-market media, magazines, and news outlets include:

  • Most Facebook likes: CNSnews.com (Media Research Center) (1,972K)
  • Most Twitter followers: Reason (169K)
  • Most monthly visitors to website: National Review (10,600K)
  • Most subscribers to YouTube Channel: Reason (157K)
  • Most views of YouTube video (last 12 months): Daily Signal (Heritage) (599K)
  • Most minutes viewed on a You Tube video (last 12 months): Daily Signal (Heritage) (12,867K)

Among university-affiliated groups, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University leads in most Facebook likes, Twitter followers, You Tube and Website traffic. Among student advocacy organizations, Students for Liberty leads in Facebook likes, and Turning Point USA, despite being founded in 2012, only 4 years ago, ranks first in Twitter followers.FreedomWorks is ahead of Americans for Prosperity among grassroots mobilization organizations, and it leads in all social media platforms except on YouTube and Instagram. Instagram is growing among the younger population. In addition to Americans for Prosperity, Instagram leaders in their category include Mises Institute (US), CEDICE (Venezuela), Hoover, Students for Liberty, and National Review.

You Tube video by Fundación Libertad y Progreso (Argentina) attracted more than one million views.

You Tube video by Fundación Libertad y Progreso (Argentina) attracted more than one million views.

As is natural in such a dynamic and changing social media scene, think tanks are trying different strategies. Some are posting their promotional and advocacy videos on Facebook, rather than on YouTube. For instance, the Mises Institute in Brazil has more than 164,000 views of their video promoting their Master’s Program in Austrian Economics on Facebook, while their most popular video uploaded to YouTube has less than 5,000 views. Videos on Facebook, however, tend to be much shorter than on YouTube, which has no length limit. Fundación Libertad y Progreso, from Argentina, produced a very popular short video against Latin American populism, which starred young Guatemalan libertarian activist Gloria Alvarez. It was viewed close to one million times, and helped boost the number of subscribers to their You Tube channel to over 13,000. It defeated all the 2015 pro-free society promotional videos around the world.

In countries where freedom of the press is under attack, Twitter has become the premiere media outlet for think tanks. CEDICE, the courageous think tank in beleaguered Venezuela, continues to be the best example of this phenomenon. With 77,000 Twitter followers, CEDICE ranks first among foreign think tanks.

Unlike other social media platforms, which have gained significant traction over the past decade, LinkedIn has yet to leave its mark regarding Latin American think tanks. At least in the world of think tanks, LinkedIn is still primarily used as a tool for recruiters rather than as a platform for the dissemination of research or advocacy papers. Yet over the past few years, the number of LinkedIn followers has grown more than other social media platforms. The leading free-market think tanks have seen their followers increase by over 50%. Heritage’s followers increased by 61%, Cato’s by 52%. The Mises Institute (U.S.), which lags behind the others in number of followers, grew at 77%. Among foreign think tanks, the Fraser Institute saw a 72% increase. I only recently began tracking American Enterprise Institute’s growth, so I do not have their year-to-year numbers, but with over 7,500 followers, they have surpassed Cato among market-oriented institutes to reach second place (after Heritage).

During the past year, I estimate that leading free-market think tanks attracted, on average, 20% more Twitter followers and on average, 20% more “likes.” (Facebook “likes” is a cumulative figure; very few people “unlike” a Facebook page). Foreign think tanks saw 50% more “likes.” Something similar happened with YouTube subscribers, which grew 20% on average for the leading U.S. think tanks and more than double that percentage for foreign groups. Yet, as stated above, this growth on social media platforms has not translated into an increase in web visitors. According to SimilarWebtraffic numbers most organizations saw their website traffic stagnate or go down close to 10%.

When it comes to LinkedIn, free-market think tanks are far ahead of their competitors in the academy and in media. Mercatus continues to lead in followers among academic-based think tanks, and National Review among on-line magazines, but they all ranked much lower than Heritage, Cato, or AEI.

As I did in my previous articles, I shared my data with two of my favorite experts, Michael Rae, who has built and hosted dozens of think tank websites, and IESE’s Emma Alvarez, asking for their insights on the evolution in think tank’s social media efforts. When analyzing these numbers, Rae comments: “The success of some groups to gain larger ‘view’ numbers from a significantly smaller subscriber base … indicates to me more engaging taglines and content from the smaller group. Content remains king.”

Think tanks continue to have trouble capturing the Twitter traffic of some of their most public stars, and something similar is occurring with LinkedIn. Alvarez, the social media manager at IESE business school, points at the failure of some groups to manage their multiple accounts properly: “Even if there are some think tanks profiles on LinkedIn, most of them don’t have the direct link to the homepage.” Out of a sample of 28 pro-free market organizations, most of them leaders in their field, only eight “have a direct link from their homepage [and] Fraser Institute and CIDAC are the only ones who have the links to LinkedIn on the header.” LinkedIn allows organizations to create company profiles as well as groups. Alvarez adds that the home pages of Adam Smith Institute and Students for Liberty, for example, link to LinkedIn group, rather than the company page, and “Libertad y Progreso to a personal profile and not to the company page.”

Social media data gathered last week of March and first week of February 2016. Sofie O'Mara and Mariana Zepeda conducted research for this piece.

Social media data gathered last week of January and first week of February 2016.

According to Alvarez, think tanks have yet to build a stronger presence on this platform. Universities are doing better. She described LinkedIn’s strategy to attract a younger audience that will use this platform to “help” them select a college. LinkedIn features a school’s notable alumni prominently, channeling resources like their career recommendations and for “engagement for asking questions or connecting with the campus community,” toward promoting traffic for the school. LinkedIn’s internal search algorithm prioritizes the university page result, so one tends to find a person’s university affiliation before their company or employer. Only organizations with an .edu suffix can have a LinkedIn university account, so to take advantage of this special treatment of colleges and universities, think tanks with educational programs could start their own web addresses with an .edu suffix. Acton Institute, Cato, Mises Institute,the Atlas Network, and other free-market organizations which have their own “universities” or “master’s program” could pick an appropriate website address specific to this platform. But LinkedIn has first to approve their inclusion as “universities.” Brookings, which is the only think tank with an .edu suffix, still does not have a university page. Having students pass through educational programs is essential for being approved by LinkedIn. The fact still remains that unless sub-pages are properly and intelligently linked to the organization’s home page, they might fail to drive traffic to their main website.

Like other experts who spend their time trying to measure whether or not social media presence translates into public policy impact, Michael Rae realizes that these platforms’ immediacy and transitory feel create a challenge for think tanks. “In a world of short attention spans,” Rae argues, “the fleeting tweet, the passing item on your timeline suits the users’ world better than the visit to a website, or checking your email. Email seems to demand engagement, as does the website, whereas the tweet needs only a cursory glance.”

Free-market think tanks are spending tens of millions of dollars in social media, and there is still much to improve in transparency and in proper measurement of outcomes. Tracking email subscribers and measuring their interactions and relevance, should complement any analysis. This type of data, however, if collected, is seldom shared outside the organizations. Until this changes, the combined data of traffic measured by each of the platforms is our best shot at understanding which think tanks are doing a better job at getting the freedom message out to the public.

 

Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE.

The Most Influential Think Tanks In The United States: A New Social Media Ranking

Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 16/12/15 en: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2015/12/16/the-most-influential-think-tanks-in-the-united-states-a-new-social-media-ranking/

 

TheBestSchools.org, an online resource for campus and online education, has just released a ranking of the 50 most influential think tanks in the United States. I have written that the think tank and university worlds are beginning to overlap. Some universities are creating internal think tanks, some think tanks are offering university-type programs, and there is an increased number of efforts where think tanks and universities collaborate in educational products and services. It does not come as a surprise, at least for me, that this “school web portal” decided to devote some time to focus on U.S. think tanks.

Like other rankings, this new effort treats “think tanks as principally in the business of selling their ideas.” But it focuses on social media more than any other previous ranking. The authors reason that “in this age of the Internet, in which every think tank has a website,” we “can regard think tanks as in the business of search engine marketing, i.e., as attempting to market their ideas over the Internet and especially through their website.”

Early each year I compile statistics and write about the impact of conservative and libertarian think tanks in social media. Fourteen such groups appear in this list. Although my analysis of social media impact uses more measurements than TheBestSchools.org, some of the results are similar, especially the top four free market groups: Heritage Foundation, Cato, Mises Institute and American Enterprise Institute. Mises Institute is the one with the smaller budget ($4 to 5 million), and they can rightly claim that, at least in social media measurements, they provide more “bang for the buck.” In addition to the superb collection of scholarly books and studies in the Austrian tradition, especially by Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and their disciples, Mises Institute sometimes releases provocative articles, defying politically correctness and attracting wide readership. This increases its social media impact, but who is to say that think tanks were only created to influence the academic and policy elites?

Leading Conservatives Libertarian TT in TBS Ranking

Despite the claim in the title of the ranking that these are the 50 most influential US think tanks, the organization recognizes that they do not measure the “intrinsic merit of a think tank and its intellectual program” but its “cash value” measured by the popularity of a think tank’s official website, ranked against all other websites, as determined by the average number of monthly visitors (specifically, organic search traffic), number of keywords/phrases for which the site ranks, and the monetary value of the traffic as gauged by those keywords.” This is the key measurement ofSEMrush.com. TheBestSchools.org, uses that web tool to determine how well their portal was doing “in attracting and holding visitor traffic” so they decided to measure think tanks.

Although they state that in preparing the ranking they considered the average yearly revenue; the average number of printed media references per year by outside organizations; and the number of categories in which a think tank was ranked by the2014 Global GoTo Think-Tank Index, a simple analysis of their ranking shows that those elements were not weighed. They just relied on one SEMrush measurement. The top two groups in the list, the Belfer Center at Harvard, and the Earth Institute at Columbia, do not merit their ranking. Those who prepared the data took the entire traffic of Harvard and Columbia as the traffic for these centers. The Heritage Foundation, ranked third, should be really ranked first. In addition, the information for some of the think tanks is incomplete or wrong. Acton Institute, for example, appears on several categories in the 2014 GoTo Think Tank Index, but the analysis mentions none. Another issue of the rankings is that it does not provide information on when the data was compiled and does not include many think tanks, like Hudson Institute, which beats several on the list. TheBestSchools.org will be correcting its analysis.

Michael Rae, of Canadian based Lexicom, an expert on free-market social media efforts, has been using SEMrush.com for six months. The more that think tanks use paid advertising to promote their social media posting, the more useful the tool will become. Regarding the ranking, Rae says that the “disparity between the top and bottom of the rankings in terms of web traffic, seems to indicate that it really is a ‘winner takes all’ world online, at least for web pages.” Many on this new list are indeed some of the most influential US think tanks, but a more accurate ranking of the best ones is yet to be produced.

Adriana Peralta collaborated on this article.

 

Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE.

 

La movilidad social destierra el mito de la desigualdad

Por Iván Carrino. Publicado el 14/5/15 en: https://igdigital.com/2015/05/la-movilidad-social-destierra-el-mito-de-la-desigualdad

 

La semana pasada, frente a unos 30 alumnos de la carrera de Economía, me animé a preguntar: “¿cuáles son los problemas del capitalismo?”. La respuesta fue unánime: “la desigualdad”. Esta afirmación no extraña, ya que es una idea que se encuentra muy extendida. Sin embargo, esconde una parte de la realidad que es la que tendríamos que tener más en cuenta. 
Uno de los temas de moda en la literatura económica es la desigualdad social y la idea de que esta se encuentra en constante crecimiento. Sin ir más lejos, “El Capital en el Siglo XXI”, de Thomas Piketty, se convirtió en el libro de economía más vendido de 2014. En su obra, el francés plantea que la porción del ingreso nacional que se llevan los más ricos está en una etapa de continuo crecimiento desde fines de la década del ’70.
Reforzando esta tesis, en internet circula un video que plantea que el 1% de los estadounidenses es dueño del 40% de toda la riqueza del país y que los CEO de las empresas pueden ganar hasta 380 veces más que los empleados promedio. Esto ayuda a difundir la idea de que los ricos son cada vez más ricos y los pobres cada vez más pobres, al menos en términos relativos.
Ahora bien, por más lúgubre que esta imagen pueda parecer, esconde, en primer lugar, el nivel de vida que los pobres tienen en Estados Unidos. Un estudio de la Heritage Foundation de 2014 reveló que el 80% de los hogares considerados pobres en ese país poseen equipos de aire acondicionado, mientras que el 75% tiene un auto o una camioneta y el 31% tiene, al menos, dos autos o camionetas.

Por otro lado, el 43% de los hogares “pobres” tiene acceso a internet y 92% tienen un microondas. Nada mal para estar en el escalón más bajo de la pirámide socioeconómica.

Es que, como explica el profesor de la Universidad George Mason, Steven Horwitz, a veces no es importante la porción total de la torta que uno pueda comer, sino el tamaño de la misma. Es decir, el 10% de una torta de 1 kilo son 100 gramos, mientras que el 5% de una de 10 kilos son 500 gramos.
¿Qué elegirías vos: llevarte el 10% de la primera torta o hacerte del 5% de la segunda?
Otra cosa que esconden las estadísticas de desigualdad es el hecho de que aquellos que se encuentran en los escalones más bajos de la pirámide no son los mismos a medida que avanza el tiempo. Un ejemplo podrá aclarar este punto: un estudiante universitario tiene cero ingresos propios durante la época en que está estudiando.
Sin embargo, a medida que pasa el tiempo y este se inserta y progresa en el mercado laboral, sus ingresos crecen, llevándolo a los siguientes escalones.Por otro lado, una persona puede ser pobre en algún momento de su vida, pero también puede modificar esa situación al encontrar un trabajo o comenzar un emprendimiento exitoso.
Esto es lo que demuestra un estudio del profesor Herbert Grubel, de la Universidad SimonFraser de Canadá. Con datos fiscales de ese país detectó que, de todos los canadienses que en 1990 formaban parte del quintil (la quinta parte de la población agrupada por niveles de ingreso) de menores ingresos, un 87% se movió hacia quintiles más altos, con un 21% del total llegando hasta el quintil de ingresos más elevados.

Para que se vea claro, casi 9 de cada diez canadienses dejaron de ser pobres en ese período y 2 de cada 10 pasaron de ser los más pobres de todo el país a integrar el grupo de los más ricos de todos.

grafico
 Y lo mismo se dio a la inversa. Es decir, del total de canadienses que en 1990 se encontraba entre los que tenían mayores ingresos, un 36% modificó su posición, pasando a quintiles de menores ingresos. Esto revela que, más allá de la foto, que puede mostrar una distribución del ingreso determinada, la película muestra que existe movilidad entre los diferentes niveles, lo que destruye el mito de que los ricos se hacen más ricos mientras que los pobres se hacen más pobres.

Otro hallazgo del estudio de Grubel es que, contrario a lo que suele afirmarse, el ingreso de los pobres crece más rápido que el de los ricos. Nuevamente, tomando a los canadienses que en 1990 se encontraban en el quintil de ingresos más bajo y analizando la evolución de sus ingresos promedio hasta 2009, se obtuvo un aumento del 280,3%, mientras que los que en 1990 formaban parte del quintil de ingresos más elevados, el aumento fue de solo 112,4%.

grafico

 

Como puede observarse, la imagen es muy distinta a la que se busca instalar.Las estadísticas de desigualdad muestran las diferencias entre los grupos (quintiles, deciles, etc.), pero esconden deliberadamente lo que sucede al interior de esos grupos.

Y allí está la clave: porque lo que más debería preocuparnos como sociedad es si los que hoy “están abajo”, mañana tendrán oportunidades de crecimiento y progreso. Los estudios del profesor Grubel muestran que en una economía capitalista, con seguridad jurídica y una macroeconomía estable como la de Canadá, eso es posible.

En este sentido, tenemos que estar atentos a lo que pasa en Argentina, ya que dado que estas condiciones no existen, la pobreza está creciendo y se encuentra en niveles que –al aproximarse al 30%- son realmente inadmisibles.

 

Iván Carrino es Licenciado en Administración por la Universidad de Buenos Aires y Máster en Economía de la Escuela Austriaca por la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid. Trabaja como Analista Económico de la Fundación Libertad y Progreso, es profesor asistente de Comercio Internacional en el Instituto Universitario ESEADE y profesor asistente de Economía en la Universidad de Belgrano.

Argentina entre los 10 países con menor libertad económica del mundo.

Por Nicolás Cachanosky. Publicado el 14/10/14 en: http://economiaparatodos.net/argentina-entre-los-10-paises-con-mejor-libertad-economica-del-mundo/

 

El 7 de Octubre el Fraser Institute dio a conocer su reporte anual 2014 sobre libertad económica que cubre un total de 152 países. El Economic Freedom of the World, junto al Index of Economic Freedom elaborado por el Heritage Foundation y Wall Street Journal deben ser los dos indicadores más conocidos de libertad económica que hay disponibles. Que Argentina posea una baja calificación relativa en este indicador no es novedad. En los dos últimos reportes Argentina se ubicaba como la decimoquinta economía menos libre entre los países observados. Lo que es novedad en el último reporte es que Argentina cae al puesto 149 de 152 países. Es decir, Argentina se ubica como la cuarta economía menos libre del mundo. Debido a que los datos que el Fraser institute utiliza para elaborar el índice llevan tiempo en publicarse, cada reporte posee resultados de hace dos años. Es decir, el reporte del año 2014 posee calificaciones para el año 2012 (este “delay” es normal en este tipo de indicadores.) Lo que este indicador muestra, entonces, es un serio deterioro en las instituciones económicas luego del 2011: En un solo año Argentina retrocedió 11 lugares. Mientras Argentina cae a los últimos puestos y no se ven signos de liberar la economía del 2012 en adelante, organizaciones como Carta Abierta afirman que al país le falta regulación económica. Estas aseveraciones ponen de manifiesto la desconexión con la realidad Argentina en un contexto mundial por parte grupos afines al Kirchnerismo. Ciertamente, como todo índice, el mismo no es perfecto. No obstante, ofrece una guía sobre el la inclinación relativa de distintos países hacia instituciones de libre mercado cuyos resultados se condicen con lo que se espera sean economías más y menos libres. Preguntarse si la posición 149 en el ranking es precisa es quedarse con el árbol y perderse el bosque. Lo importante es la ubicación “general” de Argentina en el ranking y la tendencia en el mismo. Desde el año 2001, cuando se ubicaba en el puesto 54, Argentina cae de manera sostenida en el ranking.

Las 10 economías menos libres en el reporte 2014 son (1) Myanmar, (2) República Democrática del Congo, (3) Burundi, (4) Chad, (5) Irán, (6) Algeria, (7) Argentina, (8) Zimbabue, (9) República del Congo, y (10) Venezuela. Como se puede apreciar, los países que acompañan a Argentina se encuentran lejos de ser la Alemania o Suiza al que Cristina Kirchner hizo referencia como modelos de país. De hecho, de los países observados, la Venezuela que es fruto de admiración Kirchnerista se ubica en el último puesto. Según el reporte (p. 29), la caída de Argentina en el 2012 se debe principalmente a un deterioro del sistema legal y la protección de los derechos de propiedad (cepo al dólar, etc.), en la restricciones al comercio internacional (debido a la DJAI, etc.), y a la aparición del mercado informal del dólar. Es cierto, sin embargo, que el nivel de vida de Argentina es superior al de países como Chad o Myanmar, pero ese no es el punto de los índices institucionales. Estos indicadores no buscan medir la calidad de vida, sino que informan sobre el marco institucional dado que esto define el nivel de desarrollo económico de largo plazo. La instituciones de un país informan sobre la trayectoria de largo plazo y no sobre la situación económica actual.

Por ello este tipo de indicadores son relevantes y los economistas insisten tanto en la importancia de las instituciones. La comparación entre Corea del Norte y Corea del Sur ofrece un caso único. Son dos países con la misma cultura, mismo lenguaje, y misma historia hasta su separación en 1945. Casi 60 años de dos coreas con distinto marco institucional muestran las inocultables diferencias económicas. No obstante, Corea del Norte no puede alcanzar el nivel de vida de Corea del Sur de la noche a la mañana cambiando su política económica, necesita cambiar su marco institucional y esperar que el crecimiento que no ha tenido en 60 años se materialice. Este efecto de largo plazo que las abstractas instituciones tienen sobre los países pueden hacernos perder la conexión causal dado que los cambios institucionales del presente pueden tener efectos varios años por delante. Imaginemos que congelamos el grado de libertad económica de todos los países por cincuenta años. ¿Dónde creemos que se encontrará el nivel de vida relativo de Argentina cinco décadas más tarde? ¿Más cerca de Venezuela y Zimbabue o de Alemania y Suiza?

En esta nota comento sobre diversos resultados económicos y sociales de países con economías libres y economías reprimidas. En esta ocasión sólo quiero reproducir tres resultados centrales y ofrecer luego un comentario final. En primer lugar, los siguientes gráficos (pp. 21-22) muestran que al tomar la totalidad de la muestra (152 países) en lugar de elegir un par (por ejemplo Argentina y Chile) (1) los países más libres poseen un mayor ingreso per cápita (ajustado por costo de vida) que los países menos libres, (2) que las economías más libres crecen más rápido que las economías menos libres [un plazo de 10 años] y (3) que la distribución del ingreso no depende de la libertad económica. Es decir, las economías no sólo son más ricas y crecen más rápido en promedio, sino que el argumento de que el libre mercado genera crecimiento con exclusión no se sostiene si miramos la totalidad de la muestra en lugar de seleccionar unos pocos países. Si el libre mercado generase crecimiento con exclusión, entonces la participación sobre el ingreso del 10% más pobre no podría mostrar valores similares para los distintos grupos de países según su libertad económica. No obstante estos resultados, diversos movimientos que se oponen a las economías libres sostienen que el modelo a adoptar es uno como socialismo de Noruega, el Suecia, o el Finlandia. Sin embargo, Noruega, Suecia, y Finlandia se ubican en los puestos 30, 32, y 10 de países con mayor libertad económica respectivamente. Los tres países “socialistas” se encuentran en el cuartil de las economías más libres del mundo. Los países calificados de “socialistas” por los críticos del libre mercado resultan tener economías bastante libres en el contexto mundial.

 

Si usted va a ser pobre y sabe que va a pertenecer al 10% de la población más pobre, no importa si vive en una economía libre o en una economía reprimida, su grupo va a recibir alrededor del 2.5% del ingreso total del país. Pero si vive en una economía libre su ingreso anual va a ser de $11,610 contra $1,358 en una economía reprimida. Si usted sabe, entonces, va a ser pobre, ¿en qué país prefiere vivir? Si su respuesta es en una economía libre, entonces debe saber que desde la crisis del 2001 que Argentina persiste en ir en sentido contrario hasta haber alcanzado el fondo del ranking en el 2012.

Por último, en Argentina términos como “libre mercado” son tratadas casi como una mala palabra, especialmente desde la crisis del 2001. Peor aún es el caso de los términos “capitalismo” y “neoliberal.” Parte de esta situación se debe al asociar erróneamente la década del 90 con un modelo de libre mercado neoliberal. Los resultados están a la vista. Argentina ha logrado ubicarse entre los últimos puestos de uno de los indicadores más utilizados y respetados internacionalmente en trabajos de investigación. Mientras Argentina y la clase dirigente no entiendan que no se puede ser Alemania o Suiza adoptando las instituciones bolivarianas del Socialismo del Siglo XXI el país podrá oscilar entre mejores y peores gobiernos, pero no podrá cambiar su trayectoria de largo plazo. Argentina no necesita un cambio de “modelo” o de gobierno, Argentina necesita una seria reforma institucional. Para que la clase política dirigente ofrezca un cambio de esta magnitud, la opinión pública se lo debe exigir.

 

Nicolás Cachanosky es Doctor en Economía, (Suffolk University), Lic. en Economía, (UCA), Master en Economía y Ciencias Políticas, (ESEADE) y Assistant Professor of Economics en Metropolitan State University of Denver. 

Hong Kong And Beijing: The Future Of Economic Freedom:

Por Alejandro A. Chafuén. Publicado el 9/9/14 en: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2014/09/09/hong-kong-and-beijing-the-future-of-economic-freedom/

 

Over the last few years I have seen student protests in the United States, Spain and Venezuela. I never expected, during my recent trip to Hong Kong, that I would witness a new “Occupy” movement. But, the leaders of “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” are not complaining about the lack of economic freedom. In fact, according to the Economic Freedom Index prepared by the Heritage Foundation, Hong Kong’s economic freedom score is 90.1, making it the top-rated economy for the 20th consecutive year. This includes the years that have elapsed since Hong Kong reverted to the mainland. In the Human Freedom index, produced by Cato, Fraser Institute and the Liberales Institut, which includes personal freedoms, Hong Kong still qualifies with an enviable third spot in the rankings.

The movement I saw in Hong Kong is prompted by the fear and frustration that the powers in Beijing will erode the strength of the institutions which led this tiny place on earth, to become a rock of liberty and prosperity. The central business district of Hong Kong, targeted by this “Occupy” movement, is seen as the headquarters of the business power elite. It is this elite which has played a relevant role in creating and preserving the strength and freedom of today’s economy.

Is the frustration based on overvaluing the voting aspects of democracy? That seems to be the belief of those who defend the decision of the National People Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) who are restricting the number of candidates to the two or three approved by 1,200 electors who were selected by—and are loyal to—Beijing.

A relevant player, C.H Tung, resurfaced to defend the decision of the NPCSC. Tung was the first chief executive of Hong Kong, from the transfer of sovereignty in July 1997 until March 2005, when he stepped down before completing his term. Tung’s main message to those who want more democracy could be summed up by “be patient” or “count your blessings.” Although most freedom champions, especially those from abroad, concentrate on the limited choice allowed by the recently approved electoral law, Tung asks them to reflect that “in the short span of just 20 years—Hong Kong would have moved from having Britain parachute a governor into Hong Kong to having five million voters choosing their own leader.” Claudia Rosett however, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a Forbes contributor who spent many years in Hong Kong, argues that comparing the nomination of Hong Kong governors by Great Britain, with its tradition of rule of law and democratic processes, with the nomination process by Beijing, with its authoritarian and dictatorial track record, is misleading.
Tung also praised the NPSCS decision as a “well-deserved fruit of our desire for democracy” and a “glittering achievement.” He revealed the political philosophy behind his position when he stated “Democracy doesn’t have a final destination. And to fight for democracy is far from being the whole story in improving people’s livelihoods which, after all, is the ultimate test of good governance.” As he is well versed on how the West understands freedom, Tung knows that he is being provocative. For more than a decade, Tung was a member of the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. The statement by Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at Hoover, after the NPSCS announcement, that “it was a sad day for Hong Kong, and for democracy” must not have come as a surprise to Tung.

In the late 1980s, free-market champions based in Hong Kong founded the Hong Kong Centre for Economic Research (HKCER) and C.H. Tung was one of the first to send money for support. His willingness to defend Beijing’s decision was again reaffirmed when he made an all-out defended China’s reform efforts at the gathering of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS). Tung defended China’s record and goals not only on the economic arena but on human rights, the environment, and even describing Beijing’s government as a major force in the search for peace. Many MPS members were not pleased with his remarks.

Y.C. Richard Wong, a Chicago Ph.D. who has been the director of HKCER since its founding, played an important role in trying to liberalize and democratize the electoral process. He was one of the most active members of a Group of 13 experts (G-13) who recommended opening the nominating committee for the chief executive election in 2017 to public participation and making it more democratic. They proposed doubling the size of the existing election committee from 1,200 to 2,400 members, with the expanded members being elected by registered voters in Hong Kong. When I asked him about the G-13 proposal his answer can be described as realistic fatalism. He said, “Our G-13 proposal now is in the wastepaper basket, we have a new law and we have to respect it.” It was clear that for Wong the decision was not ideal, but engaging in a major battle to oppose it might, in his mind, create more barriers to the move towards a more extended and transparent democracy.

What is next for the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland? Businessmen and economists tend to focus on economic incentives. The more trade the less the chance for conflict. Speaking at a private function organized by the Reason Foundation, Louis-Vincent Gave, a Hong Kong based money manager and author of Too Different for Comfort highlighted that 15 percent of China’s trade takes place in renminbi, RMB, up from almost zero percent in 2009 and likely to increase. Hong Kong is the most important RMB center outside the mainland. During the last five years, RMB deposits in Hong Kong had surged tenfold to approximately RMB 900 billion. Gave believes that the increased RMB internalization will provide another boost to Hong Kong’s role as a leading financial center for China. Hong Kong is important to China for several other economic reasons. Despite that its economy represents only 3 percent of that of the mainland, Hong Kong is its second largest trading partner, representing over 9 percent of total trade. It is also the largest source of foreign investment and the largest recipient of Chinese external investment.
But not everything is economics, John Greenwood, a founder of HKCER and a member of the Hong Kong currency board, believes that the prime driver of these last and the coming decades is Chinese national pride. Regaining control of Macau and Hong Kong was essential, but only a first step to bring Taiwan to their fold. They will make major efforts to avoid messing up the integration of Hong Kong in a way which would endanger a peaceful reunification with Taiwan.

The relationship between China and Hong Kong is not simple, one freedom champion, such as Greenwood can testify that the government never pressured or criticized HKCER, even when the studies contradicted “party line.” Another, such as publisher Jimmy Lai, feels political pressure to tone down his support for political liberties. Andrew Shuen, of the Lion Rock Institute argues that “the goal is to maintain the balance that allows the continuity of economic flourishing and a gradual enhancement of political liberties, which will be best achieved by the people learning continuously from the consequences of choices made when exercising those very liberties.”

The road might be longer than some expected, but I sense that a majority will help them maintain the course.

 

Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE.

El mito de la mala distribución del ingreso en los países “capitalistas”

Por Nicolás Cachanosky. Publicado el 27/5/14 en http://altavoz.pe/2014/05/27/opinion/el-mito-de-la-mala-distribucion-del-ingreso-en-los-paises-capitalistas/

 

Casi de manera unánime se señala que la “mala” distribución del ingreso es un serio problema social. El socialismo moderno, por ejemplo el Socialismo del Siglo XXI, está llamado a corregir este vicio del sistema de mercado capitalista. El capitalismo, sostiene la crítica socialista, puede ser eficiente pero es inmoral, dado que no resulta en una equitativa distribución del ingreso para todos. Los empresarios (a veces de manera inconsciente) explotan a sus trabajadores debido a la “lógica productiva del capitalismo.” El empresario puede ser una buena persona, es la lógica del sistema lo que lo lleva a explotar a sus trabajadores incluso sin ser consciente de lo que hace a nivel social.

Esta tesis sufre de dos serios problemas. Por un lado deficiencias teóricas. Por ejemplo, no es lo mismo quien acumula fortuna siendo un empresario exitoso que provee bienes y servicios que mejoran la vida de los consumidores que quienes acumulan fortunas haciendo uso de la fuerza del estado para obtener un mercado cautivo. ¿Podemos criticar la “moralidad” de la fortuna de Fidel Castro o Nicolás Maduro de la misma manera que la fortuna de Jeff Bezos (Amazon) o de los creadores de Google o Facebook? Por otro lado, el socialismo tampoco parece ser aun capaz de distinguir entre libre mercado por un lado y capitalismo de amigos por el otro. Es un serio desliz, sino un acto de deshonestidad intelectual, no distinguir entre “capitalismo de libre mercado” y “capitalismo de amigos (crony capitalism o capitalismo corrupto).” ¿Desde cuándo el liberalismo ha defendido la corrupción y los beneficios del estado a los empresarios ineficientes y amigos del poder?

Pero más allá de estas inconsistencias conceptuales, la tesis de que el capitalismo genera más desigualdad no resiste los datos empíricos. Si es cierto que los países más capitalistas, es decir, más libres, generan mayor desigualdad de ingresos, entonces deberíamos ver que a mayor libertad económica más desigualdad y a menor libertad económica menor desigualdad. Esta confusión se basa en una ilusión o efecto estadístico. Al ver si realmente los países más libres son más desiguales en su ingreso que los menos libres hay que observar todos los países, y no sólo seleccionar uno o dos pares de países. De lo contrario, podemos caer inconscientemente presa de sesgar la selección a favor de los resultados que esperamos. Tanto el crítico como el defensor del libre mercado pueden elegir dos países para defender sus respectivas posiciones. Al observar toda la muestra, en cambio, este problema desaparece. El siguiente gráfico muestra el ingreso de la población 10% más pobre los países divididos en cuartiles de menos (izquierda) a más (derecha) libres.

Cómo se puede ver, no hay una diferencia clara entre los países más libres y los menos libres. No importa si usted nace en un país libre (capitalista) o en un país sin mercado libre (socialista o no capitalista), si se encuentra en el 10% de la población más pobre su grupo recibirá alrededor del 2.5% del ingreso total. El panorama cambia, sin embargo, si vemos cuál es el ingreso efectivo que ese 2.5% representa. Esa es la información del siguiente gráfico, que muestra el ingreso per cápita del sector 10% más pobre en dólares internacionales (dólares comparables entre países).

Dada esta información. Si usted sabe que va a pertenecer al sector con  10% de menores ingresos, ¿preferiría vivir en un país libre y ganar $10.500 anuales o en un país sin mercado libre y ganar menos de la décima parte, unos $930 anuales? Cómo se puede apreciar, la crítica socialista al libre mercado sobre la mala distribución del ingreso no sólo no es cierta, sino que los países con mercados libres poseen mayores ingresos reales y, por lo tanto, menos pobreza. Estos gráficos también nos muestran que distribución del ingreso no es lo mismo que pobreza. Un país pobre puede tener una perfecta distribución del ingreso y todos sus habitantes vivir por debajo de la línea de pobreza (¿Cuba? ¿Corea del Norte? –después de ignorar la fortuna de dudoso origen de sus gobernantes)

Veamos dos datos más. En el primer cuadro se encuentran las tasas de crecimiento real de cada grupo. Se ve que los países más libres crecen más rápido que los menos libres. Y dado que la libertad económica no afecta la distribución del ingreso, ¿no son entonces los países de mercados libres los que más contribuyen a disminuir la pobreza en lugar de los países menos libres? Eso es lo que vemos en el segundo gráfico, donde se aprecia la disminución de la pobreza entre 1970 y el 2000. Son los países que crecen, los países libres, lo que contribuyen a la disminución de la pobreza que muestra el segundo gráfico. China y países de hacia adoptando principios de mercado.

 

El socialismo, sin embargo, no cesa con sus críticas. No es raro escuchar sectores de izquierda recomendar “socialismos” como el de Suecia o Noruega, por dar dos ejemplos. ¿Qué tan socialistas son estos países? Pues no mucho cuando los comparamos a nivel mundial. Según el último índice de Libertad Económica de la Heritage Foundation, estos países rankean 20 y 32 respectivamente sobre un total de 178 perteneciendo al grupo de países mayormente libres. Es decir, el socialismo critica al capitalismo y propone, como alternativa, un socialismo muy capitalista. Por más “socialistas” que se quiera presentar a estos países, siguen perteneciendo al mundo occidental, que es el marco institucional al que se refiere el liberalismo clásico (a lo que se refiere con la palabra capitalismo, término de origen Marxista).

 

Nicolás Cachanosky es Doctor en Economía, (Suffolk University), Lic. en Economía, (UCA), Master en Economía y Ciencias Políticas, (ESEADE) y Assistant Professor of Economics en Metropolitan State University of Denver.