Laws, cards and ethics


Author: Roberto DaMatta

Source: O Estado de S. Paulo, 20/02/2008

A provisional measure signed in January banned the sale of alcoholic beverages on the banks of the highways by President Lula on the 21st of feds. Everything indicates that the law worked, reducing fatal accidents. However, injunctions show that many consider themselves to be wronged. As always, we have a recurring dilemma: how to institute a stricter law in a democracy? In a regime where citizens are legally free, equal and have the right to seek their well-being? In Brazil, this “well-being” includes (among other things) the old woman the good “cold beer” that users assume - as revealed by a research I have been doing with Futura Pesquisa in the State of Espírito Santo - to act in a relative way. Everyone believes that some people are more affected than others, so the general prohibition does the injustice of putting a saint and a sinner in the same pot. Within this logic, universal legislation would be impossible, since all would contain a seed of injustice.


How, in an environment of individual freedoms, to make a law and extract efficient public policies from it? Whatever the society, the dilemma re-raises the issue of values. The problem of priorities that articulate the various interests, subordinating them to each other and, of course, bearing the consequences, because everything in this world produces positive and negative results. The dividing lines of the criminal are always - we are learning hard - arbitrary.


More: all are subject to quackery, trickery and disobedience. But if there is no law that does not produce its counterpart, it at least leads to a reflection that has not been made in Brazil. I refer to our taste for laws, and our disregard for educational campaigns that, discussing the implications and meaning of regulations, replace the police and punitive reaction with preventive awareness. That the law be implemented, of course, but that - alongside it - there will be a wide-ranging debate on how it will affect and interfere with our most common or routine behaviors. Without such a dialogue, we will continue to change everything by law, leaving intact the social practices and habits that the law aims to influence, restrain and change.


In society, it is common to want one thing and accomplish another. In Brazil, the end of slavery did not only produce freed black citizens, it produced mainly a multitude of clients and personal dependents of their former owners, who went from masters to bosses. The same logic arises in our pathetic attempts to end the so-called “bureaucracy” that demands laborious paperwork and incredible “proofs” of residence and even life. Therefore, the card ends up being worth more than the person; because without the “role”, we are simply disqualified “individuals”. How many governments do you remember, dear reader, that were going to end corruption and invented the monthly allowance? That they were going to settle the crime and routinized the scandal, the center of which was always the axiom that "the State is ours" and not the old and famous "the State is us". In the latter case, the responsibility for public affairs was absolutely the king's; in Brazil, it is always from someone else: from newspapers, from the opposition, and from badly written or not yet drafted laws!


We adopted the corporate credit card as a mechanism to simplify the spending of people theoretically responsible for good order and for the transparent management of public affairs and, in the end, we created just the opposite. I am in favor of a CPI that goes back to the days of Dom João Charuto. But I hope that my intelligence and, above all, my sensitivity are respected, and the card or its regulations are not blamed for the government's misdeeds with its use and distribution. The use of the card, like the other instruments of modern expenditure demonstration - automatic and accurate -, today form one of the most striking blades of the satanic mill of liberalism among us. For the government may say that they know nothing, but electronic statements do not lie. Everything indicates that the new (and old) owners of power have not yet understood that the globalized liberalism of the real demands an unexpected coherence not only between what is said and what is done, but between what is said and what is spent. It is no longer possible to spend public resources as in the past, stealing from inaccessible places of the electoral people. When the economic encompasses the political, the accounts appear as more basic than vague ideas and populist appeals. The programs are worth more than the politicians who present them; politicians who are consistent with what belongs to the people are worth more than those who speak in their name, but buy jewelry, flowers and - PQP! - tapioca with our money. Be patient and take ethics!