God and the castaways in the country of transgression

book-culture-trangressWill Brazil one day be able to overcome corruption, tax evasion, piracy and other such tricks?

Anthropologist Roberto DaMatta addressed this subject in a humorous way at a seminar on the cultural reasons behind disobedience to laws in Brazil, held some years ago by ETCO-Brazilian Institute of Ethics in Competition and by the iFHC Institute.

At the event, which gave rise to the book Cultura das Transgressões no Brasil - Lições de História (Saraiva, 133 pag., R $ 52), he told two anecdotes and presented an optimistic conclusion. Remembering the three thoughts of the anthropologist helps to feed hope. Check out:


Anecdote 1: God and presidents

One day, God showed his benevolent side and allowed to answer with His terrifying divine sincerity to a question, and only one, to be asked by Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and José Sarney, then presidents of the Soviet Union, the United States and Brazil .

Chosen to be the first, Gorbatchev asked whether the Soviet Union could survive without the Communist Party and ethnic conflicts. The thunder that represented the voice of God said: "Gorbachev, one day everything will be at peace in your country, but it will not be in your administration."

Then Reagan asked when racial conflicts were going to end in the United States, to which God replied: "Ronald, one day everything will be resolved, but it will not be in your administration."

Finally, when Sarney's turn came, he asked when inflation would end in Brazil. And God, in his infinite realism, replied: "Sarney, one day you will overcome inflation, but it will not be in MY administration".


Anecdote 2: Castaways from 4 countries

A ship with castaways was adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. Inside was an Englishman, a Russian communist, two Americans, three Brazilians and two cynics.

One cynic turns to the other and says:

- Want to bet that I make them all jump in the water?

- I doubt it!

He called the Englishman and said:

- The traditions of the English navy demand that you jump in the water.

The Englishman jumped.

Then he called the Russian and said:

- The Communist Party demands that you jump in the water.

He jumped.

With the Americans it was the greatest tranquility:

- There is an insurance of 5 million dollars if you jump in the water.

The two jumped.

The three Brazilians were talking to each other and had paid no attention to anything. The cynic came to them and said:

- Gentlemen, it is forbidden to jump in the water.

The three jumped.


  • The optimistic conclusion


Anthropologist Roberto DaMatta used the first anecdote to remember something that new generations may not even be able to imagine: how hard it was to believe, in the 80s and 90s, that Brazil could overcome inflation. At that time, the country amended one economic plan after another, without success. The anecdote expresses, according to DaMatta, "the spirit of the traditional and well-established Brazilian catastrophism according to which the country has no way", since "not even God would be able to promote the cure of the so-called" inflationary dragon "".

But, as the anthropologist recalled at the event promoted by ETCO, the country managed to overcome inflation, demonstrating that Brazilian society has the necessary rationality to face complex problems that require serious and permanent combat. And he expressed the opinion that, sooner or later, Brazil will also be able to win the battle against corruption. "I am convinced that the success in controlling a fundamental dimension of Brazil's economy, such as inflation, forms the backdrop for a growing reaction to the scandals motivated by transgressions," he said. If he is right, one day the second anecdote, which presents transgression as a typical Brazilian trait, will also cease to make sense

Culture of Transgressions - Scenarios of Tomorrow

Consolidated economic stability after 17 years of the Real Plan, respect for democratic rules and the rise of class C are factors that pave the way for changing a culture that has been jamming the machine of Brazilian society since the 16th century: the culture of transgressions .

Certain that in order to rise to the most developed societies in history, it is essential that the country manages to advance within the legal environment, the Brazilian Institute of Competitive Ethics (ETCO) and the Fernando Henrique Cardoso Institute (iFHC) are determined to lead a process that makes transgression a term of the past.

Culture of Transgressions - Scenarios of Tomorrow is the third book in the series that started in 2008 with Culture of Transgressions - Lessons from History, followed by Culture of Transgressions - Visions of the Present, 2009. Like the previous two, this work is the result of a homonymous debate, held at iFHC in April , bringing together four of its five authors: Aristides Junqueira; Marcílio Marques Moreira; Paul Singer and Renato Janine Ribeiro to discuss ways to change this culture, rooted in a part of the Brazilian population.

“The partnership between iFHC and ETCO has been invaluable to sustain the discussion on the issue of transgression, since the innovations and transformations of society have to obey permanent guidelines regarding ethical principles. It is not because the next one disrespects ethical principles that we can do the same. It is necessary to join forces to act without transgression and to demand that our representatives in the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches not violate. Then, yes, we will have the tomorrow we want for Brazil. ” (Roberto Abdenur, Executive President of ETCO)


About the authors:

Aristides Junqueira Alvarenga holds a master's degree in law from the Faculty of Law of the University of São Paulo and a bachelor's degree in Law from the Faculty of Law of the Federal University of Minas Gerais. He was Attorney General of the Republic for three terms. He is the author of the book “The criminal jurisdiction of the Federal Court of First Instance” (Saraiva) and dozens of articles and essays on legal topics. He received several official decorations, as well as titles of honorary citizenship from States and Municipalities.

Gilmar Ferreira Mendes he is minister of the Superior Electoral Court, of which he was president between the years of 2008 and 2010. He also held the presidency of the National Council of Justice (2008/2010) and of the Superior Electoral Court (2006). He is a professor of Constitutional Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Brasilia and the Brasiliense Institute of Public Law. Doctor of Law from the University of Münster, Germany, he is an individual member of the Venice Commission. He has dozens of published works, including “Course on Constitutional Law” (Saraiva).

Marcílio Marques Moreira, president of the ETCO Advisory Council, holds a bachelor's degree in law from the State University of Rio de Janeiro and a master's degree in political science from Georgetown University. He is an honorary member of the University Council of PUC and an effective member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic University of Petrópolis and the Fundação Getulio Vargas, among other academic and cultural institutions in Brazil and the United States. University professor since 1956, he held a series of public positions, as Brazilian ambassador to the United States and Minister of Finance.

Paul Israel Singer he is the national secretary of Solidarity Economy at the Ministry of Labor and Employment and a full professor at the Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting at the University of São Paulo. He was São Paulo's Municipal Planning Secretary (1989-1992). He is the author of “Learning the economy”, “Brazil in crisis - dangers and opportunities”, “Political economy of urbanization”, “Globalization and unemployment”, “What is the economy” and “To understand the financial world”, and author of “The solidarity economy in Brazil”, all by Editora Contexto.

Renato Janine Ribeiro Current Minister of Education, he is a professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy at the University of São Paulo, where he also received his doctorate, after defending his master's degree at Sorbonne. Among others, he published the following books: “The society against the social: the high cost of public life in Brazil” (Companhia das Letras, 2000, Jabuti Award) and “The last reason of the kings” (Companhia das letras, 2002) and “For a new policy” (Ateliê Editorial, 2003). He was director of evaluation at Capes (2004-2008), as well as visiting professor at Columbia University.

Projects and Initiatives

Electronic invoice

We contributed to the design, implementation and improvement of the Electronic Invoice project, which began to take effect in 2006. The System improved inspection, reduced tax evasion and reduced costs for tax authorities and companies.

Inspection Support Systems

We help to develop mechanisms to control the manufacture of products with high tax evasion power, such as the Beverage Production Control System (Sicobe) and the Cigarette Production Control and Tracking System (Scorpios).

Member of CNCP - National Council for Combating Piracy and Intellectual Property Offenses

The National Council for Combating Piracy and Offenses against Intellectual Property (CNCP), a collegiate and advisory body of the Ministry of Justice, aims to develop guidelines for the formulation and proposition of a national plan to combat piracy, its tax evasion. arising and offenses against intellectual property.

Underground Economy Index

ETCO believes that knowing the size of the problem is critical to tackling it. Much is said, but little is known about informality, piracy and evasion, as, as illegal activities, they are difficult to measure. In a pioneering initiative, ETCO, together with the Brazilian Institute of Economics of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (IBRE-FGV), annually publishes the Underground Economy Index, a study that estimates the values ​​of activities deliberately not declared to public authorities with the purpose of evading taxes.

To learn more about the Shadow Economy Index, click here

Simplification of the Tax System

Convinced that the complexity of the Brazilian tax system is one of the factors that encourage tax evasion, ETCO has contributed with concrete suggestions for greater efficiency in the payment, inspection and tax collection system. Among these proposals are the federal, state and municipal cadastral unification; the principle of full anteriority, with main ancillary obligations defined until June 30 of the previous year, subject to regulatory taxes; and the simplification of procedures for registration and registration of companies.

Special taxation regimes

One of ETCO's suggestions culminated in the promulgation of Article 146-A, resulting from Constitutional Amendment No. 42/2003. The article foresees that States, the Federal District and municipalities, in addition to the Union, institute differentiated taxation systems in order to prevent competitive imbalances caused by the actions of individuals who use the reduction of their tax costs to gain spurious competitive advantages. ETCO acts with a view to the enactment of a complementary law, essential for the application of the article.

Union of forces for the legal market

We created, in partnership with the National Forum to Combat Piracy (FNCP), the Movement in Defense of the Brazilian Legal Market, which joins forces to act in a coordinated manner in the fight against smuggling, piracy, fraud and counterfeiting of products and defends border control actions. The Movement has the support of 70 entities. Within the scope of cities, also in partnership with the FNCP, we created the Legality Movement, which unites forces between civil society, city halls, the Federal Revenue Service, the Federal Police, parliament, state agencies and the National Front of Mayors to fight, effectively and forcefully the illegal market in Brazilian cities.

Studies, seminars and publications

We sponsor dozens of research, events and books on topics related to ethics, including the Culture of Transgressions in Brazil series, which brings together contributions from great Brazilian thinkers, including the sociologist and former President of the Republic Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

International operations

We are members of committees that fight transnational illicit practices that provoke unfair competition. In 2016, we joined the Latin American Anti-Smuggling Alliance (ALAC), which brings together civil society entities and government agencies from 15 Latin American nations in the search for joint actions to stop smuggling in the region; in 2017, we started to act in this direction also with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Recognition of ethical companies

We are part of the management committee of Pró-Ética, a recognition program for companies committed to ethics in their relations with the public sector. Pró-Ética was created in 2010 by the Ministry of Transparency, Inspection and Controllership-General of the Union (CGU) in partnership with the Ethos Institute.

Ethics for young people

To strengthen the ethical principles in the training of Brazilian students, we created the Ethics for Young People project. The initiative developed and made available to high school teachers, at the address www.eticaparajovens.com.br, a series of pedagogical activities to deal with the theme with its students in a pleasant and engaging way, stimulating critical thinking.

Culture of Transgressions in Brazil - Lessons from History

Second edition of the book edited by ETCO in partnership with iFHC investigates the origin of practices that escape the sense of responsibility. The work was prepared based on a seminar, held in August 2007 at iFHC, where the central issue was the culture of transgressions in Brazil.

Few reflections have deserved the theme of transgressions in Brazil, despite the fact that the practice of behavior contrary to laws, norms and codes of conduct is so ingrained in the way of being of the Brazilian people, in the individual and in the social, as to be an element of building national memory.


The urgency - always present - of the need to bring to light the debate on such a complex and diffuse subject makes reading the book Culture of Transgressions in Brazil - Lessons of History, recently launched by ETCO - Brazilian Institute of Ethics Concurrential, essential. in partnership with Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso, iFHC. Under the coordination of ex-minister Marcílio Marques Moreira and ex-president Fernando Henrique himself, and with a presentation by the economist and ETCO president, André Franco Montoro Filho, the book brings a good overview of the various facets that shape transgressions, with the concern to try to trace throughout the history of the country the origin and evolution of practices that escape the sense of responsibilities and obligations in the most diverse segments, both in the public and private spheres.


Because they are multifaceted, transgressions allow different interpretations and approaches, and it is precisely in the “richness” of the ways of feeling and facing the theme, so vital to the widening of the discussion, the great contribution of the ETCO initiative together with the iFHC. The result of a seminar dedicated to the theme, the book brings together texts by four experts, experts in the country's social, political and cultural issues, from the perspective of History, Law, Anthropology and Political Science.


Joaquim Falcão, director of the FGV-Rio School of Law, introduces in his text the notion of “collectivized transgressions”, in which the repeated and customary practice of individual transgressions ends up exceeding the limit of the unit to gain the form of the collective, understood by him as a result of the repetition of the same act by millions of people or entities. It uses property law to discuss in a practical way about three situations characteristic of the growing illegalization of everyday life: the right to housing, the related issue of definitive deed and copyright. Falcão believes that they are examples of the monopoly legal structure established in the country. He defends the diversification of legislation in the form of a pluralization of legal acts in accordance with the most complex and differentiated aspects that guide social relations today.


Historian José Murilo de Carvalho, on the other hand, delves into the concept of legal monopoly and highlights in his text the role that laws and coroners have always played in the country's political evolution. For him, the set of laws, which benefits the operators of the police and legal system, has the effect of elitizing justice and inciting transgression. It is as if what José Murilo calls “legiferous fury” worked as a kind of feedback factor for transgression, creating a vicious circle that would only benefit the law enforcers themselves or those who can pay the costs of a lawsuit.


To break with this state of affairs, José Murilo believes that some attitudes, in the way of thinking and acting, would need to disappear from society, such as the moralistic stance characteristic of “udenism”, fatalism and pragmatic cynicism, in addition to the current view of that the law is somewhat disposable, instead of being understood as an end, necessary for the survival of the system of representative democracy.



In the economy, the country sustains a sophisticated and advanced system, but it is still subordinated to a heavy and backward institutional framework



Anthropologist Roberto DaMatta's text highlights the “representative” aspect of the perpetrator's surroundings as, for him, the variable “who was” would encompass the nature of the crime committed in a complication of the complex of egalitarian and hierarchical values. "Our problem would not be the law, but the care in its application, which forces us to consider who committed the crime," he says. Here too, the importance of a deeper change in social values ​​that leads to the politicization of the issue is raised, because, DaMatta believes, without being aware of the difference between “transgression” and “transgressions” conceived and lived in specific societies, endowed with a regime of guilt, shame, respect and honor that is equally particular, the trend is to continue introducing legal mechanisms that, "even if they are able to surround the entire block, let the thief escape".


Political scientist Bolívar Lamounier tries to establish a relationship between transgression and the market economy. His intriguing article questions the possibility of the middle class playing the role of an agent for revising values ​​and providing political support to boost the market economy and to stop the escalation of transgression. Would, he asks, be the Brazilian middle class a solution or a problem in the context of the issue of transgressions? The answer is not trivial. Bolívar is, however, convinced that the persistent increase in transgression in Brazil is an inevitable correlate of the modernization process, the price paid for a dynamic, modern and democratic society. The other side of the issue, he points out, is the accumulated delay in the institutional field, in the construction of values ​​and standards of sociability comparable to those of more developed countries. Reading the book Culture of Transgressions in Brazil confirms the perception that we live in a deeply dichotomous reality: the country operates in a sophisticated and advanced system in the economic sector, but is still subordinated to a heavy and backward institutional system. Between one and the other, a society proliferates that benefits from the progress of the economy while trying to survive jumps, jumping from branch to branch.


* Maria Clara RM do Prado is a journalist and director of Cin - Comunicação Inteligente, a columnist for the newspaper Valor Econômico and author of the book A Real História do Real, published by Record.