Publicado em 3 de Janeiro de 1982, o encontro entre 3  notáveis intelectuais continua atual. 

"E QUALITY'' has been an historic American ideal, but the means of its achievement are a matter of perennial debate. The Reagan Administration's attempts to reduce sharply various ''Great Society'' social programs and the role of the Federal Government, have provoked renewed debate on social justice and how to attain it. The Week in Review has asked Anthony Lewis, a New York Times columnist, to talk about the subject with three distinguished scholars -sociologist Daniel Bell and philosopher Robert Nozick of Harvard University and James Tobin of Yale University who received the 1981 Nobel Prize in Economics. Excerpts from their discussion follow.
Question. Professor Bell, you've said the demand for government action to equalize not only opportunity but results is the central value problem of the post-industrial society. Is that still true, or are we in a period of counterrevolution in which we have in doubt not only an effort to bring about equal results but even equal opportunity?
Prof. Bell. I think there's an effort to reverse some of the tendencies of the last few years. But one has to distinguish between a set of principles and a set of political situations. The opportunity principle has become the crucial one in American life; it's based upon some notion of a meritocracy.
However, it's quite clear that even though people start out equally, they end up unequally, and sometimes the outcomes are quite disparate, and therefore themselves become intolerable. I do believe - since I'm not one who believes rigidly in absolutizing any principle - that when the outcomes become highly disparate, there ought to be an effort to redress it.
But I don't believe in surrendering the first principle. What I think has been happening, unfortunately, is that there's been too much of a shift - until the Reagan Administration, anyway - to substitute equality of outcome for equality of opportunity, as a principle.
Q. Could you give a concrete example of a justified effort to equalize results, and one that is not?
Prof. Bell. President Johnson made a famous speech at Howard University, in which (he) said, if one is starting off shackled in the race, he will not be able to run as fast as those who are unshackled.
This became the whole premise of affirmative action. Now I do belie ve in af firmative action. However, there's been a movement in many places t owards goals, which in some sense are commensurate with what you rega rd as the fair pool of applicants in a situation. But then goals be come converted into quotas.
It's at that point, it seems to me, that a shift takes place which has not really been debated. I think it goes back to a distinction that you either treat people equally or you try to make them equal. If you treat people equally, you're treating them under law. If you try to make them equal, you're making administrative determinations. And the effort to intervene creates more and more high-handed bureaucratic distortions, which in the end become as bad as the effort to redress the situation in the first place.
Q. Professor Nozick, if I understand your view, it is that attempts by law to equalize the unequal in society, though they seek justice, must in fact be unjust. Is that right?
Prof. Nozick. Yes. The usual view is that society should establish some pattern and make alterations so that pattern gets fit, whether that pattern be equality of results in income and wealth, or distributing to everyone in accordance with their talents or their I.Q., or their need.
(In my) view, a certain process is just, and whatever outcome arises from that process of voluntary exchange -gift, bequest and so on - will be a legitimate outcome that can be altered by people's voluntary activities. But it's not an appropriate arena for the government to act in. Even the goal of equality of opportunity can be achieved only by the use of resources that other people have rights to. It is not possible to have equality of opportunity in a society that maintains a family over generations, because the achievement of one generation within a family structure will give those people resources and abilities which they will pass on to their children.
Prof. Bell. Bob, you use a curious phrase, 'whatever outcome,' and 'voluntary exchange.' Do you mean really whatever? And are exchanges really voluntary? I assume, as a sociologist, that certain patterns exist institutionally; t hey're not voluntary.
Prof. Nozick. I would like to hear from you a criterion of how disparate outcomes can be without your calling for redressing them. I am willing to say ''any outcome,'' and when you object, it is perfectly within your rights to transfer some of your resources to alter that outcome.
To the extent that there's a large social democratic movement that can enact into law redistributive schemes, there are enough people to use their own resources by voluntary means to ameliorate what they view as the worst poverty in the society. And if they devoted some of their energy towards voluntary charitable activities as opposed to trying to get legislation passed, we would find a lot of the poverty ameliorated - especially if we got rid of some of the government activities which are helping create poverty, like minimum wage laws creating unemployment among black teengers and so on.
Q. Get the government off your back?
Prof. Nozick. Get the government off everybody's back. Q. Is some intervention by the government justified to redress inequality of opportunity which is the result not of voluntary arrangements, but of some force in the past -for example, slavery?
Prof. Nozick. Yes, I do believe some intervention is justified to redress the results of past grievous injustices. (But) society isn't a race organized to give prizes. It's not that there's one contest we're all engaged in, so it's unfair if some people have a better start than others. What we have are a lot of disparate relationships of friendships, marriages - and people in all of these relationships are choosing whom to interact with and on what basis.
Q. Professor Tobin, you said recently that what happened in the Reagan Administration's budget and tax legislation represented a historic reversal of direction so that inequality of opportunity is no longer a concern of the Federal Government.
Prof. Tobin. Well, I think that's the spirit of the approach of the Administration. And the justifications given for it are very much like the ones that Professor Nozick has given.
I think that the American ideal has been that we have a race in which not dynasties but individuals have an even start. We can't avoid the fact that children who grow up in families and environments with a great deal of material and cultural wealth will have a head start in economic competition. But we have tried historically - not only our society, but other democratic capitalist societies - to arrest that dynamic which would lead by itself to ever increasing inequality, and to almost insurmountable handicaps on a majority of the children born in the society. I don't know how Professor Nozick can make it into justice.
This voluntarism business is one of the biggest red herrings thrown across this discussion. There's a basic difference bet ween what an indiv idual can do and what society can do.
I'm willing to vote and to pay the additional taxes that would be involved in doing more about poverty in this country and more about poverty in the world; I'm willing to do it if Professor Nozick does it, because if we all do it, then it will make a difference. But for him to say that the issue is solved by just telling me to do it if I like it, and he won't do it if he doesn't like it, that is an evasion of the whole question.
Prof. Nozick. Professor Tobin is willing to do it only... Prof. Bell. Sorry, there's a factual problem here... Prof. Nozick. Age before incisiveness! Prof. Tobin. Before beauty, too!
Prof. Bell. Both (Prof. Nozick and Prof. Tobin) have talked about family advantage as somehow being overly decisive. I think to some extent it's exaggerated. The great expansion of opportunity in this country does not come primarily from wealth, it comes from what technology does in expanding the new kinds of social structure, the new kinds of occupations. Today, 25 percent of the labor force in this country is professional, technical and managerial - an extraordinary figure against any time before.
It's your occupation which is going to give you a social status, it's your occupation which is going to give you an access to a certain larger income. That's not necessarily a voluntary process. It comes in part through education and in part from advantage as such. You've got, therefore, a large-scale changing technology and social structure, in which family advantage plays some role but a lesser role as against expansion of opportunity structure as a whole.
Prof. Nozick. Well, a lot of points have been raised. First, Professor Tobin wants to give not only if other people give but, in fact, he wants to give only if everybody else is forced to give.
Prof. Tobin. I didn't say that. You wouldn't say that if I want the country to be defended I should make a donation to the Defense Department. Would you? Prof. Nozick. As Professor Tobin well knows, there's a difference be tween a public good and the alleviation of poverty. (But) if we wa nt to separate it from the issue of public good, then, yes, I wouldsa y that those members of the American Communist Party who do not th ink that the United States is facing any external threat, and don'twa nt there to be that sort of national defense, and don't view th emselves as getting anything good by it, should not be forced to co ntribute to national defense. The issue is not whether one in dividual gives all alone versus whether the whole society is forcedto give. There are a large number of examples of people voluntarily gr ouping together to have a big effect in the society by pooling th eir resources.
Prof. Tobin. How do you know the government isn't one of those voluntary associations? Prof. Nozick. Because the government puts me in jail if I don't contribute my tax money; so, unlike the Community Chest, my participating there doesn't count as voluntary.
Now, it's not that everybody wants to end up with what they actually end up with. I might like to play on a professional basketball team, but nobody will offer me money to do that, and nobody will come see me play. That doesn't mean that anything unfair is happening to me. The fact that I am not a professional basketball player is a result of the voluntary activities of everybody in the society - reluctantly by me and non-reluctantly by other people.
Prof. Bell. Bob, I think your point is true only to the extent that you can make a relevant distinction between needs and wants. This distinction, which, as you know, goes back to Aristotle, says in effect that needs are common to all members of a society. Wants are idiosyncratic and individual.
And I think that if one accepts the distinction between needs which are common to all members of a society -and which in a sense inhere as public goods, then there's an obligation of a society to try to provide some of its own resources to create a common sense of those minimum goods. Call it a safety net, call it a minimum income, call it something which involves a sense of dignity.
Prof. Nozick. It's very difficult to know what people's absolute needs are, as psychologists who study these things tell us. And, in fact, what would be called minimal needs now are not what people thought they were in earlier centuries. As the society becomes more and more prosperous, more things get defined as basic needs. There becomes a relative definition of poverty so that the lowest tenth of the population always counts as poor, no matter what. And for that reason, the poor will always be with us.
Prof. Tobin. I don't know how Professor Nozick knows which things are rights and which are not, but it seems to me that in addition to inheritance - both cultural and material - the actual outcomes depend a lot on luck.
So the question is whether there's anything wrong with a sort of mutual insura nce about luck, in which the society decides to help outthose people who have bad luck and do it at the expense of people whohave good luc k, thus somewhat moderating the extremes of both good and bad fortu ne.
There's a pragmatic point, too. I mean there is a limit to the degree of inequality of opportunity and inequality of outcome which can be tolerated while maintaining the web of consent on which a democratic society rests. I read the other day that the president of Mobil Oil Corporation gets a $1,500,000 salary per year. You compare that with the minimum wage and that's an immense differential. Those differentials are evident to us and to our children and to all people in the United States every day in television and magazines and so on.
Q. That seems to be an important consideration. You have people who feel so left out of society's benefits that they make it worse for all of us who are more equal than they. So isn't there a strictly self-interested motivation for us to enlist the state on the side of greater equality?
Prof. Nozick. As for what the Mobil chairman earns, I assume that's something that Professor Tobin could take up with the stockholders of that company; if they are paying the chairman too much and somebody else can offer to do the same job as efficiently, then that's their business and not a concern of mine.
Prof. Tobin. There's nothing more dangerous than a philosopher who's learned a little bit of economics. Prof. Nozick. Unless it's an economist who hasn't learned any philosophy. As far as the web of consent is concerned, one reason, certainly, that people have introduced redistributive schemes is that in the absence of them, there might be great social tension in the society and it would be hard for it to function.
I take it that's why many of the people are calling for redistribution within the United States, but not across national boundaries even though there's a far greater degree of poverty out there -in India and other countries - that we might redistribute to.
Prof. Bell. It seems to me th e very nature of citizenship is to raise a question. People will ask, 'How can I be loyal to a society, if the society isn't loyal to me?' If in invo luntary ways I lose my job, am I entitled to certain degrees of supp ort as a result of it?
Prof. Nozick. Now that's quite extraordinary. For a large portion of the history of this nation we had people who were loyal to this society because it provided freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, and an arena in which they could carry on their own individual lives. And now we seem to be told that, people's loyalty depends on the continued provision of these things that the welfare state gives them.
Prof. Bell. It's not a matter of people being loyal on the basis of getting handouts from the welfare state. When you get into a society where more and more people are involved in situations where things happen to them involuntarily because they're tied in so many kinds of problems -the levels of employment and other such things, as we know - that becomes the issue.
Q. Are you saying that today, because society is so much more mass industrial or, as you put it, technical-managerial, it is less susceptible of the kind of self-help we had in the artisan-farmer stage?
Prof. Bell. Well, I'll put it more bluntly. In a sense, it's been necessary to widen our concept of what the obligations of citizenship are both to the society and the society to us. In earlier times, the obligation may have been much more minimal - a question of simple protections and liberties of speech, etc. Today, the rise of the obvious interdependence of the economic world, and the technological changes, means in effect that there are many more problems which are involuntary and which involve people in some larger cooperative effort.
Prof. Nozick. I would like to ask how (you) decide how much equality is enough. After all, the Reagan Administration is not rolling back to 1895. If we took some baseline, a year like 1950 - we have had a vast expansion of the welfare state. And nobody said that in 1950 we had a terrible society.
Prof. Bell. It is axiomatic that there is no physical subsistence which defines needs and wants, otherwise we'd all be back at the caveman stage. These are changing social definitions because societies have rising standards of living. (But) there are certain rough lines. My colleague Lee Rainwater has done some interesting studies dealing with the poor, and it turns out that uniformly, most people say that what they would be happy with is one-half the median income of the country.
Well, that's a rough line. If we can have some rough social definition of needs for a society, then what people do with the rest of their money is their own business. So we can try to reconcile some degree of individual variation and freedom with a sense of social responsibility. And I see this as a median line, if you will, or a social m edian between extreme egalitarians on the one hand and extreme indiv iduals on the other.
Prof. Tobin. I don't think anybody here is advocating a policy of strict equality, or of attempting by state intervention in taxation or otherwise to produce strict equality of outcomes. Economists understand that there's a trade-off between egalitarian or inequality-mitigating policies, and efficiency in the economy. The majority of voters themselves, if they were rational, would not want to confiscate the income and wealth of those who have higher incomes than they do, because that would put a greater burden on the majority to support the public services and public goods that have to be supported.
There's no pragmatic distinction between redistribution through the Federal or governmental fisc (the treasury) and distribution of the burden of financing public goods. For example, a defense program is 5 percent of national output; it's going to rise to 7 percent under the program of the Reagan Administration. Now, somebody has to decide - Congress, the voting public - how the burden of financing gets distributed, whether the taxation to finance it is progressive or proportional, whether it's a sales tax, or what. It's very difficult to say that's not a redistributive decision.
In regard to the Reagan Administration, naturally the apparatus that has grown in the last 30 or 40 years is not being dismantled all in one day. But the direction has certainly changed.
Professor Nozick was asking, 'when will people be satisfied?' The fact is, that the distribution of wealth and income in the United States has changed almost not at all in the last 30 to 35 years. The safety net programs at the bottom have raised the absolute standard of living of the lowest fifth, but the general quintile distribution, the amounts of wealth and income corresponding to the various quintiles of the distribution, are still about the same.
Prof. Nozick. The question is why it has hardly changed, even though there have been many government programs that purportedly have attempted to change it. One reason surely is that many of these programs really have worked to benefit the middle and upper class. If we cut out those activities, such as subsidies to wealt hy farmers andto various industries in the United States, w e would find that we hadless inequality.
Q. Professor Tobin, could I just ask about two justifications given for the Reagan economics. One is that we had overdone the trade-off you spoke of by spending too much on redistribution with such heavy penalties on investment that, in effect, the pie had stopped growing. And secondly, that government had become overburdened, and particularly that a lot of the more recent Great Society programs were not very effective.
Prof. Tobin. Well, I don't think there is any evidence that the reason for the slowdown in productivity growth was the size of government.
Nor do I think that these particular tax programs - some of the changes in tax programs were needed - but they were neither necessary or sufficient to revive productivity or capital formation or investment.
After all, we did - and so did the democratic European and Asian countries - have the greatest period of economic growth and rising standards of living in economic history since the Second World War at the same time that we had what you might call social welfare programs growing. And we were able to show that capitalist democracies can be humane and avoid destabilizing business cycles and have high rates of growth all at the same time for a long period of time.
I don't think we should think that because we had a period of OPEC shocks and a hard time of adjustment to them that all that experience is discredited. It's true that many of the Great Society programs didn't work as well as expected. However, many of the benefit programs, like food stamps and so on, are credited by their opponents as well as their supporters with having essentially brought poverty as conservatively defined by the Federal Government, down close to zero. Some people think they should be abandoned because they didn't work and some people think they should be abandoned because they did.
Prof. Bell. It seems to me that, by and large, government finds itself unable to do things when it becomes the regulatory agency or the operating agency in a society.
Publicado na edição de  de 3 de Janeiro de 1982J

In principle - you can't always apply it across the board - you try to have a framework of social goals and use market mechanisms within that to have people make their own decisions as to how they will adjust within the framework of social goals.
But I think the larger problem is essentially (the question) Prof. Nozick raised of how far one is prepared to go in redistribution on a world scale. So many of our discussions don't take into account the most remarkable fact that we're now embedded completely in a world economy where we lose more and more control of our ability to act.
The national s tate has become too small for the big problems of life and too big for the small problems of life. We have centripetal forces and we have centrifugal forces. Our scales don't match. And that, it seem s to me, is the ultimate problem for the next 20 or 30 years.
Prof. Nozick. It is a more complex, interdependent world than we used to live in. I draw the opposite conclusion from the one that Dan Bell draws. I think because it's more complex and interdependent, it's more important to keep the government out - and especially to keep supranational agencies out.

Fonte: NYTimes