In an interview with sheet, economist Gustavo Franco talks about his new book Bitter Lessons: A Preliminary History of Today, which he defines as a reflection of those who are tired of the frustrations of recent years, but believes that learning from the pandemic can accelerate change that brings the country to better world practices in the economic sphere.
How do you choose a moment to publish a current story that, as the subtitle of the book says, is still a preliminary story? What was the choice of the book format?
In general, we write books about ready-made facts. But in such a case, we will never write about current topics and therefore will navigate without the help of the maps offered by these efforts. It takes a lot of effort to remove from the conventionality of this moment that which is solid and permanent.
I wanted to make the book in the same tone and approach that I use in my newspaper articles. This tone differs from my last book, Currency and Law, which has a characteristic academic character, a book by a historian. This new article is like a long newspaper article. I was looking for a lighter writing, more enjoyable to read, as before.
The book talks about bitter lessons, but overall it gives an optimistic view of the moment.
The tone of the text is all positive. It is now the result of the thinking of those who are tired of the frustrations of the past few years, of reforms that are not taking place, and of a political system that is unable to provide an economy that works for the benefit of the people. It’s really frustrating, and the pandemic may have sparked this bitterness over what happened, but it could be a very positive thing if things move faster now. Maybe. I’ll take it.
A pandemic can make things happen faster, or we will continue what you classify as the “macunaímico improvement of the theorem on Lampedusa [autor de ‘O Leopardo‘]”?
Interestingly, some reforms were discussed throughout the pandemic. It was not a paralyzed object. He changed his look. I like the idea that if we had carried out reforms earlier, with more energy, with more speed, we would be better off starting a pandemic. This is another way of saying that we have too much time. They reflect all our concern for progress. It is widely believed that the pandemic has only worsened.
You draw a parallel between Goethe’s Faust and the relationship between Paulo Guedes and Bolsonaro when you talk about these fruiting.
Many people would have liked Paulo Gedes, who has influence over Jair Bolsonaro, to persuade him to carry out some liberal reforms, but no one had any illusions about how far this might go. We learned what we already knew: the president is not Paulo Gedes and that this government’s ambitions for liberal reforms are limited.
Now that this book comes out, we are much more concerned about failure than success. The very consistency of a minister is today seen as a means of preventing failure rather than ensuring progress.
Given all the cited works and studies that talk about insanity, stupidity, stupidity and imbecility, which of these concepts would you use to classify the current government?
This will be the judgment of the reader and the judgment of the voter.
In the current political scenario with our 2022 outlook, do you see a place for a candidate with a liberal agenda?
The pandemic has not helped resolve these previous disputes about government size, government role, intervention versus market. All these controversies continue, perhaps with a little change. There has been a lot of biased confirmation, but doubts remain. I do not believe that in the next elections there will be a clear victory of one side over the other.
Is the economic agenda not being discussed?
Do not stand aside. How it will appear is still a mystery to me. In the last election, it was surprising that the liberal point of view is so important in the debate about economics. It is possible that this discussion will be repeated in the next elections, because what has happened since 2018 until now has been a little upsetting. We did not have liberal reforms, which in 2018 all candidates, except for the left, announced that they were going to do it. This is a stuck agenda.
Gustavo Franco, 65 years old
PUC-Rio Master of Economics and Harvard PhD. He is the former president of the Central Bank and founding partner of Rio Bravo Investimentos. He was part of the team that came up with the real plan. Author and organizer of 15 books on economics and topics with Machado de Assis, Shakespeare and Fernando Pesoa. He joined PSDB in 1989 and left for Novo in 2017.