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China’s economy in 2019: Another year of gray rhino

Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the term “black swan” to describe high improbable events that none consider but that in the long run, they turn out to be the events that shape our financial and economic system[1]. It goes without saying that the last economic crisis in 2008 could have been described as a black swan event. On the contrary, some coined the term “gray rhino”[2] to describe a widely known systemic financial risk that is ever-present but never realized, so it becomes increasingly unimportant.

China’s economy fits especially well in the term “gray rhino” as the potential bust of its economic system may well trigger an economic downturn across the board and at the same time, everyone knows about the huge systemic risks that China’s economy poses for the global economy.

In this article, we aim to investigate (i) the evolution of the well-known financial risks in China, (ii) the long-term prospects of China’s economy when it comes to economic prosperity and (iii) the likelihood that the financial risk could materialize in the foreseeable future.

  1. One party rule

Much has been discussed about the long-term economic consequences of a non-democratic government. The evidence[3] suggests a direct link between the quality of the institutions and the level of living standards in the long-term. Good institutions that guarantee freedom of speech, separation of powers, rule-of-law and a system of check and balances that prevents the government from owning too much power, create a structure of incentives that make possible a path towards high economic prosperity.

In China, according to rule-of-law indicators of the World Bank, the quality of the institutions is very low, corruption is still driving economic life, internet control is rampant, and the financial system is still controlled by the state, both creating credit allocation inefficiencies and distorting the private ownership principle of individuals by forbidding the free competition among banks.

However, China’s companies and individuals at the same time can benefit from the intellectual capital from foreign companies and from high quality institutions placed in Hong Kong. Also, Chinese society has a rich culture and social values that come from Confucian and Taoist traditions still present in China[4]. These facts provide a cushion for private companies and individuals to thrive despite the one-party rule and low-quality institutions in China.

For these reasons, we believe that China will never achieve a high level of economic prosperity unless its institutions will guarantee economic freedom, social and political freedom, rule-of-law and limited-power government. Currently, the GDP per cápita in China is below 9,000 dollars[5], considered to be a middle-income country or even a low-income country. By contrast, Taiwan GDP per cápita is almost 3 times higher, close to 25,000 dollars.

China experimented with communism during the Mao era, resulting in a GDP per capita of 614 dollars in 1950, even below Republic Democratic of Congo. After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping created an economic revolution, allowing foreign companies, joining to the World Trade Organization, increasing the legal certainty and reducing the planification of the economy as well as allowing individuals to freely set prices. Since then, China’s GDP per capita advanced quite rapidly being already in the 181th position in the world by GDP per capita.

Nonetheless, after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 the speed of the economic reforms was reduced significantly as the party seen jeopardized its one-party rule and decided to give more room to State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) over private enterprises, increase the degree of social control and censorship and increase the level of taxation. Since 1989, the GDP per cápita in China was advancing at a slower pace. It took 27 years to overtake 81 countries in the world. In 1990, China was the 181th richest country in the world per GDP per capita; in 2017 it is the 99th richest country in the world. In conclusion, China will never join the club of rich countries unless China has high-quality institutions and eliminate the one-party rule. This is according to our opinion, the biggest threat to economic prosperity in China.

  1. Economic slowdown despite easing measures

China as a dictatorship under the Chinese Communist Party rule, still controls a wide range of issues in the country. According to research, the size of the Chinese government is 400% of the GDP, a percentage much larger than other economies, such as the US. Recall that China own all the land in the country, the biggest companies are state-owned and that all major commercial banks are also nationalized, being a branch of the Ministry of Finance.

In addition, China imposes capital control measures along with a fixed-exchange-rate regime. This means that China’s government attempt to maintain the currency exchange rate within a set range. This gives an additional layer of economic control. China could devaluate its currency to foster net exports and shore up its economic growth. In addition, China can restrict the free movement of capital, so that malinvestments in China are shored up since the money is captive in China. Due to this fact, big Chinese companies that could otherwise invest in more profitable projects in other countries are forced to invest in low-quality projects in China. This may explain why China has lingering doubts about its economic soundness, being dubbed as “gray rhino”. China may be facing several financial bubbles, but they are shored up by captive money and government controls. Evidence suggests that after the financial crash in 2015 in China, the money flew to real estate in tier 2 cities like Shenzhen.

In 2008, China’s government implemented a credit binge through its 4 trillion RMB stimulus package, via local government debt and ordering a credit spree to commercial banks. As a result, China entered the club of the most indebted emerging economies in the world. In 2016, the total debt of China reached 166% of the GDP. In consequence, the Chinese government implemented several measures to deleverage the economy, including the following ones:

  • Tighter monetary policy
  • Cleaning zombie companies
  • Increase discipline to State-Owned-Enterprises (SOEs)
  • Control of Local Government Financing Vehicles (LGFVs)
  • Prevent banks from lending to sectors with overcapacity
  • Restriction of shadow banking activities

In 2018, China’s economic slowdown deepened as shown by weaker than expected figures in industrial production, retail sales, auto sales and fixed-asset investment. At the same time, China is facing uncertainty regarding trade negotiations with the US, after US administration decides to impose higher tariffs to Chinese products. In the meantime, both administrations are negotiating a new trade deal, that may include Chinese concessions to the US.

Because of this economic slowdown and high debt, the capacity of the Chinese government to implement new easing and stimulus measures through credit is rather limited. Therefore, the government decided to continue clamping down local government debt while decided to loosen its monetary policy. The Chinese government decided to reduce the reserve requirement ratio for commercial banks, thereby increasing the overall liquidity in the financial system. Moreover, the government also announced a decline in payroll taxes for both individual and companies, the reduction in the VAT tax and import tax, an attempt to foster the economy without increasing the debt levels of the country.

Despite the high level of debt in China and the economic slowdown, we consider that China’s government still have the capacity to handle this economic downturn, due to the following factors:

  • The saving ratio of China’s economy is still very high, as China’s economy does not have a fully developed welfare state. This means that individuals need to save to cope with uncertainties about retirement and health, but also that the expenses of the government are lower and having less deficit and debt.
  • China’s control over the whole economy is very high. China can control its currency and capital flows, the interest rates and most of the credit that flow through its banking system. Also, China’s government -as happened in the past- may ban the sale of stocks or assets to prevent the price to drop.
  • RMB devaluation

At the same time most of the economist recognized China’s economy as a “gray rhino”, namely, a well-known flawed economy whose risk never materialized, the RMB registered two waves of steep devaluation, shoring up its economic growth.

During the stock market crash in August 2015 in China, the RMB registered a significant devaluation (from August 2015 to January 2017, -13.7%) and during the recent economic slowdown, it is registering its steepest devaluation since 1994 (from April 2018 to November -10.5%).

This devaluation of the Chinese currency is caused by several factors:

  • Strong USD due to a strong US economy and rising interest rated in the US
  • Uncertainties regarding trading relationships between China and the US
  • Loose monetary policy in China to cope with a slowdown in China
  • Weaker economic growth


  1. Conclusion


  1. In long-run China will never be a developed country with a high-income GDP per capita unless China will improve its institutions and abandon its one-party rule.
  2. China’s GDP growth is slowing, and the debt is mounting. However, China’s government still have the capacity to cope with financial hurdles.
  3. Trading negotiations with the US are the biggest risk to China’s economy. If China’s economy makes ambitions concessions to the US opening its economy to US imports and competition, it may mean higher living standards for both US and China, but lower control of the Chinese Communist Party over China’s economy.
  4. China is increasingly facing a trade-off between its citizen’s prosperity and China’s Communist Party control over China’s economy. This trade-off is especially obvious in the trading relations with the US.

[1] The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Nassim Nicholas Taleb

[2] The gray rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore. Michele Wucker

[3] Law, Finance, and Economic Growth in China. Franklin Allen, Jun Qian Meijun Qian, The Wharton School

[4] Law, Finance, and Economic Growth in China. Franklin Allen, Jun Qian Meijun Qian, The Wharton School

[5] International Monetary Fund, 2017

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Trump’s unintended consequences

Donald Trump’s brinkmanship could prove positive for the world?

Roughly two years ago, the world crumbled into despair in the wake of Trump’s victory in 2016 US Elections. Undoubtedly, populism and nationalism came into the US like an elephant in a China shop. What a change!

The most common feeling following the shocking Trump victory was incredulity. As many other politicians, Trump had been acting and lying during the campaign, the policies that he would carry out would be quite another thing. He is not building the wall, he is not stopping world trade. Moreover, both his own party and Democrats would stop any attempt in line with the Trump’s most radical narrative. The ‘check and balance’ US democratic system would ensure it. Even Barack Obama dared to foresee a change in Donald’s opinions after some experience in the administration and after receiving some advisory.

Be that as it may, the truth is that Donald Trump is carrying out many of the policies he promised during the campaign and he maintains its outspoken political style relentlessly. He swiftly withdrew from the Transpacific Partnership deal (TPP) and the negotiations from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal (TTIP). He also ordered to renegotiate NAFTA agreement. Many of this withdrawals were made through executive orders with immediate effect.

Financial markets received US President with open arms, in the hope that the fight against world trade had been a bluff and that he instead would revert some hefty regulations in the US, thereby bolstering US economy. The US dollar appreciated significantly and financial markets (equities rose steadily while bond yields continued discounting higher economic growth in the US). However, this initial euphory blurred by a number of reasons.

Trump sign an executive order withdrawing from the TPP.

Among these reasons, we can find US politics. The first mission of Donald Trump was to dismantle Obamacare. However, politics prevented him from carrying out his plans. This revealed a weaker than expected support in the US Senate and in the US House to Trump’s policies. It may well be that Trump’s policies may not be easily implemented. Financial markets were disappointed and the US dollar started to deflate.

Nonetheless, after the first political defeat, Trump was able to pass his budget and a number of other bills, but its political clout was damaged. Even more, its largely trumpeted tax reform was even weaker than the reduction in taxation during Obama. Another disappointment, the US dollar fell again. The lack of a strong political support coupled with a “hard Trump” (unable to reduce regulations and foster US economy but able to unnerve financial markets as he retired from trade deals). “Soft Trump” (significant reduction of taxes and maintenance of trade deals) proved to be an illusion.

But the fact that Donald was showing himself as “hard” was an illusion that Trump was intendedly building? None can know that, but it may well be, especially if we heed into the Trump’s political game consequences. I will explain that later. In the meantime, this “hard” version led to a decline in the US dollar (despite a buoyant economy and rising US interest rates) and to an increasing unpopularity of the President.

Having said that and going back to the question and the point of this article, currently we are seeing that many of the Trump’s actions are proving to be fruitful as they are improving the negotiation capabilities of the US and potentially it may have positive consequences for the US economy and even for the world trade. Although, admittedly, it is a real brinkmanship.

Recently, Trump imposed tariffs on the steel industry, which triggered a barrage of reactions all around the world. China’s reaction was to escalate on trade war, but finally, both China and the US accepted to maintain a negotiation and China offered to open its financial markets to the world (which is completely restricted to foreigners) in exchange for the end of the trade war with the US. Think again. If the US accepts, that may mean an increase in the world trade. Wow! The consequence of a trade war is more trade!

The trade spat with China was only an example, but Donald Trump is drawing on the huge bargaining power of USA to extract the most of it. His threats are real as he retires from negotiations, deals and agreements or impose tariffs or sign executive orders. Then, he seems to be expecting a reaction from which he can reap some benefits. Another example is being the case of North Korea, among others.

It is just a guessing that only can be proven with more time, but so far Trump is proving to be a real deal artist.

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Instituto Zhuangzi presenta: “Podcast cybertao”.

Queremos agradecer a todos los seguidores de nuestro blog la confianza depositada en nuestra intitución privada académica. Para celebrar el hecho de que hemos superado los más de 500 seguidores en Facebook, lanzamos una nueva aventura, el podcast bautizado como “Cybertao” en donde hablaremos de aspectos relacionados con la filosofía china y estarán orientados a un público medio con algunos capítulos dedicados a la introducción de la filosofía.

Cybertao podrá seguirse a través de ivoxx, iTunes y Youtube:

  1. Cybertao en ivoxx

  2. Cybertao en iTunes

  3. Cybertao en Youtube





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Zhuangzi: Vagando libremente (Parte II)

Zhuangzi Institute presenta la segunda parte de la traducción de uno de los pasajes más importantes de Zhuangzi, el Xiaoyao, que puede traducirse por “Vagando libremente”. En dicho pasaje, se recogen ideas muy importantes de la filosofía taoísta, la mitología clásica de China e ideas relacionadas con la filosofía de la Escuela Austríaca como el valor subjetivo de los bienes.

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Zhuangzi: Vagando libremente (Parte I)

Zhuangzi Institute presenta la primera parte de la traducción de uno de los pasajes más importantes de Zhuangzi, el Xiaoyao, que puede traducirse por “Vagando libremente”. En dicho pasaje, se recogen ideas muy importantes de la filosofía taoísta, la mitología clásica de China e ideas relacionadas con la filosofía de la Escuela Austríaca como el valor subjetivo de los bienes.

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Neuroeconomics: How the brain makes decisions?

From the point of view of Taoism, there is a strong relationship between Taoist libertarian principles and the new fields of Neuroeconomics, which may support important ideas previously put forward by Austrian economists.

In this article, we are going to analyze the main contributions of Neuroeconomics to our understanding of how the brain makes decisions. Secondly, we are going to assess these contributions from the point of view of libertarian political Taoism. Finally, we are going to discuss the possible relationships between Neuroeconomics and Economics (especially with Austrian School of Economics).

  1. Contributions of Neuroeconomics

By definition, Neuroeconomics is not the same as Behavioral Economics, even though both are closely related. Behavioral economics study effects of psychological, social, cognitive and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals and the consequences for market prices[1]. Meanwhile, Neuroeconomics is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to explain human decision making, the ability to process multiple alternatives and to follow a course of action. It studies how economic behavior can shape our understanding of the brain, and how neuroscientific discoveries can constrain and guide models of economics[2].

As you may notice, Neuroeconomics is an interdisciplinary field, that derives from neuroscience, economics and psychology. Neuroeconomics is less focus on psychology than behavioral economics. The purpose of neuroeconomics is to understand how brain makes decisions, which brain areas are activated (receive more blood flow) when individuals makes certain decisions, how these areas are related one another, how neurons transmit information and when people finally make a choice or not[3].

Obviously, Economics is also concerned about human choices, as the subject of study is the human being. Even Ludwig von Mises called its own theory praxeology, a study of human behavior. In the same regard, Psychology share the subject of study: the human being. Neuroeconomics analyze the functioning of human brain to draw conclusions on human behavior.

For example, the ultimatum game. Neuroscientists conducted an experiment, with two participants. The first will receive an amount of money and he will decide how to share the money with the other player. He can decide whatever he wants. The second player will receive the sum decided by the first player, and he will decide to accept it or not. If the second player reject it, none player will be paid. It turned out in the experiment, that most of the unfair deals were rejected and even though the second player would be better-off he would reject his little money, considering the unfairness of the game. Moreover, the brain scanners confirmed the correlation between rejection and the brain regions related with unfairness[4].

In addition, as knowledge improve, and society develops, new interdisciplinary fields spring up[5]. An interdisciplinary field is nothing that a specialization in the knowledge that share two or more fields of study. It is important for society that those interdisciplinary fields can be developed, because otherwise these relationships (which exist) will not be analyze by experts with comparative advantage in these areas.

The main contributions of Neuroeconomics are to provide a solid scientific background to psychologists and economist to understand how brain works when deciding. For example, perceived costs are in the amygdala region. Animals with no amygdala would show a riskier behavior. On the other hand, perceived benefits are associated with nucleus accumbens. The decision will be made according to the differences between perceived benefits and costs, located in those brain areas, that would be different for each human being.

The understanding of human brain is improving and any economics or psychologist who do not include these ground-braking improvements in its own analysis will be out-of-date, as other specialist may better understand how human beings behave, which is, how the brain makes decisions.

It goes without saying that Neuroeconomics is new discipline, with few experts and building its own language and programs, even though it is evolving quite rapidly and offering quite inspiring and promising contributions.

  1. Neuroeconomics and Taoism

A very long time ago, some Chinese thinkers already discovered the basic patters of human behavior. We are going to analyze these patterns.



This Dao and De veneration does not come from any instruction but from the spontaneity

Tao De Ching, Chapter 51



A good plan has neither calculations or strategies.

Tao De Ching, Chapter 37


These sentences, which appears in the Tao De Ching, shows the superiority of spontaneity over instruction, as spontaneity is based on consent and not in violence. According to Taoism, things based on consent are superior to things underpinned by violence, which are unstable. The same findings are achieved by Austrian Economist, who believe in a society base on individual freedom and contracts rather than on the monopolistic use of violence (State). Interestingly, the same findings can be found in Neuroeconomics, when analyzing the brain activity when deciding based on consent and when deciding based on violence. As the behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman pointed out[6], praising somebody how made a good job is more useful than blaming somebody how committed a mistake.



Dao is always non-action, and there is nothing that it does not do.

Tao De Ching, Chapter 37


Again, for Taoist thinkers, Dao is based on the limit to the reason, as reason may be identified with the overuse of action. In this sense, Taoism is against the control of reason over senses, which is action. On the other hand, action is when reason control everything and senses are suppressed. In this sentence, Taoism is against rationalism. In the same way, Neuroeconomics discovered that brain could be divided in two systems: system 1 and system 2. The first is the spontaneous system (emotions, fast decisions, etc.), while the second is more rigid, slow and rational (computations, math, reason, etc.). It turned out that the spontaneous system can process significantly more information in a significantly less amount of time, which is in line with the Taoist principles.



When man is alive is soft and mild, when die it becomes rigid and hard. Living plants are also tender, when die they become dried and withered. Rigid and hard is what follows to death, soft and mild is what follows live. Therefore, an army without flexibility never wins a battle. The hard and strong will fall, the soft and weak will overcome.

Tao De Ching, Chapter 76


Here, Tao is also highlighting the role of spontaneity and flexibility, above violence and rigidity. Tao is spontaneous and flexible and can achieve anything. In this part, we can also identify a connection with recent discoveries about how the brain works. Human beings when they are young have a more plastic brain, which allows then to easily adapt to any circumstance and learn more easily. As human beings grow up, the brain will lose its plasticity. Flexibility and adaptation are closely related with live and youth, both in Neuroscience and in Taoism.



The five colours blind the eye. The five tones deafen the ear. The five flavours dull the taste. Racing and hunting madden the mind. Precious things lead one astray. Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees. He lets go of that and chooses this.

Tao De Ching, Chapter 12

In this part, Taoism is defending the superiority of simplicity. Complexity and abundancy can distract human beings from the main purpose. Moreover, in it says: the sage is guided by what he feels. Again, here there is a strong connection with the recent findings of both Neuroeconomics and Behavioral Economics. It turns out that system 2 (the rational part, mainly the prefrontal cortex) can only deal with a certain number of items or ideas at the same time (5-6 at most). For example, it is impossible driving, studying and solving a math problem at the same time. The rational part is limited and slow and it is unable to deal with much information. Therefore, simplicity and the use of the spontaneous system (system 1, bases on emotions and feeling) is what Taoism suggests overcoming the blockage of the reason when it deals with information.

Even more interesting, this part is also related with the Theorem of Impossibility of Socialism, created by Austrian School of Economics, which says that it is impossible to deal with the significant amount of information necessary to rule a country as the information is impossible to process by a single human being. Even more, the information is subjective and impossible to transmit, which is also related with other discovery of Neuroscience.

  1. Neuroeconomics and Economics

Recently, the Nobel Prize in Economics was given to the behavioral economist Richard Thaler, which generated controversy among Austrian Economists and Neoclassical Economists. This fact arose some argument in favor to traditional Economics and against traditional economics. In this part, we will analyze these facts in a separated way.

  • Argument 1: Neuroeconomics and Behavioral Economics are trying to put together things that are from two different fields of expertise.

Answer: Reality is enormous and complex, and the division of sciences is artificially made by human beings to better understand the world, which is chaotic and ever-changing. Philosophy evolved and appeared science which was a specialization in an area of knowledge, which brought incredible results in terms of evolution in the knowledge. However, as specialization keeps on going, many new fields will spring up, including fields specialized in the interconnection between pre-existing fields (for example, neuroscience and economics). The division of sciences is not given, but it is dynamic and it will change as circumstances make it appropriate.

  • Argument 2: Neuroeconomics and Behavioral Economics are not revolutionary.

Answer: This argument was used many times recently by different Austrian Economist, including Peter Klein[7]. They argue that Neoclassical Economics failed since the beginning and that Austrian Economics already highlighted that long time ago. Both schools are right at criticizing Neoclassical Economics assumptions as unrealistic, however, Neuroscience provide the evidence from the point of view of how brain works, while Austrian School of Economics provide the evidence from the point of view of logic, argument and theory, that fit in with the discoveries of Neuroeconomics. Both Schools are in the same direction.

Peter Klein has several articles in the matter and he is arguing against Behavioral Economics (not against Neuroeconomics), and in a very superficial way. He says that some principles of Behavioral Economics are not new, but he does not say whether they are wrong or not. Moreover, disciplines are built upon previous discoveries and scientist does not start from the scratch. Even more, if the findings of these new disciplines are in the right direction, what is the matter of criticizing them? I think the only legitim critique within science is demonstrating why something is wrong. The rest is opinion and philosophy.

  • Argument 3: There is no distinction between subjectivism and psychology.

Answer: Again, this is not a legitim scientific critique. Where is the demonstration that something is wrong? In fact, subjectivism and psychology are closely related and they are going in the same direction, which is a sign that both fields have points in common and reinforce each other. A paper called Austrian Economics Meets Behavioral Economics: The Problem of Rationality by Mario J. Rizzo, argues exactly that, but it did not deep into the details of why Behavioral Economics is concluding something that it is not true. Since the positivistic point of view of science (what something really is), there is not refutation at all. Even more, like Peter Klein, it does not mention the recent discoveries not Neuroscience, its techniques, etc. It seems that they are defending Austrian Economics rather than arguing from an objective point of view.

  • Argument 4: The conclusion of behavioral economists like Thaler suggests that State should rule society using paternalism.

In another article from the same source (Mises Institute)[8], it is argued that Thaler’s books suggest that “libertarian paternalism” recommends State to rule society. Again, this is a normative point of view, how society should be. From a positivistic point of view, there is no refutation, again.  Even though libertarian paternalism is a contradiction (because human beings are all biased, including those who rule society). On the other hand, a researcher could publish many articles and some of them would be brilliant, some would be awful, etc. We cannot judge the theories based on the researcher, but the theories in its own. Some publications of Thaler would be brilliant, while other not.
















  1. References


  • Dao De Ching
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman.
  • Introduction to Neuroeconomics, Vasily Klucharev
  • Does Behavioral Economics Offer Anything New and True? Peter Klein
  • Thaler Wins Nobel Peter Klein
  • Libertarian paternalism David Gordon
  • Austrian Economics Meets Behavioral Economics: The Problem of Rationality by Mario J. Rizzo





[5] For example, biotechnology is an interdisciplinary field whose purpose is to use biological knowledge and technical knowledge to improve the recent developments in those fields. Cheminformatics would be another example.

[6] Thinking, Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman.




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Seminario trimestral: Introducción al Daodejing 道德經 desde el punto de vista de la Escuela Austríaca.




Coordinador: Javier Caramés Sánchez

Hora: Jueves a las 22:00 ( A partir del 14 de septiembre)

Aula virtual:

Precio matrícula: gratuito



El Dao De Jing (道德經)es una de las principales obras del pensamiento chino clásico y la que mejor aceptación ha tenido entre los pensadores occidentales. Este libro gira en torno al concepto de Tao (道), que podemos traducir como «la Vía» y hace referencia al camino que puede seguir tanto un individuo como un país. Para comprender esta vía es necesario deshacerse de las percepciones sobre la realidad que tiene el ser humano y le impiden verla. El Dao De Jing es una crítica contra el lenguaje y, muy especialmente, contra la manipulación que ejerce sobre las palabras el poder político que, movido por sus deseos y ansias, corrompe los valores de los individuos y la sociedad.

Según Hayek, considerar que un país se puede organizar en base a premisas racionales es un error que ha dado lugar a grandes desastres políticos. El funcionamiento de la sociedad se basa en reglas muy complejas que no son fáciles de sistematizar. Lao Tsé, autor al que se le atribuye el Dao De Jing, se adelantó varios siglos y puso de manifiesto los límites de la razón. No existe ninguna vía para dirigir al ser humano que se pueda formalizar y verbalizar por completo y que valga para todas las circunstancias.


Sesión  1: 14-09-2017 Introducción

Sesión 2: 21-09-2017 El Tao 道

Sesión 3: 28-09-2017 La nada 無 y el haber 有

Sesión 4: 05-09-2017  Los nombres 名

Sesión 5: 19-10-2017 La pureza 撲

Sesión 6: 26-10-2017 La raíz 本

Sesión 7: 02-11-2017 La que fluye por sí mismo 自然

Sesión 8: 09-11-2017  El Conocimiento 智

Sesión 9: 16-11-2017 La no-acción 無為

Sesión 10: 23-11-2017 El poder del agua 水

Sesión 11: 30-11-2017 El deseo 欲

Sesión 12: 07-12-2017 El conocer lo suficiente 知足

Sesión 14: 14-12-2017 El estado con un pueblo pequeño 小國寡民





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Lucha de libertades

Mirado en retrospectiva, siempre mantuve un espíritu muy liberal desde bien pequeño, sin nunca haber sido consciente de ello. Tal vez -me pregunto- ese espíritu sea algo consustancial al ser humano. Rehúso las imposiciones u obligaciones, apenas he admitido el carácter obligatorio de la vida. Por el contrario, me resulta agradable agradar a los demás, ayudar voluntariamente a mi familia, amigos y cualquiera que se mostrase agradecido.

Creo que dicho espíritu podría resumirse en pocas palabras: siempre me ha gustado sentirme gobernado por mí mismo, tomando mis propias decisiones y dependiendo lo menos posible de otras personas o circunstancias. Parecerá un ejemplo muy bizarro, pero creo que resume perfectamente dicho espíritu que me posee: a veces, siempre he preferido ir caminando a los lugares que tomar un trasporte (autobús o metro), pues si caminaba yo era el que decidía el camino a recorrer y si me pasaba algo durante el camino yo era el responsable, entre otras muchas razones que me hacían sentir mucho más libre.

Nótese que he empezado hablando de “sentimiento”, pues puede que la libertad no sea algo medible, objetivable, comparable o incluso interpretable. Es posible además que todo ello sea una ficción. Como ejemplificó Einstein hablando del determinismo: “si le preguntásemos a la Luna porque está girando alrededor de la Tierra, te contestaría que es porque quiere”. Lo cierto es que hay ciertas circunstancias que me hacen sentir más libre que en otras, independientemente de que esa libertad sea real o no.

No fue hasta el año 2010 cuando empecé a percatarme lo que podía significar la libertad y ese espíritu. Y recalco: empecé a percatarme. Porque me percaté en aquel momento de una parte muy reducida del significado de libertad: la libertad relativa a la política. Esto significaba que una sociedad libre no debía estar controlada por ningún órgano central, ni que las personas debían acatar órdenes arbitrarias de otras personas que se situaban en una situación de “superioridad”. Por su puesto que la existencia de cualquier autoridad política arbitraria me parecía realmente inmoral además de que tenía nefastas repercusiones para la vida material y espiritual de las personas.

Al mismo tiempo, era consciente de que la anarquía tenía muchas dificultades de aplicación práctica. Baste un solo hecho: en su totalidad, todavía no ha sido puesta en práctica con éxito claro y todo sistema político requiere demostración empírica previa antes de juzgar su funcionamiento. Además, la libertad consiste en no imponer nada, incluyendo tus ideas liberales por lo que tampoco me sentía cómodo imaginando una sociedad que se ajustase a mis necesidades.

En este momento, empecé a no ver muy clara la cuestión y empecé a observar multitud de contradicciones, matices, problemas muy pequeños, entre otros. La gente que vive en países con menos leyes, impuestos y controles, suele vivir mejor: los índices de renta per cápita, de desarrollo humano y de felicidad son mayores. ¿Pero da eso derecho a elegir ese sistema para los demás, cuando ellos no lo han elegido? Empecé a observar que la libertad tenía mucha más relación con la convivencia de lo que creí en un primer momento.

Es bastante probable que la sensación tan agradable que para mí supone el verme gobernado por mí mismo, no sea compartida por otras personas y entonces debo ser yo el que debo tolerar los otros espíritus vitales que puedan existir: la existencia de individuos que les aterre la idea de gobernarse por sí mismos, por ejemplo. Es cuando empecé a ver la cuestión desde otro prisma, un prisma parecido al de una ética formal: la idea fundamental es respetar a otros, la tolerancia y la no agresión a otras personas. El contenido o la ideología es irrelevante; lo relevante es el respeto a otros. Es ahí cuando entra en juego la convivencia: una buena convivencia es sinónimo de un buen respeto, de aceptación de otras ideas y de permitir cualquier acción, siempre que ella no acarré un daño no aceptado por un tercero.

Un poco más tarde, y gracias a que tomé contacto con la civilización China y más concretamente con el taoísmo, comprendí que todo ello estaba altamente relacionado con la naturaleza y el universo. A mayor espontaneidad, mayor felicidad y libertad. Felicidad, libertad y espontaneidad están muy unidos. El taoísmo no gusta de las palabras, explicaciones o teorías: eso son imaginaciones de la razón y no forma parte de la forma de funcionar del universo. Es el racionalismo el que sería el enemigo principal de la convivencia, de la tolerancia, de la libertad, de la espontaneidad y de la felicidad.

Abandoné mi gusto por la filosofía racionalista y empecé a abrazar a Nietzsche y a filósofos orientales. Me di cuenta de que el racionalismo presenta un problema enorme: pretende entender todo lo que existe, pretende desentrañar las cuestiones del universo mediante el uso de la lógica, del córtex prefrontal. Aquello que no entre por dicho filtro, será dejado al margen o se rehusará. Ahora bien, ¿cuál es la razón de todo lo que existe? ¿Las cosas tienen lógica? ¿La lógica es la misma para todas las mentes pensantes o es diferente para cada individuo? ¿La razón es inmutable o varía con el tiempo y con la geografía?

La razón empezó a parecerme una forma de imposición. Pareciera que todo aquello que no fuese comprendido por una mente concreta, no debía ser aprobado, tolerado o aceptado. De esta forma la vida sería muy pobre: solo sería aceptado aquello que fuese entendido por la razón.

Sin embargo, puede que la razón se limite sólo al ser humano, una especie entre otras muchas de las que pueden existir en el universo y una especie que ocupa un porcentaje reducidísimo del espacio existente en el universo, y que ha surgido hace muy muy poco tiempo en la larga historia del cosmos. Pero no sólo eso: el córtex prefrontal procesa un porcentaje muy reducido de toda la información, las emociones y el cerebro reptiliano controlan mucha más información y son responsables de la mayoría de las decisiones importantes de nuestra vida. Además, y por si todo ello fuera poco, contamos con los sentidos. ¿Es posible entender el amor leyendo un tratado sobre el mismo? ¿Cuánto tiempo llevaría? ¿Es posible entenderlo enamorándose? ¿A caso hay que entenderlo o sentirlo?

Es cuanto empecé a concluir, gracias a muchas charlas con amigos, lecturas, reflexiones, viajes y experiencias, que esta cuestión de la libertad era algo muy complejo y no sólo limitado al terreno de la política. Efectivamente, la libertad tiene gran relación con la tolerancia y la convivencia, así como el desuso de la razón. ¿Por qué impedir algo que parece ilógico? La ilógica forma parte del universo.

Por tanto, según mi forma de verlo actual, la libertad parece tener dos dimensiones: la dimensión interna y la dimensión externa. La dimensión interna tiene que ver con la comunicación dentro del propio individuo, la forma en la que el individuo se gobierna. Esta dimensión es la más importante: uno puede conseguir ser muy libre si sabe gestionar su vida para ese objetivo. Es posible ocultar información interna a otras personas para que estas no se percaten y no puedan prohibirlo o tengan a su disposición la posibilidad de no tolerarlo. Es posible realizar un consumo de estupefacientes en la tranquilidad de un domicilio aislado, pero también es posible realizarlo en la plaza pública y proclamándolo a los cuatro vientos. En el segundo caso, el propio individuo estaría reduciendo la esfera de su libertad.

La dimensión externa -la menos importante- tendría a su vez dos composiciones: la libertad política y la libertad cultural. La primera estaría relacionada con el gobierno y las leyes (impuestos, permisos, controles, etc.), mientras que la segunda estaría relacionada con el grado de tolerancia de una sociedad hacia las prácticas de los demás. Por ejemplo, aunque el matrimonio homosexual esté aprobado legalmente en España, si una parte importante de la población no acepta dicha libertad, el grado de tolerancia y convivencia se verá mermado.

Dentro de la composición de la libertad externa política, nos encontraríamos con dos formas de libertad: la negativa y la positiva. La negativa sería la ausencia de coacción, mientras que la positiva sería la presencia de medios para que el individuo pueda conseguir sus fines.

Es esperable que esta reflexión y conclusión acerca de la libertad vaya evolucionando en mi persona y que en unos años no estaré de acuerdo con lo que aquí haya escrito, pero siempre está bien compartir tus reflexiones con los demás, sobre todo si se hace de forma voluntaria.