Pedro Magalhães

Margens de Erro

PSD and PS in the Portuguese polls

Posted January 23rd, 2012 at 10:41 pm4 Comments

So few polls have been conducted in the more than 6 months since the general election in Portugal that one has to feel discomfort in analyzing them. And yet, two things seem relatively clear: in spite of dramatic austerity policies, PSD retains lead; and in spite of retaining lead, such lead is clearly diminishing. I guess you can take this and spin it as you prefer.

Data taken from here.

by Pedro Magalhães


Posted January 19th, 2012 at 5:26 pm4 Comments

Daqui a minutos deve estar a começar a minha apresentação na conferência sobre os resultados do Barómetro da Qualidade da Democracia, no ICS. Especulo, porque não estou lá, mas sim em Washington. Mas vou apresentar na mesma, assim:

Quem não puder lá estar e tiver interesse, aproveite. O som da minha voz é-me quase intolerável e foi das coisas que mais me custou fazer na vida. Mas por outro lado, se correr bem, é bem possível que nunca mais compareça fisicamente a uma conferência.

by Pedro Magalhães

Gustav Leonhardt, 1928-2012

Posted January 18th, 2012 at 5:12 am4 Comments

O primeiro CD que comprei na minha vida foi este, talvez 1984. Calhou ter entrado no Bach com a ajuda dele, e não calhou nada mal. A partir daí nunca mais os larguei, um e outro. Se houver paraíso estão a conversar sobre fugas ou afinações.

by Pedro Magalhães


Posted January 10th, 2012 at 3:14 pm4 Comments

In January 19th, the Barometer of the Quality of Democracy in Portugal holds its third conference, presenting a series of papers on the subject, partially based on a survey conducted last July.

And by the way, later in the year (April 17th-18th), the Department of Government of Georgetown University and the BMW Center for German & European Studies are organizing a conference on "Crisis, Voting, and Protesting in Europe", with a special focus on Spain, Portugal, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, and Italy, part of a series of conferences and events entitled The Political Consequences of Economic Crisis.

by Pedro Magalhães

It is now painfully clear that a big part of the music I was ever going to instinctively enjoy for the rest of my life was defined sometime around 1984

Posted December 23rd, 2011 at 2:49 pm4 Comments

Well, maybe 1983.

by Pedro Magalhães

Funniest bit so far in Kahneman’s "Thinking, Fast and Slow"

Posted December 22nd, 2011 at 2:53 pm4 Comments

"One day in the early 1970s, Amos handed me a mimeographed essay by a Swiss economist named Bruno Frey, which discussed the psychological assumptions of economic theory. I vividly remember the color of the cover: dark red. Bruno Frey barely recalls writing the piece, but I can still recite its first sentence: 'The agent of economic theory is rational, selfish, and his tastes do not change.'

I was astonished."

by Pedro Magalhães

Havel, Soares, and a Renault 21

Posted December 19th, 2011 at 12:58 pm4 Comments


"A short while later I’m standing at the entrance to the Street of the Alchemists — the street where Kafka used to write, in the heart of the Hradcany. I’m watching a bizarre little scene as Vaclav Havel’s chauffeur drives the Presidential limousine slowly across the same, small square I walked across when I was here three years ago. The chauffeur is using the big, black official car — a Russian Zil — to brush back a crowd of reverent tourists who are trying to touch Havel’s little Renault, a personal gift from President Mario Soares of Portugal. The chauffeur drives the Zil slowly but firmly into the knot of visitors until they disperse, then he backs the limo across the square to its parking place and sits there waiting until he has to do it all over again. The Presidential chauffeur has little else to do, for Havel doesn’t travel in the Zil at all. He loves his little Renault and drives it himself. Someone has stuck a big red heart on its windshield, love-notes are scrawled in lipstick across the rear window, and affectionate messages are pasted down the Renault’s sides."

Here. The car is displayed at the National Technical Museum in Prague. The picture was taken from tauma's photostream in Flickr.

by Pedro Magalhães

Combate de Blogs

Posted December 19th, 2011 at 11:08 am4 Comments

O Combate de Blogs nomeou o Margens de Erro para a categoria "melhor blog individual" de 2011. Obrigado!

by Pedro Magalhães

Hitch on Portugal 1974, from "Hitch-22: A Memoir" (2010)

Posted December 16th, 2011 at 4:53 pm4 Comments

"The cultural element made it seem as if the best of 1968 was still relevant. One of the precipitating prerevolutionary moments had been the publication of a feminist manifesto by three women, all of whom were named Maria, and 'The Three Marias' became an exciting example of what womanhood could do when faced with a theocratic oligarchy that had treated them as breeding machines not far advanced above the level of chattel. Sex, long repressed, was to be scented very strongly on the wind: I remember in particular the only partly satirical Movimento da Esquerda Libidinosa or “Movement of the Libidinous Left,” with its slogan “Somos um partido sexocrático,” whose evident objective was the frantic making-up of lost time. The best revolutionary poster I saw — perhaps the best I have ever seen — expressed this same thought in a rather less erotic way: it showed a modest Portuguese family in traditional dress, being introduced to a receiving line of new friends who included Socrates, Einstein, Beethoven, Spinoza, Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. (There are many people in much richer countries who are still putting off this rendezvous.)"

"The leader of the Socialist Party, Mario Soares, a man whom I would normally have regarded as a pallid and compromising Social Democrat, summarized the situation with some pith. I still have the question he put to me double-underlined in my notebook from Lisbon. 'If the army officers are so much on the side of the people, why do they not put on civilian clothes?' It was a question not just for that moment.

I began to be extremely downcast by the failure, or was it refusal, of my International Socialist comrades to see what was staring them right in the face. Intoxicated by the admittedly very moving attempts at personal liberation and social 'self-management,' they could not or would not appreciate how much of this was being manipulated by a dreary conformist sect with an ultimate loyalty to Russia. Thus I found myself one evening in late March 1975 at a huge rally in the Campo Pequeno bullring in Lisbon, organized by the distinctly cautious Socialist Party but with the invigorating slogan: 'Socialismo Si! Dictatura Nao! ' The whole arena was a mass of red flags, and the other chants echoed the original one. There were calls for the right of chemical workers to vote, a banner that read 'Down With Social Fascism' and another that expressed my own views almost perfectly in respect of foreign intervention in Portugal: 'Nem Kissinger, Nem Brezhnev!'

I took my old friend Colin MacCabe along to this event. For his numberless sins he was at the time a member of the Communist Party, and at first employed an old Maoist catchphrase — 'waving the red flag to oppose the red flag”— to dismiss what he was seeing. But gradually he became more impressed and as the evening began to crystallize he unbent so far as to say: 'Sometimes the wrong people can have the right line.' I thought then that he had said more than he intended, and myself experienced the remark as a sort of emancipation from the worry, which did still occasionally nag at me, that by taking up some out-of-line position I would find myself  'in bed with,' as the saying went, unsavory elements. It’s good to throw off this sort of moral blackmail and mind-forged manacle as early in life as one can.

The sequel takes very little time to tell: the Communists and their ultra-Left allies hopelessly overplayed their hand by trying for a barracks-based coup, the more traditional and rural and religious elements of Portuguese society rose in an indignant counter-revolution, a sort of equilibrium was restored and — e finita la commedia. The young radicals who had come from all over Europe to a feast of sex and sunshine and anti-politics folded their tents and doffed their motley and went home. It was the last fall of the curtain on the last act of the 1968 style, with its 'take your desires for reality' wall posters and its concept of work as play.

For me, it was also the end of the line with my old groupuscule. I had developed other disagreements, too, as the old and open-minded 'International Socialists' began to mutate into a more party-line sect. But Portugal had broken the mainspring for me, because it had caused me to understand that I thought democracy and pluralism were good things in themselves, and ends in themselves at that, rather than means to another end."

 All the rest on Portugal is a good read, numerous Portuguese spelling mistakes and all.

by Pedro Magalhães

Guillermo O’Donnell (1936-2011)

Posted November 30th, 2011 at 4:02 pm4 Comments

In 1998, I invited Guillermo O'Donnell and Richard Gunther for a conference at the Catholic University in Lisbon, in the context of their (slightly stingy) debate about "democratic consolidation". I was but a mere graduate student at the time, Richard was my adviser, but I had never met or contacted Guillermo before. Many people had warned me he was a bit of a grumpy character and tended to make intolerable demands concerning travelling. But to their (and my) surprise, he accepted immediately. The conference was very nice and Guillermo was nothing but delightful and kind, not to mention prodigiously brilliant. I met him (and his wonderful wife Gabriela) several times after that, including in an epic Club de Madrid meeting where I worked as his assistant. He was an academic giant, a true progressive democrat, a brave man, and a wonderful person.

by Pedro Magalhães