As usual, reactions to the speech vary greatly. Those who endorse Viktor Orbán and his politics find the speech absolutely brilliant. The best speech he ever made. There is no question that whoever wrote this speech is a wordsmith. But perhaps a wordsmith to a demagogue. For instance, one can say without exaggeration that there is a serious financial and economic crisis and that greater government oversight of the banking system is in order. But it is another thing to say that "an entirely new economic system that may not even be called capitalism" is necessary. It is one thing to call attention to the shortcomings of the Hungarian police and an entirely different matter to make order the focal point of the speech. Order in conjunction with a post (or pre)-capitalist state sounds sinister.
But let me try to summarize the speech that lasted more than an hour. At the beginning the speech was bland, in fact so bland that his devoted audience failed to clap. But then came the rhetorical crescendo. When he swung into his usual attack on the government the audience was aroused. But the speechwriter didn't know how to close. In the last fifteen minutes or so I felt several times that this sentence should be the last. But no, he went on. It reminded me of a second-rate composer who uses louder and louder chords, not quite knowing how to finish his piece.
Anyone who was expecting something specific about how an Orbán government would solve the problems Hungary is facing must have been disappointed. I was not among them. I was sure that we were not going to hear anything new or anything specific. Orbán thinks he can avoid talking about specifics by contending that this "tired capitalism" is at the end of its ropes and not worth fixing. As he said, the current system is like an old typewriter that stopped working. One can take it to the repair shop but even if it's fixed it cannot be used as a computer. The old typewriter must be thrown out and one must sit down and learn to handle the computer. (This is especially funny coming from Viktor Orbán whose facility with the computer is about equal to that of John McCain!) Our current economic system, that is capitalism, a market economy, is dying. "A new world is being born." In this new world everything will change "politically, economically, even geographically." Geographically? We will have "to return to the natural order of things. To the natural order of the world." This "natural order of the world" aroused my curiosity and I found quite a few references to it in the Hungarian-language Google. They claim that "for a Hungarian [the natural order of the world] is God, nation, and family." Is that what Orbán had in mind?
In addition to bashing capitalism Orbán appealed to Hungarian nationalism, a subject that can always find an enthusiastic audience. According to him Hungary is actually "a rich country" but the socialist leaders have been exploiting it for their own and for foreigners' enrichment. "Hungarians have territorial demands." For a second or two one is startled: what kind of territorial demands? From whom? But then Orbán cleverly explained that he means to take Hungary away from the crooked politicians, bankers, capitalists, foreign investors. Mind you, he added that foreign investment is important, but foreign companies shouldn't be given any tax incentives or perks to set up shop in Hungary.
I assume that his audience was also delighted to hear his total rejection of "money." Money must not be at the center of things. All that talk about "the budget." How ridiculous and awful. The budget is not the most important thing in the world. In his new world money will be less important than "the family, the child, the fatherland."
But the most urgent task is to remove this government because the members of the government don't know the first thing about running a country. He read an interesting study in which leaders of major firms were asked what their biggest secret was. And the answer: "they are unqualified for their jobs." Well, I don't know whether Orbán read anything of the sort; he often fibs about such things. Orbán and his speech writers also often plagiarize. His latest source is Barack Obama. He often lifts passages, out of context, from speeches of the new American president. As József Orosz mentioned in his program Kontra (KlubRádió) even the sign in front of Orbán's podium bore a suspicious resemblance to the appearance, color, typeface of Obama's White House website. See picture. Not just the decor but the verbiage is stolen: "change" and "hope" were the two most often used words. But that is where the comparison stops. Obama's speeches are full of specifics, Orbán's was full of shallow platitudes. Obama is a thoughtful man with an economic team hard at work at trying to mitigate the current dreadful economic situation. Orbán's "solution" is no solution. He tells people what they want to hear: they can have it both ways. Everything will be fine without giving up any of the trimmings of a pseudo welfare state as János Kornai, the famous Hungarian economist, called socialist Hungary. Reforms? What reforms? The government in power keeps talking about sacrifices that in the longer run will bear fruit. This is nothing more than a hoax, says Orbán. This is not the answer. Nor does the Reform Alliance have much to offer. After Orbán left the meeting with the members of the Reform Alliance he said about the encounter: "It was an exciting conversation with a peculiar little group." I hope that the economists and Orbán's former ministers and advisers will understand that they now belong to a "peculiar little group" out of sync with Viktor Orbán's visionary thinking.
Someone just called my attention to the fact that on Fidesz's website Orbán's speech appers under the headline "We have territorial demands!" These are inflammatory words in Hungary. And the staff responsible for the Fidesz website must know this. Then why? Surely, because they think that this appeals to a rather large group of Hungarians. According to the latest study, forty some percent of the people would be ready to march, at least in theory, to get some of the lost territories back. So let's use them in order to win the next elections.