Last night I had dinner with a professor of demography and a historian. It was impossible to avoid discussion of what is happening in Hungary and what consequences can be expected from the developments there. The majority opinion was that the actual events themselves, as they unfold one by one, may not give cause for alarm, but in their combined effect they will certainly lead to some calamitous outcome.
The opinion of the demographer was that such departures from basic, established democratic practices will inevitably force the European Community to distance themselves from Hungary at large: there is simply no place in the Union for such an authoritarian country. Punishment will inevitably follow. The historian agreed. I defended the country, saying that the fault lies with the government, therefore an entire country and its population should not be subjected to punishment for the misdeeds of a few.
Not so! Argued the demographer. They, the overwhelming majority, elected this government, supplied the constitutional grounding for their rampages, so why should they be spared the consequences? In fact, chimed in the historian, they very much should face the universal repudiation from Europe, because they must face the consequences of their choice. I protested: the electorate of Hungary is not versed enough in democratic practices to anticipate the consequences. That is why they may deserve a bit of an allowance.
Hogwash! Jumped in the demographer. When Hungary accepted the terms of the European Union, they also agreed to follow European practices. The Union simply cannot afford to have amongst its members a dictatorship, nor does it have any actual interest in tolerating such people. Nor is it conceivable that the Union should leave such despicable conduct unpunished. That would completely undermine the credibility of the institution. Yeah, protested I again, but the Union has no mechanism to get rid of distasteful members. It is assumed that once a country is in, she will remain a member no matter what.
Don’t worry, my companions assured me. Europe will sooner find a way out for Hungary than to tolerate those pesky deal breakers. Europe has enough problems already with the financial complications, the last thing they need is an anti-democratic “saboteur” in their midst to complicate their headaches. Not to mention that the way Hungary is going, soon they will also come to Europe with their hat in hand, asking for financial support. Why should the Union finance the country that wouldn’t even respect the minimum requirements of democracy? They would be idiots to agree, there are more worthy candidates for that elsewhere.
All right, I pulled in some of my sails, nevertheless it would be unfair to punish the entire population, because they elected this government democratically, but the elected are abusing the privilege and that is not the people’s fault. Absolute bloody nonsense! said the demographer, who, besides being German, was never famous for her mild manners, Hitler was also elected democratically. As soon as not all the parties agree to play by the rules, the fate of democracy is sealed, no further expectations are justified. Hungary soon will be an outcast in Europe and it is actually in the best interest of the population to get there as soon as possible. They must come to realize that their electoral decisions come with serious consequences, and the sooner they recognize those consequences, the sooner they will turn out the offending government. Yes, it is true that there will be a high price to pay for their idiocy, but it is unavoidable. Next time they will just have to be more careful.
I admit I ran out of arguments at this point. It was impossible to defend any longer the indefensible.