“They are creating hateful people and at the same time creating four million seriously deprived, poor people. . . . Inciting hatred within the population awakens the basest of human-animal instincts.” – András Inotai, former director of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences World Economic Research Institute
This is a partial translation of an interview with András Inotai, former director of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences World Economic Research Institute, published by the online daily zoom.hu on January 2, 2018 under the title: “András Inotai: Itt szellemi népirtás folyik.”
My heartfelt thanks to Budapest Beacon for allowing me to use their translation, which is republished here with some minor changes. The original Hungarian is somewhat longer. For those who can handle the language, it is worth looking at.
When we discussed meeting up, you commented that you had something to say because you were not too happy about the direction of the world and Hungary. What did you have in mind?
We are moving faster and faster towards globalization that strengthens and deepens mutual dependencies with steps that are increasingly difficult to understand or follow. This is not new. It is not possible to reverse this trend. These changes have winners and of course losers. At the same time, it is necessary to differentiate among the losers. There are absolute and relative losers. Looking at developments in Hungary after the system change and especially after 2010, I would consider myself and a significant part of the population to be relative losers.
Like many others, I do not sit in Lőrinc Mészáros’ place, and am not a Fidesz oligarch. Just as earlier I did not belong to MSZP or SZDSZ circles. So I live, I am okay materially, but spiritually more and more depressed.
It is important not to discount the rather wide circle of relative losers, whose motivation is as spiritual as material. Why? Because the class of relative losers includes those who voted for Brexit in a country that is one of the biggest winners from globalization. Especially financially. This by itself is a total absurdity. This class placed Donald Trump in the President’s seat in the United States, which for decades has been the motor of globalization and unequivocally its biggest winner, as it continues to be.
However, both the Americans and the English fell asleep over the past decade and a half. A significant part of the British believe that England is still a world power. They do not take into account that the world was fundamentally reordered over the past decades. The competitive Europeans showed up, both inside and outside the EU, as well as the Chinese, Indians, South Koreans, Mexicans, and Brazilians. A typical lower-middle class family living in the English countryside thinks that its country produces a significant part of the world output. Of course in 1948 this was indeed 12 percent, but today it’s two percent. In the case of the United States many believe that the country can do whatever it wants.
However, the connection between politics, society, and the economy has reached a point where nobody can say they are independent. This means that nobody can decide exclusively about themselves. For this reason nobody can take a maximal decision, only optimal, which means the best balance of advantages and disadvantages. This is a totally simple connection, although many people cannot see it. They are the ones who get it in the face and believe the nonsense that we are independent, proud, and strong. In their circles, however, frustration and anger is only getting stronger.
In this situation is it not a logical, indeed an expected, decision on the part of certain countries to raise the walls surrounding them in order to defend themselves?
You can call for an end of globalization. You can call for us to protect Hungarian sugar and milk. Let’s protect the Hungarian money market. So be it! We don’t need foreign banks! Statements of this nature have been frequently made at the highest levels. “Thanks” to this kind of thinking, today the local banking system is more than 50 percent in Hungarian hands. And what happens if the Hungarian bank collapses? We should finally acknowledge that foreign-owned financial institutions undertook recapitalization in the billions of euros in order to remain here during the 2008 economic crisis. If a Hungarian credit institution implodes, who is going to recapitalize it? The Hungarian taxpayers, if they want their deposits to be secure.
These corrupt deals that are taking place in the banking system are characteristic of the “growth” of wealth of an unprecedentedly selfish new oligarchy. We are very close to a banking system in which one or more Hungarian entities may collapse, or in which a single one may trigger a chain reaction.
The situation cannot be all that serious.
You are very much mistaken! People are stupid to allow this to happen. This is the product of the spiritual genocide that has taken place in Hungary over the past years, which the Hague court should address were it authorized to do so, as the crime is similar to physical genocide. The spiritual infection is active in the case of migration, Soros, EU opposition, as well as passive in that official “national” propaganda has become an organic part of government. The latest obvious example of this is that we now commemorate the anniversary of virtually everything. They reassessed the 1956 revolution within the framework of a year-long 60th anniversary “commemoration.” Here was the Saint László commemorative year even though they do not know precisely when he was born, but the official propaganda proclaimed it a celebratory year. By contrast, I do not know who took note of the fact that last year was the 150th anniversary of the Compromise of 1867 between Austria and Hungary, about which there was hardly any mention. Even though we could draw conclusions from its results, dilemmas, and consequences. Hungary managed, under the wise leadership of Ferenc Deák, to launch half a century of modernization despite the ever-opposing incendiary Lajos Kossuth, agitating against that Compromise from abroad. Because it is indisputable that the Compromise strengthened the nation and its future and served the country’s long-term interests. This can be demonstrated through an examination of history. It was the kind of a step of which there is no sign today. Meanwhile EU membership and EU money offer a unique historical opportunity, or would have, to prepare for the 21st century.
The first half of your answer was perhaps worded too strongly.
No! A hopelessly dramatic situation has come about! That is my considered opinion! Look what is happening with human capital, which is critical to sustainable competitiveness and the foundation for the balanced growth of society. This can be observed across three areas: education, research and development, and health care. These are the foundation stones. All three have been deliberately destroyed in recent years.
Related to this is the nature and extent of social polarization, the likes of which has never happened in the European Union. Moreover, I am a beneficiary of these, but I do not at all wish to be! Here are some examples so you can better understand what I am talking about. The flat tax in and of itself is brutally antisocial. Today I pay far less in taxes than before the introduction of the new tax rate, but I would be able to live quite well with the previous high tax burden as well. At the same time, others, for whom changes brought additional financial burden, are left struggling even as the budget has suffered a very significant loss of revenue which, among other things, could have been spent on education, social services, and health care.
The other is the pension system. I do not need that 1.8 or 2 percent which the current Hungarian pension system automatically assures everyone uniformly. I would gladly give that money to those who need more in order to live a life worthy of a citizen of the European Union.
The governing party’s behavior is unbelievably cynical and anti-social. And yet, people tolerate it.
Maybe that’s because people hear from the government what they want them to hear . . .
Excuse me! I need to return to human capital. One must also have an innovative society, which is characteristic of the Scandinavian countries. Innovation is the defining element, the key, to successful and sustainable development in the 21st century. This is necessary to remain competitive, especially in small countries which are integrated into the world economy. The fundamental question is how capable society is to hold its own in the accelerated 21st century. From this point of view, Hungary is not only deeply in the negative range, but the government’s deliberate and irresponsible measures and propaganda destroys–in fact has already destroyed in many fields—the pillars of adaptation.
The innovative society is open, not closed. It shows solidarity, not hate. It is cooperative, not artificially polarized, fragmented. It is oriented towards the future and is not always escaping into the “glorious past.” It is prepared for changes, challenges, and actively adapts instead of continuously living in a state of anxiety, fear, insecurity, and artificially created crises in which it consumes increasingly limited physical, material, and intellectual reserves. Here I note that a natural part of globalization is polarization, but apart from Hungary there is not a single government that would deliberately strengthen this through its actions. Even crisis-hit countries with very limited resources try to contain that trend. Here, they add another shovelful.
They are creating hateful people and at the same time creating four million seriously deprived, poor people.
Is this really the goal? Because if so, then something has gone terribly astray. The self-proclaimed populist, Christian conservative government is sending the message that four million Hungarians should perish — please, forgive me — and we will defend six million. Is this the great national idea? Because if I put together the government’s numerous political elements, that is what I see. This is more than irresponsible, it is the murder of a nation.
Is the situation really this bleak?
Unfortunately, I must continue. There are still two elements necessary for lasting competitiveness. One is that society cannot maintain competitiveness without a certain degree of cohesion and solidarity. If this falls below a critical level, then we can see international examples of slowing and eventual cessation of capital infusion. Not only foreign but Hungarian capital would do the same, and in part already has. Who wants to keep their money in a country where there is continuous societal tension, where mutual distrust is artificially created, where there is insufficient skilled labor capable of thought due to poor education and health care? The second element is the effectiveness of the government sector. This is not only eradicated by an unprecedented degree of corruption comparable to an African dictatorship but also by the “results” of the “overgrown” public sector of the past few years. In contrast to the 2010 government program which, correctly, promised a modest but effective government sector, today 24 percent of those employed full time are tied either directly or indirectly to the state sector. What else needs to be said?
Maybe this is our historical fate. We hate each other and we have to live with that fact. At the beginning of the 2000s I asked a very respected figure of the national intelligentsia whether the system change couldn’t have been done better. We stood at the 0 km mark, with all its problems and possibilities, but within just ten years’ time many already feel that this isn’t the horse we wanted. Even then it looked as if everything went wrong already. His answer was “no.” This is who we are, forever pulling apart and hating each other and those who are better off.
I am not a social psychologist. However, speaking on the basis of historical experience, the Hungarians are, in fact, not a cohesive society. I don’t want to say we are unique in this respect and that this is only characteristic of our national spirit, and that there aren’t other examples of this phenomenon. This wouldn’t be such a big problem. The problem is that in the developed world nobody deliberately conditions society to hate or to incite against various supposed or actual enemies. Among those sitting in the current government nobody looks a little further. Let’s take the current migrant question. If I conduct a campaign of hate now, does anyone know what the consequence of this might be in the future? It’s certain that in time the subject of our hatred changes, but the hatred remains. I am not saying that there isn’t a migration problem. There is and it isn’t small. We must deal with this issue. However, the situation should not be blown out of proportion and least of all should it be the subject of a hate campaign. The inconceivable xenophobic mood is due to this. For the sake of illustration. One million people from the Middle East and Africa arrived in Europe with its population of 510 million. That is 0.2 percent of the population of Europe. If we cannot absorb and integrate this, then there are big problems. Of this, less than 1,300 would have come to Hungary, a country whose survival for the past 1200 years has been due to repeated spontaneous immigration or deliberate settlement projects throughout the 18th century.
The problem of the refugees must be handled, but many countries, Hungary included, say the problems must be remedied where they originate . . .
I completely agree with this, and the European Union even developed a plan for this. As I see it, even if the plan works, and the member states uniformly support the recommendations and the actions, even then there could be serious disagreements because the migration pressure will not go away. There will not be a perfect solution. But it is exactly for this reason that cooperation is so important. Joint thinking and action weaken or undermine unilateral steps. And inciting hatred within the population means awakening the basest of human-animal instincts.