Tag Archives: democracy

Vulnerable Democracies — An interview with János Kornai

János Kornai, professor emeritus at Harvard and Corvinus, is the foremost economist in Hungary today. Several of his books have been translated into English, including a book that made him a maverick in the tightly centralized planned economy of the 1950s titled Overcentralization in Economic Administration (Oxford University Press, 1959). He is also the author of Anti-Equilibrium (Amsterdam: North Holland, 1971; 2d ed., 1975 in English); Rush versus Harmonic Growth (Amsterdam: North Holland, 1972); Growth, Shortage and Efficiency (Oxford: Basil Blackwell and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982); Road to a Free Economy. Shifting from a Socialist System: The Example of Hungary (New York: W. W. Norton, 1990); Vision and Reality, Market and State: New Studies on the Socialist Economy and Society (New York: Routledge, 1990); The Socialist System. The Political Economy of Communism (Princeton: Princeton University Press and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992);  and By Force of Thought. Irregular Memoirs of an Intellectual Journey (Cambridge-London, The MIT Press, 2007), his autobiography. Professor Kornai has been awarded honorary doctorates from dozens of prestigious universities.

The online version of the interview that follows appeared in two installments in HVG on December 28 and 29. The first bears the title “Immovable powers, autocracies and their Hungarian variation.” The title of the second is “There is no way Viktor Orbán’s government can be removed peacefully.”

This interview, conducted by Zoltán Farkas, originally appeared in the print edition of Heti Világgazdaság, vol. 2016/41 (October 13), pp. 10-13. In the online version only Zoltán Farkas’s questions and János Kornai’s answers are presented. The Hungarian original also includes a map and a summary of the central ideas. The latter are not presented here as both are available in the longer paper “The System Paradigm Revisited” in Acta Oeconomica vol. 4, (2016). The interview was translated by Dóra Kalotai and Christopher Ryan. Zoltán Farkas and János Kornai are indebted to them for their careful translation.

Hungarian Spectrum has had the privilege of publishing a number of János Kornai’s shorter works in English, either in full or in summary form. For example, his essay on “Centralization and the Capitalist Market Economy,” “Threatening Dangers,” “Hungary’s U-turn,” and “Breaking Promises, The Hungarian Experience.” I’m grateful to Professor Kornai for permission to publish this interview.

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Source: HVG / Photo by István Fazekas

It was six years ago when you first wrote that many important basic institutions of democracy in Hungary had been dismantled, and Hungary had become an autocracy. Now, in a study recently published in Közgazdasági Szemle, you have already summarized the characteristics of autocracies. Has your previous premonition been proved correct?

I feel I have been proved completely correct. Usually, a researcher is filled with pride when he is among the first to recognize a tendency. My pride, however, is overshadowed by bitterness, because the fact that my predictions have come true makes me depressed and bitter.

But Hungary is not unique in this sense. You write that barely one-tenth of the population of the 47 post-socialist countries live in democracies and fifteen percent in autocracies, while the vast majority live in dictatorships. It’s almost as if democracy was the exception. Were we chasing illusions at the time when the regimes changed?

If we start from the knowledge that we possessed at the time of the regime change, based on the experience of democratization carried out in other countries, our hopes for a more successful development – compared to what actually happened – were not just an illusion. It is worth taking a look at the two largest countries, China and Russia. In the latter the elements of democracy were beginning to emerge, free elections were held, and under the leadership of Yegor Gaidar a liberally inclined government was formed. But it did not last long. Anti-democratic elements came to the fore, led by Vladimir Putin, who established his own autocratic system. Repression grew heavier and heavier. China is another story. Perhaps for a while it was not only an illusion that it was, even if slowly, making progress towards democracy. The example of Taiwan is well-known: a tough dictatorial system gradually turning into a democracy. But in China events did not take this turn. How a regime defines itself is always revealing; according to the Chinese regime, theirs is “a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics.” In my interpretation, on the other hand, China’s system is a capitalist one, even if the ruling party calls itself communist. And politically they have a dictatorship: a one-party system, without elections, with terror. Among countries that changed their regime, democracy has stabilized in very few places as well as it has in the Baltic states. Since 2010,  many fundamental institutions of democracy have been demolished in Hungary, and an autocratic regime has come out on top. Poland has taken the first steps in the same direction, but that particular match has not yet been played out. The abandonment of democracy is a threat in the other post-socialist countries of Central and South-eastern Europe as well.

Which are the characteristic features of autocracy, the marks that set it apart?

Before anything else, I have to say that there is no consensus on the interpretation of democracy, autocracy or dictatorship among political scientists, politicians and people working in the media. There is complete conceptual chaos; I can’t even begin to hope things can be put in order here. Thus I shall undertake a more modest task: I would like to supply my readers with a sort of explanatory glossary of what I mean by these expressions. The main distinguishing characteristic of autocracy can be linked to Joseph Schumpeter, one of the most significant thinkers of the 20th century. Many authors, among them Samuel Huntington, follow his lead in viewing democracy as a procedure: a course of actions in which the government can be removed in a civilized way: legally, without bloodshed. This is in contrast with non-democracies, in which the change does not take place in a civilized fashion, nor does it usually happen without blood being shed. For instance, the tyrant is assassinated, or his regime is overthrown by a palace revolution. An example of the latter case was when the First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev was removed from power by his opponents within the Party. In other places the change of regime happens in the wake of a military coup or when a revolution by the masses threatens. If the government cannot be removed or is, to use an everyday phrase, cemented in place, there is autocracy. Schumpeter and others following him, myself included, restrict the name democracy to that politico-governmental form, and only that form, which guarantees that the government can be voted out of office. This is the minimum requirement. The other point is that in an autocracy the ruling group dismantles those checks and balances which would offer a realistic chance of forcing the government to correct its mistaken measures between two elections, and of changing the government at elections.

Fareed Zakaria defined as ‘illiberal democracies’ those systems in which the government came to power via legal elections, and has maintained the outward forms of democracy, but has systematically dismantled the checks and balances. You maintain that there are no illiberal democracies. Why?

When he first wrote about the topic Zakaria did not concentrate on the possibility of voting out the government, but rather on how the majority voted during the election, and on how the winners would uphold certain democratic structures later on, but dismantle others. When the Hungarian prime minister introduced the concept of illiberal democracy into public discourse at Tusnádfürdő, Zakaria, disagreeing with Orbán’s interpretation, refined the explanation of the notion. Personally, I consider this concept a dead end: illiberal democracy is like an atheist pope: the adjectival structure itself is contradictory. In my view all democracies are liberal. I lost my taste for concepts of democracy with an adjective when the communist dictatorship referred to itself as a ‘people’s democracy’, clearly distinguishing itself from the so-called ‘bourgeois’ democracies. But let us return to the significance of checks and balances. Let’s consider the case of President Nixon in the United States, who felt inclined to ‘consolidate’ his position, and had his political rivals bugged, but after being exposed was unable to get his Republican party colleagues, the attorney general or the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to stop the proceedings against him. The representatives were not bound to a ‘party line’: they wanted to find out the truth – the checks and balances functioned. These are necessary in a democracy. Just like a free press, in which the voice of the opposition is at least as powerful as that of the government. At the same time, it is also true that democracy is vulnerable because the enemies of democracy can also make use of fundamental rights – the freedom of the press, the rights of assembly and association. Those who have built an autocratic order have learned from this. They do not allow themselves the luxury of being voted out at an election where there is the real possibility of a variety of outcomes.

But if this is so, why is it not a dictatorship?

Dictatorships and autocracies do share some common features. One is that in every important issue; indeed, often even in less significant matters, it is the leader who makes decisions. But there are also significant differences. A dictatorship abolishes the multi-party system by law as well. The opposition is not weak; it is non-existent. It is driven underground. In contrast, opposition forces are allowed to function in an autocracy. Autocracies also make use of intimidation, but they do not go as far as extracting confessions by torture or executing large numbers of people. Many people have good reason to be afraid in autocracies as well because they may be thrown out of their jobs or become victims of character assassination; maybe they will be arrested on trumped up charges. But anybody who believes that there is only a difference of degree between autocracy and dictatorship has not yet lived under a dictatorship. Having said this, autocracies do have a tendency to turn into dictatorships. Maybe modern Turkey will illustrate this, almost before our very eyes. We shall see whether they reach the stage of complete, total dictatorship.

You did not list nationalism as one of the characteristics of autocracy. In Hungary, however, one has the impression that they go hand in hand.

I tried to mention only those characteristics of autocracy that appear exclusively in this political-governmental structure; that is, the features which differentiate it from democracy and dictatorship. An obvious counter-example would be corruption, which can be observed in all three types. Innumerable cases of corruption crop up in certain democracies, while there are puritan dictatorships in which money cannot buy everything. Unfortunately, nationalism is another anomalous phenomenon: democracy does not make us immune to it. One of the most tragic examples of this is the period of World War I, when a wave of nationalism swept through both sides; through both of the coalitions that were to go to war against each other. It was a nationalist thirst for revenge that was at work in the politicians of Western European democracies when they imposed humiliating and impossible peace terms on Germany. In this context, to take a great leap through history, the Trump phenomenon is worth mentioning. One of the great parties of the United States nominates the extreme nationalist Trump for the presidency. Even if he does not win the elections, the political camp that supports him will remain strong, and because the United States is a democracy, they will make their voices heard. Recently, a strong wave of nationalism has been felt in Great Britain as well.

What is your impression of Hungarian nationalism?

I am really worried about it getting stronger, not for myself, but for the future of the country. Because I do not deny that in Hungary autocracy and nationalism go hand in hand. An autocrat is indeed able to turn the wave of nationalism to his own advantage; Trump is doing the same. The main element of his rhetoric is xenophobia, especially against Latin Americans. He adds that the gates are too wide open also to immigrants from overseas, and rejects President Obama’s suggestion that ten thousand Syrian refugees should be allowed to the country. By the way, communist dictatorships that advocated internationalist theories were nationalistic as well. Non-Russian minorities were oppressed in the Soviet Union, and the same can be said of non-Chinese ethnic groups and speakers in China. Nationalism exists in both dictatorships and democracies, not only in autocracies.

In this conceptual framework why do you define Viktor Orbán’s system as an autocracy?

Because it bears in itself all the important characteristics of autocracy, both its primary and its secondary features. This period started with the leader announcing that he intended to establish a system which would last for at least ten or twenty years. He declared that he wanted to cement himself in place. Since the day he came to power, he and his party have been continuously dismantling the system of checks and balances. Not like in a revolution, when they take over every powerful position at the same time, but step by step. Every week, something has happened. One of the first things they did was to reduce the Constitutional Court’s sphere of authority and pack the Court with people connected to Fidesz. Then came the new media law, which created almost endless opportunities for government propaganda. They also took over a significant part of the private media. The bureaucratic dismantling of checks and balances is combined with the use of market methods. The process culminated in the changing of the law on elections.

You write that the interplay of anti-market and anti-democratic elements has formed Orbán Viktor’s system into a coherent one; the mechanism of the state does not work according to the rules of the capitalist market economy. So how does it work?

Even in democracies it is taken for granted that the market cannot be left entirely to its own devices: there is not a single economist with any common sense who would oppose some regulation here and there when there is a real reason for it. In cases of monopoly, state regulation is clearly necessary. Even then, mistakes can be made. For example, the authorities may set prices too high or too low because they don’t understand the situation or are incompetent. Too high, and whoever is running the monopoly will make a handsome profit; too low, and they will make a loss. It is possible for regulation to be done badly as a result of incompetence, but it can also happen if other people’s interests, for example. cronies’, are prioritized. A business can be ruined through regulation so that a friend or client can buy it up cheaply. The tendency towards regulation that is not compatible with the functioning of the market is one of the characteristics of an autocracy. The Hungarian government exercises far more regulatory power than would be reasonable. There are numerous possible underlying motives for their unnecessary, excessive and – not infrequently – distinctly damaging interventions. On the one hand, the central authorities wish to extend their power across as many activities as possible. The knowledge that “I control everything: nothing can happen without me” is a very powerful motivation. An equally strong motive is the need to court political popularity, to make populist promises.

What are the results when autocracy works this way?

It is a mistake to believe that there are so many things wrong with the economy, that because of the numerous incompetent and biased interventions it functions so erratically, that it is bound to collapse in the end. This may happen, but it is by no means bound to happen. A state that gets along badly with the market does not push the economy over the edge into catastrophe; it just makes it harder for it to fulfill its potential. It will not be innovative enough, not competitive enough; it will lose the best experts. This will become obvious only in the long run. The trams still run, only more rarely, the teachers complain, but teaching doesn’t stop, health care is beset by dire problems, but they still try to look after patients in hospitals. It is not that the economy is unable to function, only that it fails to achieve as much as it could. As a result, it falls behind its rivals, behind those countries where the state and the market work together in greater harmony, where people involved in the economy discuss what they have to do, where they listen to people before passing laws that affect them. In the past, I had many arguments with people who claimed that the Soviet economy did not work. The truth is that it did not collapse until the very end: it functioned, however badly and inefficiently, in spite of all the well-known, serious inadequacies and problems. It fell further and further behind its historic rival, the capitalist West. The question arises: does the state play a lesser role in a democracy than in an autocracy? At any rate, it would never occur to anybody in the U.S. or the Scandinavian welfare states that education should be brought under the control of a single center, as has happened in the Hungarian autocracy.

Every day we hear Fidesz trotting out some of the well-known catchwords of socialism. They promise full employment, they consider state ownership superior; they utter anti- profit slogans. Are they leading the country back to socialism? Is that what they want to restore? Even in a different form?

I do not see any danger of this. At the time of the regime change, people used to say “You can make an omelet out of an egg, but an omelet will never turn back into an egg.” Whatever happened is irreversible. Autocrats coexist happily with capitalism. Indeed, it is the only system they can really coexist with because they make use of the opportunities offered by capitalism to maintain their own authority. Looking at it from the other side, some capitalists are attracted to stable and authoritarian governments. Many western or multinational companies that have set up shop in China would not like the situation there to change. It is just the same in Hungary. Anybody who enjoys special advantages in public procurements and certain tenders, in the opening times of shops or the purchase of raw materials, who can count in bailouts if they get into financial difficulties, they are having a good time. In autocracies, given the private economy, a wide circle of clients can be built up from the supporters of the system who receive financial support. They can pay for these favors if and when the time comes. Far from wishing to bring socialism back, this regime gets on very well indeed with capitalism.

Has this system reached a point where the government can no longer be voted out of power?

Only the historians of the future will be able to answer that question. If it turns out that the government can be removed peacefully, in a civilized way, in the voting booth, then I have been wrong. I’m not making any predictions. What I can say is this: in Hungary, the regime has done and will continue to do everything possible to make itself irremovable. I hope you will not misunderstand me: the last thing I want to do with my analyses is to discourage those who are prepared to fight to change the situation. People for whom the values of democracy are important: individual autonomy, freedom of speech, freedom of the media and press, constitutionalism, legality, rule of law–they should not make their behavior dependent on the likelihood of change. They should not lie low during these years, but they should act, in their own ways, using the methods of their choice.

December 29, 2016

Ferenc Gyurcsány: “Disintegration or something else?”

As always, Hungarian Spectrum welcomes democratic voices from and about Hungary. Today Ferenc Gyurcsány, prime minister of Hungary between 2004 and 2009, offers his solutions to the ills of western democracies. Mr. Gyurcsány is currently the chairman of Demokratikus Koalíció, which he established in 2011.

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gyurcsany10

Something has gone wrong. Quietly, but ever more noticeably, more and more people in more and more places are in revolt. In the American presidential primaries the anti-establishment Trump and Sanders have attracted millions of voters. The British are holding a referendum on leaving the European Union. In Germany, support for the centrist Christian Democrats and Social Democrats combined barely reaches 50%. In the first round of the Austrian presidential elections a radical right-wing candidate received the largest share of the votes. On Europe’s southern periphery, from Greece to Spain, new political parties and movements critical of the status quo are rising and, in some cases, achieving significant success.

In Central Europe the situation is even more adversarial. From Poland to Slovakia to Hungary, the political parties enjoying the highest support are those that have turned against the values of a common Europe, the achievements of the post-Communist years, and the vision of an open and free society.

The Western democracies are facing previously unknown challenges. The political order that worked well for decades in America and Europe is in trouble. We do not yet know whether this is just a temporary crisis or a total implosion or whether it is just the first signs of a chaotic transition to a totally new order.

Although the problems are obviously complex, certain root causes are very much evident. The first is the reversing trend in social democratization over the past 20 years. Numerous studies have shown that wealth and income disparities in the Western world are increasing at an ever faster pace. Current generations are faced with the fact that it is increasingly difficult to find decent, well-paying jobs and to support a standard of living similar to that of their parents and grandparents. Meanwhile, the wealth and income of a very few are growing substantially. Thomas Piketty writes in his bestselling work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that in the countries of Western Europe the top 1% controls 25% of the total wealth, while the bottom half of society controls merely 5%. This represents an average difference of 750-fold! And now those at the bottom and even those in the middle whose status is under threat are starting to revolt.

However, the protesters also come from another segment of society. Highly educated young people who are not protesting because of economic insecurity, but because they feel that certain values are missing. They are the people rallying to Sanders in the U.S., to Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece and to other strongly leftist political movements elsewhere.

Another reason for the dissatisfaction is the hollowing out of democracy itself. More and more people believe that “one man, one vote” has been replaced by a system of “one dollar, one vote.” Is there truth to this? There certainly is to the extent that money, corporations and lobbyists have a greater influence on democratic decisions than the will of the nameless millions of voters.

There are also two additional, interlinked phenomena. Traditional class-based societies began to disintegrate about 30 years ago. They were replaced by fractured societies comprised of citizens with multiple identities and beliefs whom traditional ideology-based parties are having difficulty organizing into uniform political communities. Furthermore, the social media revolution of the last decade has resulted in a change from hierarchical, closed political parties into open, network-based, virtual social communities.

In our region this is exacerbated by the belief of many that the change in regime did not bring a better, but rather a more uncertain life. The belief that Brussels forced us to open our markets to Western companies which brought vulnerability, subservience and eventually increased poverty.

So here are the disappointed millions who, as their opportunities continue to shrink, are slowly turning against the decades-old order of Western democracies. They have started to revolt and are becoming more and more effective at organizing themselves over the Internet. They are currently still in the denial phase and are willing to support almost anything that stands in contrast to the established economic and political order.

The proposed solutions by leaders of these movements are murky. Bernie Sanders wants socialism in America. Donald Trump does not want to allow any more Muslim immigrants to enter the United States. London’s former mayor, Boris Johnson, is campaigning for Great Britain to leave the European Union. Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński are replacing the rule of law with a Putin-inspired “directed democracy.” These responses are confusing even after taking into consideration that the political actors mentioned do not in any way comprise a uniform group.

The debate can no longer be about whether Western democracy is in trouble, but rather about the potential solutions. Trump and Orbán favor isolation and the protection of the elites as solutions, arguing that this will restore order. In the words of Polonius: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” However, we want peace and security for entire societies, not just for the privileged few.

By the end of the 1980s I slowly started to understand that nothing can override the order created by freedom. As such, I became and have remained an enthusiastic supporter of the change in regime in Central Europe. However, the freedom unleashed by the change in regime cannot mean that the strong can get away with anything while the weak must put up with it. If freedom does not bring hope and opportunity to the masses then it creates a worse, not a better life for them. Such one-sided freedom results in the masses turning against freedom itself. People disappointed by freedom and seeking new paths are ready to back almost anyone who stands against the democratic order of recent decades. This is fertile ground for populists, nationalists and anyone who promises to break with the past and usher in a different future.

In this way, the freedom of the few against the interests of the many brings upheaval, not stability and order. However, it is evident that this cannot be in the interests of the privileged few either because sooner or later the fear brought on by the anger of the masses will result in them locking themselves in private prisons, surrounded by bodyguards behind the fences of their luxury villas. It is time to change. Otherwise, a catastrophe is inevitable for both the rich and the poor. Everything that is beautiful and uplifting in our Western world will be lost. Or the West will simply become the East. The Wild East…

The only solution is to democratize democracy. If the people believe that democracy is not democratic enough, then the solution is not to take away what little remains of democracy but instead to infuse it with new life. We have to understand that if the current disparities in wealth and income persist then the resulting discontent will sooner or later destroy our world. We cannot continue on a path which provides little or nothing to the working millions, despite economic growth and stable corporate profits. It is not enough to democratize rights and freedoms. Hope, opportunity and upward mobility must be democratized also. It is not right to make people work for a few hundred euros a month. The legal minimum wage should not be below the poverty line. We need a decent European social charter which recognizes the right of workers to stable real wages and their right to a reasonable share of corporate profits. In the age of self-employment and micro & small enterprises, collective contracts no longer have the effectiveness that they did in the era of large corporations. Start-ups which power technological and business innovation are spreading like wild mushrooms, in many cases only to implode in short order. In a world such as this we cannot talk about traditional protections. A new type of income and social safety net is needed. We need to design version 2.0 of the welfare state. The political security and economic European Union must be complemented by the Europe of social security. Corporations, be they small or large, cannot be stronger than the interests of their workers. This must be institutionalized and guaranteed.

New rules are needed to ensure the transparency of political decisions, to control the power of the business lobby and to involve the electorate in decisions to a greater extent. We must expand the use of direct referendums, allow more decisions to be made at the local level, and regain the trust that has been lost in the political system. This is true even in our disintegrating world in which many people want to leave decision-making to a small group of elites, believing that the issues are too complex and that the general electorate does not have the knowledge to deal with them wisely. We must create wide-ranging forums for institutionalized social dialogue. There should be legally-guaranteed forums in schools for students, teachers and parents, in hospitals for patients and doctors, within social welfare institutions and between government and the representatives of the professions. Dialogue-based democracy can make millions a part of the decision-making process, turning common decision making into common practice. We should strive to make as many elements as possible of argument-based and consensus-based decision making–“deliberative democracy”– a part of our political discourse.

As a final thought, if we accept the fact that political parties with roots in the 19th century are increasingly less capable of organizing effective political communities, we must reflect on this as well. Without parties there can be no parliamentary democracy, while without social communities there is no effective discourse and without Internet communities there is no free and wide-ranging airing of opinions. Instead of simply conflicts between political parties, we must organize competitive social networks in which parties, advocacy groups and virtual communities work together based on their own beliefs and their own solutions. Put more simply, a political system based on rivalry between parties should be replaced by a system based on both co-operation and rivalry between social networks.

Everything I have discussed can only be partly realized within national boundaries. Since if, for example, we Hungarians provide increased protections to workers then we run the risk that investors and corporations will seek opportunities elsewhere. A socially democratic world can only be created together at the European level. If the business world organizes itself globally, then we must at least think in terms of Europe.

There are those who would curtail our freedoms because they believe this is the way to create a more orderly and perhaps better world. I recommend the opposite. To protect freedom, we need more freedom. But instead of selfishness, we need social responsibility and the freedom and opportunity for all to participate. Freedom and opportunity. We must not allow the order of freedom to be disrupted by the absence of freedom for all. Otherwise, there is nothing except maybe revolution, which in the end would destroy everything we have lived for and believed in and what we call Europe.

June 22, 2016

The role of schools in the spread of democratic thinking

Yesterday I was listening to an interview with a neuroscientist who touched on the new ways medical schools, including Harvard where she teaches, instruct future doctors. The amount of medical knowledge is so vast, with more information becoming available every day, that no human being can possibly learn and remember it all. That’s why we often see doctors, especially primary care physicians, using medical software to aid in their diagnosis and treatment. The same thing is true in practically every field. And yes, it is also true for students enrolled in high schools and universities. This is at the core of the current educational debate in Hungary.

Hungarian schools haven’t changed much since the nineteenth century. But by now a segment of teachers, especially in the better or so-called elite schools, are painfully aware of the deficiencies of the educational system that was forced upon them in the last four or five years. The earlier years were far from ideal, but the system was a great deal better then than after the new government reforms. These teachers don’t just want to impart the information that is available in textbooks. They would also like to conduct classes that are devoted to the intelligent exchange of ideas. Less rote learning and more critical thinking.

I readily concede that the teachers who are leading the teachers’ revolt are in the minority. The majority of teachers are quite happy to go about their work the same way they have for the last thirty or forty years. Many of them haven’t really kept up with the latest research in their fields, and their knowledge of the subject they teach is scant. Barely more than what is in the textbook. One can’t expect these people to engage in serious debates about issues relating to their subject and hold their own. In the almost thirty years since the change of regime more effort could have been put into educating the educators, but each government had its own ideas and strategy, which resulted in constant–and for the most part useless–change.

Perhaps the greatest deficiency of the school system in the last 25-30 years was its failure to teach young Hungarians about the political system in which they live. No one paid any attention to this vitally important topic. In fact, unless I’m mistaken, the political leaders in the early 1990s were opposed to “bringing politics” into the schools and, unfortunately, they interpreted “politics” rather loosely. In a way it was understandable that they wanted to banish politics from schools, universities, and the workplace because in the one-party system each school and each factory or company had its own party cell. During the negotiations for the change of regime the representatives of MSZMP, the old communist party, were intent on keeping these cells alive and functioning, and it took some hard bargaining to get rid of them. However, by banishing politics from the schools the post-communist politicians created a politically illiterate generation or two.

civicsAs a result of this political illiteracy, in the last couple of years polls have consistently indicated that there is little interest in politics among younger people. But if they were to vote, they would support Jobbik. Only about two weeks ago an international public opinion poll conducted by Millennial Dialogue revealed that 53% of Hungarians between the ages of 15 and 34 would vote for Jobbik.  Moreover, while in Poland, Bulgaria, and Austria about half of this age group is interested in politics, in Hungary it is only 28.6%.

Perhaps Hungarian educators should study the work of John Dewey (1859-1952), the American philosopher and educational reformer, who stressed that a complete democracy is more than extending voting rights. It must also encourage fully informed public opinion. He believed that the main goal of school was to prepare the next generation to engage actively in the democratic process. Admittedly, even in the United States the teaching of “civics” (citizenship) has been greatly neglected. Only a few states require students to pass a citizenship exam that would show familiarity with the basic institutions and ideas of American democracy. The result is widespread ignorance.

I would love to see a study on how much young or even older Hungarians know about the political system in which they live. I’m sure the results would be depressing. Of course, one could rightly point out that introducing another subject into the curriculum would only add to the burden of already overworked students. I wouldn’t recommend a “civics” class per se. But the homeroom teacher already has an hour per week set aside for discussion of a range of topics. Why not the political process? The role of the judiciary? Freedom of speech? Moreover, as a practical matter even younger children could run for elected office, organize parties, devise party programs. These are all excellent ways to teach them about how democracy works and how they fit into this society as active participants. Without a politically educated public you can’t have a functioning democratic society.

Banishing politics from universities also had disastrous results. Before 1990 all universities had a paid KISZ (Kommunista Ifjúsági Szövetség) secretary. This post was naturally discontinued, and in its place came organizations that were supposed to represent the interests of the student body. These new organizations were supposedly free of any political affiliation, but in reality they were taken over by students with ties to Jobbik in many universities. So, while other parties were banned from organizing clubs, Jobbik had a monopoly on political activity on campuses in the guise of a non-political student organization. In most American universities parties have a presence. At Yale the largest organization on campus is the Political Union, which was established in 1934 to combat political apathy. Under the umbrella of the Political Union are several parties. One of the most active nowadays seems to be the Independent Party. These parties have by-laws, elect officers, organize meetings, invite speakers, etc. The ban on politics on Hungarian campuses should be lifted for the sake of a healthier, more democratic society of the future. Democracy cannot be built without democrats.

April 16, 2016

Viktor Orbán’s democracy: Nationalism, pure and simple

We should have gotten accustomed to the fact that by now that news about Hungary and its prime minister is an everyday occurrence. Just today I encountered well over 100 articles about Viktor Orbán in newspapers as well as on internet news sites, from Azerbaijan to Sweden. Most of the articles I came across were from Germany where Viktor Orbán’s interview with Kai Diekmann, the publisher of Bild, created quite a stir.

Kai Diekmann and Viktor Orbán / Business Insider

Kai Diekmann and Viktor Orbán / Business Insider

From Orbán’s awkward and occasionally wrong word usage, I assume that the interview was conducted in English, with not the best results. For example, the sentence that is most often commented on in the German press is: “Today, the voices coming from Berlin are coarse, rough, and aggressive.”

Orbán has never been known for his diplomatic skills, and since he has achieved a certain, in my opinion dubious, fame in Europe he thinks he can say practically anything with impunity. For example, when Diekmann quoted Jean-Claude Juncker’s claim that “history will prove Ms. Merkel right,” Orbán’s answer was rude and demeaning. He said, “I think the course of history will not be bothered by Mr. Juncker…. Let us see how history one day will judge Chancellor Merkel without Mr. Juncker’s help.”

The German people will read with delight Viktor Orbán’s opinion that “we owe nothing to Germany, and the Germans owe nothing to us. Germany has supported us in becoming a member of the EU. We are grateful for that. But then Hungary has opened its market for all EU states. Everybody has profited from that. So we are square.” When asked about Hungary’s relations with “the controversial Polish government,” Orbán answered: “I can only say that the peoples of Central Europe and Hungary are a community in fate, to the death. Many of us would spill our blood for Poland any time. And vice versa: in an emergency, many Polish people would give his life to protect Hungarians. This has happened more than once over the course of history.”

Two days ago I brought up my puzzlement over a sentence that Viktor Orbán uttered at the quickly organized press conference at which he announced his decision to hold a referendum on the compulsory refugee quotas. He said at that time that voting against this question would be a proof of loyalty to the country. “Because how could someone be loyal as long as others decide the most important questions?” I added that it didn’t matter how hard I tried to follow Orbán’s logic, I couldn’t see the connection between loyalty and the matter on hand. This interview sheds some light on the subject. Orbán has a very strange definition of “the basic principle of democracy,” which “in the end is loyalty to the nation.” What an incredible, unfathomable statement. Democracy according to this confused man equals nationalism.

At this point I would like to interject a quotation I jotted down from Ian Kershaw’s masterful two-volume biography of Hitler, which I’m in the middle of reading. These lines are from the first volume, Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris:

It was more than anything else the ways nationalism had developed in late nineteenth-century Germany that provided the set of ideas that, if often in distorted–even perverted–form, offered the potential for Nazism’s post-war appeal…. Crucial to the character of German nationalism was the pervasive sense … of incomplete unity, of persistent, even widening division and conflict within the nation. What, in the changed conditions after the war, Hitler was able most signally to exploit was the belief that pluralism was somehow unnatural and unhealthy in society, that it was a sign of weakness, and that internal division and disharmony could be suppressed and eliminated, to be replaced by the unity of a national community. (p. 136)

Compare that with Viktor Orbán’s speech at a Fidesz picnic in September 2009 in Kötcse:

Today it is realistically conceivable that in the coming fifteen-twenty years, Hungarian politics should be determined not by the dualistic field of force bringing with it never conclusive and divisive value debates, which quite unnecessarily generate social problems. Instead, a great governing party comes in place, a central field of force, which will be able to articulate the national issues and to stand for these policies as a natural course of things to be taken for granted without the constantly ongoing wrangling.

In brief, differences of opinion, any kind of political division, are signs of weakness in Orbán’s worldview just as the German variety of nationalism feared ethnic and religious differences. So, it is no wonder that Orbán called his regime the “System of National Cooperation.” If you don’t cooperate, you are not part of this nation. Fidesz and its supporters defend the national interest so if someone criticizes Orbán’s policies, this person is the enemy of the nation. As we know, this kind of striving for national unity usually ends in disaster.

By defending the nation Orbán claims to be defending democracy. When Diekmann pressed him on his policies, which may lead to the division of Europe, Orbán’s answer was that “the quota is reframing the ethnic, cultural and religious profile of Hungary and Europe. I have not decided this way against Europe, but for protecting European democracy.”

From these statements we learn that Orbán is defending not democracy but nationalism. At least this time he told the truth.

February 26, 2016

Is democracy a useless slogan in Hungarian political discourse?

I’m pretty sure that all of you have heard over and over from friends and acquaintances that no party that talks too much about the importance of democracy in Hungary can possibly win an election. People are disappointed in democracy, which only brought them misery, a drop in living standards, and systemic corruption. Some commentators go even further: the Hungarian people have always been conservative, bordering on a fascination with the far right, and therefore no party on the left can ever win an election. These are the statements I would like explore in this post.

As things stand now, the best recipe for electoral success seems to be unbridled nationalism and the hatred of strangers. At least this was what brought back into the fold at least half a million voters who had abandoned Fidesz during the fall of 2014 and the spring of 2015. But that strategy has been trademarked by Fidesz, and the pitiful imitators on the left only make themselves ridiculous by trying to repeat the worn-out nationalistic phrases coined by the “parrot commando.” Fidesz voters will not be impressed by politicians of the small democratic parties who feel compelled to add the adjective “Hungarian” every time they utter the word “people.” This road leads nowhere.

Another possible way to tilt the odds in favor of the political forces on the left is to offer an immediate financial reward to the state employees—doctors, nurses, teachers—who at the moment are on the lowest rungs of the pay scale. Lately the socialist party (MSZP) has been trying out this tactic, without much success. The apathetic populace no longer believes that their living standards will change for the better any time soon, and they no longer believe politicians’ promises. Moreover, as we know from past experience, a one-time large increase in wages can be forgotten by the electorate within months.

So, let’s go back to the original statement about the alleged hopelessness of winning an election in Hungary in the name of democracy and social justice. I would like to argue against the proposition that the failure of the democratic opposition is due to their emphasis on democracy, which has lost its appeal in the eyes of the electorate. Of the five parties on the left, it is Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) that places the greatest emphasis on the necessity of restoring democratic norms. Gyurcsány finishes every speech with a call for a return of the Third Republic, which basically means a restoration of the pre-2010 period. And yet DK is the only party that has been able to grow steadily, to the point that its level of support practically equals that of MSZP, which has fluctuated between 16% at its height in 2013 and its current 10%. If the mention of the word “democracy” was such poison for a party, then DK should have remained on the level of Együtt (Together) and PM (Dialogue), with 1% support each. Surely, it is not a party’s devotion to democratic values that makes a party successful or unsuccessful.

The structure and leadership of a party is, in my opinion, a much more important factor, and here DK is in a better position than MSZP. Critics rightly point out that DK is so closely associated with Ferenc Gyurcsány, as Fidesz is with Viktor Orbán, that if either of them suddenly disappeared their parties would most likely collapse. However, having one person whose standing within the party is unquestioned lends strength and stability to a political organization. There seems to be solid cohesion in the top leadership of DK as opposed to MSZP, where József Tóbiás has many secret and not so secret critics within the party and where there is no coordinated policy to deliver a common message.

In addition to the personnel problems in MSZP there is an unfortunately obvious hesitancy when it comes to determining the kind of policy the party should follow. MSZP often behaves in a cowardly fashion. Every time they think that a Fidesz proposal might be popular with their electorate they feel compelled to vote for the bill. One might call such behavior pragmatic, but it is unprincipled, and my guess is that what the anti-Orbán electorate would like to see is a sure-footed opposition instead of a party that offers half-measures. This kind of brave, uncompromising attitude might be the key to a party’s success between now and the next election.

And that leads me to Ferenc Gyurcsány’s twelfth speech on “the state of the nation” on January 23. Practically all commentators touched upon the harshness of his criticisms. He described today’s Hungary as a country divided between “the few who live in great style and who are becoming rich as a result of corruption and those toiling multitudes without hope.” In his opinion “a criminal gang that is headed by the prime minister, masquerading as politicians, runs the country.” One cannot possibly more harshly and aptly describe what is going on in Hungary today.

DK's party program will be called "Hungary of the Many"

DK’s party program will be called “Hungary of the Many”

Gyurcsány is ready to take unpopular stands. For example, the refugee issue. MSZP last summer criticized the government’s anti-refugee policies, but by end of September they changed tactics. The MSZP caucus abstained when the question of the army’s participation in building the fence that kept migrants out of the country came up for a vote. They called their new strategy “positive neutrality.” Gyurcsány criticized MSZP at the time, and even today he is unwilling to abandon his belief that Hungary would benefit from a well-regulated immigration policy that would allow a certain number of immigrants to settle in the country. Fidesz immediately announced that Gyurcsány is dangerous.

DK’s motto is “no compromise with the government under any circumstances.” The question is whether such an unbending attitude will be more successful than MSZP’s hesitant and vacillating approach. Only time will tell.

January 25, 2016

Mária Vásárhelyi: “Self-appraisal”–The failure of the regime change

Now that for almost two weeks political life in Hungary has pretty well come to a standstill, I have time to read some analyses of topics of current interest. That’s why I decided to summarize the article of János Széky on the parallels and dissimilarities between the Polish and the Hungarian regimes the other day. Another article that appeared in the December 18 issue of Élet és Irodalom that piqued my interest was Mária Vásárhelyi’s probing look at Hungarian society’s seeming indifference to the destruction of democratic institutions by Viktor Orbán’s government. The article bears the title “Szembenézés–önmagunkkal,” which perhaps can best be rendered as “Self-Appraisal.” She is seeking answers for the failure of the 1989 regime change and assesses the role of intellectuals in the years that led to 2010 and after.

Hungarian society displays deep and widespread despondency in the face of changes introduced by Viktor Orbán’s government. Many people know that these changes, both in the short and in the long run, are injurious to the country. Yet they seem unable to take a stand against them, most likely because they no longer have any hope for a better life. Some people talk about the Hungarian psyche, which is inclined toward melancholy and pessimism; others bring up national tradition as an obstacle to an energetic response in the face of adversity. What Hungarian intellectuals don’t want to realize is that the democratic accomplishments they view as great achievements of the regime change are not considered as such by the public. “However painful it is, we must face the fact that for the majority the regime change is not a success story but a failure.” Achievements are dwarfed by losses. The values inherent in democracy and personal freedom cannot be measured against the shock of lost security and existential perspectives.

Vásárhelyi, a sociologist who already during the Kádár period was part of a team that conducted opinion polls, recalls that in the 1980s the great majority of the people considered a secure job, material advance, and free and widely available healthcare more important than such moral values as freedom, democracy, equal opportunity, and justice. The Kádár regime, with the help of foreign loans, ensured these material benefits. Exchanging these material pluses for abstract moral values was not what these people expected. But this is what more or less happened between 1989 and 2015. Between 1990 and 1994 one million people lost their jobs, Hungary’s industrial production decreased by 40% and its agricultural production by 30%. Hungarians never fully recovered from the shock of those years. Moreover, since 2010 the situation has grown worse.

During the four years of the second Orbán government the gap between rich and poor grew enormously. Consumer spending today barely reaches the 1988 level. In 1987 51% of the people reported that they had no serious financial problems, another 44% were able to make ends meet, and only 5% didn’t have enough money to make it through the month. Today one-third of households struggle to put food on the table and the remaining two-thirds barely manage. In the Kádár regime two-thirds of families could afford a summer vacation, today only one-third can. The middle class, instead of expanding, is shrinking.

I'm remaining a democrat and I am staying in Hungary

Mária Vásárhelyi: I’m remaining a democrat and I’m staying in Hungary

Not surprisingly, 80% of people with leftist leanings and 42% of Fidesz voters think that Hungary’s situation was better under socialism than it is now. Among the East European countries, Hungarians feel the most dejected and disappointed, which can partly be explained by the relative well-being of the population during the second half of the Kádár era. Another reason for the greater disappointment in Hungary might stem from Hungarian wariness of capitalism and private ownership of large businesses and factories. Already in 1990 half of the population opposed privatization, but today almost two-thirds are against private property on a large scale. Not only do Orbán’s nationalization efforts meet no resistance, they are most likely welcomed.

The situation is no better when people are asked their opinion of political institutions. At the beginning of the 1990s trust in the new institutions was quite high: on a scale of 0 to 100 the average was around 65 and none was under 50. Today not a single democratic institution reaches 50. Two-thirds of the people have no trust whatsoever in parliament and in politicians. Only 25% have any trust in politicians, parliament, government, or the opposition. Only 20% of them think that politicians want the best for the country and for the people. They don’t trust the media and the financial institutions. They have even lost faith in the judiciary, the police, the churches, and the scientific institutions. More than half of the population believe that the leaders of the country don’t care about their fate. Two-thirds are convinced that one cannot succeed by being honest. Almost 75% think that the laws serve only the interests of those in power and that they have nothing to do with justice.

“Thus it is not at all surprising that not only the democratic institutions but democracy itself has lost its importance.” According to a 2009 poll, three people out of four agree with the statement that the change of regime caused more harm than good to the country. Only every fifth person is convinced that regime change will bear fruit in the long run.

It was on this general disappointment with capitalism and democracy that Viktor Orbán built his electoral strategy in 2010 and managed to acquire a two-thirds majority in parliament. In Vásárhelyi’s opinion

It was not the right-wing values, the restoration of the Horthy regime, not even the anti-communist slogans that attracted the majority of the voters to Orbán but the violent anti-regime rhetoric studded with overwrought nationalism. He convinced his voters that he would redress the injustices and the wrongs of the regime change. … It was the promise of a new change of regime, the restoration of the state’s dominance in the economy, the compensation for losses suffered, calling to account those who illegally benefited from the privatization of public property that the people voted for when they cast their votes for Fidesz.

And because for the majority of people the democratic institutions held no great attraction the systematic  destruction of these institutions didn’t meet with any resistance. The rule of law, freedom, equal opportunity were popular points of reference in the first few years [after 1990], but when the promises of the regime change didn’t materialize they lost their appeal. What followed was mass impoverishment, closing of channels of social mobility, dramatic differences between rich and poor, segregation, the narrowing of opportunities in the small villages, and the hopelessness of breaking out from disadvantageous positions, all of which started well before 2010.

Therefore, I consider those ideas that look for a solution to the crisis of Hungarian democracy in the revival of the traditions of the regime change and the reconstruction of the democratic institutions mistaken. Those political and cultural values that the non-right-wing elite considers important clearly don’t speak to the majority of Hungarians…. They don’t even attract those who are victims of all that has happened since 2010 and who are greatly disappointed in the Orbán regime. These people are actually in the majority. According to the 2014 European Values Survey, almost half of the population believe that the country is moving in the wrong direction. Only 25% of the electorate are satisfied. Twice as many people look toward the future with trepidation than with hope. The former group are those who will have to get rid of Orbán’s autocratic regime, but it is obvious that they can only be inspired by a more attractive alternative than the elite democracy that developed after 1989.

Is there an alternative to the fundamentals of the democratic changes or the introduction of a market economy, which were the promise of 1989-1990? I don’t believe there is. What has to be changed are not the fundamentals but their implementation, so that a growing prosperity will be shared by all the people of Hungary, not just the upper crust with political connections, which is the strategy of the Orbán government. Any other economic policy is doomed to failure.

Péter Boross on immigration, the European Union, and the United States

Péter Boross, prime minister of Hungary between December 12, 1993 and July 15, 1994, periodically makes outrageous statements. Today was one of those times and, as is usually the case, every internet organ is full of condemnation of Boross. This time the Hungarian media discovered that the former prime minister of Hungary is a racist. To my mind there is nothing surprising about this. It goes with the territory. Boross, who was born in 1928, would feel right at home in the Hungary of Gyula Gömbös and Pál Teleki, two prime ministers in the 1930s who were zealous “defenders of the race” (fajvédők).

Nowadays people who find the far-right regime of Viktor Orbán unbearable are apt to think of the Antall-Boross governments’ conservative system as a liberal heaven in comparison. But let’s not get carried away. Seeds of many of the political sins of today were sown by the conservative coalition of József Antall, whose good friend was Péter Boross. Thanks to that friendship Boross made a fantastic political career. First as undersecretary in the prime minister’s office and within months as minister of the interior. Once Antall died, he was chosen by his party to become prime minister.

Those of you who would like to learn more about Boross should read my post on him, which includes a brief biography. I also wrote a longer piece in Hungarian for the by-now defunct Galamus. In addition, I discovered a 2002 tongue-in cheek article by Gáspár Miklós Tamás (TGM) titled “An example for the progressive youth.” The conclusion is that Hungary’s former prime minister is a not very smart, reactionary, bigoted, narrow-minded man who was ill-suited for a political career in the first place. But, let’s face it, Hungary’s first democratically elected government was absolutely full of these characters.

The interview appeared in Magyar Hírlap, a far-right paper that is supportive of Fidesz. It was somewhere in the middle of the interview that Tamás Pindroch, a journalist whose views are not far from those of Boross, asked him whether he shares the widely-held view that the would-be immigrants cannot adapt to European norms because of their “cultural differences.” The civilizations where these people are coming from are so different from our own that adjustment is impossible. Of course, we know that this is the view Viktor Orbán holds who, in my opinion, defines “culture” in a very narrow sense. Since he denies that multi-national Hungary was a multi-cultural country, we must assume that for Orbán cultural difference means religious difference, Christian versus Muslim.

Boross, Magyar Hirlap

Boross, as it turned out, doesn’t share that view. Let me quote the crucial sentences:

Today no one dares to say that immigration is not a cultural but an ethnic problem. Namely, millions arrive in Europe whose languages and skin colors are different from those of Europeans. It is important to note that they don’t just come from different cultures but their psychic apparatus, their biological and genetic endowments are different. It is a well-known fact that in Western Europe third-generation immigrants oppose the nations that took them in. What kind of conclusion can we draw from this? If it were simply a question of culture, they should have adjusted a long time ago: they attended school in the countries they live in, they speak the language, they are familiar with the customs and behavior of Europeans. Cultural integration doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked with the Gypsies, although they have lived with us for hundreds of years. In this case, there is not much of a chance that it will work with masses of Muslims who are crossing our borders.

Liberal publications were shocked and condemned Boross for his racist remarks, but Válasz, a pro-Fidesz publication, was also critical. The article argued that after the appearance of this interview, all those who consider people “who don’t welcome the new arrivals with EU flags in hand bigoted and narrow-minded racists” will be able to point to the racist remarks of the former prime minister. Right-wing politicians in the West would never resort to such language. Listing cultural differences is enough for them.

Admittedly, Boross’s racist remarks were shocking, but I wouldn’t ignore some of his other observations which, though they might not touch on sensitive race issues, also manifest an attitude that is not far from the thinking of many Hungarians, politicians and non-politicians alike.

Although Boross covered many topics, I will pick only a couple that I found the most interesting. One such topic was the European Union. A careful reading of the text reveals that, as far as the former prime minister is concerned, Hungary would be much better off if she didn’t belong to the Union. He states that if there were only independent nation states in Europe, “this flood could easily have been stopped.” In what way it would have been easier to handle the problem, he neglects to tell us. But since the existence of the EU is a given, at least its important organizations shouldn’t be situated in Brussels, Strasbourg, and the Hague, which are strongholds of “western left-liberalism.” And since the EU is expanding eastward, it would be logical to change the venue of EU institutions. Somewhere in the former East Germany would be an excellent place.

What should the European Union do with the flood of immigrants? The answer is certainly not a quota system, which would divvy up the immigrants among the member states. What the EU needs is an army. Such an army, together with the military of the United States, should achieve peace by military force in the troubled regions, after which the immigrants can be sent back to where they came from. This joint military effort should be financed “from the money of the Americans because they were the ones who, without any thought for the future, began a war in the region.”

Boross then shared his golden thoughts on the United States. We learn that “the Americans live in a culture of competition without any human content.” When he talks about culture, he warns that the word must be put between shudder quotes because American culture is “the culture of the ‘half-learned'” (félművelt). Then he elaborates.

What I mean is that the Americans reward the stronger over the weaker in every case. In the United States the strong can trample on the weak without any interference. They call their system “absolute democracy.” After they became a superpower, they thought that democracy as it functions at their place will follow the “Arab spring.”… They are intellectually unfit to lead the world. Rome back then was wise because it left the conquered territories in peace and accepted some of the gods of the conquered as their own. Washington does exactly the opposite, it wants to force its own god, democracy, upon the conquered lands. (emphasis mine)

For Péter Boross democracy is something the Americans want to foist on every country, including Hungary. But Boross and his ilk want nothing to do with the god of the Americans, who after all are totally unfit to dictate anything to anyone.

It seems that Boross is right on one point: the United States doesn’t think that Hungarian democracy is thriving under Viktor Orbán. Moreover, it has the temerity to say so. This is the message Secretary of State John Kerry sent on the occasion of Hungary’s national holiday, which will be celebrated tomorrow:

On behalf of President Obama and the citizens of the United States, I offer heartfelt congratulations to the people of Hungary as you commemorate Saint Stephen’s Day this August 20th.

Today, we recall and pay tribute to the rich history of Hungary and to the great unifier, King Stephen I. The United States is proud to have honored his legacy by protecting the Crown of St. Stephen on behalf of the Hungarian people after the Second World War. This day is one of personal significance for me, moreover, as my own paternal grandmother was from Budapest.

The strong and enduring ties that exist between the United States and Hungary can be seen in our shared membership in the NATO Alliance, our mutual support for a sovereign and democratic Ukraine, our thriving economic and trade relationship, and a multitude of familial and cultural connections. To further our common interests, it is vital that we uphold transatlantic values including democracy and good governance, both in our own countries and around the world.

On this special day, the United States wishes the people of Hungary continued peace and a future filled with prosperity and joy.

Foolish, foolish, half-educated Americans still believe in democracy. Although the Americans, according to Boross, trample on the weak and the defenseless, Mr. Kerry most likely would be terribly shocked if he heard that a former prime minister of Hungary and an adviser to the present one thinks that human considerations must be set aside in the current immigration crisis. “Unfortunately, the opposition media, playing on human emotions, show crying children and thus manipulate public opinion. But in this question the fate of our nation takes priority. We must push human considerations into the background in handling this crisis.” Boross doesn’t have to worry. Viktor Orbán’s government has been doing just that for months by now.