Have you seen the growing literature in economics regarding the importance of informal institutions? Claudia Williamson has tried to separate the two and argued that formal institutions mean nothing in the presence of bad informal institutions. Good culture causes both growth and good formal institutions, but good formals institutions may not in comparison matter greatly for growth.
Ryan, notwithstanding this article, I think you could say Prof. Fukuyama “wrote the book” on informal institutions. (See _Trust_.)
I’m Hungarian and I could not agree with you more on this issue.
Formal Hungarian institutions are generally good since they are now modeled on European ones, especially Germans.
The undelying informal institutions however that are rooted in culture are unfortunately in a really bad shape.
It is a culture of joblessness and dependency, corruption and old boys networks.
Ever since I have followed Hungarian politics (roughly for 20 years now)we were running the same circle: no matter how well intentioned or competent the consequitve governments were their efforts went pretty much nowhere because of the aformentioned culture that has a long history in Hungary.And that’s sad for all of us who live there.
I believe the hidden message of your post is calling for generating new human-beings who are descent enough to run institutions; who are equally descent as the values institutions created for…
I think a lot of institutionalists would count such informal institutions as part of what they mean when they say that “institutions matter.” It is institutions as opposed to naked economic interest — not opposed to culture — that were “radically” supposed to matter at the beginning the New Institutionalism.
I will copy here statements from this article above which are completely false and untrue.
*lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges, eliminating the independence of the Central Bank
*if it is voted out in the future, a government replacing Fidesz will need a supermajority to change things like the tax rate
*Orbán has made a mess of Hungary’s economy
Hence consequences which have been drawn from these untrue facts, may not be correct.
Please may I ask Mr.Fumuyama next time if he is making an effort to write an article about a Country, please try to make an effort to study the subject properly.
For example in this case please read the new Hungarian constitution as a starting point.
What do you mean? These statements are indeed TRUE. Lowered retirement age is for judges, not for Constitutional court judges, but it is even more despicable.
These are actually the issues which are at stake with the EU – and a lot more to come.
Please provide arguments in favor of your position.
BLIND HOLLO !!
You need to learn to speak and read english !! You don`t get it, do you ?????
You are a sorry ass low life moran !! or PROVIDE YOUR CASE !!!!
Jeno you sorry ass low life moran! You should defend your ol country, and learn to speak and write english. If you are in Hungary you speak for Hungary. If you in America you speak against Hungary what a bloody jack ass you are. Am I right Laci?
Typical reply of an intolerant Hungarian. This is the tragedy of Hungary. No debate culture, no tolerance for a different opinion, no consultation, no respect for minority opinion. The government is only mirroring Hungarian culture. Current Hungarian attitude is if you do not agree, if you think the country could be better off with other measures, you are the enemy, you are against Hungary and you are not Hungarian. The other typical Hungarian reaction is when you criticize the current government they point at the previous one or other countries instead of arguing for their standpoint. They did this, they did that. Sorry excuse after almost two years.
The Professor without having to live in Hungary noticed it instantly. Bravo Professor. The sad thing is that the Professor’s opinion is not merely the criticism of the current government, but current majority attitudes, after all Hungarian majority voted for this style of leadership.
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Good to see Prof. Fukuyama acknowledge that one-size may not fit all, but I still think that this misses the point a bit.
Institutions matter a lot, but different contexts require different institutional arrangements. Best fit, not best practice.
And, we don’t have a great idea of what works where, or how to support the right sorts of institutions in their appropriate context.
But that doesn’t mean that institutions don’t matter.
The point on context is important. It’s not that institutions don’t matter in general, but a mismatch between institutions and context leads to the need for different types of institutions. A ‘transfiguration’ of institutional forms may even happen without abandoning the underlying norms and values, but that should hardly lead one to concluding that institutions matter no more.
Instead of strengthening, the use of Hungary by Dr. Fukuyama to illustrate his point ends up weakening his argument. The landslide that swept the current government into its supermajority created a major institutional mismatch overnight. Much of the institutional infrastructure and appointments were aligned with the very political elite that voters held responsible for the corruption and incompetence that compromised the country’s transition into a functioning democracy after 1989. What is happening has nothing to do with the institutions becoming irrelevant, but a long overdue shakeup of power relationships based on a strong democratic mandate.
Your ‘misalignment’ point is excellent, Les, and you are spot-on in pointing out that Professor Fukuyama’s lack of awareness of it seriously weakens his argument! But my guess is that Professor Fukuyama’s Hungarian informers have kept hidden from him information that might have allowed him to take your perspective.
But, oh, please: …’nobody trusts Viktor Orbán and Fideusz to use their powers responsibly’! Is that why the world saw the biggest demonstration of support ever for a government in office (a turnout of at least 400,000 people, according to the Hungarian Interior Ministry) for this, the Fidesz Government that ‘nobody trusts’, just days ago? It is surprising that Professor Fukuyama does not seem to have heard of this demonstration. Or does an exercising of direct democracy, in the way of this huge turnout of the present Hungarian government’s supporters, not count in Professor Fukuyama’s concept of what democracy is?
“(a turnout of at least 400,000 people, according to the Hungarian Interior Ministry)” – do you not see what your source is. I live in Hungary: the government is not a trusted source for information about the government (actually it isn’t anywhere). Yes there is support, but the majority according to ALL pollsters, the clear majority of the population would not vote for Fidesz (or any other party)… They have less people supporting them now than they had when they lost past elections. Orban’s charisma, however, combined with the EU bullying around the Hungarian government lead to an unprecedented pro-gov demonstration of approx. 100,000 according to more reliable sources. That’s 100,000 die hard supporters – how many more there are… 1% of the population came out for him, he has about 20-25 supporting him. Clearly not the mandate he won in the last elections, nowhere near…
Point weel made and taken, Sir.Elections have consequences, and alas, democracy soemtimes works, for better or worse.The future is not that dark, however, in Hungary as Mr.Fukuyama sees them, and the economic mess was not created, was inherited by the FIDESZ-and partly the cause of its overwhelmin victory, along with the widespread corruption and the totla political exhaustion of the Socialliberal coalition.
You have a very good point, some institutions in Hungary did not work well and were in bad need of an overhaul. However, a well thought-out, coordinated one where most problematic issues are brought to light, solutions reasoned for and against, and finally, the government, again giving a detailed reasoning for its decision, enacting changes.
Instead of this, we have experienced one farce after the other, where to most of us, the majority of the government’s moves could not be interpreted in any other way than them grasping for ever more raw power. So what happens is that e.g. lack of transparency in public companies was “remedied” by narrowing the circle of information that has to be public by law (this was one of the first laws passed, and was the first to which I raised my eyebrow, being very hopeful about the new government at the time), or that the mandate of the commission of historians working on the communist state secret service files was revoked (they would have needed about another 3-4 months to finish processing all of the information), so that the actual secret service could take the job over from them (again, not necessarily something that points in the direction of “fixing” issues, but rather deliberately making them more fuzzy).
A lot of institutions have been bulldozed (as our own PM has put it so eloquently) even though no one had major issues with them (like crafting a new constitution, or establishing a new state media watchdog organisation, and exclusively filling it up with indentured people from their circles), and other, more problematic ones just made worse (i.e. instead of improving how they work, the focus was more to ensure that the right people are in charge – and in terms of “right”, loyalty is the alpha and omega, they don’t even necessarily have to have any idea about the domain they control (in fact, most of them don’t, which explains why the majority of public institutions in Hungary does such a pathetic job at anything they do).
So if this is a natural adjustment process, then for one, the pendulum has overswung at least as bad as the initial position it came from, but in my opinion, the public will for change for the better (which resulted in the 2/3 landslide for Fidesz) was simply hijacked and abused to serve a power-building agenda.
Which, in my opinion, is also counter-productive in the long term – had they set about to work honestly on the toughest problems the country faces, then a lot of results could have been achieved, and this would have given them a genuine boost for staying in power. As in most areas of the Hungarian public sector, things are done so shockingly inefficiently (i.e. not only paying too much for a service, but not even getting it properly done by whoever gets the fatty contract), that remarkable progress could have been achieved with little will. However, that would be against the individual short-term interests of the people in charge at various levels, as it is much easier for them to amass a fortune quickly from giving out contracts to friends who subsequently hand back a percentage of the deal, than to work hard to ensure that their unit performs well.
I give you an example: the public transport firms. They have been amassing incredible debts every year (especially the rail company, MAV), and yet, for the last 20 years, the management team always got huge bonuses every year. So part of the problem is that the very people who are supposed to improve the institutions are the
ones benefitting most from their present imperfections (same also goes to the most influential doctors, who have an interest in keeping the present system of envelopes of money shoved into their pockets, as this way, they can earn as much as a low-budget car a month extra, whereas a proper reform would raise everybodies salaries, including nurses and starting doctors, so the people high up would see considerably less money from that point onwards).
In the long run, it would be better for everyone (even them, as their life quality would improve dramatically if all public services would start to get genuinely perfected step by step), if people would work for the true improvement of their institutions, as this would have a good chance of keeping them in power – however, that would be that “harder” path, more risky and strenuous than simply keeping things as they are, and focusing on individual gain through shady deals, the benefit from which then carries these people through until the end of their lives…
And this is exactly where we come back to the question of institutions – until we, the Hungarian people realise that way too much power is in the hands of decisions-makers, and that they should be continuously controlled by the public through various means, this is probably unlikely to change. I have been living in Switzerland for a couple of years now, and from what I see, the main difference in the two societies is that people here don’t just expect the government to get it all done for them, but actively participate in a lot of the on-going changes around them, so in the end, the result takes a little longer to get done, but will be miles ahead in the terms of public utility. This would be a true institutional change for the better, however, the Hungarian public is very far from realizing that until they become more active in their affairs, they themselves are also to blame – in the present situation, the politicians and decisionmakers simply behave rationally, and just follow their own short-term interests, as they can get away with it.
Very well and clearly argued. Your comment would be worth to be published as an article – in Hungarian – at a Hungarian website, eg. Egyenlítő TV, Gépnarancs, Hírszerző, etc.
I think institutions matter, and good formal institutions become the basis for long term and positive transformations in the informal institutions. This, for example, if a policy or law on inclusive decision making is included in the constitution, most civil society organisations would then make it a point of reference in enabling marginalised citizens to have a say, even if the majority that benefited from lack of such a law continue to resist it. Even if some leaders indeed pay lip service to commitments they make in policies, often started with a view to gain access to power, at least citizens and interest groups have a greater chance to engage with these leaders on the basis of a formal policy than where it is not there or not changed. I think formal and informal institutions feed into each other in the long run and we should not discourage change just because of the failure of the moment.
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Institutions do matter, certainly in the long run. They have, I think, an important cumulative pedagogical function. They can be designed to reinforce functional social norms and attitudes over time. In short, like lots of things in this neck of the woods, they are probably necessary but certainly not sufficient.
“… it seems to me the Hungarians have the right to decide for themselves what positions to take on these issues.”
Damn decent of you. How broad minded.
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I think perhaps Professor Fukuyama underestimates just how much new institutions HAVE mattered to the emergence of China and the other BRIC countries. No their institutions are not ideal. But to suggest institutions don’t matter all that much would be close to claiming that these countries could go back to the social DNA of, say, 30 years ago and still expect the kind of development they’re seeing today. China’s adoption of quasi-property rights, alone, is enough to give them huge gains relative to the Deng Xiaopeng. Similarly for India’s abandonment of autarky. Again, all this institutional change might not have come straight out of Locke’s 2nd Treatise, but it’s something. And we shouldn’t underestimate it.
‘it seems to me the Hungarians have the right to decide for themselves what positions to take on these issues.’
So, what’s your really problem, prof. Fukuyama?
As you wrote:
‘The document was the product of the electoral victory of Viktor Orbán and his conservative Fidesz party, which since 2010 has controlled more than 2/3s of the seats in the Hungarian Diet and has thus been able to change the Hungarian constitution.”
If the Hungarians majority doesn’t like it…
they can also vote a new government replacing Fideusz(sic!) with a supermajority to change things like the tax rate or the rules on gay marriage .
Sure, with the new electoral law! With the corrupt media all in the hands of the current supermajority. you must be kidding.
It’s “Fidesz” not Fideusz.
What do you expect from this party, which name is a lie in itself. The name “FIDESZ” came from (FI)atalok (DE)mokratikus (SZ)ervezete – literally Democratic Organization of Youth.
In contrast to the name “FIDESZ”, this party is neither democratic (but a rather centralised, absolutistic one) nor “youth-oriented” organization (just have a look on the face of Mr. Orban and his colleagues).
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Dear Mr Fukuyama,
Please, before you start blaming a Hungarian party, do learn their name, since there isn’t a party called Fideusz in Hungary. I wonder what translation of the Constitution you have read.
I am very sorry to read that Prof Fukuyama wrote some fake facts (i.e. “the lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges” this statement is not true!; and “eliminating the independence of the Central Bank”) Have you known that this later one only means that President of Central Bank of Hungary has to wow for the Constitution of Hungary?
“Orbán has made a mess of Hungary’s economy” it is a lie again. Mr Orban inherited an extremly high National Dept from the socialist gov. The 2 earlier socialist gov elevated it from 52 % to 83 %!
“nobody trusts Viktor Orbán and Fideusz to use their powers responsibly” a lie again! Have you seen that half million people on the streets of Budapest last Saturday?
It is very very sad to see Prof Fukuyama using a double standard.
Half million people?!? How many times did you count them?!? 10??? There were around 50-60 000 from all over the place, half of them fascists with the signs of Great Hungary, dressed in 19th Century uniforms – the frustrated morons who really think that Orban will be the new Horthy…
“There were around 50-60 000 from all over the place…” Are you speaking about another demostration?
“dressed in 19th Century uniforms” 19th Century uniforms? Don’t be so ridiculous!
“fascists … dressed in 19th Century uniforms” WTF? LOL learn some history asshole
“The problem lies entirely in how those powers are used: nobody trusts Viktor Orbán and Fideusz to use their powers responsibly”
THIS IS NOT TRUE. The 100.000+ mass demonstration on January 21 – the largest ever pro-government demonstration in Hungary, and the largest in the past two years – demonstrated that the great majority of people in this country supports Orbán and trusts him.
“The very act of using Fideusz’s supermajority to embed its policy preferences in the constitution can also be seen as an abuse of power: if it is voted out in the future, a government replacing Fideusz will need a supermajority to change things like the tax rate or the rules on gay marriage which ought to be matters for ordinary legislation.”
IMHO this is completely OK. A law accepted by supermajority may be changed by supermajority only. What is the problem? This is democracy.
Just two correction:
– fidesz and not fideusz
– the retirement age was not changed for Constitutional Court judges but for ordinary judges which allows the new Head of the judges (wife of the fidesz fraction leader in the EU parliament) to appoint 10% of the new judges.
There are some misinterpretations.
1. “lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges” this is not correct. The retirement age is 70 for CC judges.
2. “gay marriage which ought to be matters for ordinary legislation.”
What does it mean: gay marriage? The same sex marriage is recognized by the law only in Argentina
Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands
Norway, Portugal,South Africa,Spain and Sweden. As far as I know there is no gay marriage in the US. The new Hungarian constitution recognizes the registered partnership between same sex partners.
3. The Fideusz is Fidesz.
Although the post is good, I do not think it is reliable.
I literally gagged when I read this outburst of Professor Fukuyama:
‘The much bigger threat raised by the Orbán constitution is the weakening institutional checks on executive power, such as the lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges, eliminating the independence of the Central Bank, and grabbing control of the media regulator, changing the electoral laws to benefit Fidesz, and inserting a series of provisions to weaken legislative control over the budget.’
The good Professor does not know Hungarian, so, quite clearly, he could not have read the Hungarian Constitution, nor followed the consultations that preceded the Hungarian Parliament’s adoption of it. He is taking on trust from someone (I should love to know who!) that that Constitution and the current Hungarian Parliament that adopted it are indeed guilty as he accuses. Funnily enough, the accusations the Professor levels are the very accusations that the so-called Hungarian ‘left’ (actually, the robber-baron oligarchs who destroyed the Hungarian economy and raises a huge national debt, having first enriched themselves hugely on the sale to foreigners of national assets) also levels, and the unelected (by the citizens of EU member states) EU executive increasingly espouses.
It is deeply disappointing that an intellectual of the Professor’s fame will stoop to base political partisanship. And for goodness’ sakes: how on earth can he conclude, e.g., that the lowering of judges’ retirement age by Hungarian Parliament can ‘weaken institutional checks on executive power’? How can he have concluded that this, and not the exact opposite, is the available outcome? Loose reasoning, Professor Fukuyama!
A good reality check for the Professor would be this: Compare the level of belief (a belief the Professor himself appears to hold!), in the UK and Hungary, in the EU’s being a caretaker of democratic values. He will find that level of belief as low in the UK as in Hungary (and in many other European states), if not lower.
Attacks by the Hungarian “Left”! No wonder, Barroso, Sarkozy, Juppe, Merkel are part of the Left, or just puppets, credulous creatures… There attacks are unjustified, they are just a bunch of fouls, aren’t they? But then, who is the puppetmaster?? Because in you view, there must be one, right?
This article is extremely biased and with full of false information. The constitution does not talk about the age of retirement of the judges of the Constitutional Court. The media regulator is independent. And there are many others…
Francis Fukuyama has written this article from his air-conditioned office, without any knowledge of Hungary. At least, he should have read the new Constitution.
What bothers me even more is the fact, that he, and (and his colleagues) had been silent when the socialist government ordered the police to use rubber bullets against the peaceful demonstrators in October of 2006. Fukuyama should think about the society of the United States, and his soldiers who pee down the dead bodies of their enemy.
You’re lying, it was not peaceful.
… “The media regulator is independent”. ahem. So independent that they did not have a single statement about the recent deliberate manipulation attempts in the state television, related to the opposition demonstration.
Also, this is probably not surprising, seeing how the whole panel is composed of Fidesz-delegates. Intelligent power-mongers would have sat at least a single opposition (or NGO) member into it – the decisions would probably still be the same, but the message would be vastly different.
Hence the consequences which have been drawn from these untrue facts, are also not correct.
Please may I ask Mr.Fukuyama next time if he is making an effort to write an article about a country, please try to make an effort to study the subject properly.
For example in this case read the new Hungarian constitution as a starting point.
Thank you for the article!
Well, maybe Westminster is also a temperament or a style of using your brain. We tolerate the hysterical antics of the intolerants. They do not tolerate any difference though. (They will rarely admit this though.) Now if two people share a room and one prefers silence, the other one blasts music, they need to agree and co-operate in accepting any institution that enforces the rules of sharing space and time. If the loud guy choses to not co-operate, the people who prefer silence are overpowered by brute force. Suppose the silent guy choses not to cooperate. Well, you cannot overpower someone with silence. That is the difference between hysterical politics and a democratic, tolerant style. It would be nice to call in the EU so that the two sides would come to some sort of agreement.
The party’s correct name is Fidesz not Fideusz.
there is one point in the article regarding what weakens institutional checks on executive power: the assertion stating the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges was lovered is NOT correct. The new constitution and the new laws did not lovered the retirement age of the members of the Constitutional Courts. Retirement age of all other judges and of the persecutors were lowered.
1. Fideusz = Fidesz
2. ‘need a supermajority to change things like the tax rate’
No word on tax rate in the new fundamental law
3. ‘need a supermajority to change things like the rules on gay marriage’
No word on ‘ban’ of gay marriage: “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage, understood to be the conjugal union of a man and a woman established by their voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the nation’s survival.” [Article L (1)]
4. ‘Orbán has made a mess of Hungary’s economy’
Hungary has been subject to an excessive deficit procedure by the EU since 2004(!), therefore:
“Parliament shall not adopt an Act on the central budget which would result in the state debt exceeding half of the GDP” [Article 36 (4)]
5. ‘lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges’
It’s about harmonizing the retirement rules for ordinary judges:
“service relationship of (professional) judges shall terminate upon their reaching the general retirement age”
[Article 26 (2)]
The Fundamental Law of Hungary:
Mr. Fukuyama, how can you say “nobody trusts Viktor Orbán and Fideusz to use their powers responsibly”? Who do you mean “nobody”? Some top leaders of international and domestic left wing? I assume you just don’t know enough the hungarian soul that simply wants a great change. They have expressed it by a legal election in 2010.
A franc megeszi, a világon már mindenki okosabb, mint mi akik itt Magyarországon élünk.
Hazug, csaló, rohadék média!
Maybe not (everyone in the world outside Hungary)knows better but they are definitely respectful and curious enough to use an international language in an international discourse, Mariann.
Kedves Marian !! En is itt elek, es teljesen igaza van a Professzor Urnak !!!
Sajnos Magyarorszagot most egy rohadt ferges hazudos DIKTATURA TARTJA es szeretne meg sokaig a kezeben tartani !!!!
But before you comment on this page you should learn to speek and read english !!!
Kedves Laci! Ha valóban itt élsz, akkor Te pedig légy szíves tanulj meg helyesen magyarul írni és olvasni. Tudod: Mariann kettő “n” betűvel írja a nevét, ékezeteket kéne használni és persze jóval kevesebb felkiáltójelet (1-nél több már túl sok). A “Professzor Urnak” pedig megcsókolhatod a seggét. Ugyanolyan birka vagy mint a többi: egy külföldi pöcs – aki frusztrált mert csökkenteni próbálják a befolyását egy idegen országban – mondja meg neked hogy mi a jó, és neked ez tetszik. Gratula
Mr. Fukuyama doesn’t live here, and I do.
So to set a few things straight :
1.) Freedom of the press
There is freedom of the press, as evidence, just take a look to the press releases in this country.
If you were to do that , you would think almost each and every news corespondent hates this government…personally.
So if they are free to do that I think that as much evidence as I need.
So Mr. Fukuyama What can you bring up as evidence ?
2.) Economy :
Orban actually led the country for 4 years, from 1998 till 2002. Hungary was actually the “East Bloc regions” number 1 country from 1990 till 2003….
When Orban left office the GDP debt ratio was under 52-54% ! …we had the highest GDP growth while under Orban government. (That’s why he was voted back in with 2/3 majority in 2010. He had a good track record.)
From 2002 , the liberal, and socialist government trashed the county/economy …and we have been the “East Bloc regions” worst country since then. ( living on IMF support )
Our GDP debt ratio is at + 80% now … and nothing Orban has done since taking power in 2010 has been able to fix that… its just gotten worse.
And here is an interesting FACT : …none of the so called institutions could do anything to prevent the disaster that happened when Orban left office in 2002. … So I guess he doesn’t believe in them either.
Prof Fukuyama seemes to work with second-hand informations about Hungary and made some serious mistake (the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges havent changed, not the constitution but an other low deals with the independence of the Central Bank, and the issue is not the elimination of its independence but a kind of a closer governement influence on the Bank, the electorial low must have been changed since the population in different electorial districts changed dramatically during the last twenty years (varying from 25 thousand people to 75 thousand), the press is as free as it was two years ago, etc.)But they are not the key questions. It is clear that Mr. Orban makes a kind of a power-concentration in his governements hand. The question is wether it serves the interests of Hungary or not. The key problem is the global mechanism of concentrating the money from the poor people to the rich. The key problem is wether the Unvisible Hand is still serving the interests of all the people or not. My opinion is that the liberal market capitalism is in a very deep crisis, mainly because it keeps vorking the mechanism that takes away money from the poor and gives it to the rich. The liberal market is the playground of the young and healthy – individuals and nations too. I am not sure Mr. Orban is right when answering to this challenge, but the challenge is here, and must been answered.
Gabor Bencsik PhD, Budapest
“The key problem is the global mechanism of concentrating the money from the poor people to the rich.”
Global? Haha! This is exactly how the new tax system introduced by Fidesz is working !
I share Fukuyama’s views – I have the information first-hand in Hungary, in Hungarian… How can people be so blind about Fidesz, it’s so sad, so very sad. A PhD is not what helps you see, things more clearly…
Compared with prof. Fukuyama’s grandiose mistake about thousand-years empire of liberal capitalism triumphing all over the world, it is only a minor blot that he is completely ill-informed about true situation in Hungary.
“lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges, eliminating the independence of the Central Bank …” etc. reflect lack of in-depth knowledge at best. Retirement age of the Constitutional Court is NOT lowered, Hungarian National Bank’s position will not be worse, and so on, a long rank of factual mistakes. I understand how difficult is to get a real picture about a distant country with unic language, but the story is challenging anyway. Liberal capitalism was a big experiment and a big failure in Hungary, resulting in economic and moral collapse, leading to landslide victory of the current Orban government. Obviously hard to acknowledge for prof. Fukuyama, but it was NOT Orban who led Hungary to that disaster, but incompetence of previous liberal-dominated coalition. Independence of Hungarian National Bank has been THAT TIME undermined (see actions against Zsigmond Jarai, ex-president of the bank, and his replacement by the “good comrade” Andras Simor). Hungarian Statistic Institute’s reputed director Tamas Mellar has been fired and replaced with a “good comrade” again, ready to falsify economic data, similarly as it was in Greece. I understand well, that for an advocate of liberalism the Orban-led christian-conservative government is as bad as evil, but I think facts should be praised, otherwise it is only about something like liberal orthodoxy.
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Another stupid article on Hungary based on politically motivated sources, thanks, Fukuyama.
The good news is that _YOU_ are an inherent democrat because you are an American and a liberal.
While Mr.Fukuyama’s intervention has some debatable points, it is still much better,more measured and focused than the one- beyond pale both in content and style- written by Mr.Gáti,wich was published earlier in your paper under the title “Backsliding in Budapest”(see link).Pity Mr Mead also succumbed-without much independent evaluation- to Mr. Gáti’s arguments…
Just let us make one statment corrected. Not Orban rather the postcommunist MSZP (having 8 yers leadership, and 3 prime minister during that period!!!) made the Hungarian economy like a disaster!
1. That is not true. There is no limit right now.
“lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges”
2. The chief of the central Bank is a shy guy, having interested in international maffia likebusiness, and hiding his incoming money somewhere. Do you protect such a men, who has no responsebility of Hungarian tax/law?
“eliminating the independence of the Central Bank”
3. At the moment nobody knows, what is going on the next election. This statemant has more fiction than real deal. Based on the last election could be true only (Fidesz was choosen by around 70 %, make a guess why ;-)) : everbody was fed up by the MSZP. When this ratio is changed, nbody knows what is going on next time.
“changing the electoral laws to benefit Fidesz “
Yes, there were two mistakes, the earlier retirement is compulsory for the judges in common, and not for the constitutional ones, and the spelling mistake of ‘Fidesz’. But the main line of the article is based on true sad facts of our state.
-Fidesz did not win 70% of the votes in the latest election, only 52%, but the system of the election is supports the first round winner party with extra seats in the Parliament in case of capability of governing. Aniway when Fidesz lost the elections in 2002, it organized the biggest ever demonstration in Hungary, so the latest fidesz demonstration only demonstrates there are many employed people who have fears of lost their jobs if they don’t go, by buses supported by the state budget.
-it is fact there were several marks of the intention of building a soft dictatorship in Hungary in the past two years
-very important that the ‘under 3%’ hole of the budget is a mistake, the government took the individual retirement savings of the people, and used it for decreasing the depth, but it’s an only time income, and strongly incorrect.
-before the government friendly demonstration there were a spontaneous anti-fidesz demonstration against an actual event held by the government, with almost the same amount of people, with no transport of people from all over the country and Transsylvania and Voivodina.
francis, francis – u know shit about Hungary.
all the information u got is from baddies like heller, konrád etc
Actually, he knows much more, than you do, buddy. ‘Cause you only wanna know what this shitty government tells you, therefore you spread the lies and propaganda.
Varga Kata: there are false statements in Fukuyama’s post suggesting that he has no real information about Hungary.
I found two factual errors (see bellow). Did you find more, Karoly?
Let me clarify two things. First, retirement age for Constitutional Court judges was not lowered, but that of ordinary judges. Thousands of judges will be forced to retire, thousands of judges will be appointed under the new regime. Problematic, but that does not affect the Const. Court.
Second, the tax rate is not fixed in the Constitution. Article 40 declares that “The fundamental rules of general taxation and the pension system shall be defined by a cardinal Act…
So it is not in the Constitution but still 2/3s majority will be needed to change it…
So what is the difference, Sir? It still needs 2/3 majority to be changed. It still means that the next government won’t be able to change it. It is still absurd that an elected government cannot change tax policies with a simple majority. Especially such an unjust system, that penalizes the poor, and weakens the budget.
Not much, Jeremy, you are right concerning the tax rate. I just wanted to get the facts right so then we can have fun about the meaning 🙂
Institutions are premised on cultural patterns/arrangements – so essentially culture matters and may be determinnant vis-a-vis institutional development.
Yes, yes, yes, Anthony! I agree with you wholeheartedly that it is culture that matters. I add that all cultures have their characteristic informal institutions. Informal institutions evolve in protection of cultural values. Formal institutions build naturally on informal ones when cultural values are consonant. That yields sound formal institutions. Otherwise, formal institutions impose values dogmatically.
Now, the Hungarian situation has seen formal (communist and postcommunist/liberal) institutions deride the informal ones ever since 1945. The new Hungarian Constitution acknowledges Christianity as the basis of Hungarian culture. That pings a response in all Hungarians who are at least cultural (if not also ideological) Christians. Now, as it happens, the 1% who are not at least cultural Christians have held the reins of power in Hungary since 1945. But they are rapidly losing their grip on it since the present Government was sent to Parliament with a 2/3 majority of seats. And hence the unbelievable volume and persistence of attacks on this Government, and all too personally, on the domestically most popular politician, Prime Minister Orbán. Criticism of the Constitution, the Media Law, etc., is just pretext. The rub is in the angst of the declining power that would re-assert its grip at all costs.
“lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges,”
lie no. 1 (thats how we know where u got your infos)
he constitutional court judges’ etirement age STAYED 70. the normal judges’ retirement age was lowered to the GENERAL retirement age of 62.
pls stop propagating the lies and false infos of our so called liberal elite. they got less than 1% of the votes last elections.
eleminating independence of central bank? we just wanted to raise the number of members of the monetary council like the social-liberal government did back in 2004. it wasnt a problem then? oh it was made by ‘your puppet’.
btw the current central bank chief was appointed by Gyurcsány the former criminal PM and he is a tax evader who keeps his money in off-shore countries.
” grabbing control of the media regulator”
lie no. 3 – the media was under total liberal control before 2010.
“, changing the electoral laws to benefit Fidesz”
lie no. 4 – the source is Haza&Haladás foundation run by former government members. Kim Lane Scheppele also uses them and their lies as source.
FACT: electoral system HAD to be changed according to the constitutional court coz the number of voters became unproportional among districts.
btw how can u state that without any elections held by that law?
“to give ground on issues of grave concern to important parts of Hungarian society. ”
another lie – the new constitution was backed by 3 parties out of the 5 with more than 80% of representatives.
liberals and communists arent important parts of our society. we had enuf of them thats why the landslide victory and the less than 1% for the former governing liberal party.
” would rather ban opposition than engage with it. ”
cheap, libeling cry. clearly the english voice of our liberals.
” a government replacing Fideusz will need a supermajority to change things like the tax rate ”
another lie. the rate isnt fixed only the number of rates which is 1 now. that one key can be changed by any government.
“gay marriage” that will never happen in Hungary so go on.
with the british electoral system there would be 384 out of 386 fidesz representatives and 2 socialists.
” shut down the opposition press. ”
another lie. the Hungarian press and media is full of anti-government, anti-orbán and anti-hungarian shit.
the only case u and your clinton cite is the case of Klubrádió which lost its frequency in an official bid. others offered much more money for that.
btw klubrádió is owned by a beagle of the communist secret service Arató. (the man who kissed the hand of Gyurcsány the former PM)
in the communist era this man informed the regime about his friends and colleauges.
imagine a radio station in germany run by STAZI ppl?
the klubrádió is hated in the Hungarian society for what it is – a radio with so called journalist who was spies or beagles of the communist regime.
“Orbán has made a mess of Hungary’s economy”
biggest lie – go back to school francis.
the social-liberal government took the power from Orbán in 2002 with a great economy, debt rate at 50%, growth rate 5-6% etc etc.
under 8 years and 2 terms they made the debt rate go to go boom to 82%, world record deficit of 12% in 2009, negative growth rate and survived on an IMF loan of 30billiion $.
rate of foreign property is the highest in the EU, debt in foreign currency is also the highest.
Orbán and the Fidesz INHERITED this situation from those whose lies u r propagating Francis…
thats why the landslide happened and yet here is a guy like Fukuyama telling the same lies of Hungarian liberals and socialists.
u like them very well over there coz would sell anything to u for nothing.
and u mentioned the European Parliament – Verhofstadt the former belgian PM admitted he is repeating the words of former liberal party ppl like Konrád, Heller, Kertész,Dalos etc. they have nothing to do with Hungary.
Hungary made a choice in 2010 and the voters said – liberals go to hell. there s your 1% :p
so if u want to write about Hungary then ask a Hungarian at least.
we r fed up with the fact that foreign countries rely only on these bastards lies packed as a ‘hungarian opinion’.
These poor Hungarian right-wing freaks all want to deny the simple facts. Please don’t listen to them. Orban demolished the Hungarian economy. It doesn’t mean that the heritage was easy to handle, the socialist governance was indeed catastrophic. But the crisis management was actually begun by the Bajnai government, backed by the Socialist group in Parliament. When Orban took power, everything went astray. Because they were “unorthodox”, that is they were acting contrary to all economic knowledge. Now everybody laughs at them. And they try to blame the previous governments, pretty much of a success, we have to acknowledge.
You are liar.
We have shown the fact that Fukuyama writes untrue things.
Oh dear, you have only shown your nationalistic bias, and your readiness for bullsh-ing for no other reason than to save your frantic Fidesz friends and your ideological stance.
Well said, man.
btw it seems anyone can be a professor over there. both fukuyama and scheppele show signs of ignorance.
pls dont talk about something u know nothing about
having a conversation with heller, charles c gati, konrád wont make u an expert about Hungary.
The PM is a freak by all means. Argument against his policy is a blasphemy. Framing is only dangerous if you are among idiots, unfortunaletly this is the case in Hungary
Orban is a living contribution to the embodiement of lie. Vocalization, wrecked forehead, testiculs lift up into the stomcah to give more serious look. This is human ethology and not right wing ideology…
As mentioned I’m Hungarian and I would like to focus on one particular aspect of the essay.
The statement “lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges” is not accurate since the law calls for earlier retirement of judges in let’s say “normal” courts only not the Constitutional. Justices in the Hungarian Constitutional Court are exempt, they can stay on to the age of 70.
The purpose of this provision in the law is to purge the judiciary of judges who where appointed during the Communist era based on political loyalty rather than competence and personal integrity.
It is worth noting that the majority of the judges who were appointed in the last few years of the dictatorship are now in leadership positions and through their influence are the biggest obstacle in the way of repositioning the Hungarian judiciary as a true and independent pillar of the rule of law.
The signs of that are very subtle and a bit hard to follow from a distance but if you live in Hungary you can always see that Hungarian institutions in general and the judiciary in particular, that theoretically are supposed to be independent, have a definite tendency of swimming with the political tide.
However this kind of behaviour goes back hundreds of years and is so entrenched in Hungarian culture that I seriously doubt that purging the judiciary of old hands will solve the problem and will put the Hungarian system of justice on the right path i.e. to be a real balancing force in the face of power abuse public or private.
I think that newly appointed leaders will just serve other masters.
Have you ever encountered the Felcsut monster in the Carpathian basin? I bet you wouldn’t have survived.
I’m not getting you.
Why should I not survive an encounter with the “monster of Felcsut”? I think you are referencing Viktor Orban here:)
Prof. Fukuyama states: “The … threat raised … is … the lowering of the retirement age for Constitutional Court judges,…”
This is misinformation, the retirement age of ordinary court judges and prosecutors has been lowered only, this legislative enactment does not apply to Constitutional Court judges.
“…eliminating the independence of the Central Bank…”
Eliminating is perhaps too strong, at the most trying to limit.
“… grabbing control of the media regulator,…”
In the texts of the Fundamental Law (called Constitution) and related provisions I could not find the words: media, press, radio, television.
“… changing the electoral laws to benefit Fidesz,…”
It is true that the electoral law seems to be beneficial for the winning majority, which can be any Hungarian political party or group, not only the presently strong Fidesz.
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Hungary is one free countri.
Mr Fukuyamais one analfabet economist in hugarian reality.
To be exact, lowering the retirement age applies not only for Constitutional Court judges, but ALL judges.
Katalin dont lie – not applies to Constitutional Judges.
Katalin: the FACT is that retirement age is lowered (to the retirement age of other people in Hungary) for all judges, except Constitutional Court judges.
It is not lowering the retirement age, it is just that the legal retirement age applies to the judges (the judges in the Constitutional Court can stay longer).
Well, I live in Germany working for a PRIVATE company and it is written in my contract that I have to go into retirement when I am still at the company and I reach the legal retirement age.
I totally agree with you Sir! Hungarys biggest problem is, that the people here never experienced what it feels like to live under the rule of a real dictator. So since they lack the knowledge and especially experience, they blindly elected one and like István they are narrowminded and full of false pride. Proud of their not so glorious history full of political incompetence and betrayal of their own kin. They would actually deserve poverty und a rule by fear and terror. Somtimes the biggest revelations come through pain and suffering.
u r a shame – a cheap nazi.
‘deserve’????? Who are you tell? (must be a crazy Hungarian)
It is absoute nonsense what you wrote:
1) The was a dictatorship in Hungary between 1949 and 1990, the most hardest period was between 1949 and approx. 1960. The Hungarian people were scared to death in that period.
2) Mr. Orbán was already ministerpresident between 1998 and 2002 so that the Hungarian people knew wery well what the chose.
Democracy, western style, doesnát work in our country. So our leader has decided to have his own version of democracy. And it works already. Do the people care about judges losing their jobs, a free media? No. 66% of all Hungary voted for our party. 1 million people marched in our capital last week. What they say?
We don’t need the EU, it needs us.
citing Charles C Gati tells everything about u.
Charles C Gati is a hungarian-hater, enemy of Hungary and the Hungarian ppl. They went mad coz the Hunagrian society finally came to the revelation to omit the so called liberals and ex-communists from everything.
we had enuf.
They thought that the power is exclusively theirs and when voters voted for the ‘wrong’ party they did this once already. The same ppl, even Gati among them used their influence to overthrow the 1st Orban governemnt between 98-02. They told all the same lies everywhere.
Certain ppl has good ties to foreign politicians and journalist yet they have no word in Hungary anymore. They went mad and they r using their ties and connections to besmirch our country.
Every foreign politician or journalist have the same circle of these so called liberals and communists as their sources. The same errors came up everywhere like with Francis and the retirement age of the Constitutional Judges. These errors always reveal these are the words of hungarian liberals translated into english.
And am i counted as an anti-semite if i dare to recognize the fact that they are all jews?
Gati, Heller, Konrád, Kertész, Schiff, Eörsi, Haraszti, Kenedi, Dalos, Demszki etc etc?
Heller – jewish born bolshevist turned zionist then she became the ultimate democrat. joke. u can invite her to 100 more foreign university to hold lessons but she will remain what she is: a judeo-bolshevik.
Konrád – asked his brother-in-law to help him then he gave him up to the secret police back in communism. maverick for a living made by the communist regime.
its almost the same with most of them. they claim they were persecuted by communists but that mostly was a created theatrical act or opinion difference between communists. if they had been really enemies of the regime they would ve ended up in a labor camp or prison yet they were let to travel to abroad even western countries. in a time when the avg ppl had a red passport that were only good for communist countries.
demszky the former mayor of budapest – he was persecuted by the communist police for being maoist. he urged the communist regime to crack down on ppl celebrating march 15th the anniversary of the revolution of 1848 which is a national holiday now.
And imagine this bastard being the biggest democrat and telling shit from beside the statue of Petőfi, poet and hero of the revolution for years. its like Herod being the MC at the xmas party celebrating the born of Christ.
Mátyás Eörsi – this guy was on CNN some days ago. the credible source. he shared a business with Miklós Bauer, father of another liberal party member Tamás Bauer.
Miklós Bauer was a torturer in the 50s infamous for tearing ppl’s nail off and killing István Ries.
ONLY IN HUNGARY – could this happen. u think the guy quit working with that bastard? or resigned after that turned out? 😀 ooo u dreamed about the torturer being prosecuted after the regime change? no, in Hungary communist criminals could live free and became politicians, lawyers, millionaires. Ah and they became the biggest friend of americans and westerners. joke.
but the biggest joke when gati and clinton cry out loud for Klubrádió. as mentioned before it is owned by a communist spy. Of course he could stay free and be a wealthy man owning a radio like the torturer running a law firm.
there is a museum in Budapest called the house of terror. if u r in budapest visit it.
U can see many parents of these liberals there as torturers and other members of the terror-system of the 50s.
Iván Pető former chairman of the liberal party and member of parliament – both parents worked for the secret police ÁVÓ.
And Hungarians are anti-semites for recognizing the fact that it cant be coincidental that all of these guys are jews.
The biggest communist criminals of the 50s very mostly jews but its a taboo to tell.
Mátyás Rákosi, Ernő Gerő, Gábor Péter, Farkas etc etc.
The current favorite Hungarian party of the US is LMP. the 1st man of the party is coincidentally – a jew called Schiffer.
His grandpa was the guy who beside Rákosi signed the stalinist constitution in 1949.
So maybe these jewish circles have very very good connections to foreign media and politics to lie about us but their time is over here. they wont be back in power. never. its not because of Fidesz or being anti-democratic. its because we had enuf of them.
no more judeo-bolshevism in Hungary.
and before u came up with the reductio ad hitlerum, there is a joke here about anti-semitism: american jew visits his hungarian relative and asks him: grün is it true there is great anti-semitism in Hungary? sorrily no but there would be a great demand for that.
certain jews here cant live without anti-semitism so they must incite some for themselves. they r called ‘reason-jews’ here. all they do is provoking so they can point back. the chief rabbi Landeszmann in ’91 stated that there is no hungarian culture in hungary only jewish.
a former jewish minister of the governing Fidesz party was called “parade-jew number one of the Fidesz” by these jews. there is a documentary with the title: “The Fidesz jew”. its about a jewish person who was hated out of his family for being the supporter of the Fidesz. The relative who made this to him was member of the liberal party and he claimed that a “real jew” can only be a member of the liberal or the ex-communist party.
francis – next time u want to write about Hungary then come here, live here for a while, meet with the avg joe and the avg jew and use them as source.
and if charles c gati call u up to dictate u an article to give your name to, just say – fuck off charlie and shalom.that would be more academic than your above article.
Though your post is full of false, incorrect, second-handed information, it is much more balanced than those we had the misfortune to read in the past few weeks in different media. All of the mistakes have already been corrected by pevious commenters so I would only focus on one of your statement where you might have a point and try to put it in perspective.
You criticize that tax rate and gay marriage is defined in law that can be changed only with 2/3 majority and that restricts the freedom of future governments. This is true. However let me suggest a few things for your consideration that might change your opinion.
1, nothing restricts more the freedom of a government than unsustainable indebtedness. The previous socialist-liberal government led Hungary to the brink of bankruptcy and avoided insolvency only by taking a 30 billion dollar IMF/EU loan in 2008. The conditions of this loan was set in a way that the socialist-liberal coalition can use the loan in 2008-2010 and the repayment need to start only after the general elections in 2010. Orban inherited this situation.
What do you think restricts more the freedom of a government: inheriting such a situation or not being able to change laws on gay marriage?
2, The level of tax can be changed with a 50%+ majority in the future as well. What defined in a 2/3 law is that there should be a flat income tax rate as opposed to progressive taxation. The level of the tax however can be changed freely by any government.
It is a restriction, true, but far less severe than it appears you think.
3, gay marriage was not allowed even under the jurisdiction of the previous Constitution. Nothing changes in this matter.
And honestly, is it really endangering democracy by not being able to change it with a simple 50% majority???
Do not forget to mention that the so called registered partnership is available for gays and lesbians in Hungary. This status is the same as in the vast majority of the European countries.
I wonder why Prof Fukuyama do not reply…
Károly, perhaps he is busy punching up his mentor who fed him the tosh he wrote?
He does not reply for the same reason the politicians does not reply to the people: HE IS A LIAR!!!!
Professor Fukushima thank you for sharing your brightly radiating thoughts about Fidesz Orbaneusz, the Greek politician who arrives in the Trojan Horse through the Internet! I shall look forward to your next article “Institutions matter: gay marriage on the carpet of the European parliament”
Mr. Fukuyama wrote among others:
“eliminating the independence of the Central Bank”. This statemenet is just ridiculous: the World knows that the FED does exactly what Mr. Obama wants from them: keeping the interest rate near to 0% (zero percent) pumps hundreds of billions or more dollars to the (private) economy. Mr. Obama even suggested several times to the EU that the European Central Bank should do the same sort of money policy what the FED does in the US (meanwhile against the will of Germany the ECB indeed does the same). Just compare it with the 7% interest rate of the “Hungarian” Central Bank. This is the proof that the truth is the opposite what Mr. FUKUYAMA claims.
Mr Krugmann and Mr Fukuyama convinced me that the economics definitely NOT A SCIENCE. A scientist would several times cross check his sources, he would investigate the case very carefully given he does not have prior knowledge about it. Sorry, Mr. Fukuyama, you are not a scientist.
No! Mr Fukoyama is one sclav,one subiectiv,one analfabet economist.
I invit mr Yukohama in my hause in Transilvania (Trianon Romania)
The emotions might have sprung from the misinterpretation of Prof. Fukuyama’s article: if you place it into its right context, you will see no bad intent behind the professor’s lines.
Being a liberal he simply backs the theory of a small government. He warns about the risks of the extension of the state and the paralel contraction of the civil sphere in order to avoid greater damage caused by any government (not saying that the present Hungarian government would be irrisponsible, only warning about the possible risks lying behind greater extension of political power).
Regarding history as a one way track towards liberal democracies, he considers any paternalist state as one step back from the goal of mankind, but unlike many neo-conservative thinkers he declares, that souvereign states have the right to act individually (for his political „confessions” see his book, America at the Crosroads). This attitude appears in his present article as well, when he compares Hungary to Great Brittain. He’s not saying that the steps made by the present government are necessarily bad, he’s only saying that wide political power can potentially damage a country more seriously than a tighter one (his criticism regarding the Hungarian prime minister’s sometimes „rather emotional behaviour” might have been also due to this).
Mr Fukuyama is only saying what any liberal would have said since Locke’s second treatise.
Being a political thinker, and not a politician (!), Prof. Fukuyama is not willing to benefit from destroying any political party’s reputation, he simply observes tendencies, the general rules behind societies or history etc. This article is not a manifesto against Fidesz (or any political party), it’s an analysis of international politics.
Cheers from Hungary!
Fukuyama “… considers any paternalist state as one step back from the goal of mankind, but unlike many neo-conservative thinkers he declares, that souvereign states have the right to act individually ”
You might have read another article. In this paper prof Fukuyama endorses explicitly an intervention of “superpaternal” actors against democratically elected individual Hungarian government:
” most important institutional checks on power are those exercised by the EU and the broader international community, rather than anything within Hungary itself”
Prof Fukuyama’s ideas are as liberal, as the USSR Communist Party Central Committes’ were that time. Thanks God, he does not have armoured divisions to set his ideas through
Fukuyama ‘endorses explicitly an intervention of “superpaternal” actors’? I don’t think so. He simply declares the fact, that international institutions have the means to influence a country’s internal politics. All he sais is that any government should keep an eye on these conditions, otherwise its actions will harm the country. He merely talks about reality (in terms of realpolitics), and not at all in a normative way: he doesn’t say that the EU should interfere with the local affairs of Hungary, he only sais, that it does, and will always do. So no responsible government sould forget it.
Fukuyama “…doesn’t say that the EU should interfere with the local affairs of Hungary, he only sais, that it does”
To be exact, not the EU, but EU’s liberals and other comrades are conducting their private war against legitime Hungarian government with a furious rage. This article is not a scientist’s statement, rather an adopted version of liberal hawks’ war pretext against a country, where they lost key positions during last election
As both of us know Mr Fukuyama has never held any “key position” in Hungary, but has always been a right wing political scientist.
Referring to his alleged “comrades” hence makes no sense. Even if some “furious liberals” are attacking Hungary at the moment, he has nothing to do with them.
‘This article is not a manifesto against Fidesz (or any political party), it’s an analysis of international politics.’
Oh? What’s this then: ‘nobody trusts Viktor Orbán and Fidesz to use their powers responsibly…’? And this: ‘Orbán has made a mess of Hungary’s economy …’? Is this anything short of the cheapest party-political shots, particularly since these wild claims are untenable against observable facts and tangible evidence, and are in fact the very claims of the Hungarian postcommunist/liberal faction and its international friends? And what of the Prof’s endless blunders about the content of the Hungarian Constitution that show him deplorably uninformed about one nation’s politics, thus hardly capable of an ‘analysis of international politics’?
The present commentators might be interested in this article that just appeared in the British Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2092670/The-huge-protest-Budapest-showed-Hungarians-support-government–wasnt-reported.html?ito=feeds-newsxml . (Just occasionally, an arm of the mainstream press will come up with an honest political analysis!)
Prof. Fukuyama’s claims about the autocratic character of Viktor Orbán’s governance are basically correct in my view. However, I don’t see how his general conclusion about the ultimate unimportance of institutions follows. Sure, the institutional framework is not the only thing that matters; political culture and the intentions of key players also shape outcomes. But the reason why “bad agents” are given to “tinkering” with institutions is that they perceive the latter as very real obstacles impeding their aims and want to turn them into pliant instruments of their will. To my mind, the fact that, given a conjunction of unfortunate circumstances, a ruthless and cunning “bad agent” can overrun all institutions does not show that institutions are unimportant.
Institutions do not only reflect and channel the political culture of a country but they can also, over time, actively shape that culture. One example is the Constitutional Court of Germany, established in 1951 to preclude a Nazi-style dictatorship of the majority. Over time, the idea behind this institution, i.e. that majority will can be overruled by considerations of constitutionality, became integrated into prevalent ways of thinking.
Prof. Fukuyama writes: “In terms of the formal powers the new constitution grants the Hungarian executive, they are not greater than those traditionally possessed by a British prime minister.” I don’t know much about the British system but, based on my reading of the new Hungarian constitution and numerous detailed analyses of it, I have doubts about this claim (see Kim Lane Scheppele’s contributions to Paul Krugman’s NYTimes blog).
‘I don’t know much about the British system …’
Surely, then, you are not in a position to ‘have doubts about’ the validity of Professor Fukuyama’s remark that you quote. (Messrs Scheppele and Krugman? Oh, yes: the great friends of the thoroughly discredited Hungarian postcommunists/liberals who are gasping their political last, but living in hope that their international friends will help them out. Sure to be very reliable analysts!)
In 1849 the young Habsburg emperor Franz Joseph turned to Russian Tsar Nikolai I. asking for troops deployed in Hungary to restore his power against Hungarian republican revolutioners. Nikolai sent 200.000-man strong troops and restored monarchy. In 1956 a handful of communists asked for intervention of Soviet comrades against rebels to restore their power. Soviets deployed 3 elite divisions and all the available other troops with 2000 armoured vehicles and restored communism in Hungary.
Right now a handful of liberals, representing ca. 1% of Hungarian voters turn to Brussels and Washington asking for intervention to restore their privilegised realm.
I wonder what will happen.
you are surely wrong buddy. opponents to current authoritarian government are numerous. Fidesz now scores 16 percent in the overall population. It’s decline is the fastest ever. the people you mentioned defend DEMOCRACY, it is very simple.
Do you know Rutherford’s maxim?
Accordingly, there are 3 levels of lie: simple lie, big lie and statistics.
Fidesz is still the strongest party in Hungary, according to all opinion polls.
In any case, let Hungarian voters decide who rules the country, instead of obscure actors in Brussels or Washington.
I did not assert with certainty that the analogy was wrong, I merely expressed doubt about it. My doubt would be dispelled if I were to learn that the ruling majority and/or the prime minister in Britain had the same degree of control over every branch of the state apparatus (and not just the Central Bank) as their Hungarian counterparts do according to the new Basic Law.
I think your points are based on false assumptions. Power of the ruling majority and PM in Hungary will not increase due to new Basic Law. It does not change anything neither in this respect, nor regarding the independence of Central Bank. If you think different pls. write arguments and I’ll address them!
Wow, Fukuyama finally gets it. Culturally conditioned world views guide human behavior and are sometimes even stronger than the individual will to live. We aren’t lab rats who can be studied in a social scientific way. Not only is Marxism dead, social science is too. Long live the humanities!
Maybe formality or formal documentation is not an important characteristic if what we call “an institution”.
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Reading this article inevitably recalls the 20 year past Hungary when as a beginner coincidentally both in life and in democracy (almost just graduated, working in the dismantling the state economy) I read Professor Fukuyama’s “End of History”…
We thought if someone, we there and then lived the end of history. And now we still do need institutions having no (haven’t been able to acquire in course of this 20 years transition the) ethos of democracy, the rule of law. Or simply the responsibility. Not surprisingly, since not the responsibility but at best the beliefs has governed, or rather the conscious or moreover the unconscious “traditions” of the previous 70 years (1919-1989): the imprints of the unvarnished autocracy (the Horthy era), the pure totalitarianism (the Nazis, the Bolsheviks) and finally the existing socialism (the infamous most lightsome barrack of Kádár).
If you have no Penns, Paines, Franklins, or, even if you have some (like István Bibó, or Jenő Szűcs) but they have no audience, than you must have institutions. And if your homeland institutions lack the spirit of the laws your only chance that your state belongs to a union.
Stupid, stupid Americans.
Then they so surprise to hear the world puts them down.
They need a war against Hungary to be able to find it on the map.
What an idiot.
I have some doubt whether prof Fukuyama could even find Hungary on the map. His “science” is rather a yield of collegial visits at ex-Hungarian prof Charles Gati, who stayed next to him at JH University (exactly 2 etages far). Gati is an obsessed Orban-foe, keeping Orban caricature in his university room long before Orban has been elected.
I tend to think that even though institutions do matter, at a deeper level, it’s experiences that shape our behavior.
Charles Gati has a very good piece in the American Interest describing the new-turning-old Hungary under Fidesz.
How do we explain this Hungarian paradox? Gati has insightful hints:
A recent poll reflects the country’s socialist frame of mind and its persistent nostalgia for a paternalistic welfare state: 57 percent of Hungarians believe they lived better before 1989, under János Kádár’s Communist regime. In truth, some did, but most did not. Nevertheless, the majority claims to long for Kádár’s “goulash communism.” What they really want, I suspect, is to return to a time when Hungary was the envy of its neighbors, when it was freer and more prosperous (on borrowed money and Soviet subsidies) than any other Communist country. Hungary was, in the idiom of the day, the happiest barrack in the Soviet camp.
The current Hungarian domestic scene is best summed up by what Václav Havel said about Russia in 2009. His words apply to the illiberal, managed democracy that Hungary has come to be:
Everything seems to follow the rules of democracy. There are parliaments, there are elections, and there are political parties. But there are also highly worrisome and unnaturally close ties between elected officials, the judiciary, the police, and the secret services.
I was reminded of this observation when a friend came to say goodbye just before I checked out of Hotel Buda Mercure. To my astonishment, he removed the battery from his cell phone. He said that this way “they”—the authorities—might not know where he is or what he says. On three other occasions friends changed the subject on the phone when I wanted to discuss a political issue: “Nem telefon téma (Not a topic for the phone)”, they said. I remember that phrase from the 1980s. More than two decades after the collapse of communism here, fear—not pervasive, not insidious, not omnipresent, but fear all the same—has made a return appearance.
More than any other Eastern European countries, Hungary, along with Russia and Serbia, has something of its communist past to feel so nostalgic and proud of. The current economic crisis makes the contrast even more stark. The Fidesz policies are possible because people long for that past.
When I came to Hungary in 1986, only three years before the collapse of its communist regime, I felt like arriving to paradise. Social peace and relative prosperity characterized my perceived paradise. When I heard about the intellectuals debating whether crisis was the apt term to describe the country’s situation, I admired their foresight. And when they debated whether the country needed a change of the socialist model (modellvaltas) or a change of the socialist regime (rendszervaltas), my admiration of their foresight was even more strengthened. In any event, I frequently heard Hungarians telling stories about the shortage of consumer goods and personal freedom in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union with a sense of pride that their country represented the opposite.
Had Hungary’s intellectuals not had the foresight–probably driven by nationalism rather than pure intellect–of seeing the ultimate defect of socialist economy and let their country experience a similar fate that Poland and Vietnam and China had experienced, the likes of Orban Viktor might not have a chance to rule it now.
I suggest a critical cross-check of any source to avoid fate of Professor Fukuyama, who has lost credibility in Hungary with this pamphlet. Here you find an in-depth analysis of his factual mistakes (sorry, available only in Hungarian):
Thank’s for posting a fascist site. Americans will appreciate. Fortunately, the won’t understand…
A familiar reaction of Hungarian liberals on critics: those against my opinion are fascists
‘But there are also highly worrisome and unnaturally close ties between elected officials, the judiciary, the police, and the secret services.’
This did hold true during the postcommunist domination of the bulk of the twenty years following 1989. That is why we saw the MSZP-SZDSZ government hold on to power for so long, despite their extensive thefts, bare-faced graft and reckless sale to foreigners (in return for sizeable bakshish) of national assets by those in and close to that government. That is also how the postcommunists brought Hungary to the brink of economic disaster, just like Russia’s ‘oligarchs’ of the 1990s all but destroyed the Russian economy. (Gati has forgotten to speak up against them, at the time and since. But then, he is their kin.)
And the nostalgia for the communist Kádár perios is poppycock invented by Hungary’s postcommunist media and its mendacious feeders. This is a tactic to re-kindle interest in leftism in Hungary, that having been thoroughly discredited by the postcommunist government we ousted decisively at the 2010 elections. (By the way, there were no celebratory noises from Gati at the time. Nor did Fukuyama extol the health of the democratic institution, election by secret ballot, that is functioning in Hungary more vigorously perhaps than in any other democracy.)
Your story about your friend and his cell-phone is, incidentally, very unconvincing. If there were even the suggestion of the possibility that Hungarian authorities tap citizen’s cell-phones, the international media would have been screaming about it long ago. Then again, it is possible that your friend was engaging in some financial-crime activity, and was wary of his fellow criminals.
‘…the likes of Orban Viktor’ (!) Do please note that Prime Minister Orbán Viktor retains our confidence and fulsome support after nearly two years of his being in office. We demonstrated that barely a week ago, when 400,000-plus of us turned out at the Peace March to say as much. Indeed, we, the great Hungarian majority, are ‘the likes of Orban Viktor’. Your likes, and Gati’s, constitute a mere 1% of our population. Thank God, that lot’s grip on power in Hungary has at last been loosened.
bicskanyitogatoan hazug es sumak fidesznyik vagy, az intellektualis mocskot kened itt szet.
semmifele tobbseg nem tamogatja azt a gecit, meg a megvalasztasakor sem volt semmilyen tobbseg a nepessegen belul, csak alacsony reszvetel. egyszeru matek. a posztod tobbi resze csak a fidesz gusztustalan duplagondol propaganda agymosasa, az ossze-vissza onigazolasa az elmult masfel ev pusztito rombolasanak.
orban szemelyi hatalmi koncentracioja destabilizal. tobbek kozt ha ismerned fukuyama munkassagat, ezt is ertened, miert. talan tenyleg annyira retardalt vagy, hogy ezt nem erted, ez a valoszinubb, mert az kevesbe eselyes, hogy intellektualisan igenyes volnal, csak ennyire cinikus, szar ember. persze igy sincs sok hasznod.
neha azt kivanom, hogy toljatok csak tul egy ponton a szekeret, hogy mar tul keso legyen megallitani, pattanjanak el, aminek el kell pattania. de ez tul nagy ar lenne tul keves szorakozasert. es meg a vegen az olyan libsiknek kene megvedenie teged, mint en. ja es a jobboldali en vagyok, te nemzetszocialista hungarodroid.
abszolut igazad van, de kar vitatkozni a mocskos fideszesekkel.
“removed the battery from his cell phone… said that this way “they”—the authorities—might not know where he is or what he says.”
Alex, did you know that ALL cell phone networks in Hungary are 100% foreign properties?
You find source information here:
How can you imagine that Hungarian police has unnoticed access to data of these companies? Or do you rather assume that German or UK companies conspire with Hungarian police against Gati and his friend? Maybe not only Hungary matters and all these countries are lost to democracy?
I am not surprised on Gati’s attitude, he simply wants to turn back wheel of time, and jubilee himself as hero of democracy. I am only surprised on responsible US policymakers, who are building strategy of the world’s most powerful country on Gati’s UFO-like fictions.
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Well, it seems no one will trust Prof Fukuyama because he wrote lies and he has no honest to react.
No need to react, all your objections are completely irrelevant to the matter. The tiny factual corrections are unimportant. Hungary’s actual government is building steadfast an authoritarian rule.
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Where are you? Is it why, that you do not acknowledge that many of your statments were false and beg pardon?
Where are you? Why do you not acknowledge that many of your assertions were not true and beg pardon?
Robert, the Hungarian Government has now written to this publication’s editor. The letter points out Fukuyama’s errors and poor reasoning: http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1206
I imagine the good Prof. will go on keeping his head-in-the-sand position. Perhaps he is having his personal ‘end of history’ moment.
teged ezert adobol fizetnek? melyik hivatal idejeben veded a valyut? van pofad goodprofozni, beszarok.
Another Hungarian site on Professor Fukuyama’s publication: “benevolent, but superficial”
‘benevolent but superficial’
Superficial certainly. But benevolent? Fukuyama’s spiteful-bitch cracks of this kind:
‘Orbán’s behavior betrays an authoritarian thin skin that would rather ban opposition than engage with it’
associate far more readily with fishwives than with benevolence. This silly little rant of Fukuyama’s betrays a petty little man who giggles into his palm: ‘I told ’em good!’ This is no scholar.
Sophie, let me draw your attention to Murhy’s rule:
“As long as you can explain somebody’s action with stupidity, do not expect malevolence in the background”
Yes, quite so. But I wish there were some law that sheds light upon stupidity deployed as an earner of bakshish. (I very much doubt that Fukuyama wrote this ugly block of insults and lies for reason alone that he is stupid.)
I am not an advocate of Professor Fukuyama, but I appreciate him for leaving noecon warmongers’ camp after Iraqi intervention. I only wish him a clear sight in this specific case. Anyone may make a mistake, but only the unwise makes the same mistake repeatedly.
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Somehow I have this strange feeling that no matter how well-informed or educated people are, they still tend to observe and interpret events around them in accordance with their ideological leanings. Mr. Fukuyama is no exception. And this is good.
Let us provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods. What these periods should be nature herself indicates. By the European tables of mortality, of the adults living at any one moment of time, a majority will be dead in about nineteen years. At the end of that period, then, a new majority is come into place; or, in other words, a new generation. Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself that received from its predecessors; and it is for the peace and good of mankind that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years should be provided by the constitution, so that it may be handed on with periodical repairs from generation to generation to the end of time, if anything human can so long endure.” –Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:42
To highlight the importance of Jefferson’s quote by squeezing the above into one sentence: Each generation has then a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness.
So, is Thomas Jefferson an ultraconservative with an authoritative thin skin or what?
“The new constitution weighs in on a number of social issues, for instance by defining life as beginning with conception and marriage as between a man and a woman.”
It does not come to me as a big surprise that the basic rupture between democratic and authotarian is aligned along the following issues: abortion, homosexuality, religion and drug use.
At least how liberals view it.
As if the above could determine either democracy or authoritarianism.
Again and again, I can hear liberals squeaking these issues as those of high importance when it comes to defining what is democratic and what is not.
“…between democratic and authotarian…”
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Here’s my comment on both Prof. Fukuyama’s blog post and the Hungarian government’s response. http://energyscee.com/2012/02/05/fukuyama-gets-a-letter-from-hungary-but-why-not-me/
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Reading these comments from the Hungarian readers (you can tell) it feels like I’m in a zoo or on a different planet. If these people are in the parliament now, no wonder Hungary needs help. Thank you Prof. Fukuyama!
Unfortunately, you’re right. At the same time as a Hungarian I can assure you that more and more people share prof. Fukuyama’s opinion about our political system. But no one can “win” an argument against arrogance and anger.
@ 57’s “Fukuyama’s article: if you place it into its right context, you will see no bad intent behind the professor’s lines. Being a liberal he simply backs the theory of a small government. ”
Dear Commenters: In the U.S. the “liberal” helpfully described by #57 would be a “Neoliberal,” harkening BACK to what apparently many places on Earth still think of as free market liberalism. As far as I can tell Prof. Fukuama in the U.S. context is either a neoliberal or a libertarian. Some books include him as the former.
In the U.S. #57’s last line would have read: “Being a liberal he simply backs the theory of a BIG government.” Now is that what you meant or not?
However, I most certainly agree that getting the context right is the very FIRST step in communicating. If not it’s all noise.
I also think that those who blog would do us all a big favor if they took repeated pains to declare up front their exact political leanings independent or not, and what that means in the country they are speaking from at the moment. You reading this Prof. Fukuyama?
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Of course Hungary needs help. Needs help to implement democracy like in the States with the same amount of warheads. 😉
But give no such help which degraded western countries to the border of financial instability, building on Ponzi’s schema of money printing without real performance, living from slavery in China happily enough. Judges retired at the same age as anyone else? Ones called old communist farts by new-gen attorneys? Enjoying retirement after miserable judgements of ’56 revolution? No joke, is this this the most serious problem of yours? Thus yes, you must be from different planet. We always guessed there are worlds light years apart from physical reality. Just come to Hungary and try experience in poor districts like the 3rd world.
The reality is, that vast majority of Hungarians were even ready to sign any agreement with the devil himself if it would be possible to watch politicians of past decades being roasted alive in hell.
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Emberek! Fukuyama egy (elegge) konzervativ politikai filozofus, es nem egy kommunista propagandagyar. Mivel mer gondolkodni, nem kell azonnal lejaratni! Nem olyan nehez civilizaltan vitazni…meg kene probalni!
The hungarian “right” side is the shame of our country…..Orban is the biggest problem of Hungary, just like Jorg Haider was for Austria. On the other hand, all politicans must be blamed for this situation…
A magyar “jobboldal” az orszag szegyene…Orban pedig Magyarorsza legnagyobb problemaja, ugyanugy, mint ahogyan Jorg haider volt az osztrakoknak. Masreszt, a teljes hazai politikusgarda felelos a kialakult helyzetert…
The Hungarian people are anti-Semitic and racist. Mr. Fukuyama is right. The Hungarian Turanian are plagued by a curse.
He is right. It is not the institutions that matter, but the people who create them. If we look at it from the perspective of cultural development, the new institutions in Hungary are out of place and time because the politicians abuse them. Therefore bringing democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan where people are not ready for it is futile, because they will abuse it. In Hungary, what we can see is a change from a united people to a divided people, where one side strives to keep in power at any cost while telling the world that this is true democracy. I believe true democracy is where all voices are heard and contemplated. Only then can decisions be made. This may be a slow process. But if there is a common belief in the system, take for instance India, China, and the growing Asian economies then the people guide their energies to BUILD a better society and not use their resources for feud. So all in all, the belief in the system is the most important of all, which However is very much missing in Hungary.
Ha valaki filozófusként elért egy ilyen szintet, akkor elvárható lenne, hogy megalapozottan mondjon véleményt.
Fukulyama úr írásából az derült ki, hogy nincs tiszába a tényekkel, információi tévesek, nem érti, mi történik Magyarországon és, hogy miért.
Ez nem baj, de akkor nem kellene nyilvánosság előtt véleményt formálnia.
I think, you have never lived under communist power. In last 22 years we lived again 12 years (the socialist and liberal parties were ex-communist in real). They destroyed the hungarian economy, the debt service of Hungary was increased from 53% to 83% in last 8 years (from 2002-2010), they stolen everything that was not fixed to concrete basement…
They made contracts that yielded bankruptcy of MALEV (Hungarian Airlines) and so on…
You should learn a little bit of our last 70 years, befor you sit in judgement on hungarian actual civil government.
As I see, the main problem is the overwhelming corruption. This makes the tax money going to “waste”. It also not allow to get rid of the old communist politicians and their buddies, families from the politics. This one fact poisons the whole country and growes the corruption into even bigger, even wider.
All of the political parties since 1989, all of them only lived for their own interests and for their rich supportes. They stole money from us, and sold the properities of the country out at significantly low prise just to feed their own pockets.
I hate the present politicians of Hungary. I cannot trust them. There is none of them who would say and DO stop the corruption and to instead of his/her own interests, would work for our country.
I would only trust some newly graudated professional young people
Mr.Fukuyama you are a fucked american, who try to intervention internal matters of an independent country, instead of the untrue wars of USA in the world. Please to teach for democracy your dark government!
In order to understand the current issues and the motives behind this process, I think it is necessary to take a close look of the rearranged political scene after Ferenc Gyurcsany. At the moment the Fidesz has no competition on the liberal/leftist part since Ferenc Gyurcsány smashed close to zero the credibility of those parties, but has a strong opponent from the right, with a vision of an order centered society, with a strong growing base. The so called anti-democratic processes were partly an experiment from the Fidesz to stop the growth of the popularity of this party, which is there strongest and maybe only opponent on the political scene. People in the West may think if Fidesz fails the leftist parties will rise
Seems like the Fidesz-henchmen have arrived. Mr. Fukuyama, please note that these radical better-than-thou ‘true-hungarians’ might be very very vocal, but their stupidity and limited nationalist vision is actually a minority, like 15-20% of the people here. The rest of us… we do see the democtratic problems and we really do wish, these politicians and these ‘voters’ would get the hell of any board that is public, so the world won’t judge the rest of us because of their infantile actions and comments.
Mr. Fukuyama “informátorai” nyilvánvalóan a hazai liberális körök támogatói közzül kerültek ki. Ez gyakorlatban az SZDSZ táborát jelenti. Az SZDSZ támogatottsága a közvéleménykutatóknál az utóbbi egy évben a nem mérhető tartományba esett. Figyelembe véve a mérési hibahatárt is, ez a gyakorlatban mindenképpen 2% alatti támogatottságot jelent. A külföldi sajtó viszont ennek a társaságnak a szócsövévé vált. A Magyarországon a nacionalizmus nem nagyobb, mint más Eu tagállamokban, ezt felmérések is igazolják, de az ilyen sajtótámadások pontosan a radikaluzmus erősödése irányába hatnak.
Egyszer ezen kellene elgondolkodni. Másodszor azon, hogy a hazai eléggé megosztott ellenzék szavazótábora összesen se nagyobb, mint a Fideszé. Vagyis ez az egész sajtókampány a legjobb esetben is csak az ország destabilizálására lehetne jó. Először elfogadható alternetívával kellene előállni, addig mégcsak hazudni sincs értelme.
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The estimated population of hungary is approximately 10million. Do you really think that 400.000 people on a demonstration really count?Weeks before this”peace-march for hungary” was another one. That was against the inauguration of the “2/3 constitution”.As i reckon, plenty of people were there as well.But do these numbers really matter??? For me, Hungary is a little country with less gdp than the annual profit of a single american IT firm, with lot of talented people and a few arrogant and populist politicians.
Was about 30.000 people this demonstration.
It’s a good deal, that was a biggest civil demonstration in Hungary.
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Dear Mr. Fukuyama, dear fellow Intellectuals!
I would like to apologize on behalf of some of my Hungarian compatriots for their manners and raw reasoning skills: by “raw”, of course, I mean very weak. What puzzles me is the number and enthusiasm of self-appointed experts of political science, sociology, economics and law. I have a pair of eyes, yet I don’t have a theory of vision and if I can’t see I don’t try to fix my eyes myself, I go to the doctor. But when it comes to politics some have a compulsion to defend their favorite politicians, or ideological systems, without either the proper education, or the time and effort necessary to thoroughly evaluate social phenomena, ie. to check the facts from several independent resources, the structure of the reasoning based on those facts, and the variety of underlying axioms of our anthropology, social theory, etc.. To do all of the above mentioned would be impossible, so there is need for intellectual authority to guide our thinking: that would be the consensus of social sciences. Keep in mind that politicians usually have some sort of higher degree diploma, but by no means does that make them scientists or experts in any field, for that matter. Their trade is politics: power, as opposed to reason (in the enlightened sense). To those who believe, without any doubt, that FIDESZ is your glorious chivalry of uppermost morality: please educate yourselves in politology, political psychology and you might discover politicians using the same standardized tools for gaining popularity all over the world, that is guided neither by reason, nor by morality.
Getting back to the discussion here, I think most of the misunderstandings are not about the facts or the underlying axioms. The issue of debate is the interpretation of the facts: the argument. The fact is that power is being centralized; reforms target the branches of power, and great effort is put into symbolic changes concerning the country, while the real social problems are still unaddressed, such as health, employment (50.000 or so seasonal jobs as road sweepers is insufficient to deal with structural unemployment concerning about 1 million people), education (claiming that “we don’t need it”, or rather, “you don’t need it” is not solving the problem, it’s a one way street to deep, lasting poverty), changing demography (destroying private pension funds do not address the issue for which they were created in the first place), racism (handing out pamphlets at film festivals claiming there is no racism in Hungary is just a waste paper), etc.. (Please do not take my comments in parentheses too seriously, as I do not aspire to paint the whole picture, but do intend to be moderately humorous)
In any case, some of the popular, but certainly incorrect, arguments used by my fellow over-enthusiastic countrymen must be addressed: 1) the unique Hungarian civilization argument: our democracy is unique and its fine the way it is. The only ‘hungariqum’ is that we have no democratic culture, those who defend this 18th century definition of European democracy barely know the meaning, let alone the history, of democracy. 2) The ace of spades: the communist card. All of our problems stem from communism, or in the newer version: from “liberal-Bolshevik treason”. While the statement is obviously ridiculous, it also ignores the fact that FIDESZ has been in power for 2 years now, yet again and again they are “surprised” by some socialist mischief that has led to the problems theywe are facing today. Even if one feels inclined to point at scapegoats, it is still a clear proof of FIDESZ’s utmost incompetence in dealing with these challenges. 3) This one I find most entertaining (btw, another version of the communist card, also adapted to dealing with any sort of foreign or local coverage criticizing the Orban regime): “Mr Fukuyama is a left-wing pig” Why did he criticize the regime? Because he is a left-wing pig? Why is he left-wing? Because he criticized the regime. This is known as circular reasoning, one of many logical fallacies we engage in every day, that are re-enforced by our politicians. I strongly encourage everybody who participates in arguments of any sort, to learn about formal and informal logic, informal fallacies and the rules of rational argument. Studying these would reveal that most of the things politicians say to the people are nonsensical. Then you can decide for yourself whether these politicians are manipulative, or just plain stupid. But this intellectual equipment that enables us to evaluate arguments comes through education and sustained effort, not through blind faith.
The turmoil of our times is in part due to our unfortunate history, especially that of the 20th century. For almost 100 years extreme left and right wing ideas fought each other with violence, assuming power in succession and driving the other one underground. In 1990 these forces boiling in the deep rose to the surface once again and resulted in an open clash of ideas, fought in a more consolidated environment, but with our traditional weapons: insult, violence, destruction. The mentality is, as always: all or nothing, it’s either us or them, the end justifies the means. There is no peaceful coexistence in diversity, and that is reflected in the attitudes of both the common people and our elected politicians. But all is not lost and I am not alone! I speak on behalf of many Hungarian folks and almost all intellectuals when I say that I want peace, democratic progress and a place among enlightened western nations. Our voice may yet just be a whisper, but please don’t give up on us: do not deny us the moral and intellectual help that we so desperately need!