Hungary Shows the West the Path to Survival | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


Hungary Shows the West the Path to Survival

A specter is haunting the European Union—the specter of Eastern Europe. Hungary is a country slightly more populous than Virginia, and its population diminishes slightly every year. It receives substantial subsidies from richer EU countries, produces nice wines, but has little industry not tied to German auto plants. Its military has roughly zero external intervention capability.

And yet in Europe, Hungary is always in the headlines. The glossy French center-right weekly Le Point warns with alarm that Hungary’s president Viktor Orbán “outlines the shape of another Europe.” A few months ago, the European Parliament subjected Orbán’s government to a sort of trial under “Article 7,” a process that could lead to Hungary being denied its parliamentary voting rights. Le Point (again) speaks ominously of a menacing “axis” between Poland, Hungary, and the new populist government of Italy.

It might be difficult to place Orbán’s government precisely on a political freedom scale. It has taken measures against Hungary’s judiciary and opposition, which have enhanced the power of the ruling party. But people still vote in meaningful elections. Political opponents are not killed or jailed. Unlike France, it is not using brutal measures against demonstrators, though also unlike France, it is not faced with persistent and sometimes violent demonstrations. If you visit Budapest, you will hear soon enough that Orbán has a weakness for crony capitalism: his government’s recent effort to raise the limits on overtime work a company could demand produced some vocal and vigorous opposition. Overall, I would conclude that Orbán isn’t a model democrat or technocratic open economy exemplar, but he also isn’t any sort of aspiring dictator.

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