The Hungarians have been rioting for days. The demonstrations were triggered when a tape was leaked that contained a private conversation of Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, in which he admitted to having lied to the nation. The PM made this confession during a meeting with deputies of his Socialist Party last May. As he urged the deputies to embrace economic reform to fix Hungary’s budget problems he told them that the [formerly Communist] party had won the elections by concealing how dramatic the economic situation was.
When the citizens of Eastern Europe rejected Communism 17 years ago they had been inspired by dissidents such as Václav Havel, who told them that people have a right to “live in the truth.” People wanted to rid themselves of the lies of their Communist masters. It is significant that during the past days of riots in Budapest, not only cars were set alight and official buildings stormed, but also the main Soviet war monument was vandalised.
However, while explaining to the BBC’s Mark Mardell why he refuses to resign, Mr Gyurcsány said that he had not been speaking of himself or his own party in particular when he said “we” had been lying, but rather: “I was speaking about the whole elite. We repeated and repeated that you can be richer, fulfil your dreams, and we can give you happiness and fortune as a gift. This is a real lie. For the last 15 years, none of us were brave enough to initiate deep reform. We wanted to avoid painful measures and always found excuses not to act. That’s the real lie.” He added that he is the first politician who is brave enough to admit his mistake, i.e. Gyurcsány is the first politician in Europe who is honest enough to admit his dishonesty.
The Hungarian opposition, the Fidesz party, did not implement the necessary economic reforms either when it was in power. Nevertheless, its leaders must also have realized how dire the country’s situation was. As one of our readers remarked, the only Hungarian government since 1990 that carried through a fiscal austerity package was subsequently punished at the ballot box. Perhaps politicians lie because they assume that people do not want to know the truth. As Mark Mardell says “many politicians feel they know what is the best for their country, but don’t think people would vote for the unvarnished truth. Perhaps we need not only honest politicians but an honest electorate.”
Last June, the Slovaks voted Mikulas Dzurinda out of power, despite the success of his economic reforms. Mr Dzurinda had led Slovakia through the necessary economic reforms that Hungary still has to go through. More jobs were being created in Slovakia than there were being lost. Mr Dzurinda did not have to lie in order to be reelected, and yet he was not reelected. The Brussels Eurocracy had actively undermined his government’s position, but the real explanation for Dzurinda’s electoral defeat was given by George Handlery: “In the mind of the average person freedom is an abstraction like the Red Nosed Reindeer that occasionally drops gifts. Liberty is therefore something that should ‘give.’ [...] There is a voting block [in democracies] that wants guaranteed hand-outs secured by political power that can defy economics. [...] So voting to get something that no one can give [but] only promise, appears to be a viable course to follow.”
Mr Gyurcsány said: “We [i.e. the elite] repeated and repeated that you can be richer, fulfil your dreams, and we can give you happiness and fortune as a gift. This is a real lie.” It is a lie, however, which a dishonest electorate wants to hear.
Seventeen years after the fall of Communism, democracy is in crisis in Eastern Europe. Nations who thought that democracy meant “living in the truth” are beginning to realize that democracy does not necessary equal truth. The disenchanted Hungarians are rioting, the Slovaks have voted for a leftist government which includes extremists who are taking it out on national minorities, the Poles are stumbling from one political farce to another, the Czechs seem to be doing the same, and the East Germans are voting for either Communists or Neo-Nazis.
Eastern Europe is going through a crisis of disillusionment with democracy. Western Europe appears to have passed that stage. We have no illusions about lying politicians. All our democratic politicians, including the so-called “conservatives” among them, have long accepted the Socialist paradigm that people vote for politicians in order to get gifts from the state. Indeed, receiving benefits is the very essence of the welfare state. It explains why, in order to win last year’s German elections, Angela Merkel was forced to drop flat tax proponent Paul Kirchhof, why French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy refused to back Prime Minister Dominique Villepin in his conflict with students over the youth labour bill earlier this year, and why in Britain David Cameron is pledging not to cut taxes because otherwise the voters might “fear that the Tories would slash public services to fund tax cuts.”
All these politicians are smart. They realize that they are dealing with a dishonest, indeed, a corrupt electorate. They lie to the electorate because they fear that they will lose the elections if they speak the truth. Hence they acquiesce to “living in the lie” – the big lie that the state is Santa Claus. A corrupt electorate gets the politicians it deserves. Most politicians are liars, especially if they have been around for some time, because it is almost impossible to survive in European politics without lying.
The welfare state corrupts the voters, the voters in turn corrupt the politicians, and the politicians corrupt the voters even more by maintaining the welfare state. It is a vicious circle, which can only be broken when the welfare state collapses under its own inherent deficiencies. This will happen as soon as the money runs out with which the Santa Claus state finances the gifts and benefits that its corrupt electorate demands.
That moment may be nearer than we think. Belgium, the archetype of the corrupt welfare state, is falling apart. The European Union, which is basically an attempt to prolong the survival of the self-defeating welfare system by supplanting it to a pan-European level in order to benefit from an economics of scale, is in crisis since its “Constitution” was rejected. The latter, interestingly, was done both by voters who were dissatisfied because they were demanding more gifts from the Brussels supranational Santa Claus than he is able to give, and by voters who rejected the entire European welfare concept. Europhile politicians are currently trying to buy the adherence of the first group by promising more gifts (“adding a social protocol to the constitutional treaty,” as it is called in Eurospeak) though the lying politicians realize that bestowing more gifts is impossible.
Another indication of the imminent collapse of the welfare state is the fact that, instead of handing out direct financial benefits, the welfare states have begun to hand out “rights” to politically correct minority groups, such as gays and immigrants. Sometimes these rights are entitlements which can be used against other citizens, allowing the minority groups to use the judicial apparatus and the police forces to claim and enforce their “rights”. In these cases it is no longer the state which bears the cost of the gifts it bestows on corrupt voters, but ordinary citizens and companies. An example is the £750 recently awarded to a British immigrant who had overheard a racist remark. Another example which may one day become reality, was the threat to oblige Belgian notaries to pay damages when they refuse to validate marriage contracts between homosexuals.
While perceptive citizens in Central and Eastern Europe are beginning to notice that democracy does not equal truth, people in Western Europe are beginning to experience that it does not equal freedom either. The American government sees it as its obligation to spread democracy throughout the world. Europe today, however, is suffering from democracies that “live in the lie” as badly as the former Communist regimes did. At the same time Europe’s political system is becoming a totalitarian democracy where freedom is trampled upon.