He got a letter and I didn’t. What does Francis Fukuyama know about Hungary? What does Francis Fukuyama have to do with Hungary? What does Francis Fukuyama get for writing a blog post about Hungary? A letter. A letter sent from Zoltan Kovacs, Ph.D. of the State Secretary for Government Communication. Dr. Fukuyama wrote one blog post about how Hungary provides an example of why state institutions don’t really matter, because “bad actors can undo even the best-designed institutions.” And the Hungarian Prime Minister Orban emerges as the bad apple leading the bunch.
The letter even came with the Hungarian shield and underneath the “Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.”
Sometimes life really is unfair. How many blog posts about the autocratic nationalistic anti-Western views of Orban, do I have to write to get noticed by the Hungarian State? Not to mention the fact that I wrote BEFORE Fukuyama about Orban upending the current international technocratic governance regime and the repoliticization of technocratic state institutions. All I got a few months ago, after writing about the Hungarian state’s nationalistic energy strategy was an email from the lawyer of the state owned energy company, MVM, to not use their logo (that was pretty cool too). But a letter from a state organ, now how cool would that be? That is like reaching the blog-o-sphere!
But there are two reasons I have not gotten a letter. First, my wife is Hungarian and I live in Hungary (I’m assuming Fukuyama’s partner is not Hungarian). Because I live here, the Hungarian government knows they got me. Having an Hungarian wife means
I have an Hungarian mother-in-law I’ll never be able to leave Hungary. Also, the last letter I got from the state, was to tell me they were taking away my private pension money. Overall, there is plenty of time and multiple ways they can get me.
Second, I am always right. I have not gotten a letter, Paul Krugman has and now Fukuyama has as well. I only wish those two popular authors could be as exact as me.
Now that I’ve gotten over my jealousy, let’s examine the letter. It is fairly clear from the letter that Dr. Kovacs sent, that Dr. Fukuyama was totally wrong and misguided on four very important points. 1) Retirement ages for Constitutional judges – Z.K. says all judges above 62 must retire (reduced mental capacity??); 2) Hungary has not infringed on the independence of the Central Bank (they are trying, but haven’t been able to do it yet); 3) the new constitution is very good for debt reduction (self-denial); and finally 4) the new electoral law is great for candidates (failed to say for which party).
Ah, Fukuyama didn’t cross his ‘T’s’ and dot his ‘I’s’. For anyone following the constant flow of ‘corrections’ sent out by the Hungarian government this is where they get everyone. When authors try to simplify what is going on in Hungary, sometimes they brush over an item – but this is where the State Secretary for Government Communication – and other state institutions get these authors, and try to make them look ignorant. They get letters like from Dr. Kovacs pointing out their missing ‘periods.’ But like all state bureaucrats, and even like the Communist censors of the past regime, they miss the point of the article, thereby confirming and reinforcing the message. (Maybe it is here that Kovacs was trying to demonstrate that institutions don’t matter).
The point of the blog post that Fukuyama was driving home – and stated – was that Victor Orban is a bad man. Within the structure of the state it doesn’t matter how the state is set up, with checks and balances or rigid regulatory structures, if there is a lack of mature democratic political culture within a country and in political parties, then the state structure, which is weak, will crumble when a bad person, like Victor Orban comes along. “If the political will exists to do something even in a system with a lot of veto players, it will happen.”
Fukuyama was not worried about a slash or a dot, rather he states, “The new Hungarian constitution is bad not so much for what it is, but what it reveals about the long-term proclivities of its authors.” The letter sent by State Secretary Kovacs re-enforces the point and demonstrates that Kovacs indirectly accepts Fukuyama’s perspective and argument. It does this on two points.
A worker performs his duties in the Hungarian Ministry of Public Administration and Justice
First, by sending a letter attempting to clarify minor ‘inaccuracies’ the institution of “Ministry of Public Administration and Justice” does not challenge Fukuyama on his argument that Orban is bad and the ‘spirit’ of the new constitution indicates this. The Hungarian state engages at the wrong level. When Fukuyama ends with “Maybe institutions don’t matter, after all.” He becomes right (I actually disagree that institutions don’t matter). Fukuyama becomes right, because Kovacs demonstrates what a bureaucrat he is by becoming a cog in the state machinery sending out letters to blog posts pointing to technical inaccuracies while being oblivious of the main argument.
Second, Kovacs’ letter is an example of the the “proclivities of [the constitutions] authors,” or rather the proclivities of state leaders and how they have employees of the state engage the public. State institutions, have people like Kovacs (and those that work for him) combing every minor detail on a published article or public comment and then writing a letter to defend the current autocratic regime of Victor Orban. This is done by state institutions, instead of accepting and encouraging an open media space in Hungary where a diverse exchange of views occurs without crippling fines for owners of media outlets. Prosecution remains possible if you use the words from the new national anthem in a rap song, as the Hungarian rapper Dopeman did. It is those people that are beyond the reaches of the Hungarian state, that receive such letters. Fukuyama’s makes the point in his blog post, Orban is “grabbing control of the media regulator,” well, Kovacs in his finely crafted and detailed rebuttal did not disagree, thus we can only guess that Kovacs also agrees – or at least accepts this point.
Watch a crime being committed: “Gabriella Skoda, spokesperson of the Attorney General’s Office has previously told the press that „the district attorney has viewed the music video and based on its contents contended that a misdemeanor crime against a national symbol has been committed and the suspicion of crime has been ascertained, therefore an investigation was initiated”.
Restraining of state institutions – including secretaries and prosecutors, should occur, rather than media outlets, so the state does not issue a letter over every little criticism. A country with an open democratic system, does not have the state attacking every criticism in the public sphere – it only makes the state look paranoid – it shows the proclivities of the state machinery. And if they are an open and democratic country, why would they be paranoid? Unless almost every international institution is examining your country for undemocratice practices, then you might be paranoid, as is the case with Hungary. Institutions don’t matter, but for people in Hungary that have their pensions taken away; companies that accrue losses, due to nationalism; and the lack of media plurality, due to government fines and prosecutions – the importance of institutions, and the views and actions of international institutions do matter – (and this, Fukuyama would agree with – added Feb. 8, 2012).
My favorite video, that sadly describes so well the views of people in Hungary – even more now after Hungary has crawled back to the IMF. (click on captions for English subtitles)