Václav Klaus: We live in a far more socialist and etatist society than we had then imagined

Click the picture to read his full speech.Czech President Václav Klaus spoke at a meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) in Prague on the 7th of September, 2012. Read his speech “We are not on the Winning Side” in full by clicking on the picture.

I’ll pick out a few points but don’t want to diminish the importance of reading his whole speech.

President Klaus makes some general comments before delving into some of the reasons he understands why there has been a failure to realize the full potential of free markets and freedom.

For someone like me, who after the fall of  communism actively participated in preparing and organizing radical political and economic changes, the world we live in now is a disappointment. We live in a far more socialist and etatist society than we had then imagined. After the promising beginning, we are in number of respects returning back to the era we used to live in in the past and which we had considered gone once and for all. Let me stress that I do not have in mind this country only but Europe and the whole Western world.

His points; folded, spindled and mutilated by your bending author:

  1. We probably did not fully understand the far-reaching implications of the 1960s. This “romantic” era was a period of radical denial of the authority of traditional values and social institutions. As a result, generations were born that do not understand the meaning of our civilisational, cultural and ethical heritage, and are deprived of having any compass guiding their behaviour.
  2. We underestimated certain problematic aspects of a standard, formally wellfunctioning democratic system that lacked an underlying set of deeper values. We did not see the power of the demagogical element of democracy that allows people within this system to demand “something for nothing”.
  3. I feared the ideology of human-rightism, but did not anticipate the consequences of this doctrine. Human-rightism is an ideology that has nothing in common with practical issues of the individual freedom and of free political discourse. It is about entitlements. … Positive human rights also contributed heavily to the present era of political correctness with all its destructive force.
  4. Related to human-rightism and political correctness is the massive advancement of another contemporary alternative or substitute for democracy, juristocracy. Every day we witness political power being taken away from elected politicians and shifted to unelected judges.
  5. Likewise, I did not expect the powerful position that NGOs (that is civil society institutions) would gain in our countries and in particular in the supranational world and how irreconcilable their fight with parliamentary democracy would be. … I do not recall where I first came across the statement that those institutions represent a new re-feudalisation of society, but I consider it to be a very good one.
  6. We lived in a world of suppressed freedom of the press for too long, and that is why we considered the unlimited freedom of the media as the necessary prerequisite for a truly free society. Nowadays we are not sure about it. … Our democracy quickly changed into mediocracy, which is yet another alternative to democracy, or rather one of the ways to destroy democracy.
  7. We failed to see the danger of the gradually ongoing shift from national and international to transnational and supranational in the current world. In those days we did not follow European integration very closely, perhaps for understandable reasons. We tended to see only its liberalising aspect rather than the dangerous supranationalism that destroys the democracy and sovereignty of countries.
  8. I also did not expect such a weak defence of the ideas of capitalism, free market and minimal state. I did not imagine that capitalism and the market would become almost inappropriate, politically incorrect words that a “decent” contemporary politician should better avoid. … Only now do I see the real depth of hatred towards wealth and productive work, only now do I realise the role of human envy and of a completely primitive thought that other person’s wealth is solely and purely at my expense.
  9. I did not expect such popularity of public goods, of the public sector, of the visible hand of the state, of redistribution, of wisdom of the anointed in comparison with the wisdom of the rest of us. … We did not expect that people would be so unwilling to take on the responsibility for their lives, that there would be such fear of freedom, and that there would be such trust in the omnipotence of the state.

Anything I’d add would only dilute.

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