Orbán’s seven-point breeding program is not just a massive state handout – disguised as loans and tax cuts – but the ultimate manifestation of his central planning instinct that would make communists humbly blush with envy.
The most alarming thing you should note about Orbán’s breeding plan is just how sweeping it is – and how much micromanagement there is at the same time. Evidence can go to hell, Orbán has an opinion.
The state secretary (for breeding) opined into Orbán’s ear that she thinks people don’t have more than 3 kids because that’s what you can fit into a car – so the king announced that 7-seated car subsidy. That particularly. Such micromanagement. It is sick – even before you realize that all the known conditions point at one particular carmaker’s products that also happens to be Orbán’s priority to keep in the country. So corruption, cronyims, paternalism and shunning any evidence before making a micro-managing piece of legislation based on a hunch.
The central planning instinct couldn’t run deeper than this. And for the subjects, it is sickening just how much every life decision they make is nudged, suggested and pushed is by the government. People look up at state daddy for every decision – which car to buy, where to move, what to buy, when and how to live together, even whether they want children or how many. And that is just this 7-point policy. There are scores of such “nudges”.
Such paternalism is deep-seated in authoritarian countries. I know plenty of people who don’t even realize that every decision they make was given to them be the government, they even consider themselves totally autonomous. They are replacing the old fridge when there’s a state handout for it. They build insulation, saddled with years’ worth of paperwork, just because there was a subsidy for it. They have three kids, because that’s the magic number to get X amount of state loans for building a house. They build, rather than buying if buying is not subsidized. They choose their place to live based on state programs. They get married for the wife debt.
And they would bark your head off in righteous anger if you dared to suggest that they are somehow being paternalized. They seriously consider themselves their own men, even though their only proof is that they have the power to beat their wives. They are bitches to the state but they have bitches of their own, their females and children are theirs to abuse and nudge and control.
Saddles the poorest and the least educated
Of course, if you’re smart, you stay away from these state nudges. You must also be well-informed about the big wide world out there. And you must be relatively wealthy to do so – just think about the housing market that jumped every time the state announced a new handout. Can you afford to not promise children for a loan when every time such a loan is announced prices jump out of your reach? That 20-million you saved for a 2-bedroom wouldn’t have bought you a studio once Orbán’s first loans-for-babies program was announced. And he just did it again. Would you run after this market with your little savings (that is getting inflated before your very eyes as you want to buy housing and not 20-million’s worth of lottery tickets whose price is state controlled) or would you find it in yourself to breed? How old are you? Can you save another 20 in the next 10 years to get the 2-bedroom you dreamed of? How much more will prices rise by then?
In a country with an authoritarian past and present many are still hanging on the government’s words for guidance on how to live their lives. The least educated and least informed citizens are the most prone to fall for scams like the government’s housing-lottery or the loans-for-babies program (that existed already, not just today’s announcement – back then it was just a well-testing distraction from a misogynistic scandal).
Once trapped under the burden of family and loans, especially if your education is non-existent or worthless, you are the least capable to make up your own mind and goals, to see other options, to look out of your country and see what the world has to offer. And if that happens, you are the prime target and captive of populist and nativist propaganda. What indeed could you possibly be if not a statistics that has to produce new, little statistics before passing away? How can you tell apart whether you do this for yourself, your king, or for the state loan without which you will never be able to buy?
Can a state handout program buy more subjects for the king?
Not sure whether the creation of dumb biomass was the purposed goal of Orbán or he just didn’t think this through, but the sad thing is that it doesn’t matter. The whole country depends on his judgement – or the absence thereof. And the real meaning of an autocracy is that the interests of the individuals living under the despot get no consideration – as they can’t hurt the despot.
I normally disapprove of state handouts and politicians promising money to buy voters. It also applies when they promise money to breed said voters. Not weighing society down with a million regulations (mostly designed to enable corruption) and giving people a sense of legal security could make miracles to their financial situation – and that would inspire to have children those who actually want them. You can make a lot more money yourself in a legally secure, non-whimsical country that is citizen-oriented, at least on paper.
For context, the Hungarian education system had been systematically dumbed down under Orbán, free-falling in Pisa tests. The worst-off kids are now let to drop out of school at 16 without any qualification and join the ranks of the unemployed for life. The healthcare system is struggling, not just from the emigration of professionals but from the almost complete lack of funding for actual healthcare efforts. And corruption, of course.
We had a baby boom in the 50s. It was nasty.
They are called the “Ratkó-children”, babies who were born after the communist abortion ban came into effect and the first state subsidies were introduced. They were unwanted, that surplus to normal birth numbers was down entirely to women being forced to keep unwanted pregnancies – in an era when contraception didn’t exist and women were livestock anyway. As I said, it was nasty. Stories of broken lives abound – but if you really want to see something awful, read up on its Romanian equivalent under the dictator Ceausescu.
The only thing that ever produced a boom in the population of this depressed little country was thus a violent abortion ban under the darkest communist times. The waves of those babies’ children and grandchildren are clearly visible as peaks on the demographic tree.
Now you can come to the conclusion that it is the absence of such forced population boosting problems that is the cause of the problem. Or you can think a bit more clearly and ask yourself the question whether people’s reproductive choices should have such disastrous collective consequences in the first place. Who forced states to build unsustainable pay-as-you-go pension schemes? Would this be such a problem if the entirely man-made disaster of state pensions would not exist? They are not a force of nature, after all, they are invented by politicians of the past, and kept alive be their popularity as a free money tree, but they are not exactly ancient inventions.
And even if you accept the collectivist argument, don’t you think that such nasty, state-induced population shocks such as a sudden spike in pregnancies cause ripple effect down the line? Maybe a more orderly, gradual reduction of population could be handled. And of course, it also helps if a country doesn’t lock out immigrants, if it is desirable to said immigrants in the first place (which Hungary is not), and finally, if said country doesn’t push out its best and brightest every couple of decade (as Hungary does). The state-induced emigration and population shocks are the cause of our problems, not people’s life choices.
The children of the original boom generation will be fully retired by 2020, their kids are in their forties and their grand kids rarely happened. Not everyone from a big family actually goes on to replicate it. It was weird that Orbán gratuitously even allowed the existence of under-40 women in his speech, but if he wanted to get this generation (born in the 70s) to breed, he should have gone higher in age and drop the sanctimonious (first) marriage clause. What does it do, anyway? And maybe give actual help, not a debt that will hang over them with a clock ticking to birth two more or they have to pay up.
Orbán’s demography gurus are the nastiest “experts” out there. The criteria of their selection must, in fact, be nastiness – and how agile their mind comes to Orbán’s conclusions. (Which is your one-bit sexist world view mixed with violent punishing instincts, so hot so hard to guess.) Old men and women crowing about fertility and opining on how people should live fill Orbán’s media and people are getting used to the world in which they are livestock.
And they think of immigrants as non-humans. After all, we need all this breeding program to keep them out, the king said so. Linking everything back to scary, subhuman swarms of migrant rapist terrorists is the nasty campaign trick that tested so well as illiberal voter bait that Orbán will never let it go and he will probably bring it to his grave.