Breeding the right kind is a multi-purpose authoritarian power tool. Orbán’s 7 point breeding program illustrates it perfectly.
Ten years ago I was the only one I knew who called birth-nudging policies citizen breeding programs and found them disturbing. There was a lot of gasping and sanctimonious outrage at my choice of words. How could I call something so sacred and holy as the birth of a child call by such an animalistic term. Today, everyone calls Orbán’s “family protection” action plan “breeding”. But I changed my mind. I no longer consider it the breeding of citizens. Everything about this policy and the way it was presented and will be pushed through is screaming that we are no longer citizens but livestock. Maybe subjects. Certainly no citizens.
The next three post should give you a primer in why such an outrageous breeding program is such a gem for any aspiring autocrat.
It is a communication flash bomb
When a 9-million strong little country gets into international headlines with a policy, you know that something it up. And Orbán’s tax exemption for mothers-of-four has made it. Out of context – because the caveats don’t fit into the headlines – and twisted everywhere to fit local debates. It also took the limelight off his corruption and turning the country into his own feudalistic land.
Both breeding and taxes are combustible topics on their own rights – and they are combined in Orbán’s program. People (left and right) have strong opinions about taxes, women, breeding, etc. They are also all affected and threatened by such policies, and finally, they all feel competent to opine on it. The left wants to give-give-give, regardless of whether it makes sense, while the right always wants to stomp on women and do away with their autonomy in the disguise of being pro-baby – even though there is nothing child-friendly in the entire program. So everyone loves to talk about it. Foreign journalists also often misreport it to relate it to their own domestic issues – the pressure for clicks is a bitch. Finally, first world readers also somehow believe that everything that gets promised will happen.
The breeding program is thus the perfect communication flash bomb – illiberals everywhere throw such flash bombs every day to distract from their incompetence, theft, collusion, etc. Here, we call them “chew toys”. A toxic proposal, no matter how outrageous, sucks the air away from the relevant policy questions, takes the bandwidth from discussing corruption and the demolition of checks and balances, etc. It is like a war that takes everyone’s attention and makes them discuss… the war, and not what was (and still is) important before the war started.
Is it even baby-friendly?
There is nothing in the 7 points that benefits children. In fact, children that are already born can suck it – and so can their parents. Only children to be bred after the proposals will be set in law will make wives eligible to the wife-debt and mothers-of-four to tax exemption. (And there will be even more modifications coming that usually gut the law and make it more corruption-friendly.) Any children you already have is out and can’t be undone so why would the king bother to seduce you to do it?
Benefits also don’t go to mothers of adopted children. Their lives may be living hell, they might be on fast track to human trafficking, prostitution or the jail, but they are also already born, there isn’t even a parent around to entice into breeding some more.
Benefits are apparently not needed by struggling women either. The wife-debt only goes to women who pass credit checks in the first place.
But remember, it is the biomass program – not the quality upbringing project, and not the better-country-to-live-in program. Quantity over quality is a core tenet of authoritarian thinking, both in rulers and their submissives (i.e. the entire society), just think about the unthinking assumption that majority somehow constitutes right (but definitely might) and how even intelligent people argue their case by citing opinion polls in their favor (when it suits them) even though that is not an argument. Or think about how you are regularly made to vote about the rights of others, like whether gay couples can marry. Not only is it not your business – it shouldn’t be the government’s either. The freedoms of individuals should never, ever be down to majority vote.
Nothing goes to men – and they are better for it
Pushing the child topic on women only is distasteful. Designing all the policies to target women is dumb. Giving the benefits to women only is also rampant and self-evident sex discrimination, but Hungarian men are not exactly aghast that these wonderful things are not going to them. And with good reason.
The wife-loan is a wife-debt that will stay with the woman in case of a divorce. And while she can only get it on her first marriage, the man can keep moving on to women, make them take out the debt, then leave with less than 3 children fathered to them. The debt is not to his little name.
If the wife cannot perform the three successful live births within 10 years to the same (first) husband that she doesn’t divorce from and who doesn’t divorce her, she has to pay it back, with interest. Alone.
Just how disgusting is a breeding policy?
To taste the real distastefulness and horror of such biopolitics, just read through the (yet to be invented) conditions. What happens if the child is still born? If the wife or her husband turns out to be sterile? If the mother loses her ability to keep birthing? If it becomes dangerous to her life? If the child is to be born with special needs? If the child dies? If the husband dies?
Not to mention such first world problems as the marriage becoming abusive. What if the marriage becomes uninhabitable? If the money-oriented parents abuse their Orbán-inspired children? It had happened before, child abuse was rampant with every previous promoted breeding program, birthing children with any reason other than wanting to become parents is a disaster for those children.
The law has to cover all this. That means some goulash-chugging MPs will vote on it, some lawyers at Fidesz’ preferred law firm will pull all-nighters brainstorming on breeding and quite possibly watching some fitting insemination porn to get inspiration. After all, when can you virtually penetrate as many women as you do when you legislate about their reproductive choices? During the brainstorming, some sexist, medieval ass of a politician will add his favorite, gloating, woman-oppressing little detail with a minor orgasm.
And of course, petty complaints such as a bad marriage are no excuse to stop breeding. Not only is the children’s happiness not taken into account anywhere – adults can suck it, too.
The benefits to a breeding program go entirely to the ruler. Actually, that’s one of the first benefits: that it brings some short-term quantitative boost to the ruler’s little ego – while saddles everyone else. Suffering triggers submission and submission is what an autocracy is built on.