Corruption is a feature, not a bug

What an actual conservative would ask Orbán on the economy

16 questions Tucker Carlson should have asked if he was an actual conservative and if he looked up Orbán’s policies.

Allegedly, conservatives still exist somewhere and not all the moderates have disappeared.  

If there is still such a commentator out there, he would not be allowed to ask questions from Orbán. The Hungarian PM has long moved on from the realm of mental stability and accountability and into his safe space. Like Tucker Carlson’s show. 

But if an actual conservative commentator existed, he should ask these questions. (This is part 1. on the economy

What an actual conservative would want to ask Orbán on conservative economic policies 

State-financed cronies

  • Conservatives are supposed to frown upon state subsidies and EU handouts because they are poorly targeted and because bureaucrats are poorly placed to make allocation decisions. It is also a hotbed for corruption. Yet, your government does little else than doling out taxpayer and EU money to interfere with the economy. What room for maneuver is left for market-based businesses when state and EU subsidies represent the majority of investment in Hungary? 
  • You are ferociously fighting for even more EU subsidies – yet you equally ferociously fight against accountability in spending those funds. Your critics say these funds are going to a very small circle of businessmen who also happen to be a very small circle of your friends and family, and their friends. Can the two things be related? 
  • How come the richest Hungarian “entrepreneurs” are all massive public tender winners?

Unlike in healthy economies, where every rich person has a field in which he made his money (railway-magnate, energy drink millionaire, bank CEO, hedge fund guy, etc.) Hungarian billionaires have no such monikers. If they die, their obituary won’t include how they made their first million – it will only mention their degree of relatedness to Orbán. 

  • Why is the country’s richest man your childhood friend who – until 2015 – was just an ordinary gas fixer and mayor in your birth village?
    • Why is his line of business simply winning tenders
    • What happened to your previous tender winning favorite with whom you famously fell out in 2015? 
  • Why did the vast majority of the supposed pandemic relief subsidies also go to your friends and family while scores of businesses were waiting – in an information vacuum and in vain – for relief? 

Price controls and forced buyouts 

  • Price controls have been a tool you have repeatedly used while on government. How is that a conservative thing?
    • Right now you are cracking down on building materials and construction works – even though your very own state subsidies are driving up the prices and your own, state-funded stadium-building bonanza contributes to shortages in contractors and raw materials. 
    • In your 2014 election campaign you have legally forced utility providers to reduce prices by 10+10%. A move that you used to advertise and to this day it is highlighted on each, monthly utility bill in your party’s color (also a decree of your government). In condos, big posters promoting your largesse had to be hung and there was punishment if someone defiled those posters. Don’t you think this whole attitude stinks of Soviet times? As a result, and due to gas and electricity prices frozen on that level, Hungarians now pay one of the highest gas and electricity bills in Europe – yet they keep receiving reminders that without your largesse it would be even higher. 
    • Many of these utility companies have since gone bankrupt under the double pressure of enforced rate cuts and regulatory assault – and so-called businessmen of apparently universal talent in your personal circle have scooped them up. 
    • You have banned price-competitive taxi companies, like Uber and enacted a mandatory price that is high even in international comparison. 
  • Forced buyouts and forced takeovers by Orbán-friendly businessmen appears to be an accusation that keeps popping up in every conversation about doing business in Hungary. Just lately, Bloomberg has uncovered your government’s blackmailing Budapest Airport to force them to sell. How is that a conservative policy? 
  • Ten years ago you nationalized your country’s entire private pension savings. How was that money spent? What about personal responsibility and savings? 

Cronyism and statist economic policy

  • As conservatives we all agree that living off the state promotes leeching, laziness, idleness and dependency. Aren’t you concerned that the newly enriched Hungarian business elite will grow complacent and idle – and that winning tenders at warp speed does not refine their entrepreneurial skills, stifles their incentives to innovate and leaves them without vital skills in competitive market conditions? 
  • Can you name a market-based Hungarian business success that has not been incubated on public money – nor was it bought up by your tender-rich businessmen once it became successful?
  • Yes, Singapore is great but they cut off the hands of state officials who steal. What is the comparable Hungarian method of deterrence from skimming and stealing public funds? 
  • You yourself are proudly off the internet and refuse to innovate. Does it look like a good idea to be the one who steers the country’s economy as well as directing the money earmarked for innovation? 
  • Name one innovative thing. 
  • German corporatism may be interpreted as a form of corruption characterized by the unhealthy merging of political and economic elites, strong industrial lobby groups and mega-entrepreneurs steering legislation and stifling competition in the name of being too important to challenge. Your politicians are very articulate about the strong impression the German way of corporatism has made on them. Do you think your country imported this mentality along with its massive exposure to German carmakers? 

Outsourcing public money into private asset management “foundations”

  • 2021 has so far passed with your spectacular efforts to move as much public money and assets into asset management foundations that are out of the reach and are not accountable by any government. Then you have amended your country’s basic law (which is the name for a constitution) stating that these asset management vehicles are not subject to state oversight. Why the unprecedented move? 
  • You have even put the vast majority of Hungarian universities into such foundations. Their autonomy is surrendered to their boards but they remained state-funded. Any conservative loves a good privatization – but is that really it? 
  • You have set up a scheme that essentially allows corporations to pay their taxes into these foundations – and the state budget will compensate them for it. It is unheard of and it appears like the outsourcing the state, its assets and its tax-collecting privileges into private entities. Are you an anarchist? 
  • The boards of these foundations are very lucky indeed. Appointed for life, virtually irremovable, unaccountable by any government. You have given them so much. Why? 

International influence operations

  • A number of state-financed think tanks are putting out material and tour the world arguing that your government is pro-free market and Thatcherite/Reaganite. They are  offering taxpayer money to western conservatives if they sing your praise. Don’t you find that paradoxical?  

Conservative commentators abroad should also ask these things because Hungarians are not allowed. 

What an actual conservative would ask Orbán on the EU, Russia and China

What an actual conservative would ask Orbán on state healthcare, surveillance and recent red herring topics

What an actual conservative would ask Orbán on power, the media, NGOs and churches

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