Money for nothing

There’s an election campaign going on in Hungary.  The elections are expected to be held in April. Since the president of republic hasn’t announced the date of the general elections yet, the campaign hasn’t started  officially but the political parties are getting in full swing.

In the atmosphere of this non-campaigning election campaigning, a “group of independent experts” called LÉT (“Existence”) published their idea about introducing the so-called “basic income” in Hungary last Saturday.  The names  are Zsuzsa Ferge, who is a sociologist closely associated with the now defunct “left liberal” Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) and who is an expert on poverty these days for multibillionaire ex-Socialist prime minister Bajnai, and György Surányi who is a rich banker, an ex-president of the Hungarian National Bank  …. and he is closely associated with the now defunct “left liberal” Alliance of Free Democrats and the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP)…  and he also nearly bankrupted a big bank as its chairman.   He was among the possible prime minister candidates both in 2009, after the fall of Gyurcsány, and now when the “left-wing” is still unable to decide who their  prime minister candidate should be.

The audience sported the usual “left-wing” (postcommunist) suspects such as László Lengyel, a journalist and politologist… closely associated with…  You know the rest.

The daily typical of the audience…  Népszava (“People’s voice”) is directly financed by the Socialist Party (MSZP). They wanted to make their card-carrying members subscribe to Népszava a few years ago

So the big idea is that everybody resident in Hungary would be entitled to a “basic income” automatically.  Children would get 25,000 Forints (88 EUR/115 USD/70 GBP) per month, adults would get 50,000 HUF, pregnant women would get 75,000 HUF.   They’d abolish all benefits smaller than 50,000 HUF, family tax break, they’d introduce a progressive income tax and a new “contribution tax” (for those who actually work).  And those who work would pay the basic income of the unemployed, the elderly and the children, too.

The grandiose plan would cost 6,400 billion Forints, that is 40 percents of  Hungary’s budget.   The reader must know that the so-called left-wing in Hungary, especially the ones associated with the now defunct left liberal Alliance of Free Democrats,  has been a vehement proponent of “the smaller the state the better”, that is the “nightwatchman idea”… at least in theory (since that was the best way to justify their selling state assets to themselves and to leech on the state in general).

Oh, yes, no doubt there is some logic to this idea indeed.  The useless must be fed or they’d start rioting and stealing.  This may even work out in rich countries such as in Switzerland or in Scandinavia:  you simply give out some money, such as 1000 euros, and there’s no more trouble about complicated benefit systems or trying to make the useless and lazy work.  And even the distributed money is not lost: it’ll increase the GDP, the useless also contribute to consumerism.  The catch is how to prevent that all the useless of the world would flood that country…   Saudi Arabia can prevent that from happening  but a European country hardly could, especially not within the EU.   Obviously this side of the  story doesn’t apply  in Hungary though, with the proposed 50,000 Forints, that is 176 euros.

Anyway,  now the Hungarian “left-wing” media discusses this lunatic idea at great lengths… mostly attacking it…  (though MSZP politicians Tibor Szanyi and Róbert Braun implied they do support the idea, saying “this must be seriously discussed”)   Is that confusing perhaps?  Well,  it won’t be if you know the Hungarian postcommunist Left.  The real idea is  spreading “whisper propaganda,” aimed at the uneducated, ignorant, poverty-stricken chavs, that is  “you’d get 50,000 HUF for doing nothing if you voted for the Left”.  Given that you earn 67,000 Forints in the public work scheme the Orbán government introduced to make the long term unemployed work instead of waiting for benefits, this amount doesn’t sound so bad.

In fact what we can witness here is  the very same trick as the infamous MSZP campaign was back in 2002 (“Orbán took 19,000 Forints away from each pensioner, we’ll give it back to you”.).  Then it did work out for them.  And it led to Hungary’s de facto bankruptcy in 2008.

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5 Comments

  1. Having been deprived from the opportunity to express my opinion on the #1 Jewish site called politics.hu I will share my opinion here.

    I have never seen a peasant work in bare feet without boots.
    Who makes those boots?
    Should the ppl who make the boots starve?

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  2. I pretty much agree with your analysis of the feasibility of introducing a basic income in Hungary, but would like to make a more general point. The issue highlights how our economic arrangements are at odds with our moral intuitions. In a peasant society where everyone is pretty much providing their own food, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. But as soon as there is division of labour, consumption becomes as important as production. If one of the peasants gives up his land to concentrate on making boots, it doesn’t matter how hard he works making boots, if there is nobody to buy them, he won’t eat. Redistribution of income helps to create consumption of boots, so that bootmakers can eat too.

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    • There is a huge redistribution of wealth in modern societies anyway and I don’t argue, of course, that the principle ” if you don’t work, you don’t eat” should be applied literally these days.
      Putting aside technical and economic issues, that is if this is feasible at all and what the social and economic consequences would be, and I really scratched only the very surface of the sea of troubles with this thing, “basic income” is still moral insanity.

      It eliminates people’s responsibility for themselves, it kills the noble idea of *voluntary* solidarity with others and people’s pride of being not supported by others, it massacres the thought of self-reliance. It’d be a very, very severe blow to creativity, competitiveness, striving for more in general.
      Even worse is that this mad idea degrades the concept of work itself and it promotes the view that work is some kind of torture in fact, something evil you have to put up with in order to survive. In my view, work gives direction and meaning to one’s life.

      In other words, I consider making people view their living on benefits as something positive and natural and nurturing the “it’s for free” Socialist/Communist mentality (when in fact “basic income” is leeching on others who do work!) as another nasty attack on Life. (This is a reference to my blog entry “The War on Life”).

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  3. szebbjovot

     /  13/01/2014

    Basic laws of physics dictate that you cannot get something for nothing.
    “Free money” doesn’t exist, somebody has to pay for it. It is not sustainable system, which is why socialism will always end in a failure.

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    • It’s clear enough from this great leftist idea who would pay for those who don’t work for their mere existence: the ones who do.

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