## Tuesday, February 17, 2009

### Václav Klaus: The unbearable inability to learn

When communism ended (and I deliberately like to say that it was a collapse, not a defeat), it seemed that the ideas and institutions of that system were so thoroughly discredited that they couldn't return in any foreseeable future. And it seemed that no person could possibly - without blushing - dare to publicly defend them.

It seemed unreasonable to expect that people would prefer to trust the state instead of the markets once again; that they would believe that one can distribute more wealth than what is being produced; that people have a right for high living standards rather than that they must deserve them; that an arbitrarily lustrous doctrine is more important than the human freedom; that the wisdom of the anointed is more than the knowledge of the "ordinary" people.

Who was naive

However, we were not quite naive. During the last two decades, many of us were warning that those attitudes were only partially abandoned in the post-communist part of the world (and some third-world countries), that even those countries were quickly depleting the initial momentum, and that the "first" world was seeing no development of this kind at all.

But this opinion of ours was considered - politically correctly - to be just a part of our excessive sensitivity, a misunderstanding, and especially a proof that we were underestimating the "amazing" progress in America and Western Europe and that we were perhaps even jealous. Some extraordinarily blinded people considered our opinion to be a shadow of some obsolete attitudes - such as nationalism, pan-Slavism, and the belief in "extreme" doctrines (e.g. classical liberalism).

At any rate, our opinions were considered to be a product of our half-a-century-long leave of absence from the good company of the civilized and democratic countries and the Western pundits were hoping that we would learn our lesson soon.

Paris didn't understand

We have seen many problematic returns to the past in the European Union, both at the political and the economic level. Whenever some of us said so loudly, we were not only considered to be people of a different opinion, but even foolish, somewhat dumb, and naive people.

In this sense, my recent visit to Paris was insightful. No one disagreed with my opinions. Instead, these opinions were so distant from the French that they didn't understand them. It didn't help that I was only saying things that were completely obvious.

A power cartel

Attentive observers throughout the world are able to see these things. For example, Prof Wolfgang Kasper of Australia is writing about democracy, subsidiarity, and centralization and the European Union is his exemplary case of "de-democratization of the governance". He considers the union to be a "defensive cartel of power that is dragging the society to the bottom of the sea".

In the same group of his examples, we find the "final phase of the Roman Empire controlled from its center, closed China that was controlled by the Ming dynasty 400-500 years ago, centralized Ottoman empire 100-200 years ago, and the European Union that has been increasingly concentrated in Brussels since the 1970s". The increased regulation of the European economy is visible and enormous.

A new element in this ideological chaos is the recent economic downturn that is being attributed to the markets even though it should be obvious that it is a result of serious mistakes in the U.S. economic policymaking and similar mistakes in other advanced countries. And a manifestation of the cyclic character of the economic development.

The towering specter of Marx

However, my motivation to write this article was something else. Time magazine in the U.S. has dedicated one issue to President Obama's inauguration and it discussed the policies of the new administration. And it just happened - probably not by chance - that the editors have reserved six pages to an article called "Rethinking Marx" whose basic thesis was that "[a]s we work out how to save capitalism, it's worth studying the system's greatest critic".

On one hand, Peter Gumbel, the author, says that "we should dismiss his visionary plans for the future". On the other hand, it is argued that we should study his "trenchant diagnosis of the underlying problems of a market economy". It's worth mentioning that the author also considers The Communist Manifesto to be "almost uncannily prescient about globalization's costs and benefits". The author is logically led to the question whether we didn't make a mistake at the end of the 20th century when we prematurely rejected Marx's economic theories.

The reason why I am describing this article so extensively is that neither the author, nor the magazine, nor the timing are marginal. Time magazine has been among the very best titles in the U.S. printed media for many decades. We simply cannot ignore such things.

Václav Klaus, Hospodářské noviny (The Economic Times), February 17th, 2009: the author is the president of the Czech Republic. Translation: L.M.

A massive protest in Canada that was recently ignited by Václav Klaus. By the way, 80 percent of the IPCC has nothing to do with the climate, an alarmist IPCC member admits.

Czech PM in the European Parliament

I also recommend you the speech of Mr Topolánek in front of the European deputies. It is sensible, directed primarily against protectionism. Some funny lines:
... Others say that [the EU] is the Titanic – the vessel is sinking and yet everybody on the deck keeps dancing a climate-change dance. ...

... Please allow me to crack a joke: At a committee meeting a Socialist MEP said to my Minister, “Minister, do you know that when you talk about ‛the market’, we are afraid that you mean ‛the free market’.” ...