After 10 years in office, Václav Klaus is leaving the Prague Castle, the traditional workplace of Czech kings and presidents, tonight. Tomorrow, the new president Miloš Zeman will be inaugurated.
Throughout his presidential years, Klaus often enjoyed as high as 70% approval rate. However, things like the New Year 2013 Amnesty restored the natural tendency of a large part of the Czech nation to stupidly criticize Klaus so his departure is accompanied by lots of bitterness at many places. I can't watch TV programs about Klaus for more than 10 minutes because soon or later, some idiotic critics appear and I just can't stand these folks.
Even people who consider themselves Klaus' critics should realize that there's a lot of reasons why one should be grateful to him. Some of the points discuss acts that benefited the Czech citizens; others have continental or global consequences.
Fast liberalization of the economy
At the end of 1989, when the Velvet Revolution exploded, Václav Klaus was ready. He had lots of years to sort his knowledge and opinions about the economic systems. He instantly became the first post-socialist finance minister who was promoting fast privatization, fast liberalization of the markets, job market, and many other things.
Some people haven't understood it as of 2013 but those who think at least a little bit realize that the delays would have improved nothing and all the third ways were just roads to hell with a detour. In some respects, Klaus the executioner wasn't as fast as Klaus the ideologue so he left things like the privatization of banks to his successors such as Miloš Zeman but in the grand scheme of things, these are details.
Restoration of standard political parties
Communism was overthrown by the Civic Forum, an excessively diverse movement that contained everyone from reform communists and trotskyists to Thatcherites like Klaus. This sort of uncrystallized organization of politics was something that some folks – including Václav Havel himself – actually rooted for.
Klaus realized that an advanced society can't work like that. There have to be competing ideologies and programs with well-defined carriers who compete. Klaus helped to restore the system of standard political parties, left-wing and right-wing parties, and de facto defeated various ideas about "apolitical politics" and similar pernicious junk that would lead the country to a new era of the absolute power of a group of the self-anointed ones who have no responsibility.
While we often think about Klaus as a carrier of a particular political "flag", he was also the "above the politics" builder of the proper democratic political system based on parties, too.
Politics as the confrontations of ideas, not dirt
Even if you disagree with Václav Klaus' particular opinions about anything or everything, you should be able to admit that he was a man who preferred particular ideological questions and attitudes – in which the politicians differ and should differ – over colorless personal ambitions and accusations that would produce a competition between politicians who are ideologically the same or who don't care about ideologies at all.
He has offered his opinions on lots of things (including some unexpected issues that were humiliated when Klaus was semi-jokingly called a polymath – the authors of these jokes must have realized that they weren't pure jokes) and by doing so, he ignited some debate in the society, at least the layers of the society that are willing to think about things (which aren't necessarily the self-described "elite" layers).
Václav Klaus has been a politician who wasn't afraid to defend certain traditional values, namely the national identity and patriotism, in an era when it became fashionable among many to spit on these things. His Europe is a Europe of nation states. The immense friction that the artificially unified Europe has faced in recent years (and the economic downturn that resulted from it) has shown that Klaus' traditional Europe of nation states is a better model.
Correct identification of structural problems of the creeping unification of Europe
From the beginning, Klaus was warning that the eurozone wasn't an optimum currency area. He was able to foresee many problems largely resulting from the existence of the common currency. The validity of these warnings was established by recent events that were plain obvious to human eyes.
Klaus has been warning about many other undesirable trends in Europe – centralization, loss of democracy etc. – and the relevance of these warnings is getting obvious to most careful observers, too. People who don't like to overlook the obvious must have noticed how many important things have been foreseen by Klaus.
Political support for the oppressed ones who are right
The academic environment and other intellectual circles are currently controlled by numerous politically correct delusions – feminism, climate alarmism, humanrightism, reverse racism, and so on. I don't want to enumerate too many of them because I would have trouble to eat my dinner afterwards.
Those members of the intellectual circles who realize that (and why) these delusions are delusions may have felt hopeless for many years as they were oppressed by the politically correct fascist establishment. With his courage and naturally acquired political power and influence, Václav Klaus gave them some hope and a reason not to feel as renegades just because they haven't lost common sense about certain important things.
Stripping AGW and other holy cows of their holy status
The status of fashionable opinions such as environmentalism and its most radical variant, the global warming alarmism (this is a typical description that Klaus would use) has become so indisputable that most people in the West, especially the politicians, were afraid to even question the good intentions of the climatologists and others.
Klaus, having had quite some experience with the dishonest behavior of many left-wing intellectuals, was always able to see that these climatologists are still folks who try to strengthen their political pets – many of them are recycled Marxists – and/or ordinary people who are using the apparently simplest way to get to the money (grants).
Those people who are able to think critically started to realize that people aren't saints or infallible just because they call themselves "scientists". One must be somewhat cautious and critical while evaluating the data from some people who glued some sexy labels on their faces.
Vocabulary: new words
While he was presenting his opinions on many social problems, he was self-confidently using various newly created linguistic constructions. The most typical example are various types of -isms such as humanrightism, climate alarmism, and others. By using these words, Václav Klaus wanted to emphasize an important point – that is otherwise invisible to way too many people – that these attitudes to various questions are ideologies, they're largely ideologically driven, and it is legitimate to question them and/or propose and defend competing ideological systems if we see something wrong with these ideologies.
Just to be sure, I don't think that e.g. climatology is "just" an ideology. But when it becomes just some background meant to produce supportive arguments for a particular plan to reorganize the industry, the economy, or the whole society, it becomes critical to notice that the core of this structure is an ideology, not pure science.
It's natural to use many of these words, some of them did catch up, others didn't. But the phrase "climate alarmism" has become so standard that we may overlook that Václav Klaus has probably played an important role in the spreading of this language. It's not to say that no one else would use the words or invent the words but many people were afraid to do so and he was able to "codify" the terminology rather quickly.
Thanks, Mr President, and please keep on doing great work. This is not the end of the time.