The Magyar Moment | Ryan Anderson
“It’s not Hungary per se that’s worth emulating, but the principles that have led them there.“
The presence of American journalist Tucker Carlson in Viktor Orban’s Hungary may be an opportune time to discuss why he finds himself there in the first place. Why has this peripheral nation of ten or so million on the Danube found itself a beacon of hope for much of the global right?
For one, cultural conservatives – annoyed as they are by the regnant left-liberalism; fed up with the remorseless cultural and demographic change; and dismayed by the decades-long elision of any form of rightist thought to purely market quanta – have set their sights towards Hungary due to its unapologetically traditional stance of national sovereignty, local natality and immigration restriction.
Why this is occurring in Hungary of all places is also instructive. Although boasting an interesting and perilous history – situated as it is as the crossroads of many an empire, including its own – there’s seemingly nothing intrinsic to the Magyars themselves that should make this newfound fame so. Indeed, only three decades ago Hungary was a largely unremarked upon land at the edges of a fraying empire of which it was an unwilling part.
The answer to Hungary’s success then can’t entirely be one of history, geography or providence: but is to be found in its political philosophy. Hungary has been successful as it has eschewed the tempting mirage that is Western liberalism and remained true to its conservative traditions, rooted as they are in the family, Christianity and its own unique idiom. A position that was unfashionable even at the ‘end of history’ yet is even more so today with the rise of the messianic Left and their evangelizing mission – a mission which continues apace nonetheless, in spite of its evident failings.
It is these failings that Orban has witnessed and sought to avoid. After his own youthful liberal exuberance, he’s shifted his nation firmly into the conservative camp. To take one example, in lieu of welcoming the million or so, overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly Muslim, migrants flooding into Europe in 2015, Orban held firm, securing his borders and protecting his people – something that German chancellor Angela Merkel failed to do conversely, with the usual tragic results.
Another example is Hungary’s emphasis on the sine qua non that is the family. Instead of following the diktats of Western liberals in encouraging female careerism over natality – the repercussions of which are playing out as we speak: with our enfeebled birth rates, ageing population and, thus, insistence on mass migration (with immigrants replacements for ‘the babies you couldn’t be bothered having for yourself’ as Mark Steyn has it) – the Hungarians have implemented pro-natal measures such as tax breaks and incentives with steady effect.
Orban has also proved successful in the economic sphere. Encouraging the maintenance of relatively secure (and largely male) blue-collar jobs, such as car manufacturing, and helping integrate his nation’s economy into broader networks and supply chains.
It is such decisions where Hungary has been vindicated. Unlike we in the liberal West, the Hungarians have chosen the principles most conducive to the health of a nation. Orban and Hungary have prospered as they’ve elevated familiarity over difference, tradition over novelty, children and family over sterility, security over anarchy and economic stability over liberty.
Which, unsurprisingly, is why Hungary finds itself reviled by liberals worldwide and why Carlson made the trip to Budapest in the first place. Indeed, this is something even Orban himself acknowledges when he states that ‘Western liberals can’t accept [a nation in Western civilisation] that’s more successful…than the liberal ones’. That is, the Hungarians have been able to provide a credible alternative to the supposedly unimpeachable liberal multi-cultural order that pertains throughout the Western world. Which is why Hungary is not only vilified by left-liberals, but by the regime most vociferous and strident in its promotion.
Further to this point, it’s not solely Hungary that’s a success under such metrics, but any number of nations that have bucked the cosmopolitan consensus and followed the Hungarian formula. Countries such as Japan and South Korea, for example, are some of the safest, longest-lived, and most technologically advanced societies in the world, yet they’ve achieved this whilst retaining their own traditions, accepting few immigrants, maintaining largely homogenous populations and showing no inclination to follow the West’s misguided forays into uber-liberalism.
A situation that pertains in the countries of the Visegrad group as well, of which Hungary is of course an integral part. A development which is itself something of an interesting historical curiosity: with the European nations most heavily impacted by communism now the ones best positioned to avoid the excesses of global capitalism.
At a deeper level, Orban’s prescriptions work as they are much more coherent with our underlying nature. A realisation that liberals continuously fail to heed as they sublimate their unhappiness into zeal; and one that’s been imposed on much of the world by a liberal empire that seeks to remake the globe in its own image: no matter how unwanted or ultimately how futile the quest (see Afghanistan, for one).
At a philosophical level, Hungary succeeds as Orban knows that his policies rest on solid ground – and that ground is the ground of nature. A fact evidenced in a recent interview where Orban remarked that ‘immigration was ontologically bad’. A statement that may strike some as pseudo profound, yet one that’s actually of crucial importance.
For if we are – in our being: in our onta – a creature with a nature that’s parochial and governed by an immutable physiology, then Orban’s principles don’t just become some of many – able to be adjusted as seen fit – but the correct grounding for politics as such. A position which is confirmed by the philosopher Leo Strauss in his many statements confirming that the society best by nature is ‘the closed society’ or in the myriad writings of Briton John Gray in his irrepressible ire contra liberalism.
Which is also something that the facile critique of Orban misses: it’s not about him per se. While he’s surely no saint, and one may concede his failings, this is largely beside the point. Attacks on Orban are merely the standard leftist blackmail: anyone even vaguely wary of the liberal consensus is to be denounced with the usual cries of fascist, racist or anti-Semite until they’ve cowered into submission. In this respect, Hungary and Orban could simply disappear; yet places like Poland, Japan or Slovakia would soon take their place to much the same effect.
In the end, this is what matters: Orban’s maintenance of a healthy degree of closedness and avoidance of the problems innate in the embrace of openness is worth emulating. Hungary is thus not some mystical land, operating under a divine mandate inaccessible to the rest of us, but merely a country that has chosen a certain set of political principles, and chosen well.