By Dylan Garrison |
After talking to numerous professors, listening to tour guides, hearing guest speakers and visiting the House of Terror, I was able to gain a better understanding of the history and culture of this great country I’ve had the privilege of living in for the past five weeks.
It is obvious that the Hungarian people are a very proud group of 10 million-plus citizens, moving from a once communist regime to a freer democratic society involving a free market economy.
Moving around Budapest, it’s easy to see they have made great strides in the realms of political and economic freedom, as well as an overall improved outlook of the people through a cultural shift that occurred throughout the years after breaking away from the Soviet Union.
My group learned from a political science professor here at the Corvinus University of Budapest that, after World War II, communism took hold of the country. Eleven years later, the Hungarian revolution of 1956 began on Oct. 23 to attempt to overthrow the communist regime. This was a nationwide revolution against the Hungarian People’s Republic and its Soviet-imposed policies where 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed.
Hungary’s attempt at freedom turned out to be the first major threat to Soviet control since the end of World War II. Even though this revolution was crushed just 21 days later on Nov. 10, 1956, the desire for political and economic change remained alive.
It seemed like Hungarians took every chance to reform the government and society, not caring about the consequences, but how they were governed. Being more concerned about how they could ensure freedom for the future generation.
In the 1980s, Hungary began to suffer from inflation, which hurt people on fixed income. Foreign debt became unmanageable and poverty became widespread.
As conditions worsened, János Kádár, Hungarian communist leader and General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, fell from power in 1988. On Oct. 23, 1989, the constitution was amended to allow an organized transition to democracy and capitalism.
According to Associate Professor at Corvinus University of Budapest Sandor Gallai, the average Hungarian citizen “believed the communist detour was a side track and the 1990s was a return to Europe.” After almost 50 years Hungary regained its freedom and sovereignty within Europe.
The Hungarian’s goal was to form a more improved and successful society, having experienced monarchies, communism, and now a democratic democracy and free market. If anyone has the credibility to advocate to a governmental system that works best for the citizens, it’s the Hungarian people.
Having experienced nearly every form of government, they are the most convincing group of people to promote their vision of a pro-citizen government.
This country proves a drastic shift from overwhelming poverty to overall economic growth and freedom. This was achieved directly due to free market capitalism and democracy, along with the hard work and dedication of the Hungarian people.
They moved from struggling for housing and food, to being a state that holds global economic power in the 21stcentury. Since 1991, Hungary’s GDP has increased from 19.095 trillion in 1991 to 31.946 trillion in 2017.
When excluding the 2008 world economic depression, it is evident that Hungarians are happier and have achieved more economic intended goals during the later period of their nations timeline, than they achieved throughout their communist overrule.
I, along with many other people, was enthralled about the attitude of the Hungarian people. I have noticed the Hungarian people are a very proud and harmonized group due to their defiance of repressive regimes, willingness to implement change and affirmation of a more individualistic society and freedoms that are entailed within a democratic form of government.
Sandor Gallai stated that the biggest difference in the political culture is “the lack of political control over culture, lack of isolation from western countries, and dominance of social realism as opposed to current plurality is a third one,” Gallai said.
The popular soft drink “Fanta” available throughout the country serves as a great anecdote.
During Soviet control, they banned Fanta because they believed it served as a form of American Imperialism. They tried to create their own version, an orange soda drink “called “Bambi”. This failed replication contained refined oil, which caused thousands of cancer cases, ultimately killing thousands.
They would’ve rather poisoned their own people than have them drink a carbonated drink from an American company. Today, you can find Fanta in every store in Budapest, along with McDonalds, KFC, or Burger King on every main street.
Gallai also goes on to state that “individual rights are above anything else.” This is one of the main focuses of a free market system and should be credited for the economic and political affirmation of a democratic society.
While we all know a democratic society, paired with free market capitalism, isn’t the perfect governmental/economic system for every single person involved, I don’t think any system is. Professor Gallai explains how attitudes toward political and economic aspects have shifted from the times of communism compared to today, as well as how they differ.
“In politics the level of trust is somewhat higher now, but there is a high level of continuity in terms of materialistic attitudes and law evasion; in the economy people used to accept that they were employed by one single (public) employer for their entire life, some now still prefer those years as they appreciated job security more than higher salary.”
“Most people held egalitarian views, and were particularly jealous of any one better off (this latter is still present now, but in much fewer numbers); nevertheless, social mobility was easier in the old regime as it was not so much prevented by the financial background of one’s family,” Gallai said.
Obviously everyone isn’t going to prefer every single feature of a democratic, free market system. Yet, it is necessary for the freedom and economic development for the majority financially oppressed people around the globe.
No other system of government has delivered as many people from poverty than capitalism. Hungary is a testament to the success of this system compared to that of socialism and communism.
Today, Hungary is doing remarkably in regard to the individual economic capability of the people.
“Currently, we have an economic growth of 5 percent annually and there are increases in wages. Inflation is at 3 percent and wages are increasing at 10 percent,” Gallai said.
Once I learned enough to accurately understand and analyze the perspective of the people who live here, I realized they are far more moving and credible due to their political and economic history than any other group when it comes to economic systems and forms of government.