George Jonas

Still in socialism's grip

A European plan to force women onto corporate boards shows that bad ideas die hard

by George Jonas
National Post

The news comes on a day when market analysts observe "a sea of red." European bourses are down 1.5%, China's growth target is lowered from 8% to 7.5%, and the Greek government's contingent liabilities are likely to exceed a trillion euros. While Europe's debts are going through the roof, Viviane Reding has her eye glued to the glass ceiling. The European Commissioner for Justice doesn't like what she sees.

"The European Commission is considering introducing mandatory quotas for female members on corporate boards," reports Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung. The meticulous newspaper leaves no doubt about the reason. "Pleas for companies to voluntarily introduce such quotas themselves produced no effect."

The EU's definition of a free society is where people do the authorities' bidding voluntarily. The EU is socialist, of course, not communist. Socialists consider an intermediate stage of voluntary compliance essential before turning to coercion.

Communists find this a hoot. They say it's hypocritical and a waste of time. It's hard to disagree with them. Communists are always nasty, but not always wrong.

This brings us to consistency. It's for the birds. Birds are consistent. Human beings, not so much.

Hungarians, for instance, went to some lengths to remove communists from the body politic. They fought communism bravely in 1956; then cleverly and audaciously in 1989. They contributed much to the eventual implosion of Moscow's Evil (communist) Empire.

Yet what did Hungarians do next? After being communist-free for 12 years, they elected the communists. They did so, without anybody compelling them, in 2002.

There's more. When the communists, true to form, ran Hungary into the ground, Hungarians elected them again. Why? Search me. They did. It wasn't until 2010 that voters finally reinstated Viktor Orban's centre-right fidesz party with a huge majority.

Some will dismiss the word "communist" as hyperbole. "Jonas imbibed too many Molotov-cocktails in his youth," they'll say. "The people he calls 'communists' in 2002 weren't the communists his freedom-fighter buddies fought in the streets of Budapest in 1956. They weren't even the 'reform' communists of 1989 who helped to bring down the Berlin Wall. The 2002 lot were just socialists, including post-communist descendants of the old guard. We can't hold the parents' sins against the children. Things change in half a century."

They don't change nearly enough. The socialists were still chips off the old communist block, and they still ran Hungary into the ground. And, mysteriously, still got re-elected.

I interviewed voters at the time. "Even if you had some reason to vote for this lot in 2002, why did you vote for them again in 2006?"

They all had the same answer:

"I didn't."

Well -- somebody must have. As the new millennium got under way, Euro-socialists blossomed through-out Brussels' realm. They ruled eurozone's sheltered workshop of imperial liberalism as if by right. Smug, coercive, arrogant, blinkered, resolutely confusing patriotism with chauvinism, there was no end to their indignation when a non-Socialist government made the slightest gesture to economic reality, or to the welfare of a nation-state member of Europe's lofty Union that seemed to be inexorably sliding into bankruptcy.

Needless to say, Orban's centre-right government became anathema to the Socialist International. Vitriolic correspondence inundated cyberspace as professional and amateur calumniators vied with one another in an attempt to nullify the first election that didn't go the Hungarian Left's way in the 21st century. The dogs barked, the caravan moved on.

Some say Europe is in trouble because the poor want to live as well as the rich. Close, but no cigar. If Europe's in trouble, it isn't because the poor want to live as well as the rich, but because some do. They live as well as the rich without having bothered to become rich first.

Wanting to live as well as the rich isn't a bad idea. It's what motivates individuals and countries to be ambitious, industrious, sober, and inventive; to study hard; accumulate wealth; worry more about creating things than about distributing them; and in the final analysis to become (dare I say it?) a little more Oriental and a little less European.

A bad idea is for poor people to live as well as the rich while they're still poor. Even living half as well is a bad idea unless they are, in fact, half as rich. It's bad because it can't be done. At least, it can be done only until somebody presents the bill, which is currently happening in Europe.

Poor people who live as if they were rich accumulate nothing but pleasant memories and unpleasant debts. The solution is to spend more time making goods and less time making quotas. Goods pay, quotas cost.

Don't we realize that? We do, but we aren't consistent. We've been known to hang a guy at dawn, cut him off at noon, and if he's still alive, make him prime minister. If he isn't, we let Viviane Reding bring in quotas to break the glass ceiling of dead white males. That's what we do while the debt is going through the roof. It's a mad, mad world.