Communism Is Creeping Back in Hungary

Johannes Vermeer: The Milkmaid // Public domain

The Hungarian government is pandering to its elderly voters through nostalgia. However, unlike other populists who promise to bring back a glorious and nonexistent past, the Hungarian leadership is putting hammer and sickle to work on bringing back communism – an era when their pensioner voter base was young and when absolutely nothing functioned properly.

It was with much ire that I braved the long line of the supermarket. I should have known better than to shop on a Saturday morning amidst shelves of subpar groceries, heavily and inefficiently subsidized by a socialist government and the EU. I could have opted for online shopping, but then again it was a Saturday morning and in our accustomed on-demand world, the family needed hazelnut milk for the morning brew right bleeding now.

Considering how pro-government pensioners support a party implementing rather radical left-wing ideas, one might think they would have appreciated the long queue snaking through the aisles of the shop, but no. Perversely, the elderly found fault with the multinational corporations, staying true to their socialist views, at least in this aspect.

However, the blame lies not with the companies but with the majority of those bickering in the line, as they voted for a party which created the highest inflation in the EU, with a price cap on food on top. Although this latter had been phased out, there is a mandatory discount. The tax system and unfavorable living standards pursue a lot of workers to seek employment abroad, thus creating a large labor shortage. No wonder the supermarket chains, suffering from the government’s interference into prices, plummeting retail figures and a lock of workers see an increase in queuing.

Delivery from stores is no cheap affair. The government excluded many self-employed individuals from a popular form of taxation, making it more expensive to deliver food since a significant amount of people working in that sector were and are self-employed. Hence, many people opt for supermarkets, where they have to stand in long lines during peak hours. They complain, just as they did while I was waiting to get the hazelnut milk.

A man standing in line, who turned out to be an employee of the supermarket, but was off-duty and trying to pacify the elderly, many of whom, upon a quick peek into their shopping baskets, appeared to intend to purchase mostly cheap alcohol. His efforts proved futile, so he left the queue, giving up on the groceries he wanted, and instead, he opened another cashier. He deserves a medal, or at the very least, a raise, yet he received no praise from the shoppers.

In the shops, there might be someone who can save the day, but in politics there is not. I find it infuriating that people vote for a government because its politicians claim it is conservative when, in fact, it implements socialist policies. However, the truth is, free market ideas are not popular in Hungary and are thus not genuinely represented by any political parties.

Until this changes, Hungarians can prepare for longer queues, high prices, and other dire economic problems.

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Mate Hajba
Free Market Foundation