Elections in Poland 2023: It Is Time for Business Community Voice

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Entrepreneurs, do not be passive. There are many ways to get involved today on the right side. Think about the future of Poland, where you would like to further develop your business projects, invest, and create jobs, and what kind of Poland you, your children or grandchildren will live well in.

More than 2 million people run a business in Poland. Entrepreneurs are a large social group – there are four times more of us than teachers and almost thirty times more than miners. Yet many business owners avoid speaking out on public issues. Sometimes they say they do not want to get involved in politics.

However, later they quietly complain when politics takes an interest in them. Some say they fear the reaction of those in power, but if we were really to be afraid of exercising freedom of speech, it would mean that Poland is no longer a democratic country. Since the end of 2015, the quality of our democratic institutions has actually gotten worse and worse, which is why it is worth acting before it gets so bad that you really have to be afraid.

I am not a person who sits quietly. For years I have been involved in NGOs sector and have supported numerous organizations that keep an eye on what the authorities are doing. I have repeatedly criticized the harmful actions of politicians in the economy, legal system or spoiling the image of Poland in the world. The Law and Justice government is leading the way in this, and my critical attitude to their actions is well-known. Therefore, I would like to encourage others, mainly business representatives, to be more active.

The elections, which will be of civilizational importance, are just several months away. We will decide the further direction of Poland’s development. Do we want a country that is open, based on the rule of law, strongly integrated with Europe, with an economic policy that is more responsible than today, where the foundations of progress are individual freedom, work and entrepreneurship? Or a country where one is constantly looking for enemies, spinning conspiracy theories, fighting the European Union, and basing economic policy mainly on taking from some and giving to others, as well as extreme politicization of the economy, including a stronger role of state-owned companies? It is obvious that the first of these two alternative development paths should be selected in the fall.

Cost of Bad Economic Policy

Someone will say that there is no reason to complain because we had positive economic growth for most of the 2015-22 period, and companies, including my own Press Glass, were growing. My company, and the Polish economy, have been growing in recent years not because of the government’s good economic policies, but despite their bad policies.

The consequences of the ruling party’s actions are yet to come, and can be compared to the health effects of long-term cigarette smoking. Although many of them are not visible at first, the longer we smoke, the more we damage our health. Knowing that smoking can be stopped and those in power can be changed is comforting.

The current government has managed to take over various institutions, such as part of the judiciary, the prosecutor’s office, state media and many companies, but as you can see, it is not as easy to derail the economy and push Poland off the path of development on which, after the collapse of socialism, classical liberal reformers, headed by Leszek Balcerowicz, led us.

The visible consequences of the Law and Justice’s economic policies and their appointees in the central bank are, for example, record high inflation, which many economists show is not solely caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ruling politicians have deliberately rejected National Recovery Plan funds owed to Poland, and if they dismantle the rule of law and create further conflicts with EU countries, then other EU funds could also be at risk. Poland used to be acknowledged in the EU to such a level that then-Prime Minister Donald Tusk, recognized for his successes in domestic and international politics, could become President of the European Council. Today, those in power are pushing us to the outskirts of the EU.

Let’s Not Follow Path of Hungary

I am convinced that another term with the same politicians in power will mean the further degradation of Poland regarding the quality of democracy, the economy, the rule of law and its position in the EU. Many years ago we heard from the leader of the Law and Justice that “the day will come when we will have Budapest in Warsaw.”

What is this supposed to mean in practice? The takeover of most media and other public institutions by one party, as in Hungary? The oligarchization of the economy carried out by people connected to the ruling party? It is no coincidence that Bálint Magyar titled his book on Hungary “Post-Communist Mafia State.” I do not want such a state, and I am sure that also many of us entrepreneurs share the same sentiment. It is worth answering the question of what each of us can do to prevent this from happening.

Entrepreneurs, like all citizens, can get involved in politics, but let’s do it not for the sake of settling our own interests, but looking more broadly at the long-term development of Poland, where we build our businesses and live.

Supporting Democracy

Since my brief presence in the Ruch Stu (The Movement of a Hundred) party in the 1990s, I have not been a member of any party, but I have supported various political initiatives in which I saw classical liberal values. What is missing in our country today is a typical liberal party, along the lines of professional liberal parties in the West. Hence, some liberals may feel lost. It is worth considering how to permanently fill this gap after the elections.

We know, more or less, what the “political menu” will look like this year, and it is worth choosing something from it so as not to harm ourselves and Poland, keeping in mind who will be able to rebuild what has been destroyed over the past years, reform the economy and build a Poland that is open, friendly to live in for various majorities and minorities. It is worth going to the polls, whether we will be guided by the choice of “lesser evil” or “greater good.”

In addition, the simplest thing you can do today is to donate funds to a pro-European political party of your choice that has a chance of realizing the above goals, because this will not be a fully fair election. Those in power will make unprecedented use of the media they control, state companies and ministries to support only one party’s campaign with the taxpayers’ money. In golf, which I am passionate about, we use a handicap, which is higher for weaker players, which leads to a level playing field. Giving a handicap to the best players would make no sense and would spoil the game.

Although it can hardly be called “the best”, this year, the ruling party will run in the elections precisely with a high handicap. If someone is closer to soccer, an example of an unfair game was perfectly shown in the spot “2000 days of lawlessness” by the Free Courts Foundation. Civic activism, including the involvement of entrepreneurs, will determine how large the disparity between the Law and Justice and the pro-EU opposition will be.

No Entrepreneurship without Freedom

In addition to politics, it is worth getting involved in the non-governmental organizations, including those that work in the field of ideas, promote certain values, review the actions of politicians and keep a close watch on what the authorities are doing. That is why in 2021 I decided to create the Economic Freedom Foundation, in which we support classical liberal values, economic freedom, the rule of law, a stronger position for Poland in the EU or the idea of Poland’s entry into the Eurozone.

The foundation’s grants have already been awarded to more than 50 diverse initiatives implemented by, among others, the Civil Development Forum, Free Courts,  the Polish Mises Institute, the Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation or the Association of Polish Economists. We support projects so necessary today, such as the Tour de Konstytucja (Tour de Constitution), the Freedom Games or Campus Poland of the Future. We are implementing the KursNaEuro.pl campaign, looking at the economy “Through the Eyes of a Liberal” in cooperation with Witold Gadomski, and analyzing how to depoliticize the economy and rebuild the rule of law, which is unlikely to happen if there is no change in power.

Entrepreneurs of This Country, Get Involved

Therefore, I conclude with a plea. Entrepreneurs, do not be passive. There are many ways to get involved today on the right side. Think about the future of Poland, where you would like to continue to develop your business projects, invest, create jobs, and what kind of Poland you, your children or grandchildren will live well in. Another four years with the same politicians in power is not a good vision of the future. I encourage everyone to be ready. As prominent British politician Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

The article was written by Arkadiusz Muś, entrepreneur, Chairman of the Board of Press Glass Holding S.A., creator of the Economic Freedom Foundation.

This article appeared in Polish in Gazeta Wyborcza.

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