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Right-wing defence of the nation state

September 17th, 2012

In a series of op-ed articles in Magyar Nemzet, conservative intellectuals and political analysts argue in favour of the nation state. They all contend that democracy presupposes sovereign nations, but they disagree on whether social rights are also important for a free and democratic country.

Europe’s crisis is to a large extent the result of its democratic deficit, political scientist András Lánczi, an advisor of PM Orbán writes in Magyar Nemzet. The conservative analyst points out that democracy emerged in nation states, where citizens have a shared identity. In a reference to German philosopher Jürgen Habermas and his notion of ’constitutional patriotism’, Lánczi suggests that left-wing and liberal intellectuals are wrong to hope that identity can be established on the basis of rational norms and universal moral principles instead of a common history and culture. Without shared emotional ties and a sense of patriotic belonging among citizens, no free institutions can be maintained, he contends. The European Union, he continues, is seen by its members as a bureaucratic conglomerate with which Europeans cannot identify.

As for the welfare state, so called social rights create dependent and decadent citizens, who expect to be provided with well-being by the state, Lánczi adds. European integration is also based on the Socialist principle of redistribution. As freedom presupposes private property and capitalism, welfare states easily degenerate into dictatorship, Lánczi concludes.

Political analyst Tamás Fricz also believes that democracy presupposes the existence of a sovereign nation state. National self-determination, however, can only be practiced if a state can make autonomous decisions, which is impossible if the country is dependent on international investors who finance the budget deficit. The right-wing pundit speculates that the decline of traditional social order and values on the one hand, and the emergence of the consumer society on the other are the main reasons for the sad fact that voters support only those parties which promise excessive and irresponsible spending programs.

Levente Bánk Boros contends that the legitimacy and rationality of the nation state cannot be questioned. The real question for him is which policies and institutions make nation states strong and resilient. He takes issue with Lánczi’s critique of the welfare state. Sovereignty and independence require a strong population, Boros continues, and thus it is the interest and moral responsibility of the state to sustain welfare institutions, otherwise people will feel insecure, which undermines the sovereignty of the state itself.

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