- - Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Life can be almost good anywhere if you’re a billionaire. George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire who once shorted the British pound to bring down a conservative government in Britain, has been on a rant that the government in his native Hungary has grown so oppressive that life there is more miserable than it was during the occupation by the Soviet Union, which was the ultimate socialist experiment. Mr. Soros probably thinks life in modern Hungary, with free speech and free elections that don’t always go the Soros way, is as oppressive as Donald Trump’s America.

He says Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban “exploits and oppresses those who are in opposition. In my judgment, the regime now oppresses people more that during the Soviet occupation.”

If so, life would be very tough for everybody. During the Soviet occupation Hungarians frequently vanished in the middle of the night, carried away in long black cars to the headquarters of the secret police. If they emerged at all their next stop would be a labor camp, or, if they were lucky, an execution plaza. Property rights were a fiction for all but the highest party officials, who lived freely irrespective of the tyranny they enforced on the average citizen.

Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and freedom of choice did not exist. This is well documented in exhibits at Budapest’s House of Terror, a museum in the headquarters building of the old secret police. Mr. Soros should visit the museum, to be reminded that communism and fascism are not opposites on the political spectrum, but are natural twins.

Hungary under Viktor Orban, though it may give George Soros heartburn, is a very different place. There’s freedom of speech and worship. Voters have choices at the polls. The prime minister himself was forced from office in 2002 by a coalition led by the Hungarian Socialist Party. He returned to power in 2010 with a supermajority of his conservative Fidesz Party. The supermajority was re-elected once and is expected to be re-elected again.

Mr. Orban asks voters to choose between his vision for Hungary’s future and a future governed by the kind of nostrums and fantasies Mr. Soros champions. That’s called democracy in action, with Mr. Soros free to say anything he likes about the Orban administration. He could even say harsh things in downtown Budapest and nobody would try to silence him. That hardly suggests tyranny and it insults the brave men and women who tried to push out the Soviets in a bloody and unsuccessful revolution in 1956.

Mr. Soros isn’t likely to run out of either money or freedom any time soon, leaving him free to insult Hungary with suggestions like his silly assertion that the Orban government is no better than the government imposed by Stalin. Mr. Orban is not everyone’s cup of tea — the mark of a free country is that several brands of tea are available at the market — and some Hungarian conservatives think he tends to be too nationalist and too corporatist. Hungarians are free to decide, and George Soros, who incidentally fell victim early to Trump Derangement Syndrome, is free to demonstrate that a billionaire can say silly things.

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