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The new ideological divide

I recently gave a presentation in Bratislava, Slovakia, on the evils of ‘competition policy’ and the ‘entry and exit costs’ economic model, which is little more than an excuse for more business-killing government intervention.

My first trip there in 1991 had been as economic and political adviser to that country’s Prime Minister when Slovakia was part of the Czech & Slovak Federal Republic (1989-1992). In those days, talking about a single tax band, a competitive advantage of Slovakia compared with Germany, why an independent Slovakia would actally reform better than under Prague tutelage and so forth was often like trying to explain Switzerland to a Pol Pot survivor.

The first photo that I took in 1991 was of the Iron Curtain seen from the Austrian side, a forest of trees leading up to the jagged line of a forest of rotting concrete.

This time on the way back I took a coach from Bratislava to Vienna airport. The following photos show the turnaround.


Slovakia�s ruling coalition: conservatives and libertarians
(photo taken at Bratislava bus station)


This Slovak election poster for the EU parliament
seems to get the message. (Sorry about the
quality but I snapped it out of a coach window
on a bend, outskirts of Bratislava)


Austrian Social Democrats know what they stand for:
No privatisation!
(dotted all over the Austrian countryside North of Vienna)

10 comments to The new ideological divide

  • a forest of rotting concrete

    I knew making things properly was almost impossible under communism but: “rotting concrete”? what did they make it from, compost?

  • Concrete can indeed take on what to me looks like a ‘rotting’ appearance…

  • If the concrete has deteriorated badly it is likely to crumble, the steel reinforcing may become exposed and rust. Otherwise what may appear to be “rot” is surface staining and lichen growth.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Slovakia… what a great place. I went there a few years back for an OBS course. One of the instructors was a poli-sci grad, and he certainly seemed to be the conservative type without the religious hangups.


  • Antoine, the ruling coalition cannot be described as libertarian by any stretch of imagination. More like provincial, wanna-be professional politicians, with the emphasis on provicial with all the bad things it implies…

  • Antoine Clarke

    point taken. But how many ruling coalitions have introduced a 19 per cent flat tax, compared with the mess before?

    When I wrote a proposal for reforming taxes in Slovakia in 1991 I suggested 20 per cent, with the abolition of inheritance and capital gains taxes.

    The current Slovak government has done better. Only Estonia with its abolition of corporation tax can compare with Slovakia as a pro-business and pro-capitalist country in the EU today.

    For a country that was the butt of sarcastic mockery from the Czech reformers in the early 1990s, Slovakia really has moved massively in the right direction.

    When I have a moment, I shall report on the proposals to liberalise gun ownership in Slovakia.

  • Teofrast

    Adriana Cronin, Amen!
    Parochialism is probably the best description of slovak politics.
    They seem like reformists, but trust me, its only outside appearences. It is easy to be rightist, when the left is virtually non-existent or intellectually incompetent. In Great Britain the SDKU party the article is linking to would be unrecognizable from Labour, I am afraid. They arent libertarians, and can even hardly pass as conservatives (only KDH, the christian democrats seem conservative, hungarian coalition SMK are just particularists and the liberals ANO are a strange bunch, their liberalism varies from libertinism-not libertarianism to national socialism). Only health minister R. Zajac (ANO nominated, but not a member, probably the least popular one) and some gov advisers could be said to have some libertarian leanings.

    The first picrture shows Peter Stastny, SDKU candidate for EP. He is a famous former hockey (NHL and all that) player, but has very poor mental capacities. Probably smart enough for EP, though. His candidacy is widely seen as a lame attempt by SDKU to attract votes. Governing parties arent very popular right now. Populist rule the polls, and there is a clear threat that after new national elections (2006 or sooner), the few reforms that have been pushed through might get deformed again.

    The second picture sadly is not an election poster.

    The Austrian poster is concerning water privatization, I havent heard this idea to be even discussed here.

    19 percent flat tax is pretty miserable, when you realize that the aim was at 15.

    Thanks for the PR, though.

    Teofrast from Slovakia

  • Austrian Social Democrat poster: Say No to Privitasation (not written: because the Jews might get ahold of it!).

  • It was nice to see you here, again, Antoine. You defended nicely Adriana’s point that the ruling coalition is NOT libertarian — as compared to what? Both in Slovakia, and outside, the Big Party (likely winners) alternatives are populist/ personality cults, or Leftist.

    The proposed private pension reform was excellent; heavily watered down when passed. But it DID pass. School vouchers are likely to be working to allow parents to send their kids to whichever schools they choose.

    Corruption is slowly declining; but unfortunately, the panelak cement apartment buildings are, too — when the cement stays in the bag instead of being mixed, it’s quite easy for the building to rot.!