Previous Fora / 2003

Speech of Viktor Orbán (Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary)

Alliance of science and politics
The Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 8 November 2003
Viktor Orbán


Ladies and Gentlemen

When Marco Polo gave an account of his travelling to Kubla Khan, he talked about a bridge, not forgetting about any of its stones.

- 'But which is the stone that holds the bridge?' asked Kubla Khan.

- 'It is not one or the other stone, that holds the bridge' replied Marco, 'but the line of the arch formed of them.'

Kubla Khan thought for a moment, silently, then said:

- 'But why are you telling me about stones? I want to know about the arch only'.

Polo gave this answer:

- 'There is no arch without stone'. (From Italo Calvino's book)


Mr. Chariman, Ladies and Gentlemen
I have the honour to greet You

Many of you must have wondered what a politican like me, can say about the science of the world at such a well-known international conference, when the spirit of the age leaves everything to be taken care of by so-called experts, and politicians are possibly kept within the walls of the parliament? Those who agree with this, certainly deny that there is any connection between politics and science, they would quote at most Hippocrates: "Do not harm as we, - physicians, may not worsen illness either".

Well, I do not agree with that. Especially as four years ago we organised the first scientific world conference with common will, that is, with the contribution of the government here in Budapest.

This is why I have accepted your kind invitation and called Marco Polo's parable, as it is the task of all of us to produce good stones in our own field, and build the bridge together, which marks the way for all of us.

If you please, as a politician, I should like to talk about the changes of paramount importance we are facing, in which you, the actors, of science and us, politicians have to find common solutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me ask the question: what can we get from the politics and politicians of the 21st century?

Well, politics has means that science, culture, education, health care and civil society do not have: this is the power suitable for bringing the business world under control, which is manifested in legislative and governing power allowing the service of voters.

The major part of the challenges nations are facing is connected to the fact that while business has become globalised, and by that the exploitation of the resources of the world has crossed the borders of nations and states, similarly efficient global political institutions to diminish or prevent the damages caused by the forces of business have not developed. The citizens and communities of nation-states alone will not be able to create these global institutions and processes, and we cannot expect globalised business to exercise self-limitation in every field and every moment.

Let me take an example from economics to support this.

If we look around in the current globalised economy, then we can see that contrary to classical and neo-classical economic theory, which asserts that the market is self-regulating, subsequently, demand and supply will be balanced by themselves, practice shows that the gap between the developed and the developing world is growing, as inequalities within society are also growing.

One of its reasons is that, contrary to the mentioned theory, the proceeds of capital are not decreasing but increasing. Meaning that the capital and following it the economy will grow where they have already concentrated. Therefore, only the countries where human resources, knowledge, science and culture, education and training as well as political and social stability allow growing proceeds of capital are able to join global flow of capital. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, does not develop by itself, only with proper political support.

Our responsibility is to give all the necessary help to science and culture as well as communities and societies in order for us to create through joint work the global self-regulating mechanism that slows down and then stops the excesses and destruction of the global business world.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I think, on the grounds of this, it can be easily admitted that only the alliance of science and politics is able to balance business globalisation and global business, on the one hand, and the global protection of human values, on the other hand, and to search for new solutions. All the more because one of the apostles, and, let us add, key beneficiaries of globalisation has tolled the alarm-bell. "The collapse of the global market will be a traumatic event carrying consequences that are unimaginable today. Yet I can imagine it easier than the continuation of the present system" predicted György Soros.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is one of the rare moments when I can agree with the perceptions of Mr. Soros: I can indeed imagine anything but the continuation of the present system.

Why is the dream of the global world utopian?

Quite many of the thinkers of Western civilisation were of the opinion throughout the modern age that the colourful nature of national cultures and civilisations cannot be maintained in the world. Multiculturalism is merely a temporary feature of human life according to the radical thinkers of the Enlightenment. And some of the politicians think that nations and societies will be led by human intellect, that is why it is necessary to adopt uniform customs of civilisations, economic structures and patterns of thinking.

So today we can witness the present-day experiment of the great wave of enlightenment and clearing up of the 18th century, by extending the free global market economy of today to cover each nation. Today global company groups, some national governments, especially the power of the United States of America based on military, political and financial weight, and financial organisations are the means that implement this experiment.

However, organising the parts of the world rather different from each other into an economically and culturally uniform global free market seems to be a utopia. The operation of the Anglo-Saxon global free market probably becomes unsustainable in the coming decades because as a result of its operation enormous inequalities develop between life perspectives, health care conditions and possibilities for studying between the developed and the underdeveloped countries of the world, also within nation-states. The absolute freedom of the forces of market, either in nation-state or global frameworks, tempts to excesses: these excesses are manifested in the enormous growth of inequalities.

The global free market results in the weakening of the fabric of society, therefore, it constitutes a challenge to democratic governments. The strengthening of economic uncertainty involves political uncertainty, the strengthening of the fluctuation of politics. This could be the strongest challenge of modern democracies. Since the operation of free markets are diminished and limited by democratic governments: if the balance of strength between free markets and national governance dissolves, then democratic national governments may not undertake this limited role.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I believe that contrary to the earlier world based on two poles the future will see the competition between various forms of market economies. Now we are living in an interim period of time: the world is no longer based on two poles and it is not yet characterised by many poles, instead it has, both in terms of military and financial issues, one pole, while regarding economic potential increasingly strong groups develop beside the American economy like the European Union, China, and others.

The idea that a uniform civilisation based on the values and interests of Western society must be created formed in the age of the Enlightenment is the most powerful in the United States. However, the American economic success results in widely-known social sacrifice, for this reason, European and Asian cultures do not accept it. We can witness a new opposition in the global system this is the clash between the various models of capitalism. The models of Anglo-Saxon capitalism Asian capitalism and European social market economy conflict with each other.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The greatest historical challenge for the group of Central and Eastern European countries now acceding to the European Union is not accession itself but the dilemma whether they follow the patterns of the current American type global free market or the earlier European social market economy.

During the transition to market economy in the 1990's these countries have cut back the state and state property to a greater extent than it is usual in the Member States of the European Union, in these countries the weight of private economy is greater, and the proportion of state property is smaller than in the present countries of the European Union.

Also in social regulating mechanisms the patterns of American type global free market have been adopted: this is reflected in the small weight of local governments, the weakness of the initiatives of civil society, and the fact that national markets are not protected by any means from global market.

Thinking in terms of the free market having spread in the Anglo-Saxon countries and the superior force of global free market institutions base on this may easily lead to the stage where the Central and Eastern European countries now acceding to the European Union unambiguously follow American patterns, while the medium they join remains European. Germany, France, Italy, the Scandinavian countries and basically all the other present Member State of the European union apart from Great-Britain have so far resisted to adopt the patterns of American type free market. Should Central and Eastern European countries continue to adopt the American pattern in the process of transforming education, public health, social security, pension scheme, or should they try to adopt the patterns of the European social market economy and welfare state developed after 1945 in a way that is more cost-effective than the current European solution, yet it remains European.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The age we live in is both lucky and unlucky. It is lucky because science has created possibilities for us to learn about the world, make ourselves, our life complete as much as possible. On the other hand, we must admit that such a great danger threatens the things that have become important, valuable for us during our history.

As you see the judgement of the world getting globalised may be quite different depending on what challenges it has in store for various actors of societies. While it raises several questions, dilemmas for politicians, the price to be paid for welfare, the quality and sense of life, the future of nations, on the other hand the century getting globalised we have left behind us has provided science with development the most dynamic in history.

As a matter of fact, for politicians assessing the effects of globalisation it is also a decisive point, especially if we take the surprising and extremely reassuring opinion poll made recently in Hungary into consideration according to which more that 80 % of those interviewed believe that the bettering future of the nation depends to a great extent on science, the results of research. Politics, decision-makers may be positively influenced by the overseas experience that more that 70% of the annual growth of the GDP comes directly from investments in research and development! In the EU countries experience has shown almost the same. In other words: today, in the 21st century, the best investment with the fastest and highest rate of return is investment in research and development! That is, the basis of the development of welfare is the development of science.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, Ortega wrote somewhere that although two people from two viewpoints look at the same landscape, they do not see the same. Because of their different positions the landscape is formed in a different way before their eyes. That is, perspective is one of the essential constituting elements of reality: it arranges rather than distorts reality.

Similarly each form of life is a viewpoint looking at the universe, each individual, person, people, age, is an irreplaceable organ to conquer the domain of truth. If we put each part image beside each other, the total truth would be assembled. There is no arch without stones as Marco Polo said.

This conference will hopefully bring all of us closer to getting to know it.