23 June 2007

The inconvenient truth about Václav Klaus

The Economist's Edward Lucas complains about the dullness of political leaders in the post-communist space (again). The Czech president Václav Klaus is anything but dull, though admittedly he does not make a good listener:

"Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, by contrast, is exactly the same whether you have known him for ten minutes or 20 years: abrasive, forceful,well-informed and magnificently dismissive of views other than his own. If you have a Nobel prize for economics, he may give your views a marginally more polite hearing. Otherwise, thicken your skin."

To be fair, only a week before Lucas's article came out, Klaus, who is often called "Professor" by his supporters (he holds a Professorhip in Economics at the Prague University of Economics and is a prolific writer), conducted what would qualify as a "listening excercise": he answered to the reactions on his article from the Financial Times, "Global warming: truth or propaganda?" The centrepiece of Klaus's argument is that any imposed action designed to slow down global warming is restricting one's freedom and is therefore undemocratic:

"As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning."

Klaus has certainly a lot to say on the subject: his new book called "Blue, not Green, Planet: What is Endagered - Climate or Freedom" has just been published. He makes some interesting points - for example that it is hard to put a cost on the damage the climate change will have caused, as the Stern Report did, because the changing economic parametres will make the today's number illusory in just a couple of years. A good review of his book is in Reflex magazine, unfortunately in Czech. I will restrain from making any further comments myself, because I am not an expert on the climate change (even less of an expert than Klaus, who called himself an "informed layman").

But climate change is just one of the Klaus's crusades: he is a prominent critic of the European integration stretching beyond inter-governmental cooperation. He also coined the term "NGOism": unhealthy meddling of the civil society groups in politics. All three issues - climate change, Europe and proliferation of pressure groups - have a common denominator: they are undemocratic in Klaus's opinion.

Strangely, these excesses haven't hurt his public approval ratings too much. They remain consistenly high (around 75%), largely as a result of his populist stunts. Recently he headed the opposition against the modernist design of the new National Library building. The President, who resides at the Prague Castle, also cashed in on the court dispute between the state and the Catholic Church over St Vitus Cathedral, the Prague Castle's landmark.

Perhaps it would be better if our president was dull. No embarrassing news would come out, because there wouldn't be any. Then again, it is the government headed by the prime minister, not the president, who determines the actual policy. So the president is a mere prominent participant in the public debate. Moreover, with the Kaczyńskis in the neighbouring Poland on roll, one doesn't even have to feel embarrassed anymore.

But who knows, Klaus may win the climate change debate in the end. All he has to do is to change his strategy: stop blaming the socialists, blame the Martians! Expose what a menace Al Gore is. Frank Luntz, the GOP pollster, spotted that Gore was born exactly nine months after the alleged UFO landings in Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947. Is this the ultimate Inconvenient Truth?

5 comments:

xanthippaschamberpot said...

Your President sounds rather good!

I wish our leaders were as intelligent, educated and outspoken!

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