Marcin Czyżniewski’s book “Ideas in Vaclav Klaus’s politics” is the first attempt in Poland at conducting a complex analysis of one of the most interesting Central European politicians. The author examines Klaus’s ideas from an economic and political perspective and explains why the main architect behind the Czech transformation became one of the most vocal critics of the European Union.
By investigating Klaus’s life, the author wants to uncover the inspirations behind the politician’s worldview. Therefore, we see Klaus as a member of the communist Forecast Institute fascinated with Ludwig von Mises’seconomic ideas and then with liberal Friedrich Von Hayek and Milton Friedman’s new liberalism. We also see Klaus as a believer in the free market as condition for a healthy economy, but also for the existence of freedom as such.
The author elaborates on Klaus’s reforms and points to the fact that it was more likely that the Czechoslovakian transformation would be led by one of the reformist leaders of the Prague Spring, rather than a liberal such as Klaus. The book also widely discusses the controversies around the transformation model, especially voucher privatization. The author asks whether the model created a class of owners who had no impact on companies and did not own any capital. The analysis of Klaus’s ideas also leads to questions whether his liberalism was “pure”. However, the author concludes that despite the fact that Klaus was a liberal, he realized the social costs of the transformation and tried to maintain social coherence. The book also quotes politicians and economists who believe that Klaus is a “disguised” socialist.
The dispute between the „two Vaclavs” – Havel and Klaus is also presented in detail. The main focus is on the understanding of the political. Havel was not enthusiastic about parties, he believed that their excess can lead to petty party politics. Klaus’s view was that parties are the center of democracy because they put into practice the idea of the political.
The book explains why Klaus’s approach towards NGOs and environmental protection is deemed controversial. This is because Klaus is understood as an opponent of NGOs and an enemy of clean environment. The author tries to take into pieces Klaus’s motives behind his aversion to NGOs. The conclusion is that the antipathy does not stem from Klaus’s hostility towards democracy, but from his conviction that some of those organizations are not democratic. Klaus created the idea of “ngoism”, where a democratic country allegedly hands over the majority of its power to uncontrolled organizations from the third sector. At the same time he is not an enemy of a clean environment, he believes that “ecologism” is an ideology used to terrorize political opponents and the global warming theory targets economic development.
The final chapter is devoted to probably the most controversial issue – Klaus’s approach to the EU, which gradually changed over the years. At first Klaus believed the Czech Republic should live up to the EU standards and join the Union as soon as possible. However, in time he grew more euro-skeptical, but in his opinion he was just becoming a realistic about the EU. Czyżniewski explains that the main reason behind Klaus’s aversion to the EU is the federal model that leads smaller countries to lose their subjectivity. In addition, in his view the EU promotes a leftist ideology that has nothing to do with traditional European values. Whereas Klaus would like to go back to the ideas that in his opinion were traditionally European, like liberalism, liberty, family and respect for religion.
Despite the fact that at times the author is very vocal about his aversion towards Klaus, the book is a comprehensive and admittedly reliable attempt at analyzing the president’s views.
Marcin Czyżniewski: Idee w polityce Vaclava Klausa, Toruń 2012