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Hungary's proposed constitution worrisome, says WSJ

If Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wishes Hungarians to return to self-reliance and personal responsibility as he stated, that requires protections of individual liberties, without which individual responsibility is meaningless, an opinion article of the Wall Street Journal writes. The article adds that these principles can only be realized if the state does not take on responsibilities that belong to individuals.

The Wall Street Journal says that it is “troubling” that Hungary’s proposed new constitution would empower the state “beyond what is suitable for protecting economic liberties”, and provides “week institutional guarantees” for the protection of individual liberties. The article highlights that in a post-communist country it is crucially important to provide “robust guarantees for property rights” and to make a clear distinction between the responsibilities.

The article appreciated the government’s clear commitment to economic sustainability and the measures that were taken in order to guarantee this, such as the introduction of flat personal income tax of 16% and a government-spending cap at 50% of GDP in the proposed constitution. However, the proposed constitution also includes a series of second-generation rights that the state will “provide”, such as “adequate housing”, and “access to work”.

The article criticized the redefinition of the nature of right. According to this, natural rights (like life, liberty and property) are protected by the state from infringement by others, and positive rights (such as housing and leisure) are provided by the government. According to the article of the WSJ, this nature of rights “necessarily and fundamentally” changes the relationship between individuals and the state, and “increases the scope of state power”.

Furthermore, the redistribution of wealth in order to provide these rights will lead to undermining the protection of private property. The article adds that America’s founders also faced the challenge of social differences among citizens, but they understood that “the government could not be used to redistribute wealth in order to create equal outcomes”.