Hungary Is No Model for the American Right

If you don’t spend much time online, diving into the deep waters of the civil wars on the right, you might not be aware that Hungary is having a Moment. My friend Rod Dreher has been staying there for weeks, filing dispatches. Tucker Carlson has been broadcasting from Budapest, declaring that “if you care about western civilization and democracy and values and the ferocious assault on all three of those things by the leaders of our global institutions, you should know what is happening here, right now.” 

Carlson has interviewed prime minister Viktor Orbán, Dennis Prager is reportedly set to give a speech in Budapest, Patrick Deneen has visited (and also met with Orbán), and National Review’s John O’Sullivan serves as president of the Danube Institute, a think tank based in Budapest. I could go on, but you get the idea—think of Hungary as the Scandinavia of the new right. 

If you’ve been a conservative for any length of time, you’ve likely had what I like to call the “Sweden conversation,” or perhaps the “Denmark debate.” A socialist-leaning progressive friend will wax eloquent about the Scandinavian countries that combine high standards of living with generous welfare states and ask, “Why not here?” 

Setting aside that nations like Denmark are not quite the democratic socialist paradise that many progressives imagine—my friend Kevin Williamson is fond of pointing out that Denmark enjoys more economic freedom than the United States—the discussion has always suffered from a rather fundamental flaw: Scandinavian countries aren’t much like the United States. 

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