János Kornai speaks for open inquiry

János Kornai, whose Economics of Shortage provided the only (as far as I know) theoretically coherent and empirically supported analysis of the actual functioning of the economies of the ComEcon states, has just been awarded the Open Society Prize at the commencement ceremony of the Central European University in Budapest.

This may be the last time that prize, or any CEU degree, is awarded in Budapest. The authoritarian, ethno-nationalist, and anti-Semitic Orban government in Hungary, installed with the help of Russian money and influence (does that sound familiar?) is moving forward a law aimed at Hungarian-born (and Jewish) George Soros, whose philanthropy helped create CEU; when it goes into effect, it will force CEU to leave the country.

Below is the text of a letter from Kornai to a friend in the U.S., followed by the text of the award speech by the Rector of CEU and Kornai’s acceptance speech.

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Coincidence

The Drug Policy Alliance has such great regard for the truth that its reports dole out the precious substance with a sparing hand.

This morning, I got an email from a friend who isn’t involved in the War About Drugs but knows a great deal both about drug abuse and about my views on the topic. Like me, he is neither a hard-core warrior nor a flat-out legalizer. He had just received a fund-raising pitch for the Drug Policy Alliance, signed by George Soros. (I should note that Soros is one of my heroes; I can’t think of an individual in our lifetimes whose philanthropy – especially in the former Soviet Bloc – has created more value for the world.)

My friend wrote, “It looks good. Is it?”

I wrote back “In a word, no. DPA is the main drug-legalization group. They’re not very forthcoming about their actual aims.”

Of course, that’s the point; DPA sounds much more reasonable on paper than it is in practice. You might not guess that its announced goal of “drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights” means in practice opposition to any effective form of drug abuse control.

Then, when I got to work, I found in my mail a slick (in both senses) report on drug courts from DPA. It’s unsigned, which I would say reflected prudence on the part of the author or authors; it is not the sort of document anyone with any scholarly self-respect would want his name attached to.

Now, I’m not a fan of drug courts as they currently exist – they enroll too many low-level offenders without severe drug problems who would have done better with a good leaving-alone – so many of the report’s criticisms of drug courts seem on target to me. But the level of sleaze in the argumentation is truly breathtaking.

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