Goulash capitalism?

The Hungarian version of Soviet-style economy was often referred to as “goulash communism“—it was a more permissive, generally more prosperous variant than what existed in several other Warsaw Pact countries. If the unique capitalism that Hungary is creating is to be “goulash capitalism,” it’s going to be a low-fat version. This will give yet another reason for some older folks wistfully to declare that “at least in the good old days, goulash used to be goulash.”

Brings to mind some of the happiest moments of my childhood… thanks, NYT!

(This seems like a good time to point out that goulash is a soup, and a very good one. It has beef, potatoes, paprika, sometimes beans, and other things. It is not some kind of a stew, or, worse yet, ground meat with some sauce.)

Hungary rarely gets on the front page of the New York Times, but the new Hungarian tax on fatty, sugary foods was such a bold step towards a healthier Hungary that even American journalists took notice. While the justification for the tax is the national need for a leaner populace, the real reason is probably the government’s need for a fatter treasury. Those of you taking Comparative Economic Systems are probably crying “soft paternalism!” right now. Or “hard paternalism.” As to the financial consequences: if the tax really cuts down on the consumption of unhealthy foodstuffs, not only will there be little revenue generated form the tax, but the very low Hungarian life expectancy will rise, costing the state more in health care expenditures. 

The NYT article claims that two thirds of Hungarians are overweight or obese—this does not really match up with my experience, but that may be because I am from Budapest, where people might be more health-conscious on average. In any case, recent OECD data confirm that the US obesity rate is about twice the Hungarian. For more on the obesity question, see the recent post on our own expert on most things, Professor Gerard.

Now, as to those sausages in the picture—they are to die for. (And yes, you probably will, eventually.) Just looking at that picture makes my mouth water. A slice of good fresh bread (real bread, soft and heavy), a chunk of that sausage (don’t waste time slicing it), and some hot peppers… heavenly. Follow that with some krémes, rétes, or flódni.