Summer Meditations

In the summer of 1991, Havel wrote a series of thoughts about his conceptions of democratic politics and his hopes for his country, based on conversations he had with Pavel Tigrid and his then press secretary, Michael Žantovsky. It was published in English the following summer, under the title Summer Meditations.

From Summer Meditations:

“Perhaps we can all agree that we want a country based on rule of law, one that is democratic (that with a pluralistic political system), peaceful, and with a prospering market economy. Some insist that this state should also be socially just. Others sense in that phrase a hangover from socialism, and argue against it. They object to the notion of “social justice” as vague, claiming that it can mean is, anything at all, and that a functioning market economy can never guarantee any genuine social justice. They point out that people have, and always will have, different degrees of industriousness, talent, and last but not least, luck. Obviously, social justice in the sense of social equality is something the market system cannot, by its very nature, deliver. Moreover, to compel the marketplace to do so would be deeply immoral. . . .

I do not see, however, why a democratic state, armed with a legislature and the power to draw up a budget, cannot strive for a certain fairness in, for example, pension policies or tax policies, or support to the unemployed, or salaries to public employees, or assistance to the elderly living alone, to people who have health problems, or to those who, for various reasons, find themselves at the bottom of society. Every civilized state tries, in different ways and with different degrees of success, to come up with reasonable policies in these areas, and not even the most ardent supporters of the market economy have anything against it in principle. In the end, then, it is a conflict not of beliefs, but rather of terminology.

Summer Meditations, pp. 17-18.


The Vaclav Havel Center