Talvik: enough with the welfare society!

Vabaerakonna esimees Artur Talvik.

PHOTO: Urmas Luik / Pärnu Postimees

The power needs to be given back to the people, the political food chain disrupted in what is a society the circulation of which is calcified as a result of corruption, party chains of command, and growing red tape, says the newly elected chairman of the Free Party Artur Talvik.

A punk wearing a red cap joins a party to become chairman. What is wrong with that sentence?

Former punk! (Laughs heartily.)

Is it something you can leave behind?

That red cap is so worn by today. I could have continued living in my comfort zone: be visible, address society's pain spots, and be independent and connected to a party at the same time. However, and to tell the truth – searching for the picture boy of the Free Party, it's me. A lot of people do not even know I wasn't a member.

The party has become settled, infantile complaints have been dealt with, and we're left with a good team. But now we need some action! While my briefcase of lifelong dreams never had an entry called “become a party chairman”, the decision was a simple one in the end.

There is little conflict and struggle within you?

Parties are an invention of the century before last; so very outdated in nature: leader-oriented, in-house struggles, the need to keep growing despite being run by a very close circle. The Free Party at least tries to do things differently.

I have run all manner of organizations and companies, so that is not a problem for me in itself. Right now it is exciting to try and create a modern political organization that would operate on a different frequency.

The Free Party is rather like a club, not an organized undertaking. How does that fit the Estonia of today where ratings belong to sprawling and well-organized parties?

We are not a club! My ideal party is made up of visionaries and missionaries. So you have brain trust to describe a perfect society, and then you have missionaries or gladiators trying to realize that vision.

A club is not a place for struggles, while a political organization is a place where you fight for your ideas. Therein lies the difference. Everything that currently looks like a club should be forgotten.

We had very different people from all walks of life come together out of protest, not because they used to drink beer together in college. Now is the time to decide on the society we want after the protests!

In order for the people to understand that, the Free Party should wake from its lethargy, standstill. The Conservative People's Party (EKRE) is far more outspoken.

We are not standing still. Looking at the work of the Riigikogu, we are the hardest working faction there. And our work in the Riigikogu clearly reflects our worldview. To compare us to EKRE, they are riding the wave of a few very emotional topics while lacking a big picture for society. We are in the process of constructing one.

But it doesn't show.

Yes, communication is very weak. It is our primary task to render our messages precise and legible.

A simple example: our democracy package is pivotal; however, who cares about a democracy package in its current dressing?! However, only by telling people that one of the biggest problems in Estonia is that their voice is not heeded, and that they are simply being steamrolled can we spark interest.

Our main goal is to achieve a bottom-up society. This means small communities that can decide matters for themselves and have the money to realize their desires and decisions. On the next level it will be the autonomous parish that ties different local governments together that can make its own decisions. Next there is the state to weave together these collections of communities. That is our logic!

Today the central government tells people it knows best, and what's best is for you to do what we tell you to do. Party control and service to the party food chain is growing out of hand. If you can explain that the democracy package means a person can decide more for themselves and take greater responsibility, and that we stand for that, people will understand.

There is reluctance to talk plainly in fear of it sounding unintelligent?

Exactly! And the democracy package is but a single example! Why is the Free Party talking about corruption? Because our country's arteries are thick with it! And it is upheld by established parties that are in control for the sake of money. We need to fight corruption, bureaucracy because people say they are fed up with orders-bans, over-regulation, in other words the philosophy of the government today.

We fight for a self-sufficient citizen who can make their own decisions in life and community. That is how we can build a creative, dynamic society, an exciting state! Not the kind of welfare state we are building today where only men in suits know how people should live!

People do not have to fight the common cold in the ER, security is not just the state's prerogative; we must work on a society where you can handle it yourself. Security can be created by every single person working with others in a state that offers them the means to do it.

Do not be injected with learned helplessness! We, Estonians, lack social skills. The skill to negotiate, to convince.

Negotiation, speaking one's mind – do you perceive these things have become increasingly dangerous? A situation where Kaido Kama is let go from the National Audit Office because he dared express an opinion about forest management that differs from that of his superiors in Postimees is not normal!

They have become more dangerous, and Kaido Kama's example is most unfortunate. To have a position you dare express as a citizen, and then to be fired… That is not a society I would want to live in. Instead of taking a moment to consider: perhaps we are doing something categorically wrong in forestry.

Are you embarrassed over how the Free Party tried to get into Center's government?

We didn't try to curry favor to get into the government. I admit: our communication failed. We sent a clear message that we're willing to adopt government responsibility as part of a coalition and hoped others would approach us. However, we quickly learned that no one really wanted to talk to us. The main reason is that we would have taken away some of their positions.

I suppose you are relieved things turned out this way today?

Of course! We are very glad we're not in this government. Yes, we are also very glad the Reform Party's hegemony was ended and the air cleared to an extent; however, the state the current government is building is not what the Free Party dreams of. Orders and bans, deepening helplessness, an encroaching welfare society – that is not who we are.

The fact members of the party are not running in local elections seems like extreme folly!

On the contrary – it is so cool! We have been against the so-called two chairs act the entire time, and the era of decoy ducks must end! Local authority belongs with local people and has to be up to them. You cannot just show up and tell people how they should live.

This fall's post-administrative reform local elections will be a star parade. Chairman of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (Social Democrat Party) will run in Hiiumaa and take half the island's votes. How will that help the Free Party and your worldview?

That is what's wrong! That is what we are fighting against! If you believe in something, you have to act the part! Local power is for local people and should be decided in election coalitions. Why should a party meddle in local politics? That way the skirmishes of Toompea Hill also become local problems.

It is another link in the political food chain: having one's people in the parish government creates fertile soil for forced partification. Yes, the Free Party is taking a big risk with this step; however, it is the only option for us. Ideological struggle happens duting Riigikogu, not local elections.

You prefer power without parties, yet as the head of one you should be able to recruit more members into your own. How to achieve that?

Yes, it is a big problem that people are afraid of politics. It has been made so disgusting that there are people who can give you good advice in private conversations but are not willing to go public.

The idea that people only go into politics for personal gain is too widespread. A lot of MPs do become larger than life upon being elected. They are invisible in the Riigikogu; however, you can spot them outside the parliament. We have such a small society that no one should be that much more important than anyone else.