OPINION

Extinction of the middle class

The middle class forms the backbone of modern democratic societies. It is the part of society that makes the economy?s machine function, by and large it supports the rule of law, and provides the pool from which the executives of the public sector?s administrative machine are drawn. It is the middle class that ultimately carries the country?s largest burden and responsibility.

Greece?s middle class has its own peculiarities, not only because this is true of all countries, but also because certain traits make it very different from the middle classes in other parts of Europe, a fact that has become more than evident as a result of the crisis. The members of the Greek middle class who carry this mentality — which of course is not solely defined by income — are a minority, even within their own ranks. The rest can be described as ?nouveaux riches? — the creation of a useless and corrupt state — or ?lumpen? or as uniting all of the above.

What has started to happen in the past few years, however, and especially because of the crisis, is that the Greek middle class is being pushed down. The voices of people who are making an effort to do what?s right, to contribute to society and to defend Greece?s position in Europe because they know that the future will be even worse outside the eurozone are muffled.

There can be no discrimination when it comes to the painful measures that are being taken or the ones that are bound to follow. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the people who are coming under the biggest pressure, who are being squeezed to the point of extinction, are members of the middle class who fought their entire life in order to succeed and did so by respecting the country?s institutions and abiding by its laws. It is from these people that the state is holding back the kinds of incentives that would allow them to become even more productive.

It is the state that can?t curb tax evasion and keeps placing that burden on the once-healthy middle class. It is the state that is levelling the salaries of high-ranking executives in the public sector so that no one worthy of the title will consider the job. It is the state that is reluctant to impose the rule of meritocracy at schools, universities and the state apparatus. And it is the state that has delayed the liberalization process of closed-shop professions while sustaining a massive bureaucracy, limiting investment potential and reinforcing corruption.

The eradication of the middle class would be disastrous. No country of peasants has ever succeeded in the contemporary history of mankind.