Not so fortunate fortunes

The quick succession of events in recent days has diverted attention from some provocative aspects of Greek public life that speak volumes about the current socioeconomic conditions. The headlines are dominated by stories of nepotism and the burgeoning fiscal crisis, but little is said about the outcome: an unprecedented accumulation of wealth which has led to reckless fiscal management. Little is being said about the growing inequalities and the consequences of understated deficits. The briefs of a legal dispute between two heirs recently revealed the existence of an unbelievable fortune. Their heritage includes portfolio shares in major Swiss banks, steel industries in the US, Britain and other countries, ships, shares in a plethora of firms in Greece and abroad, deposits, time deposits, numerous offshore companies and, on top of all that, 30 tons of gold. That’s all very well. Let them enjoy it as long as they can. However, we can’t help pondering the conditions that enabled some to accumulate wealth of such colossal proportions in such a small and relatively poor country. Some would say its all a matter of business acumen, of ingenuity and inventiveness. All that may be part of the answer but not the answer. The source of this family’s (and of others’) mammoth property is the State and its protectionist measures. The family in question made huge profits from measures that protected steel products and which gave their firm a monopoly over the domestic steel market at prices which by far exceeded global prices. In other words, their fortune was built on the backs of the Greek people. Many others benefited in similar ways. Inequalities are an inherent downside of the system, one may argue. It may well be so. But those who have made a fortune out of it should at least show respect for their fellow humans and the laws that permeate our society.