OPINION

A German example

«I inherited a lot of money that I don’t need,» wrote 69-year-old Peter Folmer, one of 44 rich Germans who co-signed a public appeal to their government to tax them at a rate of 5 percent of their inherited wealth. The head of the appeal, a retired doctor by the name of Dieter Lehmkuhl, was prompted to act when the German government channeled tens of billions of euros into rescuing the country’s banking system from collapse. The good doctor, certainly not the richest person in Europe’s strongest economy, said: «I get angry when I think that we suddenly came up with so much money for banks, money we didn’t have beforehand to fund social, educational or environmental programs.» His response was to offer something to his country, to his financially less well-off compatriots, to the society in which he lived. The initiative by 44 well-off Germans is a tangible expression of social conscience and patriotism. And let’s not rush to point out that these are after all Germans, Protestants, nationalists, social democrats and the like, and that «here» things are different. Societies don’t progress with stereotypes, with excuses and fixed ideas that are merely a flimsy cover-up for cowardice, greed and sterile selfishness. What is happening in Germany could happen here, where there are large endowments, dormant fortunes and huge untaxed surpluses. Of course there are 44 Greek patriots with surplus wealth who could take a similar initiative and prompt others to act likewise, thereby raising vital democratic issues, no matter how indirectly, such as the consensual redistribution of wealth and the strengthening of social cohesion. Will we see 44 Greeks doing something similar? We shall see.