14 December, 12:35
What taxes did the rich in Greece pay to promote theater?
14 December, 14:28
Anyone who watched the newly released movie God Loves Caviar, portraying the life Ioannis Varvakis - - one of Greece’s great benefactors - - would probably have concluded that wealthy Greeks love their country.
Anyone who has been in Greece could also have noticed that many public buildings, hospitals, theaters and schools around the country are named after benefactors: Zapeion Megaron, Mpenakis Museum, Onassis Cardiology Hospital, Amalia Fleming Hospital and Arsakeion School, to mention but a few.
Watching the news coming out Greece in the aftermath of the sovereign debt crisis, however, one might reach a different conclusion ... wealthy Greeks do not pay their dues to the state.
Obviously, wealthy Greeks love their country but not their state.
There is a good explanation for that. The modern Greek state has been hijacked by career politicians, entrenched bureaucrats, and corrupt union bosses who have nurtured a Semi-Soviet, semi-Latin economic model which is at the root of the country’s on-going financial woes.
For beginners, Greece was never part of the Soviet bloc. The communist party never ruled the country officially. Greek cities and villages are a sea and an ocean away from Latin America. Yet the Greek economy shares many features with the economic models prevailing in the former Soviet Union and in Latin American nations.
Like the former Soviet Union, there is an extensive presence of government in the business and professional lives of Greek citizens. As an owner, manager, entrepreneur, financier and regulator. Keeping afloat inefficient enterprises. Providing jobs to hundreds of thousands of people. Deciding who will go into what kind of business and for how long.
The government further decides who will retire, at what age they will retire, and what pension they will receive.
Like Latin America, Greece has been ruled by unfair and corrupt regimes that fail to protect the business and public lives of its citizens from protests by leftist minorities that reign the streets.
The roots of Greece’s semi-Soviet, semi-Latin model can be traced back to the early 1980s when American-schooled Andreas Papandreou sought to establish a mixed market system that combines the best aspects of markets and government.
The trouble is that he applied the two institutions backwards, and in areas of the economy where they fail rather than excel.
He expanded the presence of government in the ownership and management of business enterprises, nurturing a culture of vested rights and entitlements. At the same time, he limited the presence of government in management of public sector services like enforcement of the law and maintaining public order.
Given the foregoing, one can understand why wealthy Greeks do not want to hand their wallet to the government, but would rather benefit the country directly by setting up charitable foundations that decide which projects to pursue, overseeing their implementation.
In this sense, wealthy Greeks aren’t much different from wealthy Americans who set up their own charitable foundations, as they believe these institutions are more effective in promoting the welfare of the country than government bureaucrats.
The bottom line: Economic patriotism isn’t about accommodating the ambitions of politicians and the aspirations of government bureaucrats for a larger state. It’s about support for programs and services that promote the common good.
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