Monday, August 16, 2010

Heil Kramer!

Via Marginal Revolution:

One German Millionaire's views on charity and Bill Gate's appeal for billionaires to give away half of their income before they die.

Go read the German's words and be amazed at the vast gulf between US values and thought about money and German values and thought about money.

Too lazy to follow the link?

Here's the conversation with the interviewer with Kramer representing rich Germans:

SPIEGEL: Forty super wealthy Americans have just announced that they would donate half of their assets, at the very latest after their deaths. As a person who often likes to say that rich people should be asked to contribute more to society, what were your first thoughts?

Krämer: I find the US initiative highly problematic. You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the USA. So the rich make a choice: Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state. That's unacceptable.

SPIEGEL: But doesn't the money that is donated serve the common good?

Krämer: It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires. So it's not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide. That's a development that I find really bad. What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?

SPIEGEL: It is their money at the end of the day.

Krämer: In this case, 40 superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for. That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state. In the end the billionaires are indulging in hobbies that might be in the common good, but are very personal.

SPIEGEL: Do the donations also have to do with the fact that the idea of state and society is such different one in the United States?

Krämer: Yes, one cannot forget that the US has a desolate social system and that alone is reason enough that donations are already a part of everyday life there. But it would have been a greater deed on the part of Mr. Gates or Mr. Buffet if they had given the money to small communities in the US so that they can fulfil public duties.

SPIEGEL: Should wealthy Germans also give up some of their money?

Krämer: No, not in this form. It would make more sense, for example, to work with and donate to established organizations.


I mean, Wow!

The fact that Kramer says such things without even realizing how unbelievable the principles underlying his statements sound to American ears shows just how far down the rabbit hole he is.

Isn't it strange that someone in a country with Germany's past would have such faith in the state to be benevolent, wise, and the best judge of what should be done with private money? It is just mind-blowing.

The unfettered confidence in the state is equally as bizarre to me as Kramer's statement that people deciding where their own money should go is somehow anti-democratic. I guess that in Kramer's world personal, individual freedom is not the basis of the democracy. No, I'm sure in his view democracy is something the state graciously decides to grant its citizens, rather than an inherent right based on the autonomy of its citizens.



DH said...

Some interesting perspectives on the similarities and differences between US and German cultures.

Sabio Lantz said...

I totally agree and am baffled with you. Another thing I find odd is that the vast majority of atheists might actually agree with this guy. Why do ideas tend to come in packages filled with other ideas?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Off topic. In the comments to my less-recent post "You Have Forgotten" James E (a person I know personally - PhD NT studies, wrote the book on Athanasius, wonderful person) sets aout a link you will find very interesting. Fits very much a recent post of yours.