Mihkel Mutt: Call to the wealthy in Estonia

Mihkel Mutt.
Mihkel Mutt. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

It is difficult to demand lofty ambitions from everyone as daily troubles can cause one to lose sight of the horizon. The elite, on the other hand, must not lose sight of general priorities. The wealthy can afford to amplify and support political parties who they believe would observe the correct priorities.

We can often read articles about wealthy people donating money to different parties or backing them in general. Such news is usually served as human interest journalism, a way for us to find out who is dating whom.

Pointing to such relationships is an age-old part of journalists' work. Voters and readers in general like to know about what goes on behind the scenes. What bothers me is the often vociferous or even accusatory tone of such articles. As if we were dealing with something highly condemnable when someone supports someone else. I suppose it is the aftermath of the French Revolution's ideal of an incorruptible delegate.

But we should not condemn the desire of wealthy people to affect social processes. Rather, it is the opposite – we should urge them to contribute to Estonian politics even more actively. Not to give journalists more work writing about them, but following systemic-analytical considerations.

It is basic truth that participating in politics requires financial resources. Even the noblest and wisest policy is like a space rocket trying to catch the wind for propulsion with financial muscle – it won't get far.

The ideal of having parties rely solely on state budget funding is not a good solution for the same reason party politics (but also funding culture solely using public resources) is not enough to ensure society's functioning.

Party politics needs to be diversified through the activities of civil society organizations and influential individuals. Whereas they should not be pitted against one another as they should be mutually balancing and universally respected.

Let us take a very broad view. The wealthy have historically been the first elite from which all future elites have developed. The elite has always been in charge of general affairs and organizing life. This has been possible not just because of ability, but also freedom from scrambling to make ends meet like most people.

That is how society used to work in the olden days. Today, the role of the elite becomes more important during difficult periods, such as the one we find ourselves in. The ordinary citizen's only guiding light at elections, their main reason to prefer one party over all the others, are the latter's economic promises.

The ordinary citizen, worried and hopeful, looks for pledges concerning pensions, child benefits and anything concrete. That said, they have begun to suspect that not every promise gets fulfilled in its entirety as Estonia usually has coalition governments. But the calculation is aimed at having more money after taxes six months from elections.

It is difficult to demand lofty ambitions from everyone in such a situation as daily troubles can cause one to lose the their bearings. The elite, on the other hand, must not lose sight of general priorities. The wealthy can afford to amplify and support political parties who they believe would observe the correct priorities.

I find sympathetic wealthy people who do more than expanding their business empire. Money is a blessing in the hands of those with brains, a conscience and fantasy, and the only moral justification. While Elon Musk is not among my favorite people for having something Teflon or alien-like about him, he and Bill Gates are still more likable than some of their equally wealthy peers. The latter also give a part of their wealth away, but engage in general philanthropy, which often amounts to little more than throwing money out of an airplane. The former, on the other hand, have vision and grandeur.

We respect people who establish schools, breathe life into old neighborhoods, are patrons of the arts or do other useful things. It is equally welcome if they wish to affect the fate of the country and society in general. This includes political activity. Politics is part of historical creation, which while fleeting (who remembers the makeup of the Riigikogu before last) is still creation.

Of course, the rich also want to increase their wealth, while the two are not mutually exclusive. Just as women are not divided into those expecting men to give them gifts and those who love men for who they are, the wealthy aren't either looking for return favors from politicians-ministers or altruistically promoting common interests. They go hand-in-hand in most cases.

A wealthy person donating to a political party mans they have not given up on Estonia and are trying to make a difference. That is why we should welcome such steps.

I am not talking about sponsoring a few parties during specific election campaigns, but long-term processes. For example, financing institutions that shape public opinion.

We sometimes see stabs aimed at businessmen sponsoring journalistic publications. We know that Mr. X is behind one corporation and Mr. Y behind another. And so? Nothing is stopping businessmen Q, W and Z from doing the same. If every publication is backed by someone – and every tycoon is behind a publication – it can render the information field more level. Perhaps it could also ward against the extinction of freelance journalists, which is unfolding under our very eyes in Estonia. Therefore, let us wish for more wealthy sponsors.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Marcus Turovski

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: