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Mission Statement

A personal message from Marlene Engelhorn:

Democracy is about cultivating relationships: a society works on doing well. And a society is doing well when the people in that society are doing well. At the moment, this does not apply to everyone: wealth, assets and property are distributed unequally and unfairly. And so is the power in our society.

In Austria, the richest one percent of the population hoards up to 50 percent of the net wealth. This means that one hundredth of society owns just under half of the wealth. And 99 percent of people have to make do with the other half. Almost four million households struggle to get by every day. And the one percent? Most of them have simply inherited.

We are talking about dynasties that amass wealth and power over generations. They then withdraw from our society as if it were none of their business. I also come from such a dynasty. My wealth was accumulated before I was even born. It was accumulated because other people did the work, but my family was able to inherit the ownership of an enterprise and thus all claims to the fruits of its labour.

Wealth is never an individual achievement. Wealth is always created by society. A few people get rich because they buy other people's time and profit from it. Because they have a patent on a product that others urgently need. Because they buy a piece of land that increases in value and because society builds infrastructure around it. In the process, they destroy the environment to harvest the resources.

But heirs give (almost) nothing of their wealth back to society. This is because they pay no taxes on their inheritances and benefit from tax privileges on their assets - while everyone else has to pay taxes on every euro they earn by working. Taxes that we use to build our public transport, schools and hospitals. Everything we share as a society, even with the wealthy.

Inheriting is an imposition on society. Inheriting means being born directly into the boss's armchair - but not even needing it. Inheriting means that doors open - doors which others never ever get to see in their lifetime. Inheriting means feeling financial security that protects you from unbearable work, unbearable or inadequate housing, health disadvantages and much more.

And we the super-rich are getting richer and richer, with money moving magnetically into our vaults every day. The richest one per cent in the world is cashing in on two thirds of all wealth gains. At the same time, extreme poverty is on the rise again - for the first time in a quarter of a century, as if we had never abolished the monarchy.

The most important question of our life is answered before it has even begun: Which family are we born into? It is up to the government to ensure that our coexistence is properly organised so that birth does not determine whether or not we have a good life. It would therefore also be their duty to ensure that all those who are able to contribute more, contribute more, and that all those who need support also receive it. It should be the purpose of all, who coexist, to work together to ensure that everyone is better off.

But in Austria there are no reasonable wealth taxes, no reasonable inheritance taxes - even though we are constantly criticised internationally for the fact that our tax system cements injustices.

Our tax system favours those who live in abundance anyway: 
Labour is taxed heavily, wealth is taxed little or not at all.

If the government fails, we have to fix things ourselves. If the government does not ensure that wealth is redistributed in society, then we have to take action and make sure that the issue gets the attention it deserves. After all, two thirds of the people in Austria - across all social classes - are in favour of taxing wealth properly.

My personal situation allows me to act now. That's why I want to redistribute my wealth back to society. But then the question emerges: how? The first answer is usually to donate. That sounds good, but firstly it doesn't solve the problem of political failure. And secondly, it again grants me power that I shouldn't have. Redistribution must be a process that extends beyond me.

Why should I alone be entitled to decide how wealth is redistributed to society - wealth, that has been created by said society?

What happens to a large fortune should also be decided collectively by a large group. Not one person alone.

So I am now asking 50 people to dedicate themselves to this question. I am giving 50 people my trust and my fortune. And asking them for their good advice: How should we as a society deal with the unequal distribution? And: How should we redistribute 25 million euros accordingly? A good plan needs many perspectives. Not just from one individual who happens to have inherited. Simply because I wish to improve the state of our society does not mean that I have a good plan.

In order for Guter Rat (Good Council) to find the best solutions, it also requires the ability to implement its plans freely - without interjections or vetoes from me. This will allow us to initiate something much bigger; something that goes beyond the 25 million euros:

  • Guter Rat (Good Council) should not only change my account balance - but the circumstances ... or at least the debate!

  • Guter Rat (Good Council) should use my inheritance to fight the causes of inequality ... and not just the symptoms!

Let's find answers to the big questions: How can we achieve real change? How can we use unequally distributed wealth to change the very system of its distribution? How can we support the people, groups and organisations that are campaigning for this? How can we create a society in which the wealthy can no longer conceal the money they have inherited and the power they have bought from it?

With Guter Rat (Good Council), we are taking a first step together. Democracy is about cultivating relationships.

Guter Rat (Good Council) - the facts:

I am placing my trust and 25 million euros in the hands of a citizens' council. 50 people will be asked to develop ideas for a better distribution of wealth in Austria - and decide what happens to the money: We want to seek their good advice on how this money should be redistributed. Because the government, which is supposed to redistribute it, is not doing so.

Guter Rat (Good Council) is put together on a representative basis: 10,000 randomly selected people are contacted. Anyone who wants to take part fills out a survey - and from all the responses, a council of 50 people is put together that reflects the Austrian population as accurately as possible. Gender, age, education, job and so on.

Over six weekends between March and June, these 50 people come together to meet. They receive input from scientific and field experts. All discussions are professionally moderated.
Because this Guter Rat (Good Council) is a service to society, the 50 people are also compensated for their efforts; all costs for hotels, meals, travel to and from the conference, childcare and interpreting are also covered.

In this text, Marlene Engelhorn discloses her motives and thoughts - but the members of Guter Rat (Good Council) and the team that organises it are completely free in their decisions and not tied to Marlene's ideas.

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