Thursday, July 19

Don't be envious

I came across an interesting article that argues that envy is the motivation behind collectivism, and not jealousy.

In 1966, the German sociologist Helmut Schoeck wrote a classic book, A Theory of Social Behavior. He argued that envy is the root cause of socialism and other forms of compulsory wealth redistribution.

Most people think the cause is jealousy. The jealous person says: "You’ve got something I want. I’m going to take it away from you." Schoeck said this explanation misses the more intransigent underlying outlook: envy. "You’ve got something I want. I can never possess it. So, I’m going to destroy what you have. I don’t want anyone to have it until everyone can have it."

Schoeck said that a jealous person can be bought off. He is willing to settle for a piece of the other person’s action. The envious person can’t be bought off. The fact that someone else is in a position to buy him off enrages him. His sin therefore is self-reinforcing.

Envy undergirds socialism, he argued. He therefore concluded that it is impossible to buy off hard-core socialists by offering to share a larger percentage of national wealth with them. They will not go away. They will demand all: complete equality. Will this undermine economic production? They don’t care. They are not jealous. They are envious.

It's on the long side, but a good read.

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