Envy is an emotion that all human beings possess to one extent or another. It has no doubt been around since “civilized” man first arrived on the scene. But today’s envy is much more extreme than it was just a few decades ago.
I believe we are now in the midst of what historians may someday look upon as the Golden Age of Envy. I am convinced that envy is, in fact, the motivating force behind most of the world’s evils. So the question is, how did America and the Western world devolve to such a low point on the moral scale?
I believe the answer is the advancement of democracy and government, which are the twin drivers of envy. Like a parasite, envy leaches onto democracy and disfigures its noble intent, while government is its chief enabler.
That’s why the Founders were so apprehensive about democracy. They were well aware that democracy could lead to tyranny of the majority, which in turn would lead to socialism. And socialism, by definition, is a loss of freedom.
But today, it’s even worse than tyranny of the majority. What we now have is something I doubt ever occurred to the Founders: a democracy that has led to tyranny of the minority. With impunity, the minority now steals from, bullies, and makes demands on the majority to conform to its moral standards (or, more properly, immoral standards) and values.
The First Amendment is alive, but certainly not well, as it can no longer be used as a protective shield for those who are accused of offending any self-proclaimed minority. The Supreme Court, in effect, writes laws to accommodate the minority, notwithstanding the fact that it is specifically forbidden by the Constitution to do so.
I find it to be more than just a bit absurd that one of the talking points of the radical left is “We must ‘reform’ capitalism to save it from itself.” I say absurd, because true capitalism — i.e., laissez faire capitalism — does not need to be saved.
On the contrary, what is needed is for the virtues of capitalism to be taught to the world’s youth beginning at a very early age. Capitalism is, after all, nothing less than freedom — economic freedom. Do people really need to be saved from freedom?
Nevertheless, what today’s children are taught instead are the virtues (actually, evils) of redistribution. In real terms, what the doublespeak phrase “economic justice” means is: “I demand that you give me what my neighbor has.”
At the heart of all this poisonous thinking is the word comparison. Envy is an intellectual and moral vice that prompts people to view things only in relation to other things. This is the philosophical base of the cliché “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Envy — particularly in its most extreme form — is a costly disorder, not only because the envious person supports government-enforced reduction of freedom. In addition, he also robs himself of happiness, because he is obsessively focused on what the other person has rather than what he himself has.
This is why you rarely see a person of the far left smiling. Who has time to smile when he’s overwhelmed by envy, endlessly comparing what he has with what others have?
While jealousy is the resentment toward, and the desire for, another person’s success or possessions (e.g., a prestigious position, a big house, a beautiful wife), envy is the desire to bring the other person down to one’s level — or, even more deliciously, below one’s level.
In other words, envy is not so much about improving one’s own lot, but, rather, seeing another person stripped of what he has. The French Revolution was a perfect example of the endgame of envy. There’s nothing quite as satisfying to an envious individual as seeing the head of the person he envies rolling down the street in a river of blood.
For the envy-ridden individual, an all-powerful democratic government is the solution to his pain, because government has a monopoly on the use of force and is the only entity that has the legal right to make an individual give part of what he owns or earns to someone else.
In simple terms, only government has the unrestricted power to quash freedom, and those who hold the reins of power have considerable motivation to do just that. Envy is a disease of the mind that politicians fully understand, and they are adept at using it for personal power and financial gain. To achieve their ends, they are highly motivated to promote envy and reduce freedom.
So, is there is an antidote to envy? Yes, and it’s surprisingly simple: happiness. But it’s a tricky proposition, because, paradoxically, the very nature of envy precludes the existence of happiness. So even though it’s simple in concept, it’s also a Catch-22 of sorts.
One thing for certain is that being evermore successful does not assure happiness. That’s because no matter how successful a person is, there will always be someone more successful than him, which invites comparison. Thus, the more successful the envious person is, the more envious he will be of those who are even more successful.
Your best bet is to think in common-sense terms and recognize that the key to happiness is learning to enjoy, and being grateful for, what you already have — and making a conscious effort to condition your mind to avoid making comparisons. Envy and happiness are mutually exclusive objectives, and the good news is that you have the power to choose which one to embrace.