Happiness in Our Golden Age of Envy

Posted on November 2, 2015 by Robert Ringer Comments (46)

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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.

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

46 responses to “Happiness in Our Golden Age of Envy”

  1. Jean says:

    Envy – and its corollary, greed (wanting something for nothing) – are easy levers for political types to use in order to gain and keep power. Add in a sense of "injustice" (i.e., it's not "fair" that you have more than me, even though you are a published author, renown speaker and worked a lot longer at your craft then I have at any job) and you have the perfect formula for swaying the useful idiots your way. It worked during the Armenian holocaust ("why should Christians have all of the money when WE'RE the majority?"), the many Jewish holocausts, purges and pogroms and it's worked in the USA since Franklin Roosevelt demonized "Wall Street bankers" as the cause of the Great Depression when closer examination shows that it was speculation on the part of high-risk investors, foolish maneuvering by the Federal Reserve and the imposition of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff that drove the economy into the toilet. Thank you for wisely counseling your readers to think for themselves and learn to appreciate where they are right now.

  2. Albert says:

    Great read Robert. It's my belief that we're just at the beginning of the great envy crisis. Given how public education has been more or less hijacked by the thinking you subscribe above, I see no short term hope for the future. And this isn't something just given to the US, but rather it's a cancer that's been growing on the West for many years now. We are now beginning to reap the rewards of this so-called "progressive" thinking.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      You have hit the nail on the head, Albert, as to why the Crisis of Envy Robert talks about is going to keep getting worse – the horrid public educations system (as was intended) has been co-opted by the power mongers of the State to keep all of the citizens enslaved and "dumbed-down." The plan is working perfectly, and aided by the media whores and all the criminal politicians. I do focus on my own happiness, and those I care about, and have made sure that not all my assets are under the jurisdiction of one corrupt State (like the USA), but I think total collapse is the only way the message will really get through, no matter how many brilliant essays Robert Ringer or other enlightened souls write. We have to unravel the State, and education is one of the very first areas that needs to be COMPLETELY withdrawn from the hands of govt. and given to a free enterprise system. Good luck in having that plan voted on, however, since so many want the gravy train they think is coming their way from wealth redistribution promised by the Ovomits, Hillla Horribilises, etc. of the world.

  3. ellis Baxter says:

    Envy, may well be the root cause, but I am not sure that enablement is not part of the ledger-main. The other day I was at a high school dropping off newspapers for recycling. A Cadillac Escalade pulled up and let several kids off. As It was very early, I asked the security guard why so early? The answer was 'Free Breakfast'! As I had noticed that at least two of the students had I Phones, how could that be? The guard said you don't know the worst they get three meals a day .. OK? 4 students, with I Phones, arrive in a Cadillac SUV, get free food and are learning English at an extra cost as they also are not citizens! Envy ? I am not sure how I feel, Never had a job, just bought and sold stuff. My whole life. I drive a 1994 Volvo, have a $9.95 phone. Envy ? In my case I am angry that I pay taxes so Federal Workers make $100,000, tried to close down the TEA Parties, and walked ! I am 67 years old been working all my life. Created thousands of jobs, added to the community as best I could. Envy, in the case of these leaches; drives them to violate the law. I do not Envy their auto, nor their loose morals. I watch each year as election time arrives at the signs to vote for more Bonds .. which really = more taxes, of course ! Then the schools pay teachers poorly, I don't see any Cadillacs in the teachers lot. So it may well be that Envy is the root cause of all of this .. but I feel it is just a total failure of morals that drives that Envy and loss of self respect … !! I purchased a tortoise a long number of years ago, because of a book I read by some fellow named Ringer… .She has kept me humble understanding that we are children of the universe … but we are both angry about the state of this country !

  4. Bill Thomas says:

    Excellent points. I must confess that I have been guilty of jealousy from time to time. Fortunately, it hasn't metastasized into envy as I recognize that I have no claims on the assets of others regardless of how much they possess in relation to what I have. Unfortunately, as Mr. Ringer has pointed out, the government is quite adept at stoking envy in large segments of the population with relative ease.

  5. Scott theczech says:

    Happiness vs. envy…if we can remember that at times of self pity and melancholy, focusing more on the former than the latter, what a positive difference it could make in our quality of life! Mr. Ringer may have given us the best prescription there is for feeling better, and being better.

  6. lonny says:

    20% of the people have 80% of the wealth. 20% of the people also have 80% of the brains. The 80% who don't have the the wealth and brains are in fact the majority. They're easy to manipulate because they operate mostly on emotion. This is exactly what the powers that be do.

    • Teri Cunningham says:

      That was a good one lonny. And something to remember. If you are complaining, you are probably part of the 80%. And if you are spazing about who the new president well be, you are probably part of the 80%. Real workers can make it who ever is elected

  7. Paul Anthony says:

    Like the song says…"Happiness is not getting what you want, it's wanting what you have".

  8. John says:

    Envy…one of the seven Deadly Sins, is in fact very deadly, as are the other six Deadly Sins used by liberals (including RINOs) to amass power. Throughout history, how many BILLIONS of lives have been snuffed out by tyrannical manipulators using envy, greed, sloth, lust gluttony, pride and wrath to urge simpletons and halfwits to butcher the innocent and the benevolent? Voltaire, the noted philosopher, is quotes as saying, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." In this quote, Monsieur Voltaire correctly identified the eighth deadly sin – the putrid combination of willful ignorance and deliberate stupidity. People daring to demonstrate logic, reason, honor, skepticism and independent thought have been labeled, none way or the other, as "enemies of he state." I am a disabled veteran and have proud patriotic sentiments for what this country USED to stand for; now, I have to admit that the National Anthem should be replaced by "Dueling Banjo's" from the movie"Deliverance." Squeal like a pig, liberal dictator wanna-bes!

  9. Capt Ahab says:

    You're known as an entrepreneur and writer, but you deserve fame as an essayist, philosopher, and insightful commenter on this society and the forces and attitudes that are destroying it.

  10. Roger Besú says:

    You mentioned in your article the French Revolution and an example of the endgame of envy. That brough back memories of my early teenage years when I witnessed the same endgame of envy during the first years of the Cuban Revolution – Not only we had the firing squads making bloody pulp of the "enemies of the Revolution", but at the economic level, the applause was inmense by the envioous crowds when the goverment confiscations of private business, farms, and property ran rampant.

  11. JOSEPH says:

    Excellent article again, Robert. I think you could be right that envy could be main cause of socialism. On your Facebook website I was the one who asked the question about how is it that the U.S has evolved so greatly in the last 30 years or so with respect to socialism. And, I think in this article the idea of envy gives a lot of insight into the answer. I will agree with you and say that envy has played a big part in the evolution of socialism. It makes a lot of sense.

    The answer in my opinion to this problem is for people to learn what real self-esteem is. I have had the opinion for a very long time that people do not properly understand what self-esteem is and because of this they compare themselves to other people with respect to their material possessions, qualities of character, height, weight, intelligence, wealth- you name it, many people do the unfortunate thing of comparing themselves to others as a way of measuring themselves to see how they are doing in life, which of course is very wrong in nature because what someone else has, or who that person is, has NOTHING to do with them. In other words they have not learned what SELF-ESTEEM is. Let me define what I mean by self-esteem. Self-esteem, basically speaking is a persons confidence in one's own mind and a respect in one owns person. It is the integration of both self-confidence and self-respect. It has to do with being confident in yourself and that you feel deserving of self-respect. The basic standard of both self-confidence and self-respect is RATIONALITY. If seen this way, it becomes obvious the NO ONE has anything to do with our self-esteem, our rationality. We are in control of it, not anyone else, and also, because we see this, we DO NOT COMPARE ourselves with others in any way, shape or form. I know for myself, I, upon learning the proper definition I learned not to compare myself at all to other people. I am convinced and have been for many years that if people learned what self-esteem is envy for the most part would not be a problem for them. Anyone who is envious on a serious level that you are talking here has a serious self-esteem problem and they need to learn what self-esteem really is. At 20 years old, I came to the conclusion the vast majority of people are totally clueless as to what the word even means. Today, they don't even care to know what it means. Anyhow, that is my take on what you wrote and what you said makes a great deal of sense. I think the solution to this is understanding what real self-esteem is and knowing that the basic standard is RATIONALITY.

  12. JOSEPH says:

    Excellent article again, Robert. I think you could be right that envy could be main cause of socialism. On your Facebook website I was the one who asked the question about how is it that the U.S has evolved so greatly in the last 30 years or so with respect to socialism. And, I think in this article the idea of envy gives a lot of insight into the answer. I will agree with you and say that envy has played a big part in the evolution of socialism. It makes a lot of sense.

    The answer to this problem in my opinion is for people to learn what real self-esteem is. I have had the opinion for a very long time that people do not properly understand what self-esteem is and because of this they compare themselves to other people with respect to their material possessions, qualities of character, height, weight, intelligence, wealth- you name it, many people do the unfortunate thing of comparing themselves to others as a way of measuring themselves to see how they are doing in life, which of course is very wrong in nature because what someone else has, or who that person is, has NOTHING to do with them. In other words, they have not learned what SELF-ESTEEM is. Let me define what I mean by self-esteem. Self-esteem, basically speaking is a persons confidence in one's own mind and a respect in one owns person. It is the integration of both self-confidence and self-respect. It has to do with being confident in yourself and that you feel deserving of self-respect. The basic standard of both self-confidence and self-respect is RATIONALITY. If seen this way, it becomes obvious that NO ONE has anything to do with our self-esteem, our rationality. We are in control of it, not anyone else, and also, because we know this, we DO NOT COMPARE ourselves with others in any way, shape or form. I know for myself, upon learning the proper definition I learned not to compare myself at all to other people. I am convinced and have been for many years that if people learned what self-esteem is envy for the most part would not be a problem for them. Anyone who is envious on a serious level that you are talking about here has a serious self-esteem problem and they need to learn what self-esteem really is. At 20 years old, I came to the conclusion the vast majority of people are totally clueless as to what the word even means. Today, they don't even care to know what it means. Anyhow, that is my take on what you wrote and what you said makes a great deal of sense. I think the solution to this is understanding what real self-esteem is and knowing that the basic standard is RATIONALITY.

  13. RagTagRebel says:

    "So, is there is an antidote to envy? Yes, and it’s surprisingly simple: happiness."

    Well based on what you wrote earlier, that the source of envy is comparing yourself, then it seems like the solution is to stop comparing yourself to others, recognize your uniqueness in tastes and preferences will affect much of your unique outcomes in life, and be thankful for what you have… all of which does lead to quiet a bit of happiness :)

  14. Jay says:

    I shared this article on Facebook with the 20%-ers out there….

  15. Paul Herring says:

    More interesting comments – thanks Robert. Envy is an outworking of human imperfection, no question about it. Along with racism it seems to be one quality which lowers humans almost to the level of demons. I won't say animals here, because what animal has ever acted as badly as some of the dyed-in-the-wool racists and the very envious have?
    However, both can be worked on. As a keen Bible student I find its words are just as valuable today as they were when its writing was completed 1917 years ago. In this context the Bible at 1 Timothy 6:6-10 is helpful. Particularly, verse 8 which says, "having food and clothing we will be content with these things." No trace of envy in that statement the apostle Paul made under inspiration.

  16. John E. Gabor says:

    Amen. I say again, Amen. I hope in the future you will write about another factor in this: the leftists' abnormal sense of self-righteousness.

    • Teri Cunningham says:

      Ya but…..80% of the conservatives I work with have the same sense of self-righteousness and they are really crappy workers to boot.
      Can't judge someone just because of their party. Ya have to look at their numbers.

      • John E. Gabor says:

        I don't disagree with you, Teri. You could add many Christians, too, for that matter. The reason I zeroed in on leftists is because they have made it quite clear they want to "fundamentally transform this country". There's self-righteousness that is hard to be around; then there's self-righteousness that makes people feel their ideas should become dictates. Self-righteous people also tend to be rather hateful from my experience.

  17. Neal says:

    Robert, you're being too rational and logical. Quit now before you ruin the whole power scheme.

  18. harry l'abbott says:

    Apart from references to the left (perhaps Democrats): "This is why you rarely see a person of the far left smiling" and "the radical left" nowhere in the article does RJR make an explicit critique of Democrats. He repeatedly says "democracy" or "democratic government." His comment about the tyranny of the minority can just as easily apply to Republicans–see House Freedom Caucus. Can there be a MORE envious group than this–envious of the power of others, even of their own party? As RJR says "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." So, since democracy itself is to blame for this evil ("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") everybody hop on a plane or boat and move to ?? to escape from this scourge of envy.

  19. ◄Dave► says:

    Interesting. Comparing envy with jealousy, I would have chosen envy as the more benign emotion. My envy of your writing ability, Robert, has no component of ill will. Profound admiration can manifest as healthy envy, without my harboring the slightest desire to diminish your talent in any way. If anything, it stands as a testament that my own pen wants improvement. Without latent envy, from whence comes desire for achieving lofty goals? Thus, envy strikes me as a useful, often positive, and perhaps even inspirational emotion.

    On the other hand, a component of anger, unhappiness, and/or fear is usually attached to jealousy. It seems more likely that the impetus for retribution or belittling another would flow from jealousy than envy. No? Semantics… of course. :) ◄Dave►

    • Jack says:

      I'd like to see more discussion of this. Anybody read the book "Envy" by Helmut Schoeck?
      Maybe we need to invent another work that differentiates minor envy from extreme envy because they are not the same thing at all.

      Jack

      • Jack says:

        I'd like to see more discussion of this. Anybody read the book "Envy" by Helmut Schoeck?

        Looking it up, I find this note:

        However, psychologists have recently suggested that there may be two types of envy: malicious envy and benign envy—benign envy being proposed as a type of positive motivational force.[4][5]

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      Right, it's all a matter of semantics. In fact, it's a matter of subjective definitions. I didn't intend for anyone to get bogged down in technical definitions. It's the essence of hte message that matters.

  20. howie marbach says:

    I agree in what you say about envy. My problem is that our founders did not establish a democracy, they established a Republic, because they new that every democracy destroys itself and ends up in tyranny or anarchy.
    Howie Marbach

  21. Liz says:

    I agree with your assessment of the state of envy but not with your associations to jealousy. The word has been misused for so long that it has been bastardized to the point that even the dictionary supports the misuse — envy is the resentment of what another has and when taken to it's extreme, we covet — a desire to possess the very things we envy — but jealousy is the fear that others will take what we possess if we fail to guard it vigilantly.

    • Phil says:

      There is a great book called The Politics of Envy, the author is German, I think, but the name eludes me at the moment. At any rate, it represents an in-depth study of the issue and is well worth the read.

    • Pat says:

      I would tend to favor the idea that there is such a thing as righteous jealousy. The Bible says God is a jealous God. What He is jealous of is His reputation. He doesn't want people to worship anyone else. That worship belongs only to Him.

      • Liz says:

        Yes, good point. In that regard it's easy to see the related but different meanings of the two words. It would be demeaning to think of God as "envying" the worship of other gods to explain the meaning of a "jealous God." Jealousy is wanting to keep what we own, envy is resenting what others own — neither mentioned in The Big Ten, by the way, but their companion emotion covetousness, wishing to take possessions away from others, is included.

        • Pat says:

          Very well said. Covetousness may seem innocuous. It's not. It's the impetus behind government robbery and redistribution of wealth. It's the impetus behind gambling. It certainly grows out of envy. God has nothing to envy. He's greater than anyone or anything, so there is absolutely no need; it's unthinkable that He would envy anyone.

  22. fido999 says:

    Excellent article Robert. I wish some political candidate for smaller government would point out how the deadly sin of envy reduces progress. It is a deadly sin as you say, if you cannot have what another person has, then you want to destroy what that person has. This is why socialist societies have always lagged free market societies in improving the standard of living for the most members of a society. I suspect envy is a primitive emotion from our tribal days of learning how to survive and find a mate. One way to avoid the deadly sin of envy is to take Socrates's advice, "To want nothing is divine".

  23. Phil says:

    The best cure for envy that I have ever seen was laid out in Looking Out for Number One. Mr. Ringer advises against being jealous or envious of another person's success, because you never know what he has gone through to reach his goals. And this is true. Sure, some are born with more abilities and talents, but with very, very few exceptions, people who achieve extraordinary things work their fingers to the bone to achieve them. I was lucky to study under a martial artist who made Bruce Lee look like an amateur. In real life, his moves were incredible, so fast yet accurate that they were hard to believe. And he was indeed a natural athlete. But what people did not see is that he stayed up every night until 1:30 am after working a regular job, perfecting his craft. Just loved what he did. The healthiest approach is to simply admire another person's accomplishments, so long as that person is not a politician, and appreciate the role model.

  24. Scuffled Rubric says:

    "The tyranny of the minority". There is the rub. Single digit immoral minorities have taken over the country, and it was so simple. Political correctness killed us all, and America has long been dead as the autopsy shows the majority had no will, no fight, and are the sheep that one clever wolf just took to the slaughterhouse and disposed of.

    There is ho hope – Americans have already surrendered, and there is one minute left on the clock until the curtain falls. Good luck you fools…

  25. Pat says:

    I am too busy being grateful to God for what I have, ane enjoying what I have to envy anyone else. Nearly everyone I know is worse off than I in terms of problems. I tend to feel sorry for others. The only thing that gets my jealousy going is when the government takes what is rightfully mine without just cause.

    Conservatives are perfectly willing to take educational welfare. I am appalled at the number of conservatives who send their children to public indoctrination centers. And some libertarians, too. You don't find a hue and cry to shut down the public schools among them. Well, I say, shut them down, the quicker the better. They ARE brainwashing the children, and at an accelerated pace. And we all have to live with the consequences, whether we ever send our children there or not (and we didn't).

    I hate lotteries, sweepstakes, or any other form of getting something that really belongs to someone else. They teach greed, and greed is the basis of evil envy and jealousy. Most people don't think about this, but I do. I am constantly having to fight off people who want me to take a chance in a sweepstakes. This includes people who really ought to know better, including conservatives.