Envy is the worst and most corrupting

Steve Hayward has a post that deals with one of favourite books on one of my favourite topics: Helmut Schoeck’s Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior, from which he pulls this quote:

It would be a miracle if the democratic political process were ever to renounce the use of the envy-motive. Its usefulness derives, if for no other reason, from the fact that all that is needed, in principle, is to promise the envious the destruction or the confiscation of assets enjoyed by the others; beyond that there is no need to promise anything more constructive. The negativism of envy permits even the weakest of candidates to sound reasonably plausible, since anybody, once in office, can confiscate or destroy. To enlarge the country’s capital assets, to create employment etc., requires a more precise programme. Candidates will naturally try to make some positive proposals, but it is often all too apparent that envy looms large in their calculations. The more precarious the nation’s economy at election time, the stronger the temptations for politicians to make ‘redistribution’ their main plank, even when they know how little margin is left for redistributive measures, and, worse still, how likely they are to retard economic growth.

Then in the comments there was this which I thought rounded out the point:

I have been maintaining for some time now that the Democrat party platform basically incorporates all of the Seven Deadly Sins. The envy is obvious, as noted above. Sloth is seen is the idea of easily obtained welfare or a “universal basic income” granted to everyone just for existing. Pride in their overwhelming belief that they are so much better and wiser than “normals.” Lust from their championing any and every sexual aberration and perversion. Gluttony is embodied in the idea that one should be able to do everything and have everything, never having to deny oneself any pleasure or experience or pay for it themselves (free college and healthcare are just the beginning), and avarice plays its role in their desire to have the state take what everyone else has produced. And anger … well, just look at their attitude towards their inability to elect Hillary and their hatred of Trump. But I do think that the worst and most corrupting of all these is envy.

Envy is the only one of the seven deadly sins that provides no personal gain. You get nothing by being envious – unlike say from gluttony or lust – merely bile and self-loathing. But it works wonders for politics on the left in its own repulsive way.