Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins: Envy and the Populist Movement

The growing populist movement is largely a result of one of the most fundamental human emotions and one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Envy. Politicians, full of pride and greed for power, stoke envy among the masses by focusing attention on the disparities in wealth and income in society and vilifying the fortunate. President Obama, and those that share his populist ideology, feed upon the envy that is innate in man and promise to redistribute income from the “wealthy” to the “poor” and punish the individuals, companies, and organizations that have found success in life. Furthermore, the Obama Administration promotes vast social programs that are designed to create a collectivism that rewards sloth and mediocrity. By assuring the masses that their needs and wants will be satisfied at the expense of others, President Obama communicates that it is acceptable to be envious of the wealth generated by the hard work and industrious productivity of others and, even more damaging, that it is unnecessary to possess personal responsibility for your own well being.

Vilification of the symbols of success in our society is a cornerstone of the populist movement. Schadenfreude, or pleasure derived at the misfortune of others, is at the root of envy and the corresponding desire to dethrone those that have been successful or productive in life. The persecution of Martha Stewart or the various politically driven witch-hunts of over zealous prosecutors, such as Elliot Spitzer, epitomize the desire of the envious to relish in the misfortune of the successful. Politicians, especially those with left leaning philosophies, exacerbate this envy by stoking public outrage and fueling feelings of inequity.

Ultimately, the populist movement and the growing envy among the people will destroy the core values of American society. It will erode the rewards of industriousness and productivity while stoking feelings of guilt among the most creative and talented members of society. Populism will suppress ambition, decrease risk taking, and diminish private investment as the rewards for such behavior will be dramatically reduced. Centuries ago, theologians realized that envy of other’s possessions and good fortune was a fundamental evil of the human constitution. Populism ignores the collective learning of centuries of human experience and encourages envious coveting of the good fortune of others.