Friday, August 17, 2007

Thou shalt not covet . . .

Even though it's one of the ten commandments, I don't think people really pay attention to why it's so important not to covet. This article from NRO really struck me as deeply insightful. Jealousy and covetousness are certainly going to need to be overcome before we can claim to be "the pure in heart." some quotes:

We almost never discuss envy anymore. “One may admit to pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, and laziness, and one may even boast of them,” Gonzalo Fernandez de la Mora wrote 20 years ago in Egalitarian Envy. “There is only one capital sin no one admits to: envy. ... Its symbol ought to be a mask.” This is a shame; the most pathetic of the seven deadly sins is perhaps the most consequential.

Indeed, just look again on the 20th century. Envy turned Germany cruel. In Russia, the ideology of envy — socialism — likewise ran amok under the label Bolshevism and threatened to overrun the world. The consequences of envy run even deeper. It will never be known how many millennia man endured in misery and darkness under the moldering blanket of envy. Helmut Schoeck writes in his timeless masterpiece, Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior, that whole societies, hobbled by envy, rejected innovation, and prosperity, preferring the arrested development of all to the advancement of the few.
Like the “scientific socialism” that concealed envy behind a slide rule, today’s liberals invoke social science as justification for their covetousness. In one famous study, a majority of people said they would rather make $50,000 if others earned $25,000 than earn $100,000 if others were making $200,000
[T]hese studies turn a vice into a virtue. With the exception of the self-esteem movement, which glorifies pride, it’s difficult to imagine another area where we so shamelessly tout a sin as the basis of public policy. All men lust in their hearts; shall we dole out concubines for those of us who can’t live like Hugh Hefner? Envy has its social utility, of course. Schoeck argues, along with Nietzsche, that envy helped hone our sense of justice. Fine. But America is supposed to be different, in part because unlike, say, Germany or Russia, America had no feudal past and hence lacked the historic breeding swamps of envy. America’s egalitarianism is supposed to be political and nothing more: No man is the involuntary servant of another. Beyond that, he is the captain of his self.

The man who orders a better meal than me has done no harm to me. And it is no man’s (or bureaucrat’s) job but my own to cool the fever of my futterneid.

The whole article is very insightful, I'd encourage you to read the whole thing. and let no one say that personal vice doesn't impact anyone else.