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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 234 of the 1987 Liberty Fund edition of Helmut Schoeck’s excellent 1966 volume, Envy (footnote excluded):

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 state of a 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.

(Bryan Caplan long ago reflected on Schoeck’s Envy.)


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