Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 29, 2022

in Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page xi of the 1996 Johns Hopkins University Press edition of H.L. Mencken’s immensely enjoyable 1941 autobiographical volume, Heathen Days:

Indeed, I seem to have been born without any capacity for envy, and to the fact, no doubt, is due a large part of my habitual tranquility, not to say complacency.

DBx: Mencken was unusual among human beings, but in a good way. Most of us, alas, are emotionally equipped to experience envy. But while envy, perhaps, occasionally serves a useful purpose, it is, I am sure, overwhelmingly one of the most antisocial and uncivilized emotions that humans in modern society are prone to suffer.

The decent man or woman works diligently to overcome the natural proneness to envy. And to the extent that success in this noble endeavor is met, that person is indeed rewarded with a greater likelihood of tranquility.

Unfortunately, we live in an era in which envy is encouraged. The media, politicians, and intellectuals stir it up. Making matters worse, this stirring-up of envy is regarded as enlightened and “progressive,” while resistance to the attempts to stir up envy are treated as the product of a character both benighted and greedy. We are incessantly being told that those individuals who have more material wealth than we have do not deserve what they have. We’re counseled to support redistributive taxation.

Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren – these and many other “Progressives” are merchants of envy, which is to say that they are merchants of an exceedingly antisocial sentiment, one both childish and destructive.

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