Young people drove Bernie Sanders' campaign and near upset of the establishment Hillary Clinton in the latest election to the surprise of many.
Socialism comes naturally to humanity. Hayek thought that family life was partly to blame. Good moms and dads take care of the children, provide food and security, and distribute those equally among the children. Children get very upset when they think one sibling receives more of anything than the rest or enjoys special treatment.
Then we leave the safety of the home. venture into a more public sphere in school and we carry our family morality with us. We think school should function like a larger family with the teachers and principal substituting for mom and dad and it does that the most part. Eventually we get a job, but we still view the larger society and politics through the glasses of our family morality. The political elite, especially the President, becomes the “father” of the nation who should make certain that the benefits of his regime are evenly distributed and no one gets special treatment.
Hayek points out that the danger of such thinking lies in the fact that in the family we know everyone well. Even in larger groupings, such as school or a tribe, we are still familiar with most people and know their circumstances. But a nation is so large that citizens know only a tiny portion of the population and are dealing with strangers much of the time, especially in business. Transactions with strangers who don’t have your welfare in mind as mom and dad did require different rules of engagement. Treating family members as if they were strangers would destroy families just as using family values in dealing with strangers will destroy society. Helmut Schoeck also recognized that young people tend to be socialists, but not just them, everyone, which he explained in Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior. Envy powers socialism and is in every human heart throughout history. Before the rise of socialism in the West, most people understood that truth, and intellectuals warned against the destructive power of envy. However, since most people in the West have embraced socialism, envy has become a joke. We complement successful people by telling them we “envy” them, when in reality we mean congratulations.
Few people in the West know what envy is so Schoeck spent almost half his book defining and illustrating it. An old Eastern European proverb describes envy best. An angel visiting a poor peasant to reward him for his piety asked the peasant how he could help him. The peasant thought out loud, “Well, my neighbor has a nice goat.” The angel responded, “So you want a goat like your neighbor's” .and started to produce one by miracle when the horrified peasant stopped him, “Heavens no! I want you to kill my neighbor’s goat!” That's envy.
Envy is vicious and seeks the harm of anyone who has more goods or talent or succeeds better than others. As a result, envy destroys innovation that is necessary for economic development. That’s why humanity suffered severe poverty from the beginning of history until the 17th century when capitalism exploded onstage in the Dutch Republic. Christian individualism had finally created institutions that could rein in envy and allow innovation.
Socialists resurrected envy and disguised it as “social justice,” turning the vice into a virtue. As Westerners rejected Christianity, their natural envy swelled and found comfort in socialism where they could claim they weren’t really envious; they were seeking “justice.”
Before World War II, Europeans visiting the US were surprised by how little envy they witnessed compared to home. Things have changed. Most Americans have divorced Christianity; the only force history has shown capable of taming raging envy. We have exchanged Christian love for socialist envy.
Some want to blame the schools or intellectuals, but false prophets have always existed. They are a constant in a world that sometimes listens to them and sometimes doesn’t. We lend them our ears today only because we have quit listening to God.