God is a Capitalist

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Envy caused the Kavanaugh Kerfuffle

A Slavic folktale has an angel approach a peasant with an offer to reward him for some good deed. The angel asks the peasant what he would like. The peasant thinks aloud, “Well, my neighbor has a goat.” The angel interrupts, “So you want a goat like your neighbors?” “Heavens no!” answers the peasant. “I want you to kill my neighbor’s goat!”

Helmut Schoeck offers the tale as a distilled description of envy in his classic Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior. At the core, envy is resentful of the success of others and R.J. Snell, a contributing editor of Public Discourse, blames it for the Kavanaugh soap opera and similar dramas in US society. That may seem like a Grand Canyon leap in logic, but follow his argument for a moment. He includes a quote from Tocqueville:
The desire of equality always becomes more insatiable in proportion as equality is more complete... It perpetually retires from before [men], yet without hiding itself from their sight, and in retiring draws them on... To these causes must be attributed that strange melancholy which often haunts the inhabitants of democratic countries in the midst of their abundance, and that disgust at life which sometimes seizes upon them in the midst of calm and easy circumstances.
Snell adds, “Tocqueville is speaking mostly of the desire for material equality. We do see resentment about material inequality, to be sure, as well as an ungrateful melancholy and disgust for life, in spite of the unparalleled abundance, security, health, and ease we enjoy.”

Snell argues that the resentment is against “powers” that keeps the left from unbridled freedom. There is some justification for that view in history. After all, those who exhumed socialism from the crypt of ancient Greece and created the 20th century zombie apocalypses of socialism (Nazi Germany, the USSR and China under Mao) lusted for sexual freedom for men. If they were better educated, the left would see the irony in the descendants of the Fourier, Saint-Simon and others defending women against assault. Those fathers of socialism wanted to destroy the family and force women to have sex with any man at any time, just as Plato had proposed in his Republic. As late as the hippie movement of the 1960s the left was still demanding free and unlimited sex for men while women bore the burdens of disease and children.

The left flipped on it attitude toward women as it has flipped on minorities. For the first half of the 20th century the left championed eugenics and labored for the suppression of minorities. The Holocaust exterminated that infatuation with scientific social engineering. So why are socialists seen as the white knights protecting women and minorities from toxic white males? The answer is that they lost the economic argument.

Until the collapse of communism in Russia, Eastern Europe and China, socialists had offered their ideology as the anti-Christian gospel for the salvation of mankind. They would equalize wealth and thereby expunge all evil from human nature. Mankind would revert to its original innocence. After the collapse of socialism in the late 1980s, they had to search for a better argument. They still aim for material equality, but they can’t make “we’ll all be rich” claim for it anymore. They have to sneak up on it through the disguises of environmentalism and women and minority rights.

Judge Kavanaugh was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, says Snell. “He stood in for allegations against entire classes of people, with resentments searching for a scapegoat to bear collective hate.” Kavanaugh’s guilt lay in being white at a time when socialists are trying to convince minorities that the Civil War changed nothing, and being male when the left wants women to believe they still live in medieval Europe. Kavanaugh represents a real and direct threat to the left’s core desire for material equality if as a Supreme Court justice, he upholds the US Constitution as a brake on government, but they couldn’t say that.

It’s interesting to me that Snell never uses the word “envy” in his article. That reflects the success the left has enjoyed in neutralizing what Western culture once considered the worst of the seven deadly sins. Schoeck makes clear that the resentment Snell describes is pure envy. Today, we call envy “social justice.”

The left accuses free marketeers of greed, but Adam Smith demonstrated that competition in the marketplace reduces greed to a nuisance. What can control envy? Envy is irrational, so reason and facts bounce off it like rubber bullets hitting a Kevlar vest. Schoeck found only one thing powerful enough to tame envy – Christianity. That would be traditional Christianity, not the fake stuff that mainline Protestants sell in which Jesus is not divine and did not rise from the dead.

As fever might be a symptom of cancer, so hatred of Kavanaugh was just a symptom of a worse condition, envy. The most powerful political act you can commit might just be to bring someone into the conservative Christian community.

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