Friday, June 23, 2006

Envy -- socialism's fuel

There are two ways to make people equal, Ayn Rand pointed out. Either raise everyone to the mountain tops, or you can raze the mountain tops altogether. The envious would rather do the latter -- better no one be richer, better off or more talented than have some stand out above the common herd. The word that describes such an emotional state is 'envy.'

Envy is an ugly thing. Envy is socialism's fuel. Envy is the subject of a study by Andrew Oswald and Daniel Zizzo at Oxford University which found that subjects will give up a lot themselves in order to either hurt those who are better off, or to maintain their own place in the pecking order. It seems subjects would rather make themselves poor, rather than allow another person to be rich. Bizarre, but true. As Reason magazine summarises:
Socialists often claim that capitalism is based on humanity's worst impulses, greed and selfishness, despite the fact that people who live in societies that participate in markets tend to be more generous and cooperative than those who don't. Oswald and Zizzo's research suggests that socialists who believe that their ideology appeals to humanity's better instincts have it backwards. Envy is behind the leveling spirit of socialism. A truly generous and rational soul would wish others well, especially if they have done no one any harm.
Read the whole piece here. [Hat tip Julian Pistorius]

LINK: Burn the rich: A new study suggests envy comes naturally - Reason Online

TAGS: Socialism, Ethics, Politics, Science

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