Today we’ll continue exploring Sir John’s thoughts on spirituality and business with another excerpt from his speech at Buena Vista College entitled “The Religious Foundation of Liberty and Enterprise.” In this excerpt, we’ll begin looking at what he called “the five economic vices” with an examination of envy.
Ironically, the temptation toward envy is intensified in a society with a great deal of freedom. Under an older system of rigid class distinctions, people might tend to blame an unfortunate plight on forces outside their control. In a democratic market society, with more personal responsibility and more individual obligations, personal shortcomings are evident and envy an even greater temptation.
We must guard against it, in part, because envy can blur the boundaries of private property. When the boundaries of private property are gone, so too go many of the moral rules of society. The social conscience is affected, and vice becomes more generally practiced.
For example, economic redistribution for its own sake can represent an outgrowth of envy. Society has a responsibility to the poor, but remember that envy often disguises itself as charity or justice. Helping the poor, not harming the rich, should be the true intention of any such program. Furthermore, if a government program fails to live up to its stated aims, and creates big bureaucracies instead of raising prosperity, then it should be reevaluated.
Politicians should be keeping envy at bay and not fuel it through ill-advised rhetoric.