The Wages of Envy
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published May 20, 2011 on The Washington Times website.
Every so often, a single incident epitomizes larger truths. One of these larger truths is that all issues, whether social or fiscal, are moral issues.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest on charges of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid is a snapshot into the relationship between the ruling class and the working poor. I mean, assuming the allegation is true, didn’t she know her place? According to police, she tried to get away from the French Socialist Party luminary.
For socialists, the little people are valued mainly as pawns for expanding government power. That’s why the IMF keeps propping up socialist governments such as those in Greece and Portugal.
Socialist policies create more poor people, who, in turn, are supposed to be grateful to those who dole out money extracted from the middle class. Because socialists think they need to destroy the old society in order to build the new socialist man, traditional sex mores are just some of the rules that get in the way. Social immorality is the fuel for fiscal immorality, as government expands to pick up the pieces.
The poor suffer the most from this uneven arrangement, even though the ultimate target of the ruling echelon is the middle class. These latter folks embody traditional values that the rulers despise: faith, marriage, family, deferred gratification, hard work, gun rights, patriotism. The suckers.
America’s own socialists are Oscar-quality actors during the run-up to elections, when they pose as advocates for the working middle class. Actually, they are pretty good at this year-round. But a look at Vice President Joe Biden’s microscopic charity donations is all it takes to see through the Joe Six-Pack facade.
Ronald Reagan called the left’s embrace of social and class warfare “alien and discredited.”
“Since when,” he asked, “do we in America believe that our society is made up of two diametrically opposed classes – one rich, one poor – both in a permanent state of conflict and neither able to get ahead except at the expense of the other?”
The cardinal sin of socialism is the cultivation of envy. From this deadly sin spring all sorts of schemes to rob Peter to pay Paul – and ensure Paul’s vote. It’s not always just about money. The liberal attempt to steal the moral capital of marriage and bestow it on nonmarital unions is a form of theft.
The gap between the rhetoric of “fairness” and “equality” and the actual behavior of the ruling class is becoming too stark to cover up, even for the liberal media.
In April, businesses in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district received 38 of 204 waivers from Obamacare doled out by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Daily Caller. The lucky recipients in Mrs. Pelosi’s ZIP code include health spas, nightclubs, hotels and gourmet restaurants that most Americans can’t afford.
In 2009, Mrs. Pelosi helped ram Obamacare down America’s throat. The system is preying on anyone not protected by the ruling cadre. If this sounds familiar, it’s the way things work in communist countries, where party leaders pick which of their subjects merit exceptions to the misery they impose on everyone else.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s, this double standard was derided as the lifestyle of “limousine liberals,” who hypocritically spare their families and friends the consequences of their ill-advised policies. It still works. Think of Al Gore, who owns electricity-sucking mansions while jetting around in fuel-guzzling planes and railing against carbon emitted by the rest of us. Or John Edwards lecturing us on income inequality.
Consider President Obama, who sends his daughters to the hyperexclusive Sidwell Friends School while railing against “the rich.” Meanwhile, his cronies worked to deny vouchers to parents seeking to save their kids from the failed D.C. schools.
Linda Chavez, former staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, has noted how the rulers’ envy is selectively expressed: “The populist zeal to seek revenge on those who make a lot of money is targeted almost exclusively at corporations. I haven’t heard outcries about Hollywood actors who make millions per film.”
No, that would be biting the hand that feeds them. Speaking of Hollywood, liberal Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger went from defending marriage in his last campaign to refusing to defend California’s Proposition 8 marriage amendment in court. I don’t think it’s unfair to ask whether his having cheated on his wife and sired a “love child” had something to do with his liberated outlook on sexual unions. And, by the way, I’m not saying that conservatives are immune to temptation. Whenever a longtime conservative develops strange, new respect for liberal social policies, it may be time for his spouse to check his phone and hotel records.
This tendency of the ruling class to pose as champions of virtue while making up its own rules is part of the temptation of power. If you can legally take money from one group and give to another, why not take anything else you want?
When socialism was rising in France in the mid-19th century, Frederic Bastiat saw clearly how socialists misused the law to create what he called “legal plunder.” In 1850, in his classic book The Law, he wrote, “Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another.”
Since the New Deal, legal plunder has become the guiding principle in America. Its proponents, protected by a servile media, are growing bolder by the day. Mr. Obama’s National Labor Relations Board is trying to stop the Boeing Co. from opening its new, $750-million factory in South Carolina, where an assembly line is ready to roll out new Dreamliner 787s. The unions that back Mr. Obama don’t like those jobs going to a conservative, right-to-work state instead of closed-shop Washington state. Is this plunder? Yes.
After the government takeover of General Motors, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who helped broker the GM deal, made a phone call and reversed the cancellation of a GM distribution center in Norton, Mass. It’s this kind of commissarlike behavior that prompted Rep. Michele Bachmann to declare on the House floor that America was in the grip of “gangster government.”
Given the extent of the corruption here and abroad, it might be best to take the long view so we won’t get too discouraged. The moral laws given to us by God may be flouted, but they cannot be repealed.
Wanting what is not yours and taking from others may work in the short run, but it bears a heavy cost, as we are reminded by Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s predicament and by Proverbs 14:30: “Envy is rottenness to the bones.”