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Affluent Christian Investor | September 28, 2023

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Envy And Human Nature

Democratic Socialists march in Occupy Wall Street, 2011.

There is a school of thought which suggests older societies held a close-knit culture which honored each other and contained much trust. While some were this way, however, most primitive cultures were embedded with envy. And this envy most often was an outcropping of superstition and a belief in sorcery and witchcraft of varying forms. Primitive tribes were wrought with superstitious envy.

The Austrian-German sociologist Helmut Schoeck did extensive research in this area. “Among primitive peoples in pre-affluent time,” reveals Schoeck, “the poorer, it is held, the greater the sense of community.” He continues, “Sociological theory would have avoided many errors if those phenomena had been properly observed and evaluated a century ago.” This myth explains Schoeck is “when social harmony prevailed because each man had about as little as the next one, the warm and generous community spirit of simple societies, was indeed for the most part just a myth.” Schoeck directly faults modern social scientists, who should have known better, for ‘fashion[ing] out of it a set of utopian standards with which to criticize their own societies.”[1]

Schoeck’s research exposes the false view that amicable societies were predominant in primitive tribes and communities, when they actually were not that common. Collectivists would have everyone believe these utopian societies from the past were the norm and are possible now, but they are not. All the collectivists promote is the need to equalize wealth, with the promise that this is all it takes for modern society to return to this ideal state. Unfortunately, this ideal state is only a myth. The only way to reach a state of equality of wealth is to be sure everyone is poor and destitute; or force everyone to reach the lowest common denominator (see How Collectivism Destroys Everyone), except, of course, those in charge. This type of society is known as totalitarianism. (Note: We are seeing this play out in real time from 2016 to the present.)

Schoeck also discovered, “In the developing world workers would reach a point at which they supply less labor as wages rise… the problem of envy avoidance explains it: laborers refuse to earn so much that they attract the envy of others and cause greater harm to themselves and their families.”[2] I have personally witnessed this pattern of behavior during my trips to Zambia, Africa. Even though Zambia has been rising rapidly from an economic growth and output standpoint, the Zambians, as well as other Africans, remain horribly inhabited by their deeply seated superstition and envy.

This self-deprivation, explains writer Roger McKinney quoting Helmut Schoeck, “is also found among educated members of our modern societies who really ought to know better. The primitive people’s belief in black magic differs little from modern ideas.” McKinney continues disclosing the collectivist’s folly, noting, “The false premise that one man’s gain necessarily involves the other’s loss is still indulged in by some modern economic theorists; while these do not make use of black magic; they often have recourse to methods no less absurd.”[3]

In summary, McKinney notes, “Such a strong emphasis on equality of wealth as fairness is the classic manifestation of envy… [and] … The demand for strict equality of political power is itself a manifestation of envy.” The collectivists are completely disparate to the American worldview, which is based fundamentally on a biblical worldview. “Every envious person sees his motives as pure and for the common good,” exposes McKinney, “The evidence of envy lies in the demand for equality of outcomes, such as wealth or political power, instead of equality before the law, as the Christian definition of equality states.”[4]

[1] Helmut Schoeck, 1987 (originally published in 1966), Envy:  A Theory of Social Behavior, (Indianapolis, IN:  Liberty Fund), p. 39.

[2] Roger D. McKinney, 2018, God is a Capitalist: Markets from Moses to Marx, (Broken Arrow, OK: Christian Capitalist), p. 39.

[3] Roger D. McKinney, 2018, God is a Capitalist: Markets from Moses to Marx, (Broken Arrow, OK: Christian Capitalist), pp. 39-40.

[4] Roger McKinney, April 10, 2019, “Socialists Redefine Envy as Justice,”, [].



Originally published on Townhall Finance.


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