Nothing is more central to Marxist thought than class envy. The argument is simple: The rich got what they have unfairly so a central authority is needed to make things fair again. This line of reasoning has been extended to other groups as well, especially women and ethnic minorities.
The problem with this thinking is that the central authority–government–must violate individual property rights to remedy the alleged unfairness. When the wealth one accumulates is subject to redistribution, the incentive to acquire it wanes. Many would-be productive citizens determine that it’s just not worth the extra effort to make their own way if the government will take care of them should they choose not to. Add to this the abilities of Congress to overspend and the Fed to inflate the currency and you have a good picture of the current “state of the union.” A lack of incentive has led to a decline in productivity.
Unfortunately, I suspect that President Obama will present a different picture in his State of the Union address. As you listen, I encourage you to track his effort to play the “class envy” card. Words and phrases like “the rich,” “fair share,” “playing by the rules,” “responsibility to others,” and “social justice” are subtle hints that you would have more if the “dog eat dog” world of capitalism were reigned in by government. If the rich would just “pay their fair share”…
This is not a joke. Class envy is a powerful political tool. The leftist candidate wants to convince you that your neighbor has a new car because “unbridled capitalism” enabled him to succeed at your expense. While attacking your neighbor’s lack of morality, he tugs on your own propensity for greed and envy. YOU deserve the car–not your neighbor–and if you vote for the leftist he will use the tax code or other government programs to redistribute your neighbor’s wealth and make things fair again. It’s an emotional argument and can be quite persuasive to those who don’t spend the time to give it serious thought.
Class envy is a key part of the foundation for the socialist economic agenda. We must to a better job of identifying and exposing this false premise to the electorate. The President’s speech this evening will probably give us a great text to work with.