The Left: Where Greed Meets Envy
In ascertaining the general hierarchy of sins, a good point of reference is the Ten Commandments. While the Decalogue is not all-inclusive, God dictated these specific directives to Moses as the basis upon which His people should live. Among the ten is the command not to covet: "You shall not covet ... anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Ex. 20:17 [NIV]).
Covetousness (or envy), meaning the possession of a strong desire for what another has, does not get the attention that its close relation "greed" gets. Greed, of course, is greatly derided in scripture, and for good reason, but God did not see fit to include it in the commandments He set out on Mt. Sinai. Why?
For one thing, greed is not always destructive, while envy is. Greed is the desire to have more and, depending how that desire is acted upon, can be beneficial or detrimental. The profit motive has made the United States the most prosperous nation in history; but, conversely, the abuse of that motive was greatly responsible for the September 2008 financial collapse. When envy, on the other hand, is acted upon, there is no good, only bad. At its worst, it leads to mass theft and murder.
But envy does not have to be acted upon to be harmful. Its very nature produces resentment and enmity. Thus, even dormant, the coveting of one's neighbor's belongings is destructive.
Additionally, envy is often disguised as righteous indignation against some perceived iniquity. Lately, that iniquity is most often the putative greed of others. Thus, it is not envy or covetousness that animates the outrage targeted at "the rich"; it is the moral certitude of seeking "fairness." Thinking that at a certain point your neighbor has made enough money and that he must pay his "fair share" just makes things more equal because it "spreads the wealth around." Disguised envy has been the motivation for many a road paved with good intentions.
Covetousness also undergirds the twin pathologies of victimhood and helplessness. Blame of the other is easier than confronting one's own mistakes and bad choices. Blaming the other because his success was supposedly at your expense makes it personal. When it is always someone else's fault, control of one's life is ceded, thereby relegating one to a passive spectator. Things just happen -- good or bad, they just happen.
On a personal level, covetousness and envy usurp any chance at a fulfilling and happy life because one can never be grateful. Life is a constant comparison to others who always appear "better off," with little motivation or desire to better oneself. On a corporate level, when covetousness and envy infect a significant percentage of the populace, the results can be catastrophic.
The envious who are so quick to lament the greed of others generally focus only on one type of greed -- the love of money. However, greed is not limited to money; it manifests in many currencies, including the desire for power. While the love of money can affect the lives of others, its main objective is wealth-accumulation. Material gain is the goal, and, of course, that gain can be at the expense of others, but not always. But the desire for power is always at the expense of others because the goal is to have control over others. There is a big difference between wanting to spend one's own money and seeking the authority to tell others how they should spend theirs.
Real trouble begins when those who crave power gain it by manipulating resentments. It is where greed meets envy -- the structural foundation of the political left.
When stripped of its many pretenses, the political left's objective is control. It goes about trying to gain that control using a very simple formula: creating an enemy, and creating resentment in as many people as possible against that created enemy. It seeks to exploit envy to satiate its greed for power and never lets a crisis (real or imagined) go to waste.
The evolution of this methodology, once implemented, is quite predictable. First, an enemy is created that must be destroyed in order to help "the people." That enemy can be vague or amorphous, such as "imperialists" or "capitalists," or specific, such as Kulaks or "bankers." Once that enemy is dispatched, however, a new enemy must be created. This scenario, if not stopped, continues until the powerful run out of other people's enemies, at which point the people themselves become the enemy. By that time, the people are helpless, having given away their liberty and self-sufficiency in the pursuit of manufactured vengeance. National slavery ensues.
While the left has its traditional enemies, no one and nothing is immune. Pillars of the community one day are, the next day, transmuted into the cause of national despair. What dictates is political opportunism. Thus, doctors are money-grubbers instead of hardworking healers; the white middle class are gun- and religion-clingers; grandmothers become typical white people; political opponents are racists and must be punished as enemies; advocates of traditional marriage are labeled "haters"; those seeking more self-government are derided as "tea-baggers"; people whose sincerely held religious beliefs would be violated if forced to pay for someone else's birth control or abortion are now at "war with women"; mothers who stay home to raise their children are sneered at for "never working a day in their lives"; self-made women who do not toe the feminist line are the recipients of the most vile of public insults; etc.; etc. The list of the demonized is endless because the left's greed for power is endless.
The left relies on blame and division to accumulate its power. However, without envy, the left could never attain such power in the first place. Those who do not covet the things of their neighbors never form the resentment upon which the left depends. They cannot be manipulated into turning against their neighbors and inevitably against themselves.
God commanded His people not to envy their neighbors. The breaking of this commandment leads to disaster. Envy is self-destructive, and when coupled with the greed for power, it can destroy nations. Yet the left relies upon envy for its power. "They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance" (Micah 2:2 [NIV]).
David P. McGinley, a U.S. attorney, is an associate professor at Handong International Law School in South Korea.