Is a free and open society more susceptible to the dangers of envy? It’s an interesting question to me, because most often the envy charge is used against socialism, or any kind of outcome-egalitarian form of society. The argument there goes like this: Socialism is just based on envy! Socialism is motivated by this anti-rich sentiment, anti-success, envious feelings by those people less successful, less wealthy, and so forth—and that’s simply an illegitimate motivation. So we can dismiss socialism on moral grounds. Or sometimes the envy-charge against socialism is that it institutionalizes envy. Under socialism, we are all supposed to be equal in outcomes. But to keep everyone roughly equal requires a lot of monitoring about who has what and how things are distributed. And that leads to everyone in the society—not just the government—snooping and scrutinizing everyone else constantly. Does his apartment have more windows? Did she get a new dress—where did the money for that come from? On a smaller scale, we can imagine this: If you come from a large enough family, you’ve got a bunch of kids sitting around the dinner table, and the mom says she’s going to give everyone an equally sized slice of cake. Well, just imagine how hyper-scrutinous all of the kids become: they are looking very carefully at every cut of the cake that the mom makes, and then all of the complaints and the bad feelings if someone’s slice is slightly smaller or slightly bigger. So that’s an institutionalization...
Climate Change (aka Global Warming) is becoming an even bigger issue with the new Democratic congress and its calls for a “Green New Deal.” The very name should be a reminder that statist controls were always an integral part of the extremist environmentalists who now use global warming as justification for central planning after the collapse of the Soviet model discredited centrally planned economies. The recent United Nations Climate report equally stressed socialist economic planning while the Paris Accord, from which President Trump withdrew, included $100 billion per year of aid from wealthy nations to Third World ones in compensation for past environmental damage to the world. That’s why most of them voted for the accord. Climate change is happening in parts of the globe. It has been warmer in the Arctic, oceans are rising at the rate of about one foot per century, and there’s been record cold in central Asia and in the Southern hemisphere, e.g. Argentina and Australia. Also indeed some record cold weather in the U.S. What the Warmers (climate changers) need to prove are three major points. That humans can control or modify climate change. That such changes are necessary for human survival or at least prosperity. That the cost of such modifications will not wreck economic well being in the developed world nor stop growing prosperity in the less developed. Unfortunately, events are not being properly analyzed but rather have triggered a cascade of billions of...
Editor's Note: This essay was written in 1991 about the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, it appears that socialism is coming back from the grave. The basic differences between socialism and capitalism highlighted in the article have not changed. The ghost of Karl Marx, a specter that haunted Europe for over a century, was finally exorcised when the Soviet Union abolished its Communist Party, and then abolished itself. But socialism isn't dead. Will capitalism survive? If it does, it will owe a large debt to a woman who witnessed the birth of communism, and became one of the most eloquent defenders of capitalism. Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, in what was then czarist Russia. She was twelve when Lenin seized power, and spent her youth observing the horrors of Marx's ideas in practice. She fled the Soviet Union as a young woman, arriving in New York with little English and less money. She wrote two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead in 1943, and Atlas Shrugged in 1957, which continue to sell at a vigorous pace. She founded a philosophical movement, Objectivism, which challenged the conventional wisdom in philosophy, psychology, politics, and other fields. Rand was the most profound critic of socialism, and defender of capitalism, in our time. She was not an economist. It's obvious now that Marx wasn't much of an economist either. But like Marx she was a prophet who grasped the deep moral issues at stake in the way we organize...
Ayn Rand wrote about envy in her novels, her popular nonfiction, even in her journals and letters. It was a problem she examined from every angle. But why did the champion of individualism, achievement, and free-market capitalism concern herself with such an ugly topic? The reason is that Rand considered envy uniquely evil––a personal failure, a social cancer, and a corrupt and cynical political ploy. In “The Age of Envy,” Ayn Rand defined envy as “hatred of the good for being the good.” Hers is an important definition, because it gets to the core of envy’s pernicious nature. What is Envy? Rand recognized that the term “envy” is variously applied to different things. Envy is not to be confused, for example, with a legitimate resentment of unearned success, as when the immoral defeat the moral, or with an acknowledgment that a failure was deserved, as when the immoral lose. Rand distinguishes those responses as proper to “a sense of justice.” The recent college admissions scandal is a good example. An acknowledgment that the people involved are liars and cheats has nothing to do with envy of their wealth or status. Nor is it envy to dislike a policy-maker who demands you sacrifice your future for the sake of the planet. If you value yourself, then you consider self-sacrifice a vice not a virtue, and you can legitimately resent that policy-maker’s demands. She didn’t even regard the...
The March 4 headline in Buzzfeed was startling but perhaps not surprising: “WWF’s Secret War: WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured and Killed People.” The WWF, of course, is the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund), a leading environmental group that boasts annual revenues of $335 million and offices in 40 countries. At that size, one would expect the WWF to be doing a lot more than recycling and eating granola. Indeed, as the Buzzfeed article—actually three articles, stretching to over 11,000 words—makes plain, the WWF’s critter-friendly vibe cloaks a strong hammer: “In national parks across Asia and Africa, the beloved nonprofit with the cuddly panda logo funds, equips, and works directly with paramilitary forces that have been accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people.” Moreover, as Buzzfeed also details, the WWF has actively worked with governments, such as that of Nepal, to clear away entire local populations to make room for parks—and the experiences of the locals have not been happy ones. To be sure, all throughout human history, people have been fighting over territory. And beyond the myriad wars, conquests, and banditries waged over land-lust, the past is also replete...

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