This Week’s Applied Hayek: OWS Envy Edition

As we continue to fixate on the inchoate but plainly radical demands/desires of the lefty-losers Wall Street Occupiers, this passage from Hayek’s famous chapter in The Constitution of Liberty on “Equality Value, and Merit” hits the spot dead on:

When we inquire into the justification for these demands [to equalize all outcomes], we find that they rest on the discontent that the success of some people often produces in those that are less successful, or, to put it bluntly, on envy.  The modern tendency to gratify this passion and to disguise it in the respectable garment of social justice is developing into a serious threat to freedom.  Recently an attempt was made to base these demands on the argument that it ought to be the aim of politics to remove all sources of discontent.  This would, of course, necessarily mean that it is the responsibility of government to see that nobody is healthier or possesses a happier temperament, a better-suited spouse or more prospering children, than anybody else.  If really all unfulfilled desires have a claim on the community, individual responsibility is at an end.  However human, envy is certainly not one of the sources of discontent that a free society can eliminate.  It is probably one of the essential conditions for the preservation of such a society that we do not countenance envy, not sanction its demands by camouflaging it as social justice, but treat it, in the words of John Stuart Mill, as “that most anti-social and odious of all passions.”

It’s almost as if Hayek wrote this with Occupy Wall Street in mind.

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