The Outstater: Holcomb and Hate
Gov. Eric Holcomb, pushing a plan this session he says will discourage blatant hatred, said the other day that he is confident a majority of Hoosiers agree with him.
Putting aside the depressing thought that his expectation is only 51 percent rather than, say, 85 percent, the governor imagines he is on the highest moral ground. But hate, even assuming it is a matter to be managed by legislative fiat, is not the problem.
Dr. Thomas Sowell has argued throughout an illustrious career that hate imposes its own costs in the foregoing of the talents, the good will and the labor of those hated. Envy, though, promises only gain, for we all would like to have what someone else has, even the wealthiest among us.
When you get down to it, envy is the default setting of humanity. How we manage its destructive impulse as individuals and as societies is a story weaving throughout human history — indeed, it is human history.
A magic element of the Christian West has been that envy — until recently, at least, before the advent of social justice — was not to be institutionalized. Rather, it was to be treated as a sin to be acknowledged and for which forgiveness must be asked. The concept is embedded in an absolute constitutional protection of property.
The genius is that individual ownership of property transforms citizens, however grasping, into observers if not exponents of the Golden Rule. In this regard, the United States and other members of the Anglosphere are lonely exceptions in an envious world where you do unto others before they can do unto you.
The sociologist Helmut Schoeck makes the point in a classic work on the subject. In other societies, he says, where envy becomes part of the mores, traditions and government, there is a cap on achievement and therefore on wealth. Pick up any novel by Ayn Rand, a refugee from the envy-manipulating tyranny of a Lenin.
And consider the new South Africa. Hate, you will recall, was driven out of that country with the defeat of apartheid. So how’s that going?
Hannes Wessel, a lawyer and 14th generation white African born in the former Rhodesia now living in famously “liberated” South Africa, offers an account:
“Unquestionably the most sophisticated and industrialized country on the continent, the work done by legions of migratory Europeans over centuries is rapidly being undone. Virtually all organs of state are corrupt and dysfunctional, all the country’s once-prosperous parastatals are bankrupt, water and power utilities are collapsing, a rail system that until recently provided efficient and cost-effective connectivity is crumbling. Against this background the proposed eviction of white farmers will usher in another continental catastrophe.”
How predictable was that? Utterly, Schoeck showed us back in 1969:
“The envious man (or society) is convinced that it is always other people who are lucky, and he alone is unlucky. Yet it is hardly possible, even physiologically, to live for very long with this exclusive expectation of the future. More succinctly, the extremely envious man does not live long. In the course of phylogenesis there must have been fewer chances of survival, and hence of shaping behavior patterns, for those peoples who were most intensely envious.”
Thus in the new Zimbabwe, those awarded farms confiscated by the Mugabe regime immediately sell the wood, implements and anything else of value on the land — they “eat the seed corn,” in a phrase. Why? If the property of one envied group is uncertain, they can be reasonable certain that their property is uncertain as well. Envy always cashes out.
Do we need describe what is happening in the new Venezuela?
Some years ago the humorist P.J. O’Rourke published his “Holidays in Hell,” a guided tour of the most desolate, dangerous, desperate, tyrannical and, we would say, envy-driven places on earth.
The thought occurs that for educational purposes Governor Holcomb and the legislative leadership should take O’Rourke’s tour. It would be more productive than their annual junket to some exotic locale pretending to search for jobs for us back in Indiana.
But they would hate that.
— Craig Ladwig
Thomas Sowell. The Economics and Politics of Race. William Morrow, 1983.
Helmut Schoeck. Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior. Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969.
Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand, 1957.
Hannes Wessels. “Whites Have No Place in Africa.” Taki Magazine, Dec. 17, 2018.
P.J. O’Rourke. Holidays in Hell. Grove Press, New York, 1988.