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Not Compassion but Envy

Inequality is often cited as a major cause of social disruption, and an urgent justice issue for democratic societies.

It has been pointed out many times before that you can have freedom, or you can have equality. You can’t have both, for the simple reason that different people will make different choices. That is what freedom means – the ability to make choices. And if people choose to use their time and their resources differently, the outcomes will be different.

For conservatives and libertarians that’s fine. Choose what you want, and take responsibility for your choices.

But for some of the have nots, even if their having less is a direct consequence of their choices, this seems horribly unfair. It has become unsurprising to hear younger people complain that they do not have as much “stuff” as older people. But older people started with even less than today’s younger people do. They worked, and saved, and paid their mortgages, and saved again for new furniture, and built up assets and capital over a lifetime. So it ought to be unsurprising they have more. They have worked for what they have, and made sacrifices along the way, of time as well as of other things they might have liked – a faster car, holidays, computers, etc.

To conservatives, the answer to be given to the have nots seems obvious. Make choices, work for them, and don’t complain that because you spent ten years travelling, you are ten years behind in saving for a house.

At its base, complaining is envy. It is not compassion, or a desire for justice. If it were, the complainers would be at the forefront of volunteering to help others, and of giving to help others. Instead, it is conservatives who are more personally generous by a large margin, and who are more likely to volunteer as firefighters or ambulance officers or in other ways in their own communities.

Demands for change made by progressives are not driven by love for the poor, but by resentment of anyone who has more.