Francis enlightens us to the driving force behind modern politics, in America and around the globe. The money quote:
In a society in which some will prosper more than others, uncontrolled envy is the stimulus for unending conflict. A society that accepts rampant envy as somehow justifiable (or at least, ineradicable) will be lucky indeed if those conflicts remain non-violent.
Yet in contemplating the social order of the West, which routinely grants respect to the demands of the querulous, such that those who ask nothing of the State except to be left alone are mulcted without limit to satisfy them, what conclusion can we reach but that envy, in the First World, has become one of the ruling principles of society?
Envy is a sort of economic Cargo Cult, in which it is assumed that those who are better off are somehow stealing from those who have less. Of course, on occasion this is true. Many of the wealthy political class obtained their wealth through rent-seeking, government largess, or government-created monopoly power. That is, in effect, a form of stealing. But this is the truth made to serve a lie.
Much is made of the notion of privilege these days. SJWs will often explain that whites get more because of their whiteness, and thus some portion of their wealth must be confiscated, or some portion of jobs denied them, or other similar schemes of wealth redistribution. Those targeted are frequently the middle class, the regular working stiffs, who in aggregate, are far more likely to have been stolen from, than to be doing the stealing.
This is all lost on the envious. They see that some people have more than they do, or those for whom they agitate, and they demand that we share our wealth with them.
Appeals are often made to our Christian faith. Jesus was a pretty swell guy, they will say, and he helped the poor and the less fortunate. So we must do so also, or we are not good Christians. It’s an overly simplistic narrative, of course, but even so it is easy to dismiss. At no point did Christ tell us that charity ought to properly come from a distant government. Quite the contrary, Christ extolled us to give freely, which implies a choice… not a gun held to our head that says “give us 50% of your crap or else you’re not a nice person.”
Charity is no longer charity at all if it is done forcibly. It is theft, and it is done to satiate the envy of one person in order to serve a political agenda. Only, as Francis points out in his article, there is no satisfying the envious. They will always want more. And thus the demands of the envious continue to grow. They want more money, more benefits, more freebies.
Rather than allow a BBQ event to provide its leftovers to the poor, the clerisy demanded that the food be destroyed. It was not fit, they explained, to feed the poor, because of a variety of arcane regulations. This ties in neatly to the regulations that prevent charities from giving away expired canned food — even though canned food is safe for years after such dates. The food must be destroyed. People would love to clear their cabinets of expired cans to help the poor — indeed, in my youth I remembered that’s how they did food drives. They’d specifically ask for stuff you didn’t want. Better that it goes to a hungry person, than the garbage.
But not anymore. Expired cans are not good enough. Indeed, top of the line BBQ is not good enough either. One gets the sense that unless the poor are given five-star service from famous chefs, it is not good enough. This extends to toy drives. I remember when I was young that used toys your children didn’t want anymore would often go to the poor. Again, better that an old fire truck toy go to a child who would otherwise have a bleak Christmas than for it to find its way into the garbage. Now, toy drives specifically explain that everything must be new, in its packaging, and accompanied by its receipt. I have no doubts there is some government regulation, or de facto legal precedent (somebody suing because the toy was not new) for why this is true.
Envy is the ruin of any economic system. And charity that is directed by the government is no longer charity, but something else entirely.