Class Envy Leads To Hate

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Sun Apr 27 20:54:26 MDT 2003

[Folks: As you may or may not know, Ralph Reiland taught me Economics as an
undergrad student at Robert Morris. Besides being a brilliant economic
mind, Reiland would weave his trademark deadpan humor into lectures plus
illustrating the absurd with absurdity. Taking his course was a real blast!
- John Q.]

<>Jewish World Review May 22, 2002 / 11
Sivan, 5762

Ralph R. Reiland

The economics of terrorism:
When class envy leads to hate -- David Brooks, a senior editor at The
Weekly Standard, calls it "bourgeoisophobia" --- the hatred of success,
most particularly the hatred of commercial achievement. In no small part,
it's the kind of mindset that pushed Mohammed Atta to smash a passenger
plane into the World Trade Center, the kind of resentment that drives the
Arab street to cheer when a 10-year-old blows himself up in a trendy
Israeli discotheque.

Brooks points to the anti-bourgeois stance of the French intelligentsia in
the 19th century: "Around 1830, a group of French artists and intellectuals
looked around and noticed that people who were their spiritual inferiors
were running the world. Suddenly a large crowd of merchants, managers and
traders were making lots of money, living in the big houses, and holding
the key posts" --- not unlike the "traders" at the World Trade Center,
"running the world," people judged by Mr. Atta to be his "spiritual

These 19th century self-made merchants, lacking the pedigree and high style
of the European aristocracy, were viewed by the French intelligentsia as
"vulgar materialists," writes Brooks, "who half the time failed even to
acknowledge their moral and spiritual inferiority to the artists and

This new entrepreneurial class, in short, was too rich, too unlearned, too
guiltless for the sensibilities of men like French novelist Gustave
Flaubert (1821-1880), of "Madame Bovary" fame, a portrayal of the alleged
immorality of provincial bourgeois life. The hatred of the bourgeoisie,
wrote Flaubert, "is the beginning of all virtue." He signed his letters
"Bourgeoisophobus" to show how much he despised "stupid grocers and their

It was, of course, "stupid grocers" who provided Flaubert with the freedom
to write and sneer rather than plant and harvest. Nevertheless, what
outraged the intelligentsia, says Brooks, was their belief that it was the
"very mediocrity" of the merchants that accounted for their success:
"Through some screw-up in the great scheme of the universe, their
narrow-minded greed had brought them vast wealth, unstoppable power, and
growing social prestige."


In that anti-capitalist view of things, I suppose I should make more money
writing this column than the owners of Foodland. Clearly, that's a formula
for an oversupply of columnists and mass starvation, exactly what's been
delivered time and again whenever an anti-capitalist intelligentsia has
grabbed the reins of power.

Ludwig von Mises, 30 years ago, made much the same argument as Brooks in
his book The Anti-Capitalist Mentality: "Many people, and especially
intellectuals, passionately loathe capitalism. In a society based on caste
and status, the individual can ascribe adverse fate to conditions beyond
his control. It is quite another thing under capitalism. Here everybody's
station in life depends on his doing. The profit system makes those men
prosper who have succeeded in filling the wants of the people in the best

What makes a man rich in capitalism is "not the evaluation of his
contribution from any 'absolute' principle of justice," wrote Mises, "but
the evaluation on the part of his fellow men who exclusively apply the
yardstick of their personal wants, desires and ends." In other words, the
market decides, not any academic judgments.

The loathing of capitalism exists, Mises maintained, because it's a system
where differences in material welfare are primarily the result of
differences in private initiative: "Everybody knows very well that there
are people like himself who succeeded where he himself failed. Everybody
knows that many of those he envies are self-made men who started from the
same point from which he himself started. Everybody is aware of his own

Similarly, every Arab country is aware that Israel has succeeded where they
have failed. Every Arab country is aware that the words of Bernard Lewis,
Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, are accurate: "By all
standards of the modern world --- economic development, literacy,
scientific achievement --- Muslim civilization, once a mighty enterprise,
has fallen low."

In terms of living standards, for instance, the average per capita income
in the Arab countries is less than one-fourth that of Israel, i.e., $3,700
versus $18,000, this despite the fact that the Arab states have the world's
richest oil resources.

It's the same with the Arab attacks against Israel. With combined
populations and territories, respectively, some 50 and 650 times larger
than Israel, the Arab nations launched four wars, in 1948, 1956, 1967 and
1973. Each time, Israel won.

The psychological consequences of these failures? Again, Mises provides an
insight into the feelings of those who don't make the grade: "In order to
console himself and to restore his self-assertion, such a man is in search
of a scapegoat. He tries to persuade himself that he failed through no
fault of his own. He was too decent to resort to the base tricks to which
his successful rivals owe their ascendancy. The nefarious social order does
not accord the prizes to the most meritorious men; it crowns the dishonest
unscrupulous scoundrel, the swindler, the exploiter, the 'rugged

Within this scapegoat paradigm, it's the Jews who are to blame for Arab
misery, America that's to blame for the decline of Muslim civilization.
 From there, it's a short step to flying a passenger jet into a skyscraper,
a short step to tying explosives around a 10-year-old. 4e024f.jpg

Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at
Robert Morris University and a Pittsburgh restaurateur. Comment by clicking
<mailto:schmooze at>here.

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