Envy in the Market Economy: Sin, Fairness, and Spontaneous (Dis)Order
Jordan J. Ballor
Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty; Journal of Markets & Morality
Victor V. Claar
Henderson State University
July 25, 2012
This paper explores the problem of envy (“sadness at another’s good”) from both theological and economic perspectives. The theological analysis helps show why envy is a perennial feature of human existence and an ongoing problem for ordered and flourishing social life. The economic analysis examines various attempts to come to grips with envy and its implications, showing the complexity of envy’s tractability (or lack thereof), and the resulting complications for attempts to minimize or eliminate envy through public policy initiatives aimed at inequalities resulting from market outcomes. The authors conclude that there are two variables at play in the calculus of envy: our sadness and another’s good. Envy could theoretically be eradicated by destroying all goods, which often is the unintended result of policy solutions. But a more socially beneficial and morally responsible course of action is to focus on the economic, spiritual, and cultural causes of envy and their corresponding remedies.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: envy, allocation mechanisms, justice, fairness, economic growth
JEL Classification: A13, D31, D63, H11working papers series
Date posted: October 3, 2012
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