Envy in the Market Economy: Sin, Fairness, and Spontaneous (Dis)Order
Faith & Economics 61/62 (Spring/Fall 2013): 33-53
23 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2012 Last revised: 25 Jun 2015
Date Written: November 4, 2013
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 reduced via the destruction of some 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.
Keywords: envy, allocation mechanisms, justice, fairness, economic growth
JEL Classification: A13, D31, D63, H11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation