Envy and the Undoing of American Mores

I’m surprised to find that Dalrymple apparently watched at least one of the American presidential debates. In a piece for the Library of Law and Liberty, he takes both candidates to task for a few things they said. But the one remark that really caught his eye is the one aspect of Obama’s rhetoric, not just during the debate, but during the whole of his presidency, that has most rankled me: his appeal to envy.

…the one sin of which [America] was traditionally freest, by comparison with all other societies, was envy. More people wished good luck to the successful in America than in any other society, though of course not all; fewer people were bitten by envy, and more people impelled by emulation, than anywhere else in the world. Indeed, there was a time, and not so long ago, when to display or appeal to envy would have been regarded as un-American, a virtual repudiation of the American dream. Mr Nixon despised Mr Kennedy as a pseudo-aristocratic spoilt brat, but didn’t dare say so in public in case it sounded envious.

So Mr Obama’s appeal to envy is a symptom, and perhaps a reinforcement, of a cultural change.

Read the whole piece here

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