The Very Meddlesome Robert Reich

Kevin Williamson reads Robert Reich so that the rest of us don’t have to, and discovers that Reich has decided that he is in the very best position possible to tell people how to make charitable donations. Reich’s stance seems to herald something of a new development in the port-side creed; evidently, not only should the government make basic decisions for the rest of us, but when the government is silent, individual liberals ought to be able to direct the actions of the masses. Of course, the revelation that Reich’s argument contradicts itself in multiple places and on multiple levels should come as no surprise whatsoever. And the following excerpt is an apt one:

At its root, this is not about tax revenue or the woeful state of the federal cash-flow statement. This is about envy and its cousin, covetousness. Progressives know that they will always enjoy disproportionate influence in the public sector, but they are vexed that there exist large streams of money that are, for the moment, utterly outside their control. They convince others — and themselves, probably — that they are driven by compassion, but they are in fact driven by envy: Note Barack Obama’s insistence that tax rates on the wealthy should be raised even if doing so produced no fiscal benefit — it’s just “the right thing to do,” he said, necessary “for purposes of fairness.” The battle hymn of “Nobody needs that much money!” has a silent harmony line: “And I get to decide how much is enough!”

Prayerful people bargaining with God over lottery numbers no doubt imagine that they would do some worthy things with that money, on top of buying a Ferrari. Progressives imagine all the wonderful things they could do with other people’s money, and no doubt some of them are well-intentioned. But envy poisons whatever good intentions they have, which is how men such as Professor Reich come to write resentful indictments of people who are, remember, giving away billions of dollars of their own money. He’d prefer their money be given away by him, or by bureaucracies under the tutelage of men such as himself. As the moral philosopher Hannibal Lecter put it: “He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet? Do we seek out things to covet? No. We begin by coveting what we see every day.”

As is the following poem, which Williamson is kind enough to bring to the attention of readers:

This calls to mind Edmund Spenser’s description of Envy personified: “He hated all good works and virtuous deeds / And him no less, that any like did use / And who with gracious bread the hungry feeds / His alms for want of faith he doth accuse.”

We would be a better country without the politics of envy and meddling. Too bad that people like Robert Reich are doing their very best to ensure that our politics remain infested with resentment, ressentiment (which is a specific form of resentment), and an unwillingness to give people some semblance of autonomy and independence.