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Class envy

Class envy is a tool or tactic of political rhetoric in which one economic group is pitted against another.

Typically, the lower income people are encouraged to envy the material possesions of higher income people.

One way this is done is to somehow imply or overtly state that higher income, higher status, or higher rank (as in hereditary nobility) people 'won the lottery' and therefore don't deserve what they own. Another way is to state or imply that the higher income people became so only by depriving the lower income people. Either premise leads to the conclusion that justice will best be served by some form of wealth redistribution, i.e., direct or indirect transfer of wealth from the higher income people to the lower income people, without any compensation for the wealthy.

Frequently throughout history, nobility and landowners in feudal societies were literally a leisure class and made their living by exploiting the tenants of their land. Landownership was a matter of fiat, and could only be enjoyed at the sufferance of royalty or of hereditary nobles, whose titles ran with their lands, and vice-versa.

Critics of class envy tactics claim:

  • that in modern-day society, the majority of higher income people earned the money themselves.
  • that since the majority of the wealth of higher income people is invested into the stock market, this in a way redistributes the wealth and drives the economy
  • there is an extremely small example of anything like a leisure class, even amongst the wealthiest people, who are usually fully employed.

Some cliches of class envy:

  • he won life's lottery
  • referring to low income people as 'working people' and not stating that higher income people also work.
  • he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth - he's rich because his parents were.
  • blue-blood (as a derogatory term)
  • referring to all business leaders as robber-barons.

See also: Class warfare



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