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Philosophical Jargon

Let it be acknowledged that there are serious issues that need to be resolved within government and society. The status quo, no matter the political persuasion one adheres to, needs reform. Observing the Occupy protests firsthand has forced the question upon their activity, when is enough, really enough? The ever-shifting, constantly morphing ideals, ideas, and ideologies of these protesters demonstrates their discontent with the current status quo. What it also makes visible, is their inherent disregard and lack of overall understanding of the forces in the society to which they subscribe.

The proud and thunderous proclamations of the protesters, “This is what democracy looks like!” are washed away when those very same voices say that “it’s not so much about the demands, but using a real democratic process,” whatever that actually means. The Tea Party grew out of similar discord with the status quo of government activity, yet the Occupy participants, who are just as frustrated and angry, seem to be less organized, live where they protest, and rely on outside and non-participating supporters to assist them with basic hygiene. Further, the Tea Party has an organized and cohesive set of goals that consist of demanding policies of responsible, low taxation and limiting the power and size of government. The Tea Party is organized to the extent that they have succeeded in electing representatives to high office. The Occupy movement preaches the virtue of “the mood de jour” and the tenets of how wealthy citizens are inherently evil. Sound messy? It is.

Therefore, let our civilization reflect that fundamental discontent with the status quo is visible on many levels, however the reaction to it has varied drastically. Some elements seek to organize, establish goals, achieve their goals, and even become represented within our cherished democratic institutions. Others find it more conducive to camp out, ask for food, request help with their dirty laundry, and refuse to shower for weeks on end. Whether you agree with one phenomenon or the other, one thing is certain: if you want something, you must work for it. If you need something, you must find it. The culture of dependency is not what makes a more efficient and well-functioning society; it is what enables a crisis to continue. It is easy to tell people to just go out and get a job, but it is even easier to demand that everything must be handed to them, simply because one exists. If great things are to come from this rising generation, it will not be found within the unchecked fears of their hearts, but from the discipline, focus, and strength of their souls.

Overview –

This report will cover a wide range of material to establish a clear construct as to how Connecticut’s taxation policies are to be understood as violent by identifying specific behavioral rationalizations. Concerning the state’s constant taxation debate however, whether listening to organizations such as Connecticut Voices for Children, Better Choices for Connecticut, or the Yankee Institute for Public Policy Analysis, there is a major inquisitive theme addressed by all relevant organizations alike – “who is paying their fair share?” The former organizations tend to say that the wealthier citizens are not paying their fair share, while the later group indicates that this is clearly not the case. The focal point regarding the nature of the Connecticut taxation debate will be around the theme, “who is paying their faire share,” given the frequency it is used within public debates from within and outside the state’s government. It becomes visible then how special interest groups within and outside the government participate in understanding and thus potentially shaping what the state’s taxation policy is to be every two years [CT passes a biennial, or two-year budget][i]. The basic structure of the overall debate can roughly be formulated as follows:

 

(taxation) x –> (should be) y while the other side insists, y –> z

 

Therefore, insisting that violence can be understood in a more evolved manner, whether if it is public rhetoric used within a policy debate or by actual means of wealth extraction through budgetary measures [taxation and spending], allows us to question this traditionally understood phenomenon as ultimately a turbulent, intense and at times furious action[ii] – hence violent.

The word violence often tends to conjure up images of destruction, war, and other vividly horrific notions, however in this particular instance is it possible for the word to take on another form of understanding? Is it possible to assert that the taxation policy of the state of Connecticut is violent? This analysis will demonstrate how the Connecticut taxation policy’s overall structure is inherently violent by understanding the behavioral motivations behind it. This will not be the typical inspection into Connecticut tax policy seeking to analyze institutional structure and procedure or independent economic trends, but rather insist on a dissection of the very foundational items of the phenomenon through both a philosophical and concrete lens. In other words, this analysis will evolve the current popular notions as to what violence is, where the violence comes from, and how it is to be applied to the state’s taxation policy’s effect on the health of the economic productivity. How is it then that a taxation policy can create violence?

Utilizing the theme of the state’s taxation debate, “who is paying their fair share,” enables this report to dissect the basic philosophical concepts present within the rationalization of those individuals who ultimately formulate and implement the taxation policy of the state. Keeping to the established taxation debate theme, in addition to the general formula/structure of the debate itself, the first section of this analysis will focus on scrutinizing the basic components of “pay” and “fair.” From this dissection will emerge the fundamental philosophical rationalization of government officials in how they interpret, influence, and then shape taxation policy. This paper does not seek to critique government institutions and procedures as the major causation of violent tax policy, but rather identify and focuses upon the fundamental source which formulates policy, individual people. If “fair” was to be simplified, “equality” emerges as the fundamental concept in the taxation debate. Looking at “pay” then allows the concept of equality to be put into specific context regarding the individual thought on one side of the debate and the other. Given the economic nature and implications of taxation policy in general, the subsequent simplification and overall understanding of the taxation theme can be asserted to a psychological or behavioral normative – Envy.

The second section of this report will outline how the distinct rationalizations of government individuals on the notion of equality, within the context of “pay” or “material possession,” is determined by their behavioral disposition relating to Envy. In Latin, the word for envy is invidere, which broken down means “to see.”[iii] The most basic understanding as to the origins of the meaning of envy is an individual ‘taking notice’ or ‘seeing’ another individual or group with some “thing” that might invoke a mild discomfort or potentially a fitful fury; thus invoking a response of some sort. For this analysis envy will be generally described as, “that passion which views with malignant dislike the superiority of those who are really entitled to all the superiority they possess.”[iv] From this understanding of envy, it will become evident how government officials, as well as groups within the taxation debate rationalize the formulation of the taxation debate; and thus, how their specific taxation policy conclusions affects the health of the state’s economy. Selected case studies of the state’s tax policies’ effects of various economic activities within the state of Connecticut will accompany the two major sections of this report throughout. These case studies will be analyzed utilizing the established tax debate theme alongside the construct of violence caused by envious behavioral characteristics. Therefore this paper will argue that Connecticut’s state taxation policies are violent in respect to its relationship with the structure, functioning, and economic developmental capacities of the state’s economy; and said violence, in particular to its derivation, are a direct consequent of the persons’ [those whom have participated and shaped said taxation policies] innate behavioural characteristics of envy.

 

Section One:

Paying Your Fair Share – What Does It Mean?

Who is paying their fair share? This has been the question of taxation policy not just within the state of Connecticut, but nationally as well. Given the frequency in which this theme is expressed from both sides, regardless of interpretation at this juncture, indicates that it is certainly a central theme to Connecticut taxation policy in general. Therefore, it will be used as the starting point to understanding the basic rationalization of various government individuals, who seek to interpret, influence, and formulate the state’s tax policy. The first focal point will be “fair” and how this is to be simplified into an understanding of “equality.” This simplification will then be placed in the context of the theme by analyzing and simplifying “pay” as essentially nothing more than identifying a group or person regarding their “material possession.” The analysis of this section will produce two understood forms of equality that effect the rationalization of individuals who influence and formulate taxation policy, in regards to the established tax debate theme. The first notion will identify “natural equality,” or the understanding of equality based upon a moral disposition guaranteed by nature itself. The second notion will outline what is to be called “economic-equity materialism,” [EEM] which is the abuse of Law in order to guarantee equality of results by the Law, and its sole aim is to adhere all individuals to a pre-established level of material possession, or “justice.”

It is a cornerstone of the democratic principles of the United States that, “all men are created equal.” Since the creation of the nation, equality has been a subject of great debate and sought understanding. Traditionally however, the notion of equality has been understood as, “like in quality, nature, or status.” This essence of equality is based more upon the disposition of natural understanding, or deriving from a system that is governed by nature and therefore is universal to all peoples. In other words, within the confines of a lex naturale focus, this essence of equality refers to the understanding and rationalization of human nature within the context of a binding moral conduct or behavior, which is determined by nature itself.[v] In order to place this definition into a more immediate context, Sections 1, 6, 10, 18, 19, and 20 of Article I of the Connecticut Constitution will be addressed.

Essentially the same [in content] as the 14th, 15th and 19th amendments of the United States Constitution, the sections of Article I of the Connecticut Constitution outlined previously, all together embody the just and proper notion of the traditionally natural essence of equality. After the American Civil War had ended and with the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the United States insisted on ridding the horror of slavery and bringing to right the just and natural essence of equality. In 1868 and 1870 respectively the 14th and 15th amendments were ratified which enabled all men to vote, and blacks to be considered as full American citizens.[vi] Additionally, the 19th amendment finally had freed women from the shackles of political restriction. The sections 1, 6, 10, 18, 19, and 20 eventually embodied natural equality after 1984, when the Connecticut General Assembly amended Section 20.[vii] The several sections outlined the following:

 

In section 1,

“All men when they form a social compact, are equal in rights; and no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community.”[viii]

Section 6 and 10 briefly state:

“In all prosecutions or indictments for libels, the truth may be given in evidence, and the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts, under the direction of the court.”

“All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done to him in his person, property or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and right and justice administered without sale, denial or delay.”[ix]

Sections 18 and 19 read:

“No hereditary emoluments, privileges or honors, shall ever be granted, or conferred in this state.”

“The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate.”[x]

And lastly, Section 20 states:

“No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law nor be subjected to segregation or discrimination in the exercise or enjoyment of his civil or political rights because of religion, race, color, ancestry or national origin.”[xi]

With the completion of the amendment to section 20 of Article I of the Connecticut Constitution, in conjunction to the aforementioned sections, the overall conceptualization of natural equality was politically complete. No longer was any form of ascriptive identity a justifiable item to use in seeking to restrict a person’s natural rights. The fact that each of these amendments addresses that race, color, and gender, among others, are no longer suitable ascriptive qualities to hinder the inherently inalienable rights of a person, establishes that by birth all people regardless of their identity are equal before the laws of the state. Furthermore and to conclude, the sections 6, 10, 19, and 20 ensured that all people are given due process under the Law. Therefore, equality has traditionally been understood, and rightfully so, to be that all people regardless of their ascriptive qualities, are viewed as the same before the laws of the land, enacted to preserve the Common Good[xii]; and that each is ensured due process in relation to those laws. Thus everyone is the same before the Law, and awarded the same protection under the Law.[xiii] By this logic, the only thing a person therefore has in life are their rights, their integrity [word], and their merits before the Law, hence all equal according to their actions within the context of the Common Good.

Assessing the current rationalization of equality in regards to the theme of the Connecticut tax debate, another interpretation of equality has emerged that is not at all compatible with the traditional and natural understanding of equality previously outlined. Those who are argue for more tax increases tend to argue that the wealthier citizens of the state are not “paying their fair share.”[xiv] For example, in a recent report issued on July 2011, the Connecticut Voices for Children stated that the wealthiest 1% of Connecticut residents “will still pay only half as much of their income in state and local taxes as the poor and middle class.”[xv] Therefore if we take the word “pay” from this sentence and simplify its fundamental meaning, “material possession,” and/or “wealth,” then we can attempt to understand how these government officials and non-governmental organizations rationalize the taxation process. The notion of “fair” [equality] is ultimately being connected to “material possession,” or simply, the amount of wealth a person obtains. Therefore this essence of equality is not based upon any natural disposition of a person, [i.e. the inalienable natural rights of a person by birth], but a distorted perception that disregards the context of lex naturale, and instead seeks to implement an entirely new notion altogether. What will be called “economic-equity materialism” [EEM] is essentially a form of philosophy that disregards natural equality, a person’s integrity, and merits before the Law, and instead seeks to manipulate the Law in order to have equality of results guaranteed by Law, regardless of the person’s integrity, or more importantly, merit.

— — — — — —

Case Study No.1: Connecticut’s Budget Debate & Total Taxation Figures:

There are several organizations and government representatives in the state that are at the forefront of the tax debate. This past April, when lawmakers were negotiating the state’s budget deficit of $3.5 billion[xvi], more than 65 state representatives argued for tax increases on the wealthier and middle class tax brackets.[xvii] During the same period a group of lawmakers wrote in a letter, “We strongly believe that the upper income brackets in the governor’s proposal did not go far enough.”[xviii] Furthermore, as was mentioned previously, non-governmental organizations and coalitions such as Better Choices for Connecticut, and one of its member associations, Connecticut Voices for Children, among many others concluded that this proposal was reasonable. The Connecticut Voices for Children report released in July 2011, also stated that the “wealthy still pay the smallest share of income in state and local taxes.” What followed was an intense and turbulent public debate as to whether this argument was valid.  Therefore, this case study will first very briefly offer a glimpse of tax revenue typical for the state of Connecticut since 1991 [the year the personal income tax was conceived][xix].  After assessing the traditional revenue statistics for the state the figures of both the Connecticut Voices for Children who argue for tax increases, and the Yankee Institute of Public Policy Analysis, which argues for no or limited tax increases will be contrasted.

Connecticut Tax Structure:

In the state of Connecticut there are five major state tax components that contribute a substantial portion of the state’s annual revenue generation:

 

(i)             The personal income tax (PIT);

(ii)           The corporate income tax (CIT);

(iii)          The general sales and use tax (GSUT);

(iv)          Several selected sales or excise taxes, and;

(v)           The inheritance and estate taxes (IET).[xx]

 

While these are the five substantial tax components, there are more than three hundred and forty-seven different taxes and fees that the state government relies upon for its overall annual revenue generation. The five tax components listed above are described as substantial to the general revenue collection of the state, however out of the total amount of state taxes and fees there are only fifteen separate taxes that amount [on average] to more than ninety percent of the overall revenue generation to satisfy the state’s total expenditures in the budget. The following are the top fifteen sources of revenue generation for the state of Connecticut as of fiscal year (FY) 2009:

  1. Person Income Tax (PIT) – $6,385,856,437
  2. General Sales & Use Tax (GSUT) – $3,194,863,688
  3. ARRA-Increased Medicaid FMAP – $2,579,965,883
  4. Medical Assistance-Title XIX – $2,579,965,883
  5. Corporation Tax (CIT) – $566,017,816
  6. Gasoline Tax – $369,068,334
  7. Cigarette Tax – $312,403,962
  8. Dependent Children – $290,246,485
  9. Lottery Ticket Payment – $283,000,000
  10. Inheritance & Estate Tax (IET) – $238,336,664
  11. Mohegan Sun Gaming Payments – $200,651,342
  12. Mashantucket Gaming Payments – $177,153,621
  13. Motor Vehicle Licenses – $175,476,461
  14. Electric & Power Company Tax – $153,897,278
  15. Administration-Social Services – $144,099,512

Total: $17,475,526,905[xxi]

The expenditures of the state budget for FY2009 totaled $18,410,000,000[xxii]. Taking the total revenue generation of the top fifteen taxes and subtracting that from the total expenditures of the state budget, leaves roughly some $930 million extra needed to be borrowed, taxed, or the use of various stabilizer mechanisms to be utilize in order to balance the budget [a state constitutional requirement]. In other words, the top fifteen sources of tax revenue satisfy roughly ninety-five percent of the total budget expenditures. Furthermore, according to the Yankee Institute for Public Policy Analysis, “the state could eliminate the two hundred smallest taxes and fees [out of the three hundred and forty-seven] for just $22 million in revenue” on an average $19-20 billion state budget.[xxiii]

Remembering the tax debate theme of “who is paying there fair share,” the Connecticut Voices for Children indicated that the state’s low- and middle- income families will pay between 9.6% and 11.4% of their total incomes in state and local taxes, while the wealthier brackets will pay only 5.5% of their total income.[xxiv] The key component of their argument is evident with their choice of wording, “pay” or contribute x portion of their “total income.” Therefore it is simply because the citizens within the higher tax brackets have more wealth to potentially pay out in taxes, indicates that it is “just” and feasible for them to do so given the total and steadily growing amount of annual government expenditures. These types of organizations, which primarily rely on donations and charity[xxv], are quick to call for higher tax increases on those who labored for their total property. The following graph compares four items: population growth since 1972, median income growth since 1975, and real gross state produce growth and real expenditure growth since 1972;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Chart provided by the Yankee Institute for Public Policy Anaylsis

The red line, which represents expenditure growth since 1972, is vastly disproportionate to the overall population and median income growth of about the same initial time period.[xxvi] Therefore, why is Connecticut Voices for Children and other related groups not questioning whether state government spending is also in order to be reformed, versus simply the taxable wealth needed to pay for the bloated and every increasing rate of state expenditures?

The “80/20” Rule and Income Tax Breakdown – Is it Fair?

What is the actual break down for those who pay taxes in the state of Connecticut? For this question, and in regards to this paper’s established tax debate theme, the state income tax breakdown will be analyzed. The state income tax is Connecticut’s single biggest source of revenue, which contributes more than 50 percent of all General Fund revenue collected directly by the state (excluding federal grants). The Yankee Institute for Public Policy Analysis claims that there is the “80/20” rule to the state’s income tax breakdown.[xxvii] In other words the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers – those filing at under $100,000 – accounted for 20 percent of income tax revenues, while the top 20 percent of income earners paid 80 percent of income tax receipts.[xxviii] Further, the institute also claims that the top 6 percent of taxpayers – those earning $250,000 and more – paid over half of all income tax receipts; and finally the top 1.3 of taxpayers in the state paid a total of 35 percent of all income tax receipts. Put another way: the wealthiest 1.3 percent [23,067 filers] earning more than $1 million a year, paid $2.1 billion alone in income taxes [FY 2007], that is an average of $93,865 per person. [xxix]

To conclude we will take both positions and decide as to whether or not it follows the established formula of the tax debate and decide whether its effects upon the citizens and economy is violent, and if it is inherently “fair.” The Connecticut Voices for Children claim:

 

[personal income taxation] x (should be) –> [a higher percentage for the wealthier] y

While Yankee Institute for Public Policy Analysis argues:

[a higher percentage for the wealthier] y (should be) –> [not as disproportionate as it currently is, and therefore not increased] z

 

Utilizing the established definition of violent – an intense, turbulent, and furious actions of sorts – clearly is visible within the tax debate formula. Both sides not only disagree but their two views are incompatible entirely. Connecticut Voices for Children in their report attempts to neutralize counter arguments for their tax increase proposals claiming “taxes are simply not a significant factor in decisions about where to move compared to much more important factors like home prices, employment opportunities, and community networks.”[xxx] The Yankee Institute of Public Policy Analysis conducted a survey in 2009 and found that 45% of Connecticut citizens have “considered moving out of state due to high taxes.”[xxxi] Therefore again we have an intensely violent debate that creates political division and causes uncertainty within the state’s economy. Those who have been identified in this case study for proposing tax increases on the wealthy, ignore the concept of natural equality, and discriminate and distort legal measure in order to force a standard of material possession for all citizens, regardless of merit. It appears by the positions taken on each side there is no means of compatibility or compromise. Taking notice to the statistical evidence given in this case study, the question must be asked how and why do groups like Better Choices for Connecticut and its affiliate Connecticut Voices for Children pursue such clearly misleading and violent proposals?

— — — — — —

The Connecticut Voices for Children, Better Choices for Connecticut, and other related groups, including their government representatives have distorted the actual revenue capacity of the state. Essentially what happens by pursuing a philosophy of “economic-equity materialism” is that individuals will argue, or government officials will formulate, a taxation policy [through the budgetary process] that establishes a minimal standard of living and/or an amount of wealth a person must obtain by necessity. In Connecticut’s particular case, any person who is classified as “poor” is typically the beneficiary of various taxation policies and bloated government budgets. To be classified as living in poverty depends on the individual or couples combined income and number of their total dependents. The average family size in Connecticut is 2.52, and so if it is rounded to an average size of three, then the poverty level is any person making $18,310 annually.[xxxii] Taking into consideration Connecticut’s total population of 3,588,218 in relation to the state’s total poverty level of 8.7[xxxiii] percent indicates there are roughly 306,091 people classified as poor.[xxxiv]

Achieving the established standard of “wealth possession” is translated as an end goal, or ultimately “justice,” for the individual in poverty. The state will help those less fortunate receive that necessary materialistic justice. Therefore it seeks to establish equality of material possession for all citizens by taxing those who visibly “have more,” [i.e. wealthier citizens], and awarding it through government expenditures [through budgetary means] to those below the established standard of justice. Essentially EEM pursues a three-step strategy: (1) extraction [of wealth from those who are above the standard of economic ‘justice’]; (2) spending [the wealth on individuals who are perceived below the established standard in order for them to achieve ‘justice,’] and; (3) repetition of steps (1) and (2) indefinitely. Step (3) is the most vital part of the process because without the extracted wealth to spend on the less fortunate, those below the standard of justice would be unable to potentially reach that standard of living and all the amenities that go with it [i.e. health insurance, better house, food stamps, etc].

This three-step process begs many questions to be answered. Is this type of system sustainable as it is? What if the wealthier citizens either run out of material [i.e. wealth] to contribute, or decide to leave for a more healthier and suitable climate to the results of their labor? According to an American Legislative Exchange Council study published in 2009, 1,100 people a day move from the nine highest income tax states to the nine states without an income tax. This is clearly a damaging prospect to follow, destroys the natural essence of equality, and seeks to distort and manipulate the Law for a materialistic end that has no foundation on personal merit in relation to wealth received from this type of process. Visible in the previous case study, the legal distortion of budgetary measures allows for a disproportionate extraction of wealth, to fund a bloated government budget, that potentially threatens wealthier citizens to migrate, resulting in an overall greater loss of government revenue that otherwise would have remained for annual collection. Therefore what is the rationalization of individuals involved in the EEM system within the taxation policy debates and formulation process? Given the nature in which the individuals who pursue an EEM policy process, villains are made out of the wealthier citizens using rhetorical devices within the public debates on the state’s taxation policy, [i.e. the wealthy are selfish, greedy, etc.], and therefore, given the established definition of envy, such action can be reasonably deduced to the behavioural quality of envy.

 

Section Two:

The Dichotomy of Envy – The Destroyer and the Creator

As mentioned previously in this report’s overview, envy will be described as “that passion which views with malignant dislike the superiority of those who are really entitled to all the superiority they possess.” This notion of envy was written by the late 18th century economist and philosopher Adam Smith in his book, “Wealth of Nations,” and given the focus of wealth, money, and related items, his definition is quite relevant to the subject matter at hand.[xxxv] As the title of this section indicates, envy is a dichotomy, in that, depending on the internal disposition and rationalization of the individual, envy can be channeled either benignly or maliciously. In other words, one rationalization of envy in relation to the individual’s perception of their external environment may cause them to enable either a stagnant or productive atmosphere. There are two major pieces to the “envy puzzle”, the first is what motivates the initial actions of an individual, and another determines how that action is to be defined. To further the point, the first piece involves the understanding that all human activity, which derives from human consciousness [cogito ergo sum], has two foundational pillars: pleasure and pain. Regardless of one’s ascriptive qualities, all human activity translates to the wont of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. The second piece is centered on talent. Therefore this section will seek to demonstrate how the concept of our biological disposition in conjunction with the inner capabilities determine which path individuals will pursue within the confines of envy.

1. Pleasure versus Pain:

Many political and philosophical commentators of have alluded to the “state of nature” as being the primary motivating principle behind all human activity. The “state of nature”[xxxvi] being that biological disposition that compels every person to maximize their pleasure and to minimize their pain.[xxxvii] Since pleasure is desired [by the necessity to maximize it] then it is reasonable to conclude that it is “good;” and because pain is undesired [by the necessity to negate it] then it is “bad.” No honest or internally conscious person will claim that their sincere desire is to maximize their pain. For example, people go to work either because their profession brings them great personal satisfaction, or it rewards them with an income, which increases their pleasure by acquiring items with that wealth, or in some instances both. It is extremely difficult to recruit a person to a cause that is openly hateful and destructive unless it is either camouflaged under a moral pretence in the public sphere, and/or followed by individuals who are either not conscious of their internal disposition regarding their state of nature motivation in relation to the “cause” or phenomenon they support.

2. The State of Nature and Talent in Relation to Envy:

A person’s consciousness of their internal disposition is the motivating factor as to why one person experiences benign or malicious envy. Furthermore, it is not their consciousness of the state of nature motivation, but rather their internal awareness of their inherent talents that will assist them in being more successful within the state of nature construct. Therefore what is benign and malicious envy in relation to understanding how consciousness of inner talents is what determines an individual to pursue one type of envy over the other?

In his book, “On Violence,” Slavoj Zizek indicates there are two types of envy, amour-de-soi and amour-propre.[xxxviii] These two conceptualizations of envy correlate directly into the theoretical framework of Erik Erikson’s description of human development and subsequent rationalization regarding envious behavior. Erik Erikson eloquently states that the experience of benign envy enables a motivation of the individual, with the goal of improving their position; whereas those who experience malicious envy commit to the opposite, aimed at damaging the position of the superior other.[xxxix] Amour-de-soi and amour-propre, or in layman’s terms, “that love of self which is natural” and the “perverted preferring of oneself to others in which a person focuses not on achieving a goal, but on destroying the obstacle to it,” is the contrast that Zizek outlines regarding what Erik Erikson describes similarly as benign and malicious envy.[xl] Zizek cites Saint Augustinian’s work and provides an example of how this may manifest itself directly within general human behavior,

“Let’s return to the … scene of a sibling envying his brother who is suckling at the mother’s breast. The subject does not envy the Other’s possession of the prized object as such, but rather the way the Other is able to enjoy this object, which is why it is not enough for him simply to steal and thus gain possession of the object. His true aim is to destroy the Other’s ability/capacity to enjoy the object.”

The fact that “the Other is able to enjoy the object” has created a view in the first brother’s mind that his pleasure is being negated by his brother’s action, therefore he must rid of his brother to gain access to his coveted desire.[xli] This is assuming that the coveted desire of the brother is obtainable in the first place. Away from this example and to put it bluntly, is the coveted desire just that or is it actually obtainable for the individual based upon their ability to acquire various “things”?

This is the potential dilemma, and the reason as to why two types of envious individuals exist. Slavoj, on page 76 of his book, offers what “Nietzsche and Freud share: the idea that justice as equality is founded on envy” –

“on the envy of the Other who has what we do not have, and who enjoys it. The demand for justice is thus ultimately the demand that the excessive enjoyment of the Other should be curtailed so that everyone’s access to jouissance is equal.”

The philosophy of the person experiencing malicious envy [amour-propre] seeks to rid of an obstacle in order to gain “access” to a coveted desire. The person who experiences malicious envy hates the other who is enjoying some pleasure, because they believe the Other’s act of enjoyment is causing them pain, and to diminish their pain they destroy the Other experiencing the pleasure.[xlii] Instead of finding an internal process or talent to acquire that same pleasure, they seek to destroy the obstacle instead.[xliii] A person who resorts to benign envy is able to not only be internally aware of what is causing them pain [the visible enjoyment of another], but are also aware of their innate talents to assist them in acquiring that same pleasure and thus enjoyment of that pleasure.[xliv] For example, using the story from Genesis regarding the brothers Cain and Abel may give insight into the phenomenon of envy.

Cain failed to grasp his envy when looking upon his brother Abel’s preference to God. Cain thought of his brother Abel as the source of his pain, when in reality it was the fact that God did not show him equal favor for his sacrifice. He believed that by killing his brother, out of envy for his situation and the favors stowed upon it [his perceived obstacle to pleasure], he would be ridding the source of his pain. The story finishes, after Cain has killed Abel out of envy, “therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.”[xlv] Cain immediately responded realizing the gravity of his actions, “my punishment is too great to bear.”[xlvi] When Cain committed to killing his brother in order to destroy the perceived source to his pain, he ended up securing for himself more hardship and pain.

Therefore what is the relevant quality of envious individuals who attempt to remove obstacles instead of acquire pleasures? It is talent. By definition, talent means both, “general intelligence or mental power; ability,” and, most strikingly, “the natural endowments of a person.”[xlvii] If one person has talent as previously defined, then a person might feel the natural inclinations of envy respective to more successful others, but ultimately will acquire that which is to their profit or pleasure on their own. Here is the root cause that creates the distinction between malicious envy and benign envy. An individual who constantly is seeking to rid the Other of their enjoyment is suffering from their vivid vision of coveted desires, and thus construct mental justifications to remove those who enjoy acquired pleasures. Since the individual acts upon the fundamental notion to maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain, if their knowledge or sight of the Other with a pleasure or success is causing them pain, they potentially believe it proper to rid of the individual rather than acquire the pleasure. The individual commits to this course of action in order to create a malicious and false sense of equality to their own talentless efforts to acquire pleasure or success on their own merits. A person, who experiences benign envy, may look at another successful individual and be jealous, but then seek through his or her own talent to acquire the same success as the Other.

It is the person that is endlessly suffering from malicious envy that finds no other reasonable course of action than to destroy and take away the other’s acquired talents because the envious person never had the means to do the same themselves. It is from the brother’s consciousness in the Augustinian example, that he is not “capable and well endowed” to commit to and enjoy the suckling of the mother’s breast, which forces him to rid of the brother rather than to become capable of the acquiring the pleasure. Malicious envy, stems from a philosophy not only of hatred for the Other and their talents, but also the hatred of their talentless self. To conclude however, does this report mean to indicate that there are “talentless” and “useless” people in the Connecticut state government and general population? No, however any person that is not conscious of their talent acted as though they never had any talents in the first place, therefore the person resorts to a set of actions based on malicious envy. It is not that talentless people exist, however if certain internal dispositions prohibit these talents from being recognized, they are never used, and so it is as if they never have existed.

3. Dichotomy of Envy on the Public Stage:

Paying homage to the expression that perhaps everyone is an infant that eventually learns how to behave in public, these two distinct forms of envy are thus translated into the public sphere in different ways. The public sphere in this instance involves state government officials who formulate and implement taxation policies, as well as the various economic interests groups as outlined earlier in this section. Given the democratic principles Connecticut state government is founded on, these economic and other interest groups elect government representatives that will potentially serve their interests. Traditionally this type of grouping has been generally observed through the lens of political party affiliation, however the creation of these two “envy camps” [benign and malicious envy] in the state government and economy is the result of independent behavioral traits and not political ideology. It is the political party ideology that is often manipulated and thus ultimately used respectively by groups or individual people within the public sphere as potential means to an end regarding taxation debates based upon their envious disposition.[1]

In order to clearly define when a tax policy from the Connecticut state government is having a violent effect upon the general economy, there needs to be indicators or levels of measurement to accurately identify the quality of the action. Therefore the manner in which the envious camps, and thus their visibly violent attributes are translated within the public sphere is either by identifying specific rhetorical devices within taxation policy debate; or, when taxation policy enables a visibly anti-business climate, stagnation of human capital and subsequent job growth, preservation of underemployment and under-utilization of resources[xlviii], as well as the migration of wealthier citizens from the state’s economy. Some of the rhetorical devices that will be addressed are “who is paying their fair share” [how this established taxation policy theme is structured will depend on which side of the tax debate is using it], etc. There are more rhetorical devices that will be addressed and explained further within each specific case study and therefore the “types” of rhetorical devices appropriate for use is not subject to a permanent and predetermined series of specific words or phrases.

The manner in which this report is able to deduce that items such as an anti-business climate and stagnating job demand are the result of violence, and by that token, envious violence, is by understanding the fundamental quality and thus potential consequence of the two distinct envy camps. In other words, malicious envy and benign envy can be broken down simply by the following reductions:

Malicious Envy:

 

Pleasure Identified –> Not Conscious of Talents –> Malicious Envy

Malicious Envy –> Hatred –> Covet –> Destruction –> Stagnation

Benign Envy:

Pleasure Identified –> Conscious of Talents –> Benign Envy

Benign Envy –> Impartial Recognition –> Acquisition –> Development –> Creation

Given our explanation as to what human consciousness is [pleasure v pain], then it is understandable how the logical reduction of pleasure is desired because it is sought to be maximized, therefore it is good, or pain is undesired because it is sought to be minimized therefore it is bad; directly correlate to each camps’ final reduction of either “creation” or “stagnation.” To put it another way, “good” correlates directly with “creation,” while “bad” correlates directly with “stagnation.” Lastly, because the people who experience malicious envy tend to rid of a painful obstacle rather than acquire a pleasurable item, their very nature tends to be more destructive. In other words, instead of acquiring a pleasure, which results in developing their previously lacking situation and establishing growth in their possessions, the person with malicious envy seeks to destroy the Other experiencing pleasure, thus [if successful in destroying the Others’ jouissance] establishes a reduction in overall pleasure being enjoyed. Therefore, taxation policies that shun away wealth and business opportunities, as well as maintain stagnate job growth, can be interpreted as being the perpetrators of envious violence because of the previously outlined nature in which malicious envy operates.

— — — — — —

 

Case Study No.2: Stagnate Job Growth & Non-Existent Job Training 

Relating to business development and subsequent job growth in any economy is the expression, give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. This is clearly the opposite case in the state of Connecticut, which has had no net job growth in 22 years. Adding together the retired 13.9% (464,414 citizens) of CT’s population, and the 23.0% under the age of 18 (809,206 citizens), there remain a total of 2,244,668 of the total population left. Subtracting the state’s official number of eligible citizens for the CT workforce from the 2,244,668 leaves a remainder of 351,268 citizens.[xlix] This is also excluding the total population of those, by law, eligible for work between the ages of 16 and 18 altogether, but given the abysmal teen youth employment rates on a national level (less than 50%) their exclusion only potentially lessons the total number of those who simply “do not work”. Therefore, disregarding the portion of the established population of 351,268 who may be potentially impaired or disabled, what are they doing? The answer could be several things, but one thing that is certain is that they could be doing more for themselves if only the state began to spend tax money in a more beneficial and productive manner that creates jobs and increases incomes, rather than shuns jobs and decreases overall citizen income.

Connecticut spends $5,000,000,000 per year on social services, and yet poverty, unemployment and underemployment persist, particularly within immigrant and urban minority populations.[l] To make matters worse, the Connecticut population is aging and young college graduates are moving elsewhere to start families, careers, and businesses. Immigrants and minorities experience the highest unemployment levels.[li] Growing populations are concentrated in the poorest cities where economic development, employment opportunities and other quality of life factors are grim.[lii] In fact, if the total number of those in poverty established previously, 306,091, was subtracted from the total number of those who “do no work,” discovered in the previous paragraph, 351,286, then we can see that a majority of those excluded from the state’s calculation of the workforce are simply suffering from the “culture of dependency.”[liii] Or in other words, a life characterized by receiving state benefits[liv] and therefore simply never work. Are these people who are living in poverty born to live this way or is their life, which is characterized as receiving meager state benefits subduing their full potential? Let the following chart illuminate the disparity between the incomes of those in the poorest cities in Connecticut to those of the more affluent towns and cities:

 

 

 

In fact many advocacy groups such as Connecticut Voices for Children as well as relevant state government agencies [Social Services, etc] express their public commitment to eradicating poverty within various times frames [the most recent being to reduce poverty in half by 2014]. The data on poverty within Connecticut offers a different story completely. In 1970, the total poverty rate of the state was 7.2 percent out of a population roughly of three million, resulting in a total of 216,000 people living in poverty. Today’s rate of 9.2 percent, which out of a population of three and half million results in a total of 253, 316 total persons living in poverty. Taking the present total and subtracting the total of 1970 from it, indicates that poverty has actual increased by 37, 316 people instead of decreased.[lv] That is the equivalent of the entire population of the town of Norwich, or Shelton.[lvi] Therefore are these social services resulting in billions of public money expenditures by the state, reducing poverty and increasing the standard of living of people as some entities and officials claim they are?

Is there a relationship between those who are not “eligible to work” compared to those who are living in poverty? If so, are the current measures of “challenging the culture of dependency” and eradicating poverty thus effective and is the under-employment of many sectors of the state’s economy a result of a lack of adequate job training programs for the poor? According to the Yankee Institute of Public Policy Analysis the problem is the result of not awarding the less fortunate an opportunity to learn an essential new trade and potentially rise above their life characterized by meager wages and state benefits. A November 2007 report from the Yankee Institute claims,

“Through demand-driven job training programs, Connecticut’s neediest citizens and taxpayers may receive maximum values from each dollar spent on social services.”[lvii]

The health of a state’s workforce is crucial in determining the quality of life of the state’s residents. According to the Economic Resource Center, young workers are not replacing the state’s aging population, and without a change of direction, Connecticut will become even less competitive in the future. Therefore, by investing in job training programs, instead of promoting evidently failed state dependency programs is worthwhile because when one person becomes financially independent through employment, “family, community, and state feel the benefits.”[lviii] By helping the less advantaged and poor citizens gain employment, or a higher paying form of employment through job training programs is a positive for the taxpayer but also for the jobless individual in poverty who acquires a consciousness of their talents and therefore are able to gain more by their own labor. Instead of promoting their level of poverty for political and potentially monetary purposes, the state should invest in job training which will help reverse the state’s 22 year history of no net job growth as well as help individuals realize their talents, as well as increase their standard of living by their own merits and not by a forced philosophical rationalization of “material equality.”[lix]

— — — — — —

Conclusion: A Violent End With a Hopeful Future.

The state of Connecticut at times enacts taxation policies that are detrimental to the growth and health of the state’s economy. It is from an envious rationalization of individuals within and outside the state’s government that seek to support various proposals which in turn violently target the wealthier citizens of the state. This report was not meant to demonstrate that there is a permanent placement of poor and rich, malicious and benign, but rather that through critical observation, internal consciousness to one’s externally consequential actions and determination may foster a potential for greater growth and efficiency, not just for the state’s governance but also the economy’s productivity. If a person’s talents are recognized as the source to what enables a person to be a positive and productive member of a society, then there will be fewer individuals who, whether consciously or unconsciously, destroy and force stagnation on an otherwise potentially prosperous state. It is time to reassess what violence means and realize that it is not simply an action within war or some other horrific crime, but can also describe the nature of everyday events, in this instance taxation policy in the state of Connecticut.

Having an action that is intense, turbulent, and furious be classified as violent describes the nature of the phenomenon rather than forcing the word to be understood by a more subjective and gore-filled term. Stagnate job growth in the state correlates directly to the nature of operation of individuals who experience malicious envy and thus promote stagnation, while the growth in the economy correlates directly to that of benign envy. Individuals who experience benign envy and subsequently promote an environment of development and creation, are encourage to considered as villains who “don’t pay their fair share,” in order for the opposition to camouflage their potentially talentless selves. Just as the envy camps will never be able to reconcile with each other, as is evident in the formula of the state’s taxation debate [xà y against y à x], so may too be the state’s taxation policy forever violent. These characteristics of each envy camp in relation to the nature of the tax debate create an anti-business climate, force people to remain in poverty, and waste taxpayers money.  As the great achievements of the human species in technological innovation progresses, the question to ask is whether or not the rationality and subsequent maturity of the human species will advance and evolve as well. If we are too have a more effective, decent and hardworking government, the state must learn to support ideas and individuals that are effective, decent and hardworking.


[1] For example, many of the government officials who potentially support interest groups such as Connecticut Voices for Children often times adhere to the Democratic Party, however regarding the group’s proposal for tax increases is not always headed by members of that political party. This is evident with State Representative Kimberly Fawcett – D – Fairfield, who opposes tax increases on the wealthy to solve budget crises, simply because they have more wealth.


[i] “Office of Fiscal Analysis.” Connecticut General Assembly. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cga.ct.gov/ofa/BudgetBooks.asp&gt;.

[ii] “Violence – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. Web. 25 Oct. 2011. [Definition 3] <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/violence?show=0&gt;.

[iii] “Envy – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/envy&gt;.

[iv] Smith, Adam, and Edwin Cannan. The Wealth of Nations. New York, NY: Bantam Classic, 2003. Print.

[v] Finnis, John. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon, 1980. Print.

[vi] Hennessey, Jonathan, and Aaron McConnell. The United States Constitution: a Graphic Adaptation. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008. Print.

[vii] “The Connecticut Constitution.” Connecticut State Library Home Page. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cslib.org/constitutionalamends/constitution.htm&gt;.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Finnis, John. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon, 1980. Print.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Connecticut Voices for Children, “After 2011 Tax Reforms, Connecticut’s Wealthy Still Pay Smallest Share of Income in State and Local Taxes.” July 2011. <http://ctkidslink.org/publications/bud11whopays.pdf&gt;

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] “Connecticut Governor-Elect Dan Malloy Prepares Budget For $3.5 Billion Deficit « CBS New York.” CBS New York – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of NY. Web. 31 Oct. 2011. <http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/12/31/conn-gov-elect-preps-for-3-5-billion-deficit/&gt;.

[xvii] Lockhart, Brian. “House Democrats’ Letter Urges Tax Increase for Wealthy – Connecticut Post.” CTPost.com – Connecticut Post. Web. 3 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/House-Democrats-letter-urges-tax-increase-for-1342519.php&gt;.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] “Connecticut’s Tax System Staff Briefing.” Connecticut General Assembly. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cga.ct.gov/2005/pridata/Studies/CT_Tax_System_Final_Report.htm&gt;.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] “Nickels and Dimes 2010: Connecticut’s Taxes.” Yankee Institute for Public Policy. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2010/05/nickels-and-dimes-2010-connecticuts-taxes/&gt;.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Connecticut Voices for Children, “After 2011 Tax Reforms, Connecticut’s Wealthy Still Pay Smallest Share of Income in State and Local Taxes.” July 2011. <http://ctkidslink.org/publications/bud11whopays.pdf&gt;

[xxv] “Funders.” Connecticut Voices for Children. Web. 17 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ctkidslink.org/about_funders.html&gt;.

[xxvi] “Growth of State Gov’t Graph.” Yankee Institute for Public Policy. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2010/08/growth-of-state-govt-graph/&gt;.

[xxvii] “A Look at Who Pays Connecticut’s Income Tax.” Yankee Institute for Public Policy. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2009/05/a-look-at-who-pays-connecticuts-income-tax/&gt;.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Connecticut Voices for Children, “After 2011 Tax Reforms, Connecticut’s Wealthy Still Pay Smallest Share of Income in State and Local Taxes.” July 2011. <http://ctkidslink.org/publications/bud11whopays.pdf&gt;

[xxxi] “Last One Out Turn Off the Light.” Yankee Institute for Public Policy. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2009/09/last-one-out-turn-off-the-light/&gt;.

[xxxii] “2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines.” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, HHS. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/09poverty.shtml&gt;.

[xxxiii] “POVERTY INCREASE IN CONNECTICUT WAS LARGEST IN NATION, CENSUS DATA SHOW – Jonathan Kantrowitz – Connecticut News.” Connecticut News – Connecticut News. Web. 3 Nov. 2011. <http://blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/2009/09/29/poverty-increase-in-connecticut-was-largest-in-nation-census-data-show/&gt;.

[xxxiv] “Connecticut QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau.” State and County QuickFacts. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/09000.html&gt;.

[xxxv] Smith, Adam, and Edwin Cannan. The Wealth of Nations. New York, NY: Bantam Classic, 2003. Print.

[xxxvi] Hobbes, Thomas, and C. B. Macpherson. Leviathan. Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1985. Print.

[xxxvii] Bentham, Jeremy. The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1988. Print.

[xxxviii] Žižek, Slavoj. Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador, 2008. Print.

[xxxix] Erikson, Erik H. Childhood and Society. New York: Norton, 1993. Print.

[xl] Žižek, Slavoj. Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador, 2008. Print.

[xli] Ibid.

[xlii] Ibid.

[xliii] Ibid.

[xliv] Ibid.

[xlv] The New American Bible. Nashville: Catholic Bible, 1987. Print.

[xlvi] Ibid.

[xlvii] “Talent – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/talent&gt;.

[xlviii] “CONNECTICUT JOB GROWTH RANKINGS (1990-2005).” Connecticut General Assembly. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cga.ct.gov/2006/rpt/2006-R-0179.htm&gt;.

[xlix] “Connecticut QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau.” State and County QuickFacts. Web. 29 Oct. 2011. <http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/09000.html&gt;.

[l] Kindred, Natalie. “Help Wanted: Serving Connecticut’s Neediest Citizens through Job Training.” Yankee Institute for Public Policy. Web. 7 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2007/11/help-wanted-serving-connecticut’s-neediest-citizens-through-job-training-2/&gt;.

[li] Ibid.

[lii] Ibid.

[liii] “POVERTY INCREASE IN CONNECTICUT WAS LARGEST IN NATION, CENSUS DATA SHOW – Jonathan Kantrowitz – Connecticut News.” Connecticut News – Connecticut News. Web. 3 Nov. 2011. <http://blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/2009/09/29/poverty-increase-in-connecticut-was-largest-in-nation-census-data-show/&gt;.

[liv] Stephen, Leslie, and Leslie Stephen. The English Utilitarians. Honolulu, HI: University of the Pacific, 2004. Print.

[lv] Ibid.

[lvi] “DECD: Research.” CT.gov Portal. Web. 01 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1106&gt;.

[lvii] Kindred, Natalie. “Help Wanted: Serving Connecticut’s Neediest Citizens through Job Training.” Yankee Institute for Public Policy. Web. 7 Nov. 2011. <http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2007/11/help-wanted-serving-connecticut’s-neediest-citizens-through-job-training-2/&gt;.

[lviii] Ibid.

[lix] Ibid.

If an alien life form were to ask for a written history of mankind through the ages to the present, there would be a war, conflict, and violence on every page, in almost every paragraph. Violence happens because people experience envy, something that many cultures and religions identify as a trait rotten to the core. The trouble that can persist with seeking to stop violence is people’s inability to recognize their inner qualities that are derived from envious behavior. In the Bible for example, our civilizations source of values and spiritual faith, has in the first book Genesis, chapter four the story of Cain who grew envious of God’s favorable outlook upon his brother Abel, the story ended in blood (New American; pg. 11).[i] The interesting thing about violence is how we define it, how we as a species seek to understand it.

Typically you would expect most people to understand violence as some form of physical aggression, whether it is a horrific crime, or acts found within war. Interestingly enough, violence is simpler than that and by that very logic more readily prevalent within our society. Understanding violence as a furious, turbulent and intense action of sorts allows us to realize that violence isn’t solely a physical act of aggression, but a fundamental act of violation that more often than not ends in human conflict (Violence).[ii] When God favored Abel over Cain, the later did not seek to understand and properly place his own actions within the situation, but filled his heart with hatred and murdered his brother. As the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith wrote, Envy is “that passion which views with malignant dislike the superiority of those who are really entitled to all the superiority they possess” (Wealth of Nations).[iii] Here in lies the fundamental source of violence – envy – alongside a person’s ability to internally become aware of their envy and how this ultimately influences their subsequent behavior. If violence is to be stopped envy has to be recognized as the enabler, and if people want to be aware of their envy, their internal awareness alongside the consciousness of their innate capabilities, or unique talents, must be utilized.

Let us explore the issue of violence through what is to be called the “Web of Envy.” Since violence is not some mysterious phenomenon that should be assumed as a fact of life, what is its source? It is people, and people’s behavior. The beginning of this Web of Envy, or “the web” for short, starts with human existence, and ultimately consciousness. The human species and all its activity can be reduced to two simple foundational pillars: Pleasure and Pain (Legislation; pg 2).[iv] It is easily argued that because humans want to maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain, all human activity whether it is going sailing, to the movies, or making friends, etc is the pursuit of acquiring things that will award the individual pleasure, and offer them the least amount of pain.[v] So what does this have to do with Envy, and violence? Since violence is caused by human behavior, and all human behavior is based on the wish to maximize pleasure, then what happens if people’s internal awareness of their pleasure or their perception on the outside world as to where pleasure lies, is distorted? (Violence; pg. 74)[vi]

Deriving from consciousness [internal awareness], envy can be channeled into two directions – benign envy and malicious envy (Violence; pg. 75).[vii] Benign envy is when an individual sees another enjoying a pleasure or success of some sort, and becomes impartially jealous due to their own lack of enjoyment and subsequently seeks to acquire something of a similar magnitude (Violence; pg. 75).[viii] Malicious envy sees the same individual and instead of impartial jealousy, resorts to hatred of the individual and seeks to deprive that other of their enjoyment (Violence; pg. 75).[ix] In Dante Alighieri’s thirteenth century work, La Divina Commedia [The Divine Comedy], finds the envious individuals of Earth in Hell with their eyes sown shut with wire because they gained sorrow at another’s good (Inferno)[x], and sinful pleasure from others brought low (Summa Theologica)[xi] [See figure 1 for the depiction of Dante’s portrayal].

The question still looms however, how one individual can channel that jealousy or envy benignly and the other with great malicious intention? The answer is internal awareness not only of the envy, but of one’s position within the relative setting causing that envious sentiment. In other words, the reason one person chooses to hate the other who is enjoying some pleasure, is because they believe the other’s act of enjoyment is causing them pain, and to diminish their pain they destroy the one experiencing the pleasure. Instead of finding an internal process or talent to acquire that same pleasure, they seek to destroy the obstacle instead (Violence; pg. 74).[xii] A person who resorts to benign envy is able to not only internally aware of what is causing them pain [the visible enjoyment of another], but are also aware of their innate talents to assist them in acquiring that same pleasure and thus enjoyment of that pleasure. This is what Cain failed to grasp when looking upon his brother Abel’s preference to God.

As seen in figure 2 below, Cain thought of his brother Abel as the source of his pain, when in reality it was the fact that God did not show him equal favor for his sacrifice. He believed that by killing his brother, out of envy for his situation and the favors stowed upon it [his perceived obstacle to pleasure], he would be ridding the source of his pain.

Figure 2 “Cain and Abel Offering Sacrifice to God”

The story finishes, after Cain has killed Abel out of envy, “therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth” (New American; pg. 11).[xiii] Cain immediately responded realizing the gravity of his actions, “my punishment is too great to bear” (New American; pg. 11).[xiv] When Cain committed to killing his brother in order to destroy the perceived source to his pain, he ended up securing for himself more hardship and pain. So again I will ask the question, since violence is caused by human behavior, and all human behavior is based on the wish to maximize pleasure, then what happens if people’s internal awareness of their pleasure or their perception on the outside world as to where pleasure lies, is distorted? What if Cain, realized that it was his own actions, his sacrifice to the Lord, that was his actual source of pain, and that his thoughts that his brother was the cause of his pain was simply distorted?

People who experience malicious envy resort to hatred because they hate the other for experiencing enjoyment from a pleasure, but also hate themselves for lacking that enjoyment in the first place [which they fundamentally desire due to the human need to maximize one’s pleasure] (Violence; pg. 75).[xv] The individual who experiences malicious envy never once is aware that they may be able to acquire more pleasure in life if they utilize their unique sets of talents – natural endowments, ability- to acquire that pleasure, rather than destroying a perceived obstacle to it. It is from this understanding of envy and how it interacts with individuals within the collective [society] that brought Adam Smith to his conclusion – “that passion which views with malignant dislike the superiority of those who are really entitled to all the superiority they possess.” Those who have acquired pleasure and enjoy them, are not deserving to the hatred from those who experience malicious envy. What Adam Smith is saying is that those who are viewed as “superior” due to what they “have” or are experiencing [thus have more pleasures], are in that position because of their ability to acquire such things. Those who look on with malignant dislike never internally realize that they are able to do the same. If they simply recognize their own abilities and focus their mind on acquiring the pleasure, and not destroying the other which is enjoying the pleasure they covet, they will reduce their overall access to pain.

Malicious envy and the hatred it creates, enables the person to internally rationalize a destructive and aggressive behavior toward the other that is enjoying their coveted pleasure. By the malicious person not being aware of their inner talents, thus causing them to resort to violence to what they believe is a remedy to their perceived problem or source of pain, ultimately creates violence within our society. So how then do people become not only aware of envious qualities, but their ability to influence how to behave based upon that internal awareness of envy? Simply ask the right questions, or in other words rationalize properly the situation when envy arises.

Look at it, for example, in regards to two people who are sitting in the same room. One of these people is eating an ice cream, and the other is not. The person without an ice cream asks the other if they may have a bite of theirs. The person eating the ice cream says no, which results in the person with no ice cream punching the other in the face, knocking the treat to the floor. What questions did the person without ice cream ask themselves before resolving the situation with violence? If we are pessimistic about the person’s [the who committed the violence] internal rationalization of their actions, we can assume that they were angry by the other’s response, and didn’t question any of their thoughts and simply acted on impulse. This time however lets have a little more optimism, lets assume that the person thought about the situation before acting. Their understanding of the situation was distorted, and justified their violent action not by recognizing their anger was caused by envy and how that was relevant within the given situation; but that their pain was caused by the other with the ice cream because they were not selfless or compassionate enough to give up their pleasure for someone else [more specifically them]. Never once did the person recognize their sentiment of envy and as a result concluded that it was acceptable to act violently to reconcile their pain. The best part about this scenario is that few people acknowledge the fact that there is a third option for the person originally without an ice cream to pursue. Not only is there a third option, but it is the easiest path to act upon, to have the person without an ice cream look at the other enjoying theirs and ask themselves, do I want an ice cream? If yes, then I will go buy one and enjoy one too. Nothing simpler.

Violence in today’s society is caused by a lack of understanding and awareness not with others and the outside world, but with one’s own self and subsequent talents in relation to all other human activity. If violence is to be reduced in the world, then the beginning to that process lies not with others, but with the individual. Human activity relating to envy is ultimately bound to end in conflict if no person is questioning the motives for the sentiments and level of personal awareness that propel them into either benign or malicious envy. Cain believed by killing his brother, he would be ridding himself of his greatest source of pain, but ended with a punishment he told God face to face, “is too great to bear.” Did he rid of his pain, or only add to it, while never addressing the actual source to his problem? Therefore, before resorting to hatred to those who are believed to have more enjoyment of pleasure, take a step back and ask whether the obstacle to your pleasure and happiness is within some stranger, or simply lies within you.


[i] The New American Bible. Nashville: Catholic Bible, 1987. Print.

[ii] Žižek, Slavoj. Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador, 2008. Print.

[iii] Smith, Adam. Wealth of Nations. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1991. Print.

[iv] Bentham, Jeremy. The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1988. Print.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Žižek, Slavoj. Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador, 2008. Print.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Dante, Alighieri, and John Ciardi. The Divine Comedy: the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso. New York: New American Library, 2003. Print.

[xi] Thomas. Summa Theologica. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1981. Print.

[xii] Žižek, Slavoj. Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador, 2008. Print.

[xiii] The New American Bible. Nashville: Catholic Bible, 1987. Print.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Žižek, Slavoj. Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador, 2008. Print.

Bibliography

Bentham, Jeremy. The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1988. Print.

Dante, Alighieri, and John Ciardi. The Divine Comedy: the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso. New York: New American Library, 2003. Print.

Smith, Adam. Wealth of Nations. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1991. Print.

The New American Bible. Nashville: Catholic Bible, 1987. Print.

Thomas. Summa Theologica. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1981. Print.

Žižek, Slavoj. Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador, 2008. Print.

There are major concepts, definitions, and themes addressed throughout Hannah Arendt’s attempt to deconstruct the various social movements and their political focus during the riots and protests of the 60s and 70s of the last century. This deconstruction is especially made clear with her clarifications regarding that time period’s violent upheavals in the name of Marxism, a philosophy she says in incompatible with violence altogether. The dichotomy Arendt outlines between Violence and Power however, will be the focus of this report. To further the paper’s emphasis, the definitions of what Violence and Power are will be examined within the structure of Arendt’s dichotomy. It will contrast Arendt’s definitions of power and violence in respect to related fields of study that attempt to reconcile the same concepts found within Arendt’s dichotomy and what potential implications this overall structure may have on various perspectives within the realm of politics.

The last paragraph of the book, there is a sentence written which states, “every decrease in power is an open invitation to violence.” Further, on page 56 Arendt writes, “Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent.” Here in lies a glimpse of the dynamic relationship that is portrayed in the book between power and violence. The level of violence determines the level of extant power and visa versa. Arendt claims that violence is not a component or tool of wielding power, as is traditionally regarded; but rather the “item” that fills the void when the essence of what power actually is has vanished from the scene. Therefore, the question we must ask is, what is Arendt’s definition of power? On page 44, power “corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert.” For example, within the field of Political Science, this type of definition of power can be seen as rather peculiar. The predominant, but not exclusively accepted definition of power, is the attempt to describe its essence (something that just exists) rather than identify it to any plausible action or concrete phenomenon.

Power, as recognized by various disciplines such as International Relations and Political Science, is the ability or official capacity to exercise control; authority. Arendt extends further her clarification of power by writing,

“Power is never the property of an individual: it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together.”[i] 

Arendt’s definition and subsequent description is a rather bold assertion against the prevailing current of power classifications within related fields of study. Violence on the other hand, outlined on page 46 “is distinguished by its instrumental character. Phenomenologically, it is close to strength, since the implements of violence, like all other tools, are designed and used for the purpose of multiplying national strength until in the last stage of development, they can substitute for it.” That violence is the aggregation of separate individuals whose “capacity of character” is proven to other individuals, hence an amalgam of capable and independent people.

Having outlined the definitions of the Power and Violence within the dichotomy, I will focus for the rest of the paper on the nature of this dual relationship. To reiterate Arendt’s assertion on page 56, “Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent.” One characteristic of power many relative fields and Arendt can agree upon is that power needs legitimacy, however the author uses this quality to distinguish her conception of power’s relation to violence from that of the more traditional normative. For example, power needs to be legitimate, but because power exists only when there is a legitimate foundation for it, violence as a tool becomes irrelevant and unnecessary. If violence was used in the framework of Clausewitz, under the wisdom of Arendt’s vision, in that, war is simply a continuation of policy by other means, then in reality the legitimacy of that pre-existing power has ceased (or failed) because it was unable to convince its subjects, citizens or neighbors of its right to maintain itself. Traditional norms within the body-politic have always considered violence to be a legitimate tool of those in power, rather than an indication of the established power’s lack of legitimacy. Therefore, where power starts to decline in being able to gain the majority’s acceptance to its rule, violence is the only other means of force that can fill that void where the power once stood.

There are many potential reasons as to why Arendt could have desired to deconstruct the traditional conceptions of Power and Violence in this manner. For one, she could have been concerned by the student protests gaining traction all across the globe in the wake of a devastating Vietnam war, straining the public’s patience; or she could have simply been attempting to clearly understand the forces at work around her. There is one reason I would like to suggest as to why she focused on this specific type of dichotomy. In the beginning chapters of the book she addresses the existence of new means of warfare, especially in regards to nuclear weapons. That violence (or war) as its capacity to produce destruction stands today, can no longer be understood as the traditional means to an end, or tool of power. Her claim, in regards to the existence of nuclear weapons and how the arsenals continue to grow in the name of security and deterrence, is that the means now overwhelm the ends. She quotes a Russian physicist on page 9 writing, “A thermonuclear war cannot be considered a continuation of politics by other means. It would be a universal suicide.” What is her goal then, in light of this indicated reality, in outlining the nature of the Power and Violence dichotomy?

Here may lie an underlying reason to Hannah Arendt’s attempt to portray a new picture on power, and on violence in a modern world of nuclear arsenals that could kill each person in the world a few times over. One motive I believe is potentially the attempt to make others aware of the fact that human rationality in understanding their behavior may not be able to keep pace with our species ability to create new forms of technology, especially when most of this technology is applicable to violence and war. Therefore, I would like to end this paper with a relevant joke.

There are two aliens that appear identical and are looking down at planet earth. The first alien asks the second, is there life on planet Earth, and if so what is it like? The second alien indicates that the more dominant of the species just invented thermo-nuclear, inter-stellar missile guidance systems. The first alien has another go at a question, “Are the humans an intelligent species?” The second alien gives out a loud chuckle and replies, “No, they pointed the missiles at themselves.”


[i] Arendt, Hannah. On Violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1974. Print. [page 44]

 The Tool of Conceit

            To say that conceit is man’s greatest folly would only be partially correct. The expression only paints half the picture, in that, conceit is proper and just if the individual merits it, yet clearly not all do. If conceit is only a mental or philosophical construction, then how can we say that it is abundantly prevalent in reality (or the physical world)? What is the driving force or application that allows the mental conceptualization of ‘conceit’ to become manifested in physical reality? Slavoj Žižek discusses that violence, or the fundamental act of violation, is partially the result of ‘envy’. The author discusses the concepts of ‘envy’ based on amour-de-soi and amour-propre, or in layman’s terms, “that love of self which is natural” and the “perverted preferring of oneself to others in which a person focuses not on achieving a goal, but on destroying the obstacle to it.” Therefore it is ‘envy’ that is the actual tool in which human conceit is allowed to make its grand and at times destructive appearance to all cultures, nations, and people of the Earth.

However if ‘envy’ is the tool of human conceit, then how is it that there is great disparity between the phenomenal consequences of envious individuals? In his book, Slavoj claims the fundamental reason there is ‘envy’ is derived from the St. Augustinian example of one brother being quite jealous of the other who is suckling his mother’s breast, he furthers the explanation, saying;

“Let’s return to the Augustinian scene of a sibling envying his brother who is suckling at the mother’s breast. The subject does not envy the Other’s possession of the prized object as such, but rather the way the Other is able to enjoy this object, which is why it is not enough for him simply to steal and thus gain possession of the object. His true aim is to destroy the Other’s ability/capacity to enjoy the object.”

Here comes to light some fundamental echoes of Hobbesian philosophy: the ultimate desire of every human is to maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain. The fact that “the Other is able to enjoy the object” has created a view in the first brother’s mind that his pleasure is being negated by his brother’s action, therefore he must rid of his brother to gain access to his coveted desire. This is assuming that the coveted desire of the brother is obtainable in the first place. If the envious brother is conscious of ‘envy’ and aware of his “negated pleasure” and decides to act on it from his own free will, then most likely or not he has passed the very stage of needing to “suckle the mother’s breast”. Away from this example and to put it bluntly, is the coveted desire only that or is it actually obtainable for the individual based upon their ability to acquire various “things”?

Why Pity is a Difficult Emotion

Here in lies a potential dilemma, and the reason as to why two types of envious individuals could exist. Slavoj, on page 76 of the book, offers what “Nietzsche and Freud share is the idea that justice as equality is founded on envy” –

“on the envy of the Other who has what we do not have, and who enjoys it. The demand for justice is thus ultimately the demand that the excessive enjoyment of the Other should be curtailed so that everyone’s access to jouissance is equal.”

Here we have a disturbing philosophy of the envious who seek to rid of an obstacle, to gain “access” to a coveted desire that states, “since it is not possible to impose equal jouissance, what is imposed instead, to be equally shared, is prohibition.” Therefore let us attempt to define a relevant quality of envious individuals who attempt to remove obstacles instead of acquire pleasures: talent. By definition, talent means both, “general intelligence or mental power; ability,” and, most strikingly, “the natural endowments of a person.” If one person has talent, as previously defined; then a person might feel the natural inclinations of ‘envy’ respective to more “successful” others, but ultimately will acquire that which is to their profit or pleasure. Here is the root cause that creates the distinction between malicious envy (amour-propre) and benign envy (amour-de-soi).

An individual who constantly is seeking to rid the Other of their enjoyment is suffering from their vivid vision of coveted desires, and thus construct mental justifications to remove those who enjoy acquired pleasures.  This is done, in order to create a malicious and false sense of equality to their own talentless efforts to acquire pleasure on their own merits. A person, who has benign envy, can look at another successful person and be jealous, but then seek through their own talent and ability to acquire the same success as the Other. It is the person that is endlessly suffering from malicious envy that finds no other reasonable course of action than to destroy and take away the other’s acquired talents because the envious person never had the means to do the same themselves. It is from the brother’s consciousness that he is not “capable and well endowed” to commit to and enjoy the suckling of the mother’s breast, which forces him to rid of the brother rather than to become capable of the acquiring the pleasure. Amour-propre or malicious envy, stems from a philosophy not only of hatred for the Other and their talents, but also the hatred of their talentless self.

Altruism, but more distinctly, altruism based on selfless devotion and compassion to others is the camouflage of this malicious envy and all the destruction, stagnation and evil suffering it piles upon the human race. Having compassion for the talentless gives the means of malicious envy an almost free reign upon the talents of man and all the achievements that it sets out to create for the betterment of the species. Pity would almost be acceptable to give to the talentless man, yet upon looking at the current state of affairs of Earth, how can you pity those who are the root cause of so much destruction and violence against innocent people? We are not a people of deserving cases and should not be treated as such; yet the collective compassion of man unknowingly justifies and rewards the philosophy of those who have chained Prometheus to the mountains, forever tortured for giving fire to man.