Front Page Titles (by Subject) Empire, Equality, and Envy - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
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Empire, Equality, and Envy - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Empire, Equality, and Envy
Egalitarianism and Empire. Menlo Park, California: Institute for Humane Studies (1975) 32 pp.
Civilizations have evolved historically according to a syndrome of “E” factors: equality, egalitarianism, envy, and empire.
Equality of opportunity before the law tolerates differences in income, property, or status. Egalitarianism desires to level and eradicate even such inequalities. Envy hates and resents the person who possesses more than the envier does (e.g., beauty, wealth, status, or power). Empire, the drive towards a centralized, bureaucratic state, is the historical offspring begotten by the hate of envy coupled with egalitarianism.
Weber, de Tocqueville, and more recently Robert A. Nisbet (The Twilight of Authority) underscore this trend to empire or centralized statism and rule by bureaucracy. In discerning these symptoms, Spengler diagnosed civilization as declining in freedom and creativity while power and centralization of power were increasing and blocking creative energies.
The development of the “E” factors syndrome parallels a shift in the source of value or law. The West has drifted beyond equality towards egalitarianism and democracy. These values depend on more primary sources of value or law: supernatural law (God's plan), natural law (reason and experience), and positive law (state law). Each of these three concepts historically follow a sequence related to the “E” factors. Societies begin developing with a value system based on supernatural law. The breakdown of feudalism and the growth of equality follow natural law. Egalitarianism and empire subscribe to positive law and a belief in the state as the ultimate source of all value and law. Envy and resentment goad on this last development.
The egalitarian thrust of “social justice” (essentially a program for leveling income, property, and status) contradicts the idea of equality. For many, egalitarianism masks an envy to replace those at the top regardless of whether their position arose from state-granted privileges or from superior ability and hard work.
Why do so many people believe that state intervention alone can achieve social justice? This follows from their belief that the state is the source of value and law. Trapped within the blinkering paradigm of the state, society becomes fixated on state solutions and is blind to the possibility that statism may be the problem.
In the West, statists developed a policy of mercantilism: the state allows private property but the rulers regulate the economy for the “general welfare.” This inherently unstable mercantilistic state system tends toward “corporate syndicalism” where rival economic interests jockey to control the state. This condition results in three sets of critics: (1) reformers seeking to return the system to a “responsible” mercantilism; (2) socialists seeking to go beyond mercantilism and abolish even the nominal private ownership; and (3) free market advocates seeking to abolish mercantilism. These last mentioned critics view state intervention as the root problem.
Mercantilism tends toward empire or centralized state power. To solve the evils and instability of the mercantilist system, the state assumes ever more power to regulate. To avoid government by vested interests, man turns to government by a supposedly impartial and impersonal bureaucracy. Now an elaborate tug of war for state power occurs between the ruler, the bureaucracy, the economic interests, and the people as a whole. An added complication introduces the military to restore final order.
Bureaucracy, begotten to promote equality, spawns the Frankenstein monster egalitarianism. Envy and egalitarianism serve as the heart of this complex interaction of values and the “E” factor syndrome. One can trace this process by carefully examining the historical development of ancient Greece, Rome, China and the modern West.