If the world is made up of haves and have-nots, the logical question is: Who deserves more and who deserves less? The answers to these questions affront our sense of justice. Many good and worthy people suffer wants that cruel and dishonest people can’t imagine. In this fallen world, virtue is not rewarded so much as value.
This question of “deserving” can tie us in knots and leave us envious and resentful. A better question to ask is: What have I earned? This removes fickle luck from the equation. Earnings are transfers from one person to another. It begins with a want. It can be a 10-ounce prime rib, a piano lesson, a drawing of a proposed building, or a love so strong that it hurts. The infinite uniqueness of individuals’ desires cannot be understated.
Then, along comes someone who fills that need, who may be uniquely suited to fill that need, and who wants something for himself. What he asks for and receives is, by nature of the transfer, more valuable to him than what he parted with. We, looking askance, judging on our own standards, see little value in what he gives, but much value in what he receives. He doesn’t deserve that, we seethe bitterly. Maybe not, but he earned it.
He himself may think he doesn’t deserve it. He feels guilt for his success, especially if there’s a large gap between the value he provides and the value he receives. He refuses to stand up for himself. He may stand accused of various things by the envious and resentful, but he absolves himself by ascribing it to people like him, but not to himself.
This is liberal guilt. Nurtured to excess by a culture unchecked by Godly humility, it can lead to a self-destructive apocalypse fetish.