I saw a great film yesterday titled “There Will Be Blood.” Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day Lewis. Paul Thomas Anderson also directed “Magnolia.” The reason I bring this up is that Magnolia especially toward the end made some explicit biblical references (the frog rain). And this film I think can best be understood by realizing that it is morality play about envy.

In a conversation with his brother the main character (Daniel Plainview) says “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed.” Now don’t get me wrong Daniel embodies other deadly sins but it is envy that drives him. And it is ultimately the only emotion that fills his destructive and empty life. I think the movie has been misunderstood as an attack on greed and televangelists. But these are mere foils for the acting out of Daniel’s envy. Daniel is greedy because success is defined by wealth, you can not take what others have without attaining wealth. And Eli Sunday, Daniel’s nemesis in the movie, is merely the vehicle for Daniel’s humiliation and ultimate destruction.

What this movie implies is that capitalism is tainted by envy. Isn’t competition good for the economy. Keep up with the Jones’s, isn’t that another way of saying being envious. The want for what others have drives Americans to spend beyond their means and drives the growth of our economy. And let us remember the warning of Adam Smith, the father of economics, “An investment is by all right-minded people to be commended, because it brings comforts and necessities to the citizenry. But, if continued indefinitely, it will lead to the endless pursuit of unnecessary things.

This is not to say that capitalism is wrong and socialism is right. It’s to say that there is a flaw in capitalism that needs to be watched and controlled, if possible.

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