It is one of the great tragedies of our time that the masses have come to believe that they have reached their high standard of material welfare as a result of having pulled down the wealthy, and to fear that the preservation or emergence of such a class would deprive them of something they would otherwise get and which they regard as their due.
We have seen why in a progressive society there is little reason to believe that the wealth which the few enjoy would exist at all if they were not allowed to enjoy it. It is neither taken from the rest nor withheld from them. It is the first sign of a new way of living begun by the advance guard.
True, those who have this privilege of displaying possibilities which only the children or grandchildren of others will enjoy are not generally the most meritorious individuals but simply those who have been placed by chance in their envied position. But this fact is inseparable from the process of growth, which always goes further than any one man or group of men can foresee.
To prevent some from enjoying certain advantages first may well prevent the rest of us from ever enjoying them. If through envy we make certain exceptional kinds of life impossible, we shall all in the end suffer material and spiritual impoverishment.
Nor can we eliminate the unpleasant manifestations of individual success without destroying at the same time those forces which make advance possible. One may share to the full the distaste for the ostentation, the bad taste, and the wastefulness of many of the new rich and yet recognize that, if we were to prevent all that we disliked, the unforeseen good things that might be thus prevented would probably outweigh the bad. A world in which the majority could prevent the appearance of all that they did not like would be a stagnant and probably a declining world.