The violence is not tangential to the agenda. As the mounting hooliganism at Occupy encampments suggests, where class resentment takes root, predatory lawbreaking frequently follows. When politicians rail against "millionaires and billionaires," when social-activist campaigns scapegoat the "1 percent," it is only a matter of time before thugs feel emboldened to steal, rape, and worse. Class envy is not benign. At its most extreme -- the communist tyrannies of Lenin and Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot -- it unleashed the bloodiest genocides of the 20th century.
Economic envy may cloak itself in rhetoric about "inequality" or "egalitarianism" or "redistribution of wealth," but its oldest name is covetousness. That is the sin enjoined by the last of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is thy neighbor's."
At first blush it may seem odd that God would ban a mere desire. After all, the other nine commandments concern behavior: idolatry, theft, perjury, and so on. But as a matter of moral and social hygiene, the Tenth Commandment is indispensable. Covetousness -- particularly when it takes the form of class hatred -- is the root of innumerable other evils. From the belief that you don't have enough because others have too much, it isn't that great a stretch to the belief that those who have too much should be forced to make do with less. It shouldn't be surprising when a movement obsessed with what rich capitalists earn rather than with what they produce starts treating other people's property and persons with contempt.