In order to justify the envy, jealousy, and sheer spitefulness with which the worker regards the capitalist, the latter’s security would have to be one of the causes of the worker’s insecurity.
Sadly, this quote is still very relevant when “inequalities” are at the core of society’s complaint (despite praising diversity in parallel), at a time when Oxfam make the headlines when they announce that the richest people on earth have more money than the poor.
An interesting point in the analysis from Frédéric Bastiat in this quote is that one of the main reasons for preferring wealth over poverty (which is the case for a large majority of the people) is that wealth is a source of security – anxiousness towards the morrow is a suffering that poor people do not share with the rich. This issue sticks to my own and modest experience when I was a student – I was part of poverty statistics then but the way I felt about it was certainly different from what we usually think about emotionally when considering “the poor”. Confidence towards the future is a key need of human beings.
The other point to note in this quote is the absence of causality between wealth and poverty. No, rich people do not become rich by skinning the poor – if it were so, it would be more advantageous to skin the rich. Wealth is not a product of plunder but a product of rendered services and if there indeed exist some thieves and crooks around (who plunder the proceeds of rendered services), it remains marginal in comparison to the wealth that is created every day. It may also be a good opportunity to remind us that man was born poor and sometimes became rich, not the other way around. Envy remains a deadly sin, even for poor people.