Envy, Greed, and Jealousy Are Related But Distinct

A consideration of these emotions in decision-making, economic theory, and political ideology

Kevin Ann
5 min readAug 20, 2019


Despite our best attempts to think and act rationally, we humans are creatures of emotion despite how much we value and aspire to rational thought. Accounting for emotions has far-ranging implications in making decisions in our personal lives, in risk-reward contexts such as trading and investing, and in the formulation of models of aggregate human behavior in economics and political ideology. Because we may not be able to fight, think, or act through emotions using sheer will power, we should instead understand them deeply so that we can formulate actions accounting for them or to side-step them.

Envy, Greed, and Jealousy are very powerful emotions that are often muddled to the point they’re used interchangeably, but in fact have distinct meanings.

  • Envy
    Desiring what someone else has.
  • Greed
    Desire something by itself.
  • Jealousy
    Fear of losing something already in possession, involving a third party.

I will consider the distinctions between these, as well as their extensions and relation to economic theory and political ideology.

Preliminary Considerations

Consider the following matrix.

  • Have vs Have Not
    Whether you possess something.
  • Relative vs. Absolute
    Whether you compare yourself to others or not.
Matrix 1: Have/Have Not vs. Relative/Absolute

Envy and Greed

  • Envy
    You want what someone else has and compare yourself relative to others. It may exist whether you have something or not.
  • Greed
    When you want more of something insatiably regardless of what others have. It may exist whether you have it or not.
Matrix 2: Envy and Greed — When you want more of something.

Evolutionary mechanisms



Kevin Ann

AI/full-stack software engineer | trader/investor/entrepreneur | physics phd