Not sure of what you want an explanation --- the roots of beneficent coveting or the rotten core of economics. I think Smith's *Theory of Moral Sentiments*, part IV, "Of the Effect of Utility upon the Sentiment of Approbation" might be an answer to the former (".... The poor man's son, whom heaven in its anger has visited with ambition ... admires the condition of the rich").
As to the latter, where is one to begin? I've just about finished the New Palgrave's "Invisible Hand" collection of essays and it is quite amazing. No concern whether the assertions about the benefits of market behavior are true, indeed whether markets can be said to meaningfully exist at all. The whole book, save for a few notable exceptions, had a creepy feeling of religion about it.