Maynard contemplates whether Ebenezer Scrooge got a bad rap

‘Tis the season in which all good Americans are required by custom and law to view at least one dramatic presentation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. And I enjoy discovering new interpretations (this year I saw the 1984 version with George C. Scott). But, as time passes, I find myself becoming more and more sympathetic to the unreformed Mr. Scrooge. Consider how Scrooge exemplifies all that is good and admirable:

  • Scrooge the Tolerant and Scrooge the Diverse: Scrooge faces coercive pressure to fall into line and celebrate like everyone else. Scrooge alone is tolerant of diversity. “You keep Christmas in your way. And I’ll keep it in mine.” What reasonable person could have a problem with that?
  • Scrooge the Green: In the opening scenes, it is established that Scrooge insists upon minimizing his use of coal, which is a non-renewable resource and a major source of pollution and greenhouse gasses. Rather, he asks his employee to simply wear additional clothing, as he does himself. At the end, Scrooge is degraded, shoveling dirty coal into his fireplace with reckless abandon. Tsk!
  • Scrooge the Thrifty: Scrooge’s lifestyle is a modest one. He does not despoil the resources of the world for his personal indulgence. Rather, he saves his money in the bank, thus allowing excess capital to be lent to others, that they may expand their productivity.
  • Scrooge the Taxpayer: Scrooge is painfully aware that the taxes extracted taken from him (and he pays plenty; a lot more than the wretched Mr. Cratchit!) are used by the government to care for the needy. He knows the government does an extremely poor job of this, and he laments the misuse of funds, which would have been more productively allocated had they not been seized from men of business. But Caesar must have his tribute, so Scrooge shrugs and carries on with his life.
  • Scrooge the Individualist: Scrooge is not a herd animal. He has no need to wallow in silly, time-wasting uniformity in the company of his fellows. He’s quite satisfied, and has no need to take revenge by making up another stupid holiday to impose on others (such as Festivus or Kwanzaa).
  • Scrooge the Rationalist: When confronted by supernatural nonsense, Scrooge seeks physical explanations. Ghosts do not exist, but food poisoning is a real phenomenon. It’s no doubt this clear-thinking focus on hard facts that helped him get ahead in business.
  • Scrooge the Straight-Talking, Hard-Working, Honest Businessman: Scrooge does not mince words, nor does he cheat anyone. He is upfront about his business affairs, and clients are free to accept or reject his proposed transactions.

In short, Scrooge was a pillar of the community, practicing every virtue that would bring prosperity to a society, and at the same time completely tolerant of the indulgences and peccadilloes of others. The Dickenses of the world may have cheered loudly at his demise, but the decline of England was an inevitable consequence of the decline of good Mr. Scrooge.

Disclaimer: I’ve seen various movies, but I haven’t read the text of “A Christmas Carol”. However, I have read “Bleak House” and “A Tale of Two Cities”. Mr. Dickens has a penchant for portraying poor people as noble and always struggling to be good and decent, whereas his bad guys are men of wealth and power. I’m not suggesting that the top tier of society is inhabited by angels. But goodness and evil are where you find them, and not limited to one environment or another. People can do great good or great harm independent of their socioeconomic status. Dickens seems to suffer from the typical Leftist obsession with economics. He was a man with selective vision, and this myopia skewed his worldview.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tammy Bruce, PalinPromotions and others. PalinPromotions said: Via @HeyTammyBruce Scrooge Reconsidered [...]

  2. thierry says:

    “Malthus image also suffers among a wider audience. Dickens, for example, clearly based his Scrooge character on his misreading of Malthus’ characterization of the poor. When asked to contribute money to help the poor, Scrooge responded:

    I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned [the Work Houses and Prisons] they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.” “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.” “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
    While this passage from Dickens is clearly based on Malthus’ writings, it is a gross mischaracterization of both the letter and spirit of those writings.”
    -Reclaiming Malthus , Frank W. Elwell

    scrooge is therefore clearly a pro-Deathcare Obama Democrat.

  3. Foreverautumn says:

    I disagree, Thierry. I think Scrooge is Darwinian. Who tends to wind up being poor? Those who don’t get an education, those who have children at too young an age and out of wedlock to boot, and those who abuse alcohol and drugs. If you simply get a High School Diploma, don’t have children until you’re married, and then don’t have children until you’re at least 20 (or was it 21?), you have a 90% chance of avoiding poverty. I’m with Maynard on this; Dickens is just another leftist twit who thinks poverty and suffering somehow make you good and noble, and that the poor are somehow entitled to a living, food, housing, health care, etc. All the poor are deserving, you see.

    • thierry says:

      it seems you are unaware that Darwin admitted to basing his original theory on none other than Malthus so i am actually right.

      “In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long- continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The results of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then I had at last got a theory by which to work”.
      Charles Darwin, from his autobiography

      Dickens was actually paraphrasing Malthus not Darwin.

      and dickens was a no limousine liberal or socialist . he had worked in a sweatshop- a boot blacking factory. he was writing about what he had in part experienced and seen. i could do without the overweening sentimentality but because upper class aristocratic english christians widely at the time viewed poverty as a judgement from god on undeserving people and wealth as a god’s golden hand shake, dickens was trying to humanize those who were treated and largely seen, if it all considered, as quasi-subhuman animals, fodder. the irish were in particular viewed as savages, barely human.

      we can not, further ,quantify economic and social conditions of Dickens’s time with that of our own wherein even the poorest have wide access to free partly mandated education( not to mention a plethora of social programs that were unthought of in victorian times .even the most basic charity was widely thought to do the poor no good turn). statistics about high school education in 20th+ century america have absolutely no relevance whatsoever. more people were married, it’s true, but wives and children were abandoned in droves. adults died young leaving kids behind alone. there were hardly any labor laws , work and housing conditions were deplorable. children went to work as young as possible and among the poor hardly ever went to school. the wages for women and children were outrageously low compared to males. child prostitutes walked the streets with no police or social intervention. one would have to go to a third world country to see the sort of poverty dickens so often rightly critiqued. when he was involved in charity it was disciplined, goal oriented and based on self sufficiency- nothing like the welfare programs we see today. many of the social reformers of the 19th century are more accurately seen as ‘ classical liberals’.

  4. dansnewplace says:

    Thank you Maynard.

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