It’s that time of year again when the family huddles around the boob tube and watches A Christmas Carol – either the quintessential 1951 classic starring the legendary Alastair Sim or the Mickey Mouse version. You will spend the next hour or so decrying the odious businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, and weep for the kind and heartwarming family man, Bob Cratchit. You may also view it from a 21st-century economics perspective and vilify Scrooge as an evil capitalist who exploits labor and refuses to help his fellow man.
But is Scrooge really the villain in this Charles Dickens tale or is he the protagonist?
Scrooge is a successful money-lender who takes on risky high-interest loans and helps borrowers stave off destitution, grow their businesses, or repair their homes. He also prefers to be in the company of himself, counting his money or shouting “humbug” to describe his disdain for Christmas. Ultimately, Scrooge is the archetypal businessman who only cares about money, not people. This alone makes him an iniquitous figure – or does it?
Defending Ebenezer Scrooge
The first situation involving Scrooge is a borrower imploring the lender to give him extra time to repay the loan. Scrooge rejects his pleas, requesting the £20 by its due date. Is this wrong? There was likely a contract agreed to by both parties, and any delay might prevent Scrooge from lending out to other clients, which means that merchants cannot purchase fabric or hire an extra hand.
One of the next glimpses we see of Scrooge is his refusal to donate money to a charity aimed at aiding the impecunious. Right away, we are to believe he is a selfish person who likes to hoard his coins. But does giving to charity make you a virtuous person? While charitable donations are preferable to government theft, Scrooge is still doing more for the economy than others in his immediate surroundings.
For instance, though the story omits it, borrowers are better off thanks to Scrooge. Why else would he have become so wealthy? He is extending business and consumer credit, as well as employing workers and frequenting the local pub ordering bread and tea on Christmas Eve.
The next storyline pertains to Bob Cratchit, the underpaid clerk who has a family, including the sick Tiny Tim. But is Cratchit underpaid or is he receiving a market wage? Indeed, if Cratchit’s human capital – skills, education, and experience – were worth more than the 10, 15, or 20 shillings he earned, then another business would happily poach him away from Scrooge. Therefore, it must be deduced that Cratchit is getting paid what he is worth.
In the days before mandated holiday pay, the Dickensian world only had social customs for businesses to compensate their workers on something like Christmas. Scrooge objects to the concept of a paid Christmas holiday, decrying that “it’s not fair” since he is paying for a day without work – these costs must be then passed onto the customer, or Scrooge cannot expand his operations. Moreover, he makes an important statement: “You don’t think me ill used when I pay a day’s wages for no work.” In other words, would Cratchit accept an offer of going to work without a day’s pay? Unlikely.
In addition to his compensation package, we are to condemn the miser for allowing Cratchit only a single lump of coal (how outdated!). Again, Cratchit does not seem to mind, considering he has not been forced to work for Scrooge and could search for employment that provides greater comfort. But he doesn’t, suggesting he would rather have the shillings than warmth. This is proven in the real world, too, as research has shown workers, particularly in developing markets, want to maximize their earnings and would be unwilling to reduce their pay in exchange for air conditioners or better ergonomics.
And then there are the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. The first two are neutral parties, examining events that occurred or are occurring. But the supernatural Yet-to-Come could, from a libertarian standpoint, represent the state. This ghost shows Scrooge that he would perish without anyone caring, some even rejoicing in his death. However, he could circumvent such a grim tomorrow if only he gives away his fortune. It’s akin to the government: Pay your taxes or you will be confined to a miserable prison cell for a specified length of time.
Scrooge the Hero?
At the time A Christmas Carol was penned, Great Britain was going through the Industrial Revolution. Men like Scrooge, the industrialists and financiers, were integral to the West’s prosperity. He used his own capital to lend to business and consumer alike, funding tea shipments or new rooftops. All of these transactions were voluntary, Scrooge never robbed anyone, and he paid his taxes to the British state.
So, why is he hated after all these years?
From a modern-day perspective, Scrooge is old, white, male, and affluent. These are ingredients for a recipe of societal scorn. But before the world became “woke,” he was still hated by readers, primarily because we’ve been told that it’s morally wrong to maximize profit, to hoard your money, and to refuse to be your brother’s keeper. Bah humbug! Scrooge is not only the victim, he is also the protagonist of A Christmas Carol.Feel free to comment below. And remember to check out the web’s best conservative news aggregator Whatfinger.com