Thursday, December 09, 2010

It's that time of year again!

Time for another swipe at the old mythology. Here's a bit of Ebenezer Scrooge and Economic Freedom by Russell D. Longcore
Look at the headlines coming out of Washington today. The DC criminals wish to punish the wealthy for accumulating wealth, while it works to lighten the tax burden on the poor and middle class. Belle must have been a closet Socialist, since she had no respect for Scrooge's work ethic. And, in her defense, we might say that Scrooge spent too much time at the office. But wealthy people don't get wealthy acting like wage-earners. They put their time and capital at risk, and reap financial rewards. Belle would not have had a philosophical problem spending Ebenezer's money if she had married him.

When Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Ghost states plainly that if Cratchit's situation does not improve, Tiny Tim will die. But ol' Spooky lays the blame at the feet of Scrooge, not the boy's own father! As we mentioned before, Bob Cratchit had other options to working for Scrooge. Mrs. Cratchit gets mad when Bob raises a glass in toast to Scrooge... like it's his fault they are poor. Then Bob tells about his son Peter, who is trying to get a job that pays five shillings and sixpence a week, and about daughter Martha, who is an apprentice to a hatmaker. These two children are apparently contributing their incomes to the family, as they should. But Scrooge is not to blame for their predicaments... they alone are responsible for their lives.

In another scene, Scrooge's nephew Fred, says: "His wealth is of no use to him. He don't do any good with it. He don't make himself comfortable with it. He hasn't the satisfaction of thinking—ha, ha, ha.—that he is ever going to benefit us with it." Ever hear a more exacting expression of a mentality of entitlement? According to the author, Scrooge has some duty to spread the wealth that HE earned.

When the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come appears, Scrooge sees himself dead lying under a sheet while the Laundress, the Cleaning Lady (Charwoman) and "Old Joe" ransack Scrooge's house and steal what belongings they can carry off. Dickens makes no assertion that this is theft.
Dickens was a marvelous writer, and A Christmas Carol is, doubtless, his greatest product...he even manages to tell a great deal of Scrooge's side of the story. But he never digs very deep into economics. He has a very shallow understanding of it.

To his credit, though, - to his very great credit! - I think his stories about children are the biggest contributor to the improvement of childrearing that has occurred since his time. Having Tiny Tim and Oliver Twist in your head will eat away notions about 'little brats.' I sincerely doubt that anyone who has read those two books was a terrible parent.


The probligo said...

The question in my mind has never been "how much?" or "who has?" too much wealth.

The question that does need to be asked I believe is "From whom?"

There are very rich individuals who have garnered their wealth literally by their own hand. A local example would be Sam Morgan, the NZer who developed "TradeMe" as a local online trading post and made a cool $100mill for his efforts.

At the other end of the scale come those very rich whose wealth has been accumulated through (mostly) legal though far less moral activities. Again to pick a local example, Mark Hotchin and Eric Watson made huge profits by borrowing large amounts of other people's money and then leaving empty shell companies behind. The final insult to those who lost at Hotchin's and Watson's gain has to be the $30 million house Hotchin was building on his share of the proceeds...

Obviously, it is not valid to assign an individual to one or other as there is a huge continuum between. The very great problem with "capitalism" is that it does not make that distinction.

However, I have always had a soft spot for old Ebenezer. He was a
"capitalist" of the old school. His portrayal by Dickens was as a caricature of all "businessmen" of that time. It was, in many respects still is, about how people make money and gain wealth. In that portrayal Dickens makes a far greater impact upon the conflict between money and religion. The comparison brings money (read "capitalism"?) to the fore as Scrooge's "religion" in place of Christianity.

At that level, Dickens makes a dickens lot of sense.

Al said...

Well, yeah... It's not the economy's job to distinguish between good and bad people. The actors in an economy bring their morality to it and do the distinguishing themselves.

It's very important to discriminate between good and bad people. Some moralities do it better than others and the people flourish, some do it badly and the people suffer.

Hey! I just found this -, The Life of Charles Dickens - thans to Wikipedia. I think it'll show how he was able to give birth to a new sensibility about children.

A new morality.

Anonymous said...

Très intéressant, mais je crois qu'en France il faudra encore du temps avant que ça se déclenche. A part quelques mordus de twitter, nous ne sommes pas prêts pour la révolution. Et tant mieux !

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John said...

A bas Twitter qui fait de la discrimination en sélectionnant les marques ^^^

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Al said...

Oh, don't change the subject.