Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

Something To Talk About

Posted by Foxfier on 2011/12/23


Did anyone else here read that old defense of The Empire from Star Wars, written long before the new movies came out, best summed up as “great, they killed the Emperor. Hello, power vacuum– who’s going to pay the police now? Who’s going to be in charge, the Hutts?”

In keeping with the season, I offer this from NRO:
Scrooge: The First 1 Percenter.

A sample:

Either way, such actions are not really going to do much to improve the human condition. I contend that Scrooge, before he became “enlightened,” was already doing more to help his fellow man than any of the other main characters we meet in A Christmas Carol. Moreover, by giving away a substantial portion of his accumulated fortune, he drastically reduced his ability to do even more good in the world.
Scrooge was a “man of business” and evidently a shrewd and successful one. Although Dickens fails to tell us exactly what line of business Scrooge is in, a typical 19th-century “man of business” could be expected to involve himself in many endeavors — what investment advisers today refer to as diversifying one’s risk. One can infer from A Christmas Carol that Scrooge was a financier, who lent money to both businesses and individuals. He also spent long hours at the Exchange, probably speculating on commodities, buying and selling government debt, and purchasing and selling shares in various joint stock companies.

We can also infer some things about Scrooge that Dickens does not tell us directly. He left boarding school early, supposedly because his father had a change of heart toward him and wanted him home. A lack of finances may also have had something to do with it, as Scrooge’s formal education ended early and he was apprenticed as a low-level clerk to a tradesman — Mr. Fezziwig. From this low start, Scrooge exhibited a relentless drive that eventually made him rich. Along the way, his business had to survive the Napoleonic Wars, adapt to the Industrial Revolution, and fight its way through several severe economic depressions. In fact, in the year A Christmas Carol was written (1843), Britain was just coming out of a five-year economic slowdown in which only the most nimble and carefully managed enterprises survived. During Scrooge’s business life, upwards of 100 businesses failed for every one that succeeded. Scrooge must have been a very good businessman indeed.

In a nutshell, he argues that it’s a bad thing in the long run that Scrooge ended his prior ways and turned to being generous; I don’t know if I’ve ever even read the actual story, but I recall that almost everyone tells me the Muppet Christmas Carol is accurate, and I could built a refutation of the article from that; when I originally read the Star Wars one, I couldn’t– I just knew it was somehow wrong.

I already cheated and read the comments, but would anyone like to build a counter-argument here? (I do suggest reading the comments… at least, the ones that I saw so far….)

This could be a good conversation starter around the Christmas table– hopefully a safe one, too, if you keep it light!

2 Responses to “Something To Talk About”

  1. Dana Pico said

    The possibility exists that it was Jacob Marley who was the harder and more successful worker, who produced the real success of Scrooge & Marley.

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  2. DNW said

    I took a glance at the linked article, and I suppose the author is attempting to make an arresting point by turning a cherished holiday fable on it’s head, by debunking hidden assumptions and taking a critical look at the historical setting.

    The problem is, that Lacey’s critique requires a recontextualizing of the tale; and assumption piled upon assumption of his own.

    It quickly becomes no fun at all, and less than persuasive.

    Whatever A Christmas Carol might have been in the mind of Charles Dickens, and whatever “subversive” ideas it might have been designed by Dickens to convey through the context of a Christian holiday, its power to move one emotionally did in fact depend upon the acceptance of both Christian sensibilities regarding human life, and a broader supernaturalistic context within which Dickens was able to ground his points regarding the specialness and meaning of human life and choices taken in time.

    Reconstituting it as a secular economic morality play, in order to critique what are supposedly fallacious embedded assumptions, makes the whole enterprise pointless from my perspective.

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