CHARACTER REHABILITATION

Posted in Quick Hits on December 1st, 2011 by Ed

One of the most interesting differences between liberals and conservatives, in my anecdotal experience, is the zeal conservatives have for re-litigating the past and attempting to rehabilitate the character of their most visible failures. Note, for example, the consistent efforts to rewrite the history of the New Deal (see: uberhack Amity Shlaes' recent garbage), Ann Coulter's "Joe McCarthy wasn't so bad after all!" crap, or Victor Davis Hanson's decades-long effort to make Curtis LeMay a figure of respect instead of a template for movie villains. There seems to be a different level of emphasis on…letting it go, so to speak.

The return on investment for this strategy seems remarkably low. The amount of effort required to create a new hero (Palin, Bachmann, Paul Ryan, etc.) is vastly lower than what is required to rewrite history, and the latter usually fails anyway. So of all the figures who could be praised in an effort to rehabilitate their reputation, I'm not sure why the comedy geniuses at the Von Mises Institute decided to start with Scrooge. Yes, the fictional character. The villain. The figure whose name has become synonymous with penury, greed, and the inhumanity of industrialized capitalism. Ebenezer Scrooge.

This deserves a full-scale FJMing like few things I've ever seen, but it's simply too long and too stupid to fit into my currently hectic schedule. Look at just a few of the things we learn in this opus, "In Defense of Scrooge":

So let's look without preconceptions at Scrooge's allegedly underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit. The fact is, if Cratchit's skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit's profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages.

No doubt Cratchit needs—i.e., wants—more, to support his family and care for Tiny Tim. But Scrooge did not force Cratchit to father children he is having difficulty supporting. If Cratchit had children while suspecting he would be unable to afford them, he, not Scrooge, is responsible for their plight. And if Cratchit didn't know how expensive they would be, why must Scrooge assume the burden of Cratchit's misjudgment?

As for that one lump of coal Scrooge allows him, it bears emphasis that Cratchit has not been chained to his chilly desk. If he stays there, he shows by his behavior that he prefers his present wages-plus-comfort package to any other he has found, or supposes himself likely to find. Actions speak louder than grumbling, and the reader can hardly complain about what Cratchit evidently finds satisfactory.

I…I don't even know where to start with this. Just remember that you can't be underpaid if the inerrant free market has determined your salary (laugh along for a moment and pretend that's what actually happened here).

Scrooge's first employer, good old Fezziwig, was a lot freer with a guinea—he throws his employees a Christmas party. What the Ghost of Christmas Past does not explain is how Fezziwig afforded it. Did he attempt to pass the added costs to his customers? Or did young Scrooge pay for it anyway by working for marginally lower wages?

Yeah.

The biggest of the Big Lies about Scrooge is the pointlessness of his pursuit of money. "Wealth is of no use to him. He doesn't do any good with it," opines ruddy nephew Fred.

Wrong on both counts. Scrooge apparently lends money, and to discover the good he does one need only inquire of the borrowers.

Lending money is an act of kindness.

And then, most of all:

Dickens doesn't mention Scrooge's satisfied customers, but there must have been plenty of them for Scrooge to have gotten so rich.

Yep, that's how one gets rich in a Free Market: by merit. By pleasing customers.

The Von Mises Institute: Blending glibertarian fantasy and reality since 1982.