T Nation

A Defense of Scrooge

Excerpt:

[i] Here’s what I like about Ebenezer Scrooge: His meager lodgings were dark because darkness is cheap, and barely heated because coal is not free. His dinner was gruel, which he prepared himself. Scrooge paid no man to wait on him.

Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that's a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?....

In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser?the man who could deplete the world's resources but chooses not to. The only difference between miserliness and philanthropy is that the philanthropist serves a favored few while the miser spreads his largess far and wide....

Saving is philanthropy, and?because this is both the Christmas season and the season of tax reform?it's worth mentioning that the tax system should recognize as much. If there's a tax deduction for charitable giving, there should be a tax deduction for saving. What you earn and don't spend is your contribution to the world, and it's equally a contribution whether you give it away or squirrel it away....

Great artists are sometimes unaware of the deepest meanings in their own creations. Though Dickens might not have recognized it, the primary moral of A Christmas Carol is that there should be no limit on IRA contributions...

If Christmas is the season of selflessness, then surely one of the great symbols of Christmas should be Ebenezer Scrooge...[/i]

Sounds like the platform of some political parties I know – perhaps we need a reinterpretation of Dickens?

but in our consumper-driven economy doesnt increased consumption increase scarcity thus driving up price allowing the producer to increase profits and income? Therefore probably the most benevolent of all is the oniomaniac who, to their own demise, spends all of their income and in turn helps support the retailer, wholesaler, producer and all others connected within the value-added production and distribution model. Misers effectively remove their dollars from the cycle while philanthropists preferential treatment and support is discrimination of one group over another.

You can defend and praise Scrooge as long as he’s the only one - or one of the very few - living like a miser.

If that lifestyle, often termed “voluntary simplicity” here in Quebec, was to be adopted by a large majority of the population, the economy would crash badly.

If everyone was content with a modest home; a weekly cycle of clothes and a basic diet with nothing in the way of entertainment or luxuries, how long would Wal-Mart last? Food retailers would survive, probably in lesser numbers, but some entire divisions of retail would disappear (consumer electronics; luxury automobiles; fashion designer clothing; …)

While it’s an entertaining read, I don’t think we’d really like for most people to emulate Scrooge.

[quote]pookie wrote:
You can defend and praise Scrooge as long as he’s the only one - or one of the very few - living like a miser.

If that lifestyle, often termed “voluntary simplicity” here in Quebec, was to be adopted by a large majority of the population, the economy would crash badly.

If everyone was content with a modest home; a weekly cycle of clothes and a basic diet with nothing in the way of entertainment or luxuries, how long would Wal-Mart last? Food retailers would survive, probably in lesser numbers, but some entire divisions of retail would disappear (consumer electronics; luxury automobiles; fashion designer clothing; …)

While it’s an entertaining read, I don’t think we’d really like for most people to emulate Scrooge.[/quote]

In Canada, I agree. In the U.S., if it somehow turned into the most totalitarian regime possible with fictional levels of population control, you wouldn’t be able to enforce the levels of frugality that Scrooge practiced. People will always spend frivolously and many in The States could stand to spend lots less.

And given the Jessica Simpson commercials for HDTV, America’s obsession with the SUV, and anything done by Calvin Klein ever, you make a pretty good case for the miserly.

[quote]pookie wrote:
You can defend and praise Scrooge as long as he’s the only one - or one of the very few - living like a miser.

If that lifestyle, often termed “voluntary simplicity” here in Quebec, was to be adopted by a large majority of the population, the economy would crash badly.

If everyone was content with a modest home; a weekly cycle of clothes and a basic diet with nothing in the way of entertainment or luxuries, how long would Wal-Mart last? Food retailers would survive, probably in lesser numbers, but some entire divisions of retail would disappear (consumer electronics; luxury automobiles; fashion designer clothing; …)

While it’s an entertaining read, I don’t think we’d really like for most people to emulate Scrooge.

[/quote]

You’d have a hard time convincing me this was a bad thing. As long as people have disposable income they will dispose of it by buying useless crap thus ensuring the security of the economy.

Is there a measure for how far above basic needs people live on average per country–for example, the income brought in verses how much it costs to meet basic needs? I would be interested to know if this was a whole number or fraction for each country.

[quote]lucasa wrote:
In Canada, I agree. In the U.S., if it somehow turned into the most totalitarian regime possible with fictional levels of population control, you wouldn’t be able to enforce the levels of frugality that Scrooge practiced. People will always spend frivolously and many in The States could stand to spend lots less.

And given the Jessica Simpson commercials for HDTV, America’s obsession with the SUV, and anything done by Calvin Klein ever, you make a pretty good case for the miserly.[/quote]

There’s a difference between living a comfortable lifestyle and living beyond your means.

Every family should try and keep debt to a minimum. Use your credit card, but clear the balance each month; use loans as necessary, but make sure you pay them off as to not incur penalties.

If you’ve got your priorities covered, there’s no problem with having disposable income and disposing of it.

Life at each extreme is probably miserable in its own way.

[quote]pookie wrote:
You can defend and praise Scrooge as long as he’s the only one - or one of the very few - living like a miser.

If that lifestyle, often termed “voluntary simplicity” here in Quebec, was to be adopted by a large majority of the population, the economy would crash badly.

If everyone was content with a modest home; a weekly cycle of clothes and a basic diet with nothing in the way of entertainment or luxuries, how long would Wal-Mart last? Food retailers would survive, probably in lesser numbers, but some entire divisions of retail would disappear (consumer electronics; luxury automobiles; fashion designer clothing; …)

While it’s an entertaining read, I don’t think we’d really like for most people to emulate Scrooge.

[/quote]

Oh, I think you’re precisely right – I didn’t say it sounded like the platform of any party with which I agreed… =-)

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:

Oh, I think you’re precisely right – I didn’t say it sounded like the platform of any party with which I agreed… =-)[/quote]

You’ve found a political party with which you agree? Lucky bastard.

Touche. Let’s put it this way – I found one I disagree with less of the time…

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
I say that’s a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat?
[/quote]
If I remember rightly, there was more about Scrooge, to the effect that his generosity and hospitality both were lacking.

Scrooge is meant to stand at the extreme end of a continuum, where avarice displaces every other human pleasure, every other human sensibility. Like a monk, he impoverishes himself. As with the monk, it has not to do with others but only with one’s own relationship with one’s god.

Today’s Washington Post has a piece by Sebastian Mallaby in it that seems to indicate that the marginal propensity of Chinese families to save money is somehow a communist plot.

If we buy that, I don’t see how we can let Scrooge off the hook.