Sunday, December 26, 2010

Humbug

From The Case for Ebeneezer, by Butler Shaffer:

"It is instructive that Dickens tells us virtually nothing about the nature of Ebeneezer’s business. We know that he is something of a banker or financier, but we are told nothing about the nature of his investments. Even if he has not been a creative entrepreneur himself, he has, presumably, been responsible for financing many successful enterprises, which have not only benefited the rest of the community in terms of goods and services they provide, but afford employment to countless individuals, including Bob Cratchett. For all that we know – and it would seem to be beneath Dickens’ sensibilities to ask such a question or care about the answer – Scrooge may have provided capital for researchers seeking a cure for the very ailment from which Tiny Tim suffers. We know that, at the very least, by managing to stay in the lending business these many years, and accumulating handsome earnings in the process, Scrooge’s decision-making has been beneficial to others. All of this goes unmentioned by Comrade Dickens, who prefers to focus upon the fact that Scrooge has actually profited from these many benefits that his sound business decision-making has indirectly bestowed upon his neighbors.

If we are to understand the essence of the case against my client, we must inquire into the nature of the collectivist thinking that produced it. In matters of economics, such people believe that wealth is simply a given, something that has come into existence in very mysterious ways, and in a fixed amount that has somehow managed to get into the hands of a few people through presumed and unspecified acts of dishonesty, exploitation, and unscrupulousness. Dickens expresses the dreary sentiment of "original sin" – an idea central to all collectivist thinking – which presumes individual self-interest to be a source of social misery rather than the fount of human well-being. That the pursuit of private selfishness can generate good for others – even when doing so was not the purpose of the actor – was far too complicated a concept for Dickens’ simplistic, fragmented mind. But to all collectivists, including Dickens, the idea that more wealth could be created never manages to invade their imaginations.

...

One of the offenses with which my client has been charged was that he had not paid Bob Cratchett a large enough salary. ... Why did he not quit? ... if Bob Cratchett was being woefully underpaid by my client, there must have been all kinds of alternative employment available to this man at higher salaries"

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