Dan Popp
Scrooge was a "liberal"
By Dan Popp
December 21, 2011

Man of the worldly mind! Do you believe in me or not? — Marley's Ghost

Conservatives are sometimes called "Scrooge" by upside-downers. I wonder whether they've ever read A Christmas Carol.
    This lunatic [the clerk], in letting Scrooge's nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge's office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

    "Scrooge and Marley's, I believe," said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"

    "Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years," Scrooge replied. "He died seven years ago, this very night."

    "We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner," said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

    It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word "liberality," Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

    "At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

    "Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

    "Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

    "And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

    "They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

    "The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.

    "Both very busy, sir."

    "Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."

    "Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"

    "Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

    "You wish to be anonymous?"

    "I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there."

    "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

    "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don't know that."

    "But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

    "It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

    Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.
The resemblance of Scrooge to today's liberal is as perfect as the one between Marley's face and the doorknocker. Two men, apparently some kind of right-wing, pre-Tea-Party racists, have the audacity to suggest that the poor are not being relieved very effectively by government compassion; that private charity is needed. Scrooge rattles off public option after public option in defense of his miserly position: Are there no prisons? he asks, rhetorically. These were the debtor's prisons that Dickens had known from the inside as a boy.

And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operation? Originally, England's Poor Laws had given each parish autonomy in dealing with its indigent. In Dickens' time (1834) these laws were revised to consolidate the administration of government largesse. Workhouses were run in zones, or "unions." Please remind me: Who is it that loves centralized control?

The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then? The treadmill was a wheel (imagine something like a small paddle-boat wheel) that workers stepped on, to power a mill. It wasn't very efficient. Horses and mules — not to mention gravity and water — made much better grinders than people. And who is it that loves inefficient energy sources?

I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there. Those of Scrooge's breed don't like to give their own money; they confiscate resources from others in order to engage in their style of humanitarianism.

One of the fat, white, one-percenters objects: Many can't go there; and many would rather die. Excuse me? Is there a stigma to being on the dole? Some kind of shame attached to not being self-sufficient? That isn't a liberal talking! Redistributionists want as many open mouths facing Washington as possible. More broken lives and broken families demand a larger "social safety net," which means more votes for Democrats. There surely couldn't be anything embarrassing about that!

The skinflint retorts, If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Who believes in the myth of overpopulation, despite the fact that the world has gotten healthier and wealthier as the number of humans has increased? Isn't it liberals who see people as a drain on resources, a pox on the planet, and even a "punishment?"

Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him. And who is liable to become giddy with self-approval after expressing his or her vastly superior feelings?

The story of A Christmas Carol pivots on a personal religious conversion. That's something liberals can't stand, because individuals who've had an experience with the Almighty will only laugh if you offer them government as a savior.

Scrooge continued to mind his own business after his redemption — he didn't petition Parliament for more comfortable workhouses — but he saw his business in a much deeper way. The message of this classic is that Mankind is my business! And the genuine charity that Scrooge 2.0 came to personify didn't come from laws, but by grace. Grace received personally, and shared personally.

You know, the man of the worldly mind can be a miser or a Marxist — they're really just two sides of the same coin. One believes that this life is all he's got, so he tries to hang on to all he can. The other imagines that since there is no Final Judgment, he must act as God, controlling the lives, health and property of others — seeking justice by wreaking injustice. The effects look very different, at least on the surface; the cause is the same: No fear of God. And certainly no faith in God.

It isn't a fictional ghost, but the living Christ, who addresses all of us with the central question of life:

Do you believe in me or not?

© Dan Popp


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