SDG, on 24 November 2009 - 03:30 PM, said:
Who ever argued that Scrooge's business had "no right to exist"? Contra whom would such a point need to be made? If that were all Levin were arguing, why would he bother writing the article?
I can't speak for Levin, but from what I got out of the article, is that many people demonize Scrooge for attibutes that aren't there, and attributes that are there that the critics happen to share. Even Andy pointed to CEOs as Scrooge-like, to which I think is too broad a brush, especially in light of the current tax laws.
Scrooge's first offense, according to Dickens, is that he refused to give to charity
Nope. His first offense was in refusing his nephew's invitation, calling Christmas a "humbug", not celebrating Christmas, and barely heating his establishment.
that he considered his taxes sufficiently grievous provision for the less fortunate. That the money Scrooge did not give to charity might (or might not) be lent to individuals who would benefit from the loan does not obviate the need to make charitable provision for those needier still in no position to secure loans. This is Dickens' point, it is Andy's and my point, and it seems to be the point Levin contests. If you aren't defending that, what are we talking about?
We're talking about the demonization of big business (again, Whitman's comments about CEOs), at the expense of the other elephant in the room, big government. Dickens certainly acknowledged the insufficient response of the government to the poor in Victorian England, but in this story, he wasn't saying the response was to correct these problems from a government-level (to which paying taxes would have been sufficient), but to encourage personal charity towards one's neighbor. And at this moment, Obamacare is being debated in the Senate, which, if passed, is likely to force individuals to cut back on personal charitable giving, and trusting the big government to be a solution to all.
In a free market, if I didn't like how Scrooge did his business, or that he didn't give to charitable organizations, I had the freedom to look elsewhere for that loan. But if a big government does not sufficiently care for its own, I do not have the choice to withdraw my tax revenue. As far as I see it, Dickens is very clearly advocating for personal responsibility towards the poor, in cooperation with limited government.
Scrooge's larger defect is that he suffers from a general atrophy of human feeling and sentiment. He has no capacity for generosity either toward others or toward himself. He regards Cratchit, and other human beings, solely in economic terms, rather than valuing them as persons.
Agreed. This is a terrible fault, one which the article did not address.
Levin argues that Tiny Tim's needs are no greater than the hypothetical Sickly Sid who might benefit from Scrooge's use of the money with which he is not helping Cratchit. But Scrooge has not made that calculation. He never bothered to learn about the circumstances of the one man whose livelihood most directly depends on his own disposition. Had he bothered to take a human interest in those around him, he would have seen the world differently. He didn't because he hadn't.
For Dickens, Christmas is among other things a celebration of largesse and solidarity. Scrooge's defect is an incapacity for largesse and solidarity. Levin's argument seems to be "Largesse and solidarity are overrated; self-interest is enough." It isn't.
What I get out of Levin's argument is that Scrooge sees largesse and solidarity as integrated in the business that he runs, and the taxes he pays. And where we would agree is that Scrooge needs to, well, like people again (starting with himself). That his business, while having helped many in need, does not institute a lot of grace. The *challenge*, however, is learning how to institute this same grace and generosity and love of neighbor in a way that still keeps the business alive, so to keep everybody involved gainfully employed. That the 12-26-Scrooge allowed Cratchit's salary to be doubled meant that the funds were there all along, and he would have to work the books so to make sure everything remains solvent (the story is not concerned with how). That is, we hope that to be the case. We don't consider the solvency of his business as an essential ingredient to the story. Which is why I appreciated the article.