Correcting Ebenezer Scrooge’s Economics, by Ryan McMaken
Ryan McMaken’s article titled, Correcting Scrooge’s Economics (read here), takes a look at Charles Dickens’ classic novel, A Christmas Carol, through the lens of Austrian Economics.
Here are some excerpts from the article.
“As Charles Dickens himself admits, Ebenezer Scrooge is a thoroughly peaceful man, guilty of no true crime, who has robbed no one. Therefore, we must conclude that his wealth is a sign of his ability to please at least some people, and as Michael Levin notes: “Dickens doesn’t mention Scrooge’s satisfied customers, but there must have been plenty of them for Scrooge to have gotten so rich.”
Value is Subjective
“As Carl Menger demonstrated long ago, value is subjective and different persons value goods differently depending on the person’s goals in life. Does the person want to raise a family? Perhaps he wishes to be an independent scholar who devotes all his time to reading and research. Perhaps he wishes to be a hermit who prays most of the day….. A like or dislike of Christmas, for example, cannot be calculated this way.”
“Scrooge, who is apparently not a Christmas enthusiast, greatly values money, and likes to have plenty of it handy… In Human Action, Ludwig von Mises explained that human action stems from a desire to “remove unease” about one’s present situation. With Scrooge we see (if his fiancée is to be believed) that the thought of being destitute is a source of constant unease for him. Thus, he desires to build as much wealth as possible in the hope of being beyond the possibility of poverty.”
“As Scrooge’s primary goals is poverty avoidance, this colors how he views all economic action. His peers tend to not recognize this in him, either dismissing his as simply “odious,” as Mrs. Cratchit does, or as unhappy.”
“…. just as Scrooge’s colleagues and family members do not appreciate his ranking of values — Scrooge does not seem to appreciate that others might value money for different reasons.”
“Ebenezer Scrooge asks very little of his fellow human beings. He only asks that they keep up their ends of the bargains in the business agreements they make. It was just his misfortune, then, that he is surrounded by a bevy of control freaks who are hell bent on making sure Scrooge enjoys Christmas in just the way they want him to.”
“Scrooge returns the favor by maintaining a ferociously low opinion of most others around him, concluding quite often that others are simply fools for choosing to enjoy the company of friends and family when there’s money to be made.”
Related Article – Holiday Shopping? Consider The Economically Efficient Gift Of All: Cash, And Avoid The Deadweight Loss Of Christmas, by Mark J. Perry, at carpediemblog.