In defense of Scrooge

In the opening sequences of “A Christmas Carol,” hardworking and thrifty Scrooge is bent over his desk delivering value to his clients. In addition, by restricting the use of coal in his office fireplace, he’s also doing his part to clean up London’s then-notoriously poor air quality.

His nephew enters, possibly drunk, to invite him to Christmas dinner, with a series of blatantly passive-aggressive statements that no sane person could misinterpret. Scrooge then accurately assesses the utility of the Christmas holiday thus: “What’s Christmastime to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” says Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

Strong words, yes. But that doesn’t make him wrong.

And then, moments later, in walk two do-gooders of the shiftiest sort—neither, let’s be frank, carries any identification; I mean, these guys could be anyone. They demand money from Scrooge because—and this is what gets me—he has it and other people need it. Scrooge quite reasonably replies with a slightly crude rejoinder—remember, Dickens is writing this 100 years before Friedrich Hayek’s magisterial post-Scrooge exegesis “The Road to Serfdom”—that boils down to, “Hey! I pay my taxes.”