Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Learning the Lessons of Stalin
By Alexander Marriott 12/22/2003


The Bush Administration is declaring victory now that the dictator (or for the BBC, ALeader@) of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, has agreed to let in United Nations Weapons Inspectors and to dismantle all Weapons of Mass Destruction programs. To Areward@ Gadhafi for his Acompliance@ there is already talk of taking Libya off of the State Department=s list of state sponsors of terror and easing the economic sanctions that were imposed by much of the western world in the 1980's after a series of heinous acts of war and terror that culminated with the Pan Am 103 bombing in 1988. This deal that has been struck with Gadhafi is a sign of one of three things, 1) Gadhafi has been frightened by our actions towards and against Iraq and has decided to give up his weapons programs, 2) He is attempting to pretend that he is giving up his weapons programs to get the economic restrictions lifted, hoping that the UN Weapons Inspectors won't figure out what's really going on, or 3) he has learned the lessons of Joseph Stalin and Communist China and has realized that the west will fund and supply their enemies if they give up totally non-essential things like weapons programs.

If it is the first or the second then this victory is hollow and Pyrrhic in the truest sense. First of all, Gadhafi is hardly what I would call trustworthy and UN Weapons Inspectors aren=t nearly enough to assuage what is only my highly reasonable caution and distrust of the Libyan dictator.

If it is the third scenario then Gadhafi isn=t as crazy and idiotic as has been supposed. He has finally learned a crucial lesson of history that Saddam Hussein was too daft to figure out. The United States and the rest of industrial world are perfectly willing to buy peace with dictators, even if it means the dictators continue to pose a threat and hold their peoples in perpetual slavery. This lesson Gadhafi could have learned from the despicable example set by the West as it concerned the greatest butcher in history of the world, Joseph Stalin.

While England and the United States waged war on Hitler, Mussolini, and Imperial Japan they gave weapons, food, and industrial capital to the Soviet Union under the far more brutal and ultimately more dangerous, Joseph Stalin. The Trials at Nuremberg were farces for the simple fact that criminals of equal evil who had exterminated far greater numbers of people were not only safe in Moscow, but had been allied with the United States and England and were hailed as a vital part of the victorious alliance.

Even when the United States and Great Britain realized that Stalin and the Soviet Union were enemies, shipments of “humanitarian” aid (things such as wheat) still flowed in from the West. It is obvious that having nuclear weapons will intimidate western countries, but now that developing them may precipitate a war it is easier to just threaten to develop them and then promise to not do so and achieve the same results.

What does the West gain from this dubious deal? Clearly the West gains nothing. How does anyone ever know Gadhafi was anywhere near producing a nuclear weapon? Even if he did develop one, Libya lacks the missile technology to send it anywhere other than to the rest of Arab North Africa.

Gadhafi has never had to pay for his crimes beyond the absurd “justice” of financial payment and a few bombs back in the 1980’s. The fact that he is a terrorist, tyrant, and murderer isn’t changed by the fact that he is twenty years older or a few billion dollars poorer. Would we allow men like Jeffrey Dahmer and Gary Ridgway to buy their way out of prison to “make up” for their murders (even if the families of the victims thought it was ok)? Hopefully not, because the Justice system is not in place to extract money for crimes like rape and murder or to appease the families of the victims, it is in place to exact Justice on criminals in the form of imprisonment and/or death in the name of the victims and in the name of civil society which these men have violated so heinously.

Gadhafi is no different; he just runs a country and can therefore kill more people than a man like Ridgway could hope to kill in a lifetime. Yet we are following the same disastrous pattern of Franklin Roosevelt, not only in the domestic sphere but in the foreign policy sphere as well. And it is to our detriment and the detriment of the Libyan people (though they could end their own misery by revolting) and to the benefit only of the Libyan dictator and his cronies. Ayn Rand pointed out that when good and evil compromise the only one who benefits is evil, good can gain nothing from evil, but evil prospers by the sanction of good. We shall see this proved yet again, despite the numerous historical warnings, by our compromising with Libya.
Judeo-Christian Philosophy and the Founding of America
By Michael Marriott


A curious notion is mushrooming lately on programs such as “The O’Reilly Factor” and other current events shows. Certain commentators claim that the United States of America owes its existence to what is termed “Judeo-Christian” philosophy. Now I will not dispute that such a philosophy exists or that it has proved influential for the past two millennia. I will further stipulate that many persons subscribe to this philosophy’s doctrines, both now and back in the 1700s. What cannot be accepted, either on a philosophical or historical basis, is that such a philosophy could, or in fact did, lead to the creation of the United States. This is because the political theory underpinning the creation of America is contradictory to every religious philosophy on earth. Thus Judeo-Christian philosophy is incapable of creating a country such as the United States. America exists in spite of Judeo-Christian philosophy, not because of it.

Others disagree. Bill O’Reilly has repeatedly argued that America would not exist or have developed as a country save for Judeo-Christian philosophy. On September 10, 2003, O’Reilly discussed this point with failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork:


O'REILLY: Now, I have always based my determination that the Ten Commandments and the Pledge of Allegiance and all this nonsense about the Boy Scouts are definitely wrong by saying that this country was founded on Judeo-Christian philosophy. All right? Philosophy. And that if you strike that philosophy from the public discourse, from the public discourse, you are basically turning your back on how the country was developed. Am I wrong?

BORK: No, you're right. On the other hand if legislatures decided to turn their back on it, and the public approved of it, that would be one thing. But what is quite wrong is to have judges who are not elected, who are not accountable, decide to knock out these traditional values.



A few days earlier on September 3, 2003 O’Reilly argued with a guest, Professor Marcy Hamilton of Cardoza Law School, regarding the same point. Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News analyst, supports O’Reilly’s thesis. The topic under discussion is the removal of a Ten Commandments display in an Alabama state building being fought by Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore.


O'REILLY: They believe that there was no -- and I believe this as well -- that there was no imposition of religion by having a symbol of the 10 commandments, which is what Judeo-Christian philosophy is based on and vis a vis our laws are based on Judeo-Christian philosophy.

Discussion follows

O'REILLY: He (Judge Moore) says it was a reminder of what our law system is based upon.

HAMILTON: Well, he's -- actually, that's factually wrong.

NAPOLITANO: That's factually correct.

HAMILTON: No.

NAPOLITANO: It's historically accurate. Everybody who wrote the constitution believes in the 10 commandments and they stated...

O'REILLY: Hold it. What do you think our criminal justice is based upon? Why don't we have Islamic law here?

HAMILTON: It's based upon the Magna Carta, the common law of England, the code of Hammurabi (ph) and a lot of other sources.

NAPOLITANO: One of which is the 10 commandments.

O'REILLY: Wait.

NAPOLITANO: No, the framers did not intend to impose any particular religion on this country because they...

O'REILLY: But it isn't an imposition of religion to put in a plaque. All right now I don't believe that our law system was based on the magna carta. Okay, I don't believe that for one second. Not one second.

And I think your interpretation of that is crazy...

HAMILTON: Well, and you are...

O'REILLY: And I'll tell you why.

HAMILTON: Well, and you are too.

O'REILLY: We fought a war against those people. No, I'm not. I'm right. We fought a war against those people because the magna carta was instituted in a hierarchical way. Our law is based on all men are created and have inalienable rights, not that the king can impose what he
wants.

HAMILTON: No. No. No.

O'REILLY: So you're wrong on that, professor.


What exactly is Judeo-Christian philosophy? What are its basic tenets and principles and how do they apply to the founding of the United States? O’Reilly never provides a definition. This is a crucial omission as religions contain diverse strains of philosophical thought. For instance, within the Catholic religion one can find differing, even contradictory, philosophical elements. St. Augustine decried reason except when it was used to illuminate the word of God. St. Thomas Aquinas recognized the majesty of human reason to the point of again establishing philosophy as the proper tool for human study of the natural world. Outside of Catholicism one finds the teachings of Protestants as Martin Luther and John Calvin. To what version of Judeo-Christian philosophy does O’Reilly refer when he makes his assertions?

O’Reilly often refers to the central characters of the Bible as philosophers. Yet it is a stretch to consider two such characters, Jesus and Moses, as philosophers using any standard definition of the term. The Oxford Dictionary definition for philosopher is “one versed in philosophy or engaged in its study.” Neither Moses nor Jesus was a philosopher in this sense. Neither worked out (nor even attempted) a completely integrated philosophical system. Neither used reason to discover natural, or fundamental, truth. Moses presented the revealed word of God as contained in the Ten Commandments; Jesus was an itinerant preacher whose primary concerns were the impending end of the world and personal ethics. As Frederick Copleston wrote, “He (Jesus) sent His Apostles to preach, not to occupy professors’ chairs. Christianity was ‘the Way’, a road to God to be trodden in practice, not one more philosophical system added to the systems and schools of antiquity.” The philosophic aspects of both Judaism and Christianity were actually developed hundreds of years after the appearance of the central characters.

The argument that America was founded due to Judeo-Christian philosophy therefore reduces to two primary points. First, many of the founding fathers were nominally Jewish or Christian. This being true, O’Reilly is led to the conclusion that religious philosophy played a central role in their political theory and by implication the creation of the country. Second, the Declaration of Independence contains references to God and a Creator, to wit, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This passage illustrates the founders’ belief that political power flows from God directly to the people. This is offered as further proof that America was the result of Judeo-Christian philosophy.

Let us consider each point in turn. Without question a number of the founding fathers subscribed to either the Jewish or Christian religions. Some of the them were deists, some agnostics, others true believers while still others free thinkers. Then as now a wide range of religious thought existed. Yet even if every signer of the Declaration of Independence was steeped in piety and possessed in-depth knowledge of Judeo-Christian philosophy one cannot then declare the United States founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Thus the first weakness of this argument is that of fallacy of composition. This fallacy occurs when one finds a characteristic true of each member of a group (in this case a particular religious belief) and proceeds to the conclusion that the characteristic is true of the whole (America was founded on the philosophy of that religious belief).

But a more serious flaw exists. To blindly emphasize only the religious alignment of the founders fails to take into account other influences that had a much greater impact on eighteenth century political thought. Of particular import is that all the founding fathers lived in the age of the Enlightenment, a humanist (or secular) intellectual movement. One source comments, “Central to Enlightenment thought were the use and the celebration of reason, the power by which man understands the universe and improves his own condition. The goals of rational man were considered to be knowledge, freedom, and happiness.” This philosophy stands in total contrast to Judeo-Christian thought. Thus secular philosophers exerted more influence in the formation of American than O’Reilly cares to admit. John Locke’s political theory permeates the Declaration of Independence. Montesquieu’s ideas concerning separation of powers were a crucial theoretical construct within the Constitution.

The model of ancient Rome’s republic had considerable impact as well. The institution of the Senate, Latin for council of old men, is one example of borrowing from Rome. Indeed, American governmental concepts based on the Roman model are too numerous to be coincidental: the rule of law, representative assemblies, courts, term limits, civilian control of the military, election of government officials and so on. Further, the very words conveying these concepts betray their Latin/Roman origins: constitution, federal, republic, representative, vote, president, magistrate, congress, veto, quorum and statute suffice as examples. Even the architecture of our nation’s capitol reflects Greco-Roman influences and values. Lest we forget, Anglo-Saxons contributed to the future United States with concepts such as common law, trial by jury and yes, the Magna Carta.

Clearly more was involved intellectually regarding the formation of the United States than Judeo-Christian philosophy, however one chooses to define it. A fallacy where the speaker asserts a conclusion that seems reasonable but has left out a relevant fact(s) that would change the conclusion if it were known is called the fallacy of neglected aspect. Thus O’Reilly commits this fallacy when he focuses solely on Judeo-Christian philosophy as central to the founding of America.

The second point regarding the use of the words God and creator in the Declaration of Independence may be answered more quickly. Essentially, the use of these words proves absolutely nothing. Taken in context the founders were expressing their belief in the natural rights of man. Their point is valid regardless of who or what created human beings. Man qua nature values liberty so that he may pursue those ends necessary to sustain life. That the founding fathers believed in God as the creator of man is not the point. Man created by God, evolution, Martians or an assembly line still leaves us with man’s nature as it exists in reality.

But there is an overarching issue that O’Reilly, et. al., fail to consider. If Judeo-Christian philosophy was the essential ingredient in creation of the United States one would expect such a country to have arisen hundreds of years before 1776 when religion, specifically the Catholic Church, was at the zenith of its power and influence. That such a country did not materialize is because philosophically it could not have; more precisely the Judeo-Christian philosophy prevented it absolutely. Why should this so? It is instructive to briefly review how religious leaders ruled when they had the opportunity to implement this philosophy to create political states.

For the better part of its history prior to the eighteenth century the Catholic Church functioned in a manner antithetical to all the United States of America represents. The Church is neither democratic nor representative in governance. It was (and is) hierarchical in organization with the pope at the apex ruling in a manner envied by his fellow monarchs. As one who speaks the word of God there were few real checks on the pope’s power. Dictatorial power led to abuses; elements within the church at one time employed torture to prod unbelievers and heretics. Fantastic schemes were devised to sell indulgences to the ignorant so that a soul could get to heaven in a timely manner. Free and independent inquiry was suppressed, as one would expect when inmates run the asylum. Debate was not tolerated, due process unknown.

Church leaders were an elite that could not be tried in secular courts. Priests jealously guarded their privileges, including the secret of literacy and interpretation of the Bible. The Church of the Middle Ages conspired endlessly with governments of the time to suppress human freedom. The idea that church and state should be separate would have provoked howls of laughter from any self-respecting medieval tyrant. Human slavery was neither eradicated nor strenuously condemned by church leaders. While some church philosophers did believe in the metaphysical equality of men (particularly during the Renaissance) the idea was never fully developed or acted upon. The common people were regarded as “sheep” and lived lives of drudgery while top Church leaders lived in palaces, dined exquisitely and enjoyed the company of concubines.

Protestant faiths did little better when given free reign. While power was more diffuse and the organization chart flatter within Protestant sects, torture could still be trotted out for the edification of those pesky heretics. No American founding fathers here, theocracy rather than republic was the preferred government when Protestant leaders had the chance to nation build. John Calvin’s Geneva experiment was marked by tyranny, intolerance, strict conformity and terror. One source comments, “In addition it (Calvin’s Church) set up a consistory of pastors and elders to make all aspects of Genevan life conform to God's law. It undertook a wide range of disciplinary actions covering everything from the abolition of Roman Catholic “superstition” to the enforcement of sexual morality, the regulation of taverns, and measures against dancing, gambling, and swearing.” Puritan Oliver Cromwell grabbed power in England quickly (declaring Providence chose him) at the end of the civil war in the 1640s. Like Calvin, he became a dictator whose rule was characterized by religious conformity and suppression of individual expression. The Puritans sent packing to the New World tolerated individual freedom for as long as it took to light a fire beneath a suspected witch’s feet.

The idea that America owes its existence to Judeo-Christian philosophy is an insult to the intellect. This notion gives religion an achievement it never earned and indeed never wanted. Judeo-Christian philosophy by definition is unconcerned with earthly existence. Its focus is on another world attainable only through death. While men lived under the sway of Judeo-Christian thought in the Dark and Middle Ages, the consistent outcome was misery, poverty, disease, exploitation and starvation within a milieu of deep intellectual stagnation. Only when the power of the Church was broken— first by the Reformation, second by the Renaissance and third by the Enlightenment — did the lot of the common man begin to improve. Only when secular philosophers devised theories concentrating on existence in this world did mankind advance. Only when a group of talented, intelligent, secular humanists saw the possibility of forging these theories into a governmental entity was hope kindled. At that moment in time the United States became possible. The result was a country unknown to history: a government founded on the idea that the proper object of man is furtherance of life on Earth. This is the true meaning of the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. I challenge O’Reilly or anyone else to demonstrate where any religion, at any time or any place, has made this idea a tenet of its philosophy.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Environmentalists Kill Whale Actor
By Alexander Marriott

The star of the environmentalist trilogy “Free Willy” movies, Keiko (Japanese for “Lucky One”), the Orca “Killer” Whale, has died in the misguided and costly attempt to put him back into the open oceans.

This is just the latest in failed and idiotic projects pursued by people that the mass division of labor under capitalism has given the free time and twenty million dollars to pursue. Twenty million dollars, presumably raised privately, spent by the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation for nothing more than trying to put a pampered whale back into the harsh and brutal world of the oceans.

I don’t want to tell these people how to do their jobs, but they could have spent twenty million dollars to keep this whale alive in captivity for forty years, which is longer than the expected age of these whales both in the ocean and it captivity. When they shipped Keiko to Iceland and then released him into the ocean he swam to Norway were he immediately came to shallow waters to interact with humans and was a big attraction until the local Gestapo of “animal rights” police banned getting near the animal.

Also, it is a relatively widely known fact, at least if you watch a good amount of Discovery Channel programming, that Orca Whales travel in pods which are like familial clans and aren’t known for letting in outside whales who weren’t born into the pod originally. This is somewhat similar to the practice of Elephants who spurn “rogue” bulls from their clans. Yet, despite all of the known facts of whale “culture,” the environmentalists blew millions on it anyway.

This is typical of all environmentalist efforts, ignoring reality and spending huge fortunes anyway. One need only look to the misguided efforts to “save” the ivory laden animals of the world. By declaring these animals, mainly Elephants and Rhinos, as endangered and declaring the lands these animals roam as protected animal habitats and illegalizing the killing of these animals the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa (backed by the United Nations and other International Wildlife Organizations) have made a black market of the activity, thus introducing all of the undesirable elements and people a black market entails. Merely looking to the black market of illegal narcotics should give some idea of the people involved in the international ivory trade.

Of course the proper response for saving these animals is the same one that saved the American Buffalo. Not only has private ownership and herding of these animals and their roaming lands reinvigorated their numbers, it has also led to the wide scale, at least in the Northern Midwest, sale of Buffalo meat and other Buffalo products. There is no reason, other than the socialistic governments of Sub-Saharan Africa and the corruption of the Wildlife Wardens charged to protect the Elephants and Rhinos, that these private property solutions can’t be introduced to really save these animals and supply the market for ivory.

Will it happen? Only if people turn away from “leaders” like Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe and institute real constitutional reform that enshrines private property rights among all other true individual rights. Otherwise, like the Buffalo, the presence of public lands will lead to the extinction of the great beasts of Africa, at least the ones that happen to be stuck on the Dark Continent.
FINALS ARE OVER!!!!

Yay! Finals are over. This semester is over, thank god. It's been crummy both on the class level and in terms of that month of hell that ensued the printing of my Columbus article. But on both counts I battled through and won with what I expect to be straight A's and victory in the paper scandal.

Merry Christmas to every one and a Happy New Year.

Alexander Marriott

Monday, December 08, 2003

This is a slight deviation from what I usually post, namely my own essays and musings, but I thought this was a particularly well written and thoughtful piece so I decided to post it. You may also notice that it is by a person of the same last name as myself. This is no coincidence, he is my father, but I'm sure you won't hold that against him! Enjoy.

AN OBJECTIVIST ANALYSIS OF DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL
by Michael Marriott, November, 2003


Of all the works written about Christmas, perhaps the most influential, save Clement Moore’s poem, The Night Before Christmas, is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843, the story of the curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge has entertained millions with its altruistic message of Christmas giving by the rich to those unable to buy their Christmas goose. In Dickens’ time the holiday was undergoing a metamorphosis, from a day of benign neglect to one of family celebration, feasting, gift giving and guilt. In other words, Christmas was becoming a true religious experience. As a popular magazine of the time chided: “What have you done, this 'merry Christmas', for the happiness of those about, below you? Nothing? Do you dare, with those sirloin cheeks and that port-wine nose, to answer - Nothing?”

The growing Victorian awareness of the poor was made possible by the success of the Industrial Revolution begun one hundred years earlier. Back then society was emerging from a world of agrarianism and individual craftsmen; the poor were copious, the Scrooges few. By the mid-nineteenth century people were in general wealthy enough to notice the poor and feel guilty about them. Enter the first great writer to cash in on the new sensibility, Charles Dickens. His story was an immediate and overwhelming success.

The plot is a wondrous account of Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. His greatest desires are to make money and to be left alone. Dickens, who had a flair for characterization, played these traits to the hilt.

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas

The Dickensian universe could not long tolerate such a being as this. During the course of the night Scrooge is visited by three spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, of Christmas Present and of Christmas Yet To Come. These spirits transcend time and space to show Scrooge the error of his parsimonious ways. They know the key threads comprising what was, is and will be his life’s tapestry. Through the cunning use of regret, guilt and fear the ghostly trio bully Scrooge into loosening his tightly bound purse strings. By story’s end, after a night of continual fright and emotional body blows, Scrooge awakens on Christmas day, gleeful for his chance at redemption. He begins his penance by thankfully flinging guineas to any and everyone. The moral of the story: the primary value of Christmas is altruism. Those who have “more” than they “need” are expected to share their wealth in order to know true happiness.

How can one possibly fault such a message? Is it not clear that Scrooge is a better, happier person after his night time revelations? Is not Christmas about giving to others? Given the influence of A Christmas Carol over the past one hundred sixty years it is time to analyze this work to determine if Dickens’ view of the holiday is logically correct. A work of art, even one employing imagination to the degree this story does, must still be consistent within itself if we are to learn from it and apply its lessons. This is so as art results from individual human philosophies that are clothed as such by the skillful construction of a story plot, a painting composition or whatever the medium happens to be. And it is philosophy, as demonstrated by Objectivism, that guides human action.

The metaphysical setting of A Christmas Carol is that of the Christian universe. Earth exists in reality as does an unseen heaven and hell. One source described the story as “... the one great Christmas myth of modern literature”. Given this metaphysical foundation one might expect contradictions galore. Dickens does not disappoint. Of numerous logical flaws the greatest is Scrooge’s transformation from selfish miser to cheerful altruist by the intervention of Christmas ghosts . A literal interpretation of this transformation is impossible to believe. The premises are hopelessly flawed. No proof(s) exist to verify Christian metaphysics. Likewise the notion of Christmas ghosts is logically challenged. Since this is true Scrooge has no reason to change his way of living. Without such an impetus the story is an artful contrivance, simply Dickens’ well written, albeit poorly reasoned, statement of personal ethics. With no coherent argument offered to the reader he has no obligation to take Dickens’ conclusion seriously, let alone act on it.

Putting this fatal criticism aside, even those who believe such ghosts are possible cannot ignore the implications of the metaphysics that permit ghosts to exist. First the reader must believe that the spirit world is the exclusive province of representatives of the poor. Dickens seemed to recognize this objection in the following exchange between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present:


‘Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?’ asked Scrooge.
‘There is. My own.’
‘Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?’ asked Scrooge.
‘To any kindly given. To a poor one most.’
‘Why to a poor one most?’ asked Scrooge.
‘Because it needs it most.’



The universe is configured in such a manner that an all knowing, omnipresent being will meddle in human affairs using one’s material possessions as criteria to determine punishment or reward. Need is a crucial indicator. One can imagine Karl Marx reading this passage and running to the British Museum to write his famous tome.

Further, only Scrooge must account for his behavior while Cratchit and others are never responsible for what they do. Of course Cratchit is poor, apparently a key attribute if one wishes to avoid incessant nagging by disgruntled ghosts. Scrooge possesses means (i.e., money wealth) so he automatically shoulders responsibility for the actions of others. This view of man is twisted, unfair and evil.

Dickens does not stop there. His characterization of Scrooge as a heartless businessman, flawed in part because he is successful in business, created an archetype that survives to the present day. Scrooge is a gross caricature, a malevolent cartoon figure existing in the heart of Victorian London. Other than the author’s philosophical predilections there is no reason that he should have been portrayed in such a diabolical manner. No mention is made of his business (what is it that he does exactly?), his creation of wealth, his employment of others or any other positive aspect of his life. Further, those with less material wealth --- Scrooge’s nephew, Cratchit, et al — are happy while Scrooge himself wallows in misery. Again note that life is divided between rich and poor, the productive and those less so. Using this standard, we can now divine who may rightly expect happiness. A more Christian theme cannot be conjured.

As noted, altruism is the way to true happiness. Self sacrifice is good in the Dickensian universe. Dickens constantly harps on the niggardliness of Scrooge but then abruptly contradicts himself when the Ghost of Christmas Past examines Scrooge’s life. Scrooge has indeed sacrificed in his pursuit of self-sufficiency and business success. In a poignant scene Scrooge is reminded of the loss of his betrothed:


‘It matters little,’ she said softly. ‘To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and, if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.’
‘What Idol has displaced you?’ he rejoined.
‘A golden one.’
‘This is the evenhanded dealing of the world!’ he said. ‘There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!’
‘You fear the world too much,’ she answered gently. ‘All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?’
‘What then?’ he retorted. ‘Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.’
She shook her head.
‘Am I?’
‘Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor, and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made you were another man.’


A heartbroken Scrooge sacrifices potential happiness to pursue a career. In his hierarchy of values self-sufficiency wins over poverty and, by implication, a family of his own. Clearly Dickens cannot stay coherent even concerning his most important theme.

Contrast the preceding point with the life of Bob Cratchit. Scrooge made a choice and chose self-sufficiency; Cratchit chose a wife and a family over the “pursuit of wealth”. Yet somehow Dickens twists these life choices as the responsibility solely of Scrooge. It is not enough that Scrooge is a grumpy, lonely bachelor; he is descended upon by cosmic forces to come to the aid of the Cratchits. His frugality is his downfall (had he spent every last farthing he made he too would be poor!). As Dickens might have phrased it: “Alas, poor Scrooge had the misfortune to pursue his nature by making a living! He compounded his crime by success. For all his business acumen, unbeknownst he lived in a world that disparaged and condemned those who create wealth for their own selfish ends”.

The ghosts keep a close eye on Scrooge as they did with another business miscreant, his late partner Jacob Marley. For his crime of making a living without giving alms, the dead Marley is cast in chains to forlornly wander spirit land until he atones for his sins. The question therefore arises why the spirits themselves do not take matters into hand and help the poor directly. Why do they require a middleman? Why do they waste effort doggedly pursuing and reproving businessmen? To engage in these pointless actions only serves to punish unsuspecting people while the poor remain poor. Scrooge’s new found altruism will help only marginally in any case; Tiny Tim Cratchit, Scrooge’s nephew and a few charities will be the beneficiaries. Spirits that are capable of flying to-and-fro across time and space to interfere in the lives of men would surely be able to provide sustenance to a great many poor folks. Thus they are guilty of what they accuse Scrooge; they can make a difference but refuse to do so. Perhaps the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future need to be visited by higher ranking ghosts to illustrate their respective failings. These higher spirits, who possess the same or greater power as our original trio, must then submit to visits from higher ranking ghosts since they too are guilty of indifference to the poor. And so on ad infinitum.

There exist other flaws in this narrative. Why do these spirits appear when man’s prosperity is rising (did they appear when most men were poor as dirt, say in Charlemagne’s era)? Were the spirits working their magic in places like mid-nineteenth century Africa or was this strictly a capitalist country phenomenon? Did a rich person such as Queen Victoria receive a nocturnal visit urging her to open up a palace or two to the homeless? Why would a benevolent deity cripple Tiny Tim in the first place? How is justice served by divine punishment of those who employ others, create wealth, increase prosperity and reduce poverty through a true miracle, the free market? I think you get the idea. Those who accept Dickens’ metaphysics and subsequent conclusions do so at their own intellectual peril. Those who act upon them may end up with a ghost as their representative.

I end this essay with a brief dialogue that Dickens should have employed that is somewhat more consistent with reality. Rather than Scrooge being visited by ghosts Bob Cratchit receives the dubious honor. The Ghost of Christmas Past whisks him off and chastises him:


Bob Cratchit! Look how you spent the years of your youth! You who have assumed to sire a family yet wasted this precious time on idle amusements. Your training was not sufficient to provide you with adequate employment; your marriage I declare premature though based upon true affection. Your desire for a family did not equal your need to provide for them. Endless struggle was the result. A string of children increased your burdens. A sick child, Tiny Tim, must suffer needlessly due to your lack of foresight. Look, Bob Cratchit, look and see! You and others like you must beg your fellow man to come to your aid. You eye enviously the wealth of others when the eye of suspicion must focus only upon yourself. It is not Mr. Scrooge you must blame; if you desire more wealth you must prove yourself of more value to him. Or offer your talents to another employer more in need of your services. Use your mind to improve your condition. This Sir is the state of reality; this Sir is what you must comprehend and act upon! Make haste to correct the suffering you have created. Inflame your sense of self interest and prosper before life passes you and yours!