Tom Mullen argues that Dickens and Hollywood got everything wrong about Scrooge.
As Butler Shaffer demonstrated in his brilliant defense of poor Ebenezer, Scrooge was an invaluable benefactor to English society before the events of Dickensâ€™ story. We are not given details of his business dealings other than they had something to do with finance. That Scrooge had been in business so many years and had amassed such wealth is enough for us to conclude he had made many more wise decisions on where to direct capital than unwise ones.
Who knows what housing, stores, railways or other benefits to society Scrooge had made possible through his wise judgment? How many thousands of jobs had he created? Dickens is unjustly silent on this. Whatever Scrooge had financed, we know it was something the public wanted or needed enough to pay for voluntarily. Thanks to Scrooge, however crusty his demeanor, the common people of London were far richer than they otherwise would have been without his services.
His only weakness seems to be sentimentality towards the whiny, presumably mediocre-at-best Bob Cratchett. We know Scrooge was paying Cratchett more than anyone else was willing to or Cratchett would surely have accepted a higher-paying job to put additional funds towards curing Tiny Tim. But we really donâ€™t have any evidence anyone else was willing to employ Cratchett at all, at any salary level. Still, we must defer to Scroogeâ€™s judgment on this and perhaps even laud him for finding a way to employ a substandard employee without jeopardizing the firm as a whole.
Thus, all was as well as it could have been on December 23. Scroogeâ€™s customers were happy, Bob Cratchett was at least employed, thanks to Scrooge, and Scrooge himself was as happy as he could be, considering the ingratitude with which his genius had been rewarded and all the panhandlers constantly shaking him down.
Everything changed on Christmas Eve, when Scrooge was terrorized â€“ there really is no other word for it â€“ by three time-traveling, left-wing apparitions. It wasnâ€™t enough to frighten an elderly man with the mere appearance of ghosts. They took him on a trip through time, scolding him for supposed mistakes made in the past and blaming him for the misfortunes of others in the present and future. And letâ€™s not forget the purpose of this psychological waterboarding. They are not, as Shaffer observes, pursuing Scroogeâ€™s happiness, but his money. They are William Graham Sumnerâ€™s A & B conspiring to force C to relieve the suffering of X. Politicians A & B use the polite coercion of legislation; the spirits make use of more direct and honest threats of violence.
Their plot was successful. Scrooge awoke from his night of terror obviously out of his senses and began making one poor financial decision after another. Perhaps buying the largest turkey in the local shop could be excused on Christmas Day. But then, without any evidence of improvement in performance, he raised Bob Cratchettâ€™s salary and promised to take on the Cratchett familyâ€™s medical expenses.
After that, we are told Scrooge was â€œtransformedâ€ completely, which we can only interpret to mean he no longer made the kind of decisions that had previously benefited so many. We are told Scroogeâ€™s subsequent behavior was so foolhardy that some people laughed at him. But even this wasnâ€™t enough to snap him out of the permanent delirium with which the spirits had inflicted him.
How many profitable ventures were never financed, both before and after Scrooge went out of business?
The story ends on that foreboding note. We are told Scrooge never again returned to the prudent decision-making that had brought on the supernatural terror attack on Christmas Eve. We have to assume the â€œtransformedâ€ Scrooge eventually went out of business, perhaps solely due to overpaying Cratchett, who is 50% of his labor force, perhaps due to the cumulative effect of the many unwise decisions we are told continued afterwards.
Not only was Tiny Timâ€™s medical care cut off, but the whole Cratchett family was rendered destitute and starving. As Scrooge had already been paying Cratchett more than anyone else was willing to, even before the imprudent raise, we have to assume Cratchett made less after Scrooge went out of business than he did at the beginning of the story, if he convinced anyone to employ him at all.
Worse even than the misfortune that befell Scrooge, Cratchett and Tiny Tim was the misfortune visited upon society as a whole. How many profitable ventures were never financed, both before and after Scrooge went out of business from investing with his heart instead of his head? How many future jobs were destroyed and children of unemployed fathers left sick and hungry?