XCIII – The Case for Ebeneezer

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My
interest in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" began
one Christmas eve when, as a small child, my parents turned on network
radio to listen to what, even then, had become a classic Christmas
eve festivity: Lionel Barrymore's presentation of the Dickens story.

Radio
was a medium that required the imagination to paint scenes far more
colorful, and to concoct monsters far scarier, than anything motion
pictures or television have ever been able to present. With radio,
the listener was the stage designer, costumer, and location director.

In
later years, I watched Alistair
Sim’s movie version of the story
— the best of all the movie
treatments, in my view. The film's special effects portrayal of
Marley was nowhere as hideous and frightening as the one I had created
in my mind while listening to the radio. Listening to Marley's
chains being dragged up a darkened staircase elicited a stark terror
that far exceeded the scene I saw in the movie.

As
I became older, I decided that Mr. Dickens had given Ebeneezer Scrooge
an undeserved reputation for villainy, placing him in such company
as Uriah Heep, Iago, Dr. Moriarty, or Snidely Whiplash, to name
but a few. It is my purpose, in making this holiday defense of my
client, to present to you a different interpretation of the story,
that you will see the villainy not in my client's character,
but in Charles Dickens' miscasting of the true heroes of the time
of which he wrote, namely, the industrialists and financiers who
created that most liberating epoch in human history: the industrial
revolution.

Lest
there be any readers who need reminding of the virtues of this period,
let me quote from that eminent English historian, T.S. Ashton, who
wrote of the impoverished conditions of England and other nations
prior to the industrial revolution. As he expressed it, "[t]he
central problem of the age was how to feed and clothe and employ
generations of children outnumbering by far those of any earlier
time." England, he went on, "was delivered, not by her
rulers, but by those who, seeking no doubt their own narrow ends,
had the wit and resources to devise new instruments of production
and new methods of administering industry. There are today on the
plains of India and China men and women, plague-ridden and hungry,
living lives little better, to outward appearance, than those of
the cattle that toil with them by day and share their places of
sleep by night. Such Asiatic standards, and such unmechanized horrors,
are the lot of those who increase their numbers without passing
through an industrial revolution."

It
is out of profound respect for those whose pursuits of their selfish
interests have done far more to better the lives of others than
have the combined efforts of all the self-styled altruists, saints,
social workers, politicians, and other mischievous beings, that
I have undertaken this defense of one of the most maligned financiers
of this humanizing epoch. As you read my defense of Scrooge, and
make a comparative judgment of my client and his accuser, Charles
Dickens, I ask you to keep in mind the warnings of another 19th
century writer, Anatole France, who observed: "Those who have
given themselves the most concern about the happiness of peoples
have made their neighbours very miserable."

May
it please the Court. . . and frankly, even if it doesn't please
the Court.

I
find myself, once again, in the company of people like Clarence
Darrow, who observed that "there are those who run with the
hunters, and those who run with the hunted."
In representing my client, Ebeneezer Scrooge, I am running with
the hunted.

Over
the years, we have witnessed a thoroughly one-sided treatment of
my client at the hands of the prosecution, as represented by Charles
Dickens. On the basis of emotionally-riddled allegations, coupled
with pure economic ignorance, we have been asked to find Mr. Scrooge
"guilty" of the most ill-defined wrongdoings. Most of
us have been dissuaded from even imagining the possibility of a
defense for a man like Scrooge. Indeed, I suspect that many reading
this brief are doing so under the impression that this is nothing
more than a joke or, at best, a humorous proceeding designed to
satisfy your legalistic fancies about "due process," so
that you may proceed to hang my client with a clear conscience on
your part.

In
this day of Ashcroftian logic, wherein dissent is regarded as evidence
of criminal conspiracy, some of you might be inclined to take a
front row seat alongside another Dickens character — and precursor
to FoxNews commentators — the irrepressible Madame LeFarge, to demand
Scrooge's swift punishment, lest the accused slip through the net
on the "legal technicality" that he was not guilty as
charged! Not unlike the allegations in a child abuse case, many
may be inclined to respond: "what kind of defense could
be made of a man like that? What would you expect someone who had
done such a horrible deed to say?"

To
even mount a defense on behalf of my client is to risk the disapprobation
of all those burdened by the sentiments of "political correctness."
This is the age of tabloid thinking, which presumes that if allegations
rise to a sufficient level of heinousness, no defense is conceivable,
not even the defense of "innocent of the charges alleged."
Some might even say that the more atrocious the allegations
leveled at another, the less evidence that is necessary to
sustain the charges, and the greater the burden upon the
defendant to refute and disprove such charges.

What
is the bill of particulars with which my client is charged? Pay
close attention to Mr. Dickens' allegations. His case comes down
to just two points: [1] my client has managed to become very
rich, and, [2] he insists on keeping his money for himself. That's
it! That is the essence of his alleged wrongdoing.

Knowing
that the facts of this case support no more wrongdoing against my
client than his being self-interest motivated, Mr. Dickens resorts
to a subtle form of vilification by giving my client a pejorative
name in an effort to win you over to the prosecution side by your
expected revulsion at the sound of his name:

S-C-R-O-O-G-E
! Though I hope that you are sophisticated enough to resist
such an apparent ad hominem attack against people of wealth,
such has not been the response of most men and women. Like Ayn Rand's
sniveling bureaucrat, Wesley Mouch, the name "Ebeneezer Scrooge"
is designed to evoke prejudice and animosity in the mind of the
reader, so that people will be predisposed to support any case against
the man, no matter how ill-founded.

Even
Ebeneezer's politically-correct nephew is blessed with a name from
the maternal side of Scrooge's family. Dickens certainly
had more neutral or wholesome names from which to have chosen for
my client. David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby, Mr. Macawber come
immediately to mind. Even the character Fezziwig conjures up a joviality
and good-natured spirit in the minds of those who had never read
the story. Can you imagine my client with the name Sidney Carten,
going off to work each day expressing the thought "'tis a far,
far better thing that I do today?" Can you imagine such words
coming from the pen of Charles Dickens and crossing the lips of
my client as he goes about his business of lending money to those
whose productive dreams will help to enhance the well-being of tens
of thousands of total strangers?

Just
as a defendant is told that he must take his plaintiff as he finds
him, a lawyer must take his client as he finds him. And so I proceed
to the merits — if, indeed, such exist — of the case against Ebeneezer
Scrooge. While a general demurrer should have disposed of this bogus
and malicious action in swift fashion at the outset, such was apparently
not done in a timely manner by my predecessor, and I am now compelled
to go forward on the facts – and their legal significance –
of this case.

Taking
my client as the miserable fellow Dickens has presented him, let
me be the first to admit that if Ebeneezer's obsession with materialistic
pursuits rendered him an unhappy person, and were it the purposes
of his detractors to help extricate him from his self-imposed miseries
and to restore him to that state of happiness and innocence so common
to most of us in our childhood years, no one would be happier than
I. But it is not my client's happiness that the prosecution
endeavors to obtain, but his money. The case against Ebeneezer
Scrooge is nothing more than a well-orchestrated, vicious conspiracy
to extort from my client as much of his money as can be acquired
through terror, threats of his death, and other appeals to
fear. The only happiness that ensued to my client from this
campaign arose from the ultimate cessation of terror inflicted upon
him. Like the victim of any crime, the termination of wrongdoing
offers a momentary relief that can be mistaken for pleasure, but
it is an illusion. Such is the only happiness that Mr. Dickens has
in mind for my client.

Make
no mistake about it: my client has been the victim of a cruel criminal
conspiracy to extort his money, as well as of such torts as intentional
infliction of emotional distress, libel and slander, trespass, assault,
malicious prosecution, battery, nuisance, and false imprisonment.
To that end, my client may elect to bring his own suit, but for
now let us focus upon his defense to this action. As we do so, pay
particular attention to the utter contradiction underlying
Dickens' case: my client is charged with being a greedy, money-hungry
scoundrel, and yet it is the conspirators against him who want nothing
more than his money! Scrooge — unlike his antagonists — earned
his money in the marketplace by satisfying the demands of customers
and clients who continue to do business with him, and did not, as
far as we are told, resort to terror or threats of death to get
it. Perhaps Dickens does no more, here, than engage in psychological
projection. In doing so, he reminds us of the definition of a "selfish"
person as "one who puts his greedy interests ahead of
mine!"

It
is instructive that Dickens tells us virtually nothing about the
nature of Ebeneezer's business. We know that he is something of
a banker or financier, but we are told nothing about the nature
of his investments. Even if he has not been a creative entrepreneur
himself, he has, presumably, been responsible for financing many
successful enterprises, which have not only benefited the rest of
the community in terms of goods and services they provide, but afford
employment to countless individuals, including Bob Cratchett. For
all that we know — and it would seem to be beneath Dickens' sensibilities
to ask such a question or care about the answer — Scrooge may have
provided capital for researchers seeking a cure for the very ailment
from which Tiny Tim suffers. We know that, at the very least, by
managing to stay in the lending business these many years, and accumulating
handsome earnings in the process, Scrooge's decision-making has
been beneficial to others. All of this goes unmentioned by Comrade
Dickens, who prefers to focus upon the fact that Scrooge has actually
profited from these many benefits that his sound business
decision-making has indirectly bestowed upon his neighbors.

If
we are to understand the essence of the case against my client,
we must inquire into the nature of the collectivist thinking that
produced it. In matters of economics, such people believe that wealth
is simply a given, something that has come into existence in very
mysterious ways, and in a fixed amount that has somehow managed
to get into the hands of a few people through presumed and unspecified
acts of dishonesty, exploitation, and unscrupulousness. Dickens
expresses the dreary sentiment of "original sin" — an
idea central to all collectivist thinking — which presumes individual
self-interest to be a source of social misery rather than the fount
of human well-being. That the pursuit of private selfishness can
generate good for others — even when doing so was not the purpose
of the actor — was far too complicated a concept for Dickens' simplistic,
fragmented mind. But to all collectivists, including Dickens, the
idea that more wealth could be created never manages to invade
their imaginations.

Charles
Dickens — writing at the peak of the industrial revolution — missed
this essential feature of the period. To those who view wealth in
such a limited way, the only question becomes "how is this
fixed body of wealth to be most u2018fairly' redistributed?" The
question of "how can more wealth be created?" — and what
conditions would be necessary for accomplishing such ends — never
enters their minds, for the pursuit of such conditions would utterly
destroy all socialist systems. The beneficiaries of such redistribution
are looked upon as passive and dependent recipients of other people's
decision-making. In this connection, Bob Cratchett is the prototypical
"proletarian." It is to Mr. Cratchett that I would now
like to direct my attention.

The
central character in this campaign of terror and extortion against
my client is one Bob Cratchett, the 19th century's version
of Forrest Gump, a witless and chronic loser with no apparent control
over any significant aspects of his life save, perhaps, for his
body's biological functions. He is an inflatable "Bozo"
clown, whose only purpose in life is to absorb the blows visited
upon him by others. He is the poster boy for "victimhood,"
a flatliner devoid of any dynamic sense of life.

Let
me offer this caveat, however: we do not allege this man
to be one of the principal conspirators against my client. Far from
it, for to have dreamed up, or to have actively participated in
a scheme as convoluted and diabolical as the one perpetrated against
my client, seems far beyond the ambitions or the imagination of
Bob Cratchett or any members of his family.

At
this point, many of you are probably thinking to yourselves, "surely,
he's not going to denounce the Cratchett's, is he? They are one
of the most revered of all families; a part of the pantheon of secular
gods in our culture. I can't believe he's going to go after them!"

Yes
I am! I am going to attack the Cratchetts!

"He
can't do that," you may now be saying to yourselves.

Just
watch me!

One
of the offenses with which my client has been charged was that he
had not paid Bob Cratchett a large enough salary. Cratchett has
worked for an allegedly substandard level of pay — whatever that
may mean — for my client for many years. Why? Why did he
not quit? Why didn't he go to work for some other employer
— perhaps one of the politically-correct businessmen who periodically
show up at Scrooge's office to solicit and browbeat charitable contributions
from my client?

Put
yourself in Cratchett's position: imagine yourself to have been
the "victim" of years of under-appreciated and underpaid
work, head of a large family — one of whose members suffered from
a life-threatening ailment — what would you have done? Would you
have simply sat around in a kind of "Super Lotto" stupor,
hoping that great fortune would befall you through some act of dumb
luck? Certainly, in the early days of the industrial revolution
wherein Dickens wrote, when new businesses were starting up all
over the place in a great burst of economic creativity, there must
have been all sorts of opportunities available for a competent bookkeeper.
Great fortunes were made by those who rose up out of abject poverty
— such men as Andrew Carnegie come to mind, a young boy who went
from seeing his father begging in the streets for work, to become
the richest man of his era. At no time in history had there been
a greater opportunity for self-betterment than during the industrial
revolution, where demonstrated merit helped to destroy the state-conferred
privileges of feudalism.

To
anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of economics,
two things should be clear: [1] if, as has been alleged, my client
is a tight-fisted, selfish man, he surely would not have paid Bob
Cratchett a shilling more than his marginal productivity was worth
to Scrooge's firm, and [2] if Bob Cratchett was being woefully underpaid
by my client, there must have been all kinds of alternative employment
available to this man at higher salaries. If Cratchett cannot find
more remunerative work, and if my client is paying him the maximum
that he is marginally worth to his business, then Cratchett must
be worth precisely what my client is paying him! Economic
values are subjective, with prices for goods or services rising
or falling on the basis of the combined preferences of market participants.

It
is this interplay of marketplace forces — which Dickens neither
understands nor favors — coupled with Cratchett's passive, sluggish
disposition when it comes to improving his marketable skills or
opportunities, that accounts for Cratchett's condition in life.
My client should no more be expected to pay Cratchett more than
his marketable skills merit than would Dickens have paid his stationer
a higher than market price for his pen, ink, and paper, simply because
the retailer "needed" more money!

Dickens'
ignorance of basic economics would, if acted upon by Scrooge, have
produced adverse consequences for Cratchett himself. Had Ebeneezer
paid Cratchett a higher salary for his work, he [Scrooge] would
very likely have been able to attract a larger number of job applicants
from which he could have selected employees whose enhanced marginal
productivity might have earned Scrooge even greater profits.
At such a point, terminating Cratchett's employment would have been
an economically rational act by Scrooge. As matters now stand, Scrooge's
employment policies have left him with the kind of groveling, ergophobic,
humanoid sponge we have come to know as Bob Cratchett; a man we
are expected to take into our hearts as expressions of some warped
sense of the "Christmas spirit." Being an astute businessmen,
Ebeneezer Scrooge was well aware of the marketplace maxim that "you
get what you pay for."

Unaccustomed
as Commissar Dickens is to the informal processes of the marketplace,
we would not expect him to tell us anything about competitive alternatives
for Cratchett's services. Perhaps there are employers out
there prepared to pay him a higher wage than he is receiving from
my client. If this is so, then we must ask ourselves: did Bob Cratchett
simply lack the ambition to seek higher paying employment? It would
appear so. At no time do we see this man exhibiting any interest
in trying to better his and his family's lot. Not even when the
aforementioned businessmen arrive for their annual shakedown of
my client, does Cratchett so much as suggest to them: "gentlemen,
I have a son who is afflicted with a life-threatening condition,
and if you would be so inclined to look upon him as one of the objects
of your charitable purposes, I would be greatly appreciative."
He can't rise from his self-pitying position long enough to even
speak up for Tiny Tim at a time when any responsible and loving
parent would have jumped at the opportunity to plead his son's case.
If Cratchett is such an unfocused sluggard that he is unable to
generate the slightest motivation to speak up on behalf of his son
when provided with the opportunity to do so, why should my client
have visited upon him the moral opprobrium of a community of readers
who presume that he should be more greatly motivated on behalf
of Tiny Tim than was Tim's own father?

The
prosecution, in the form of Mr. Dickens, would have you believe
that my client is a heartless and irresponsible person. But how
much parental love and responsibility is exhibited by the sniveling
and whining Bob Cratchett, who does little more than sit around
and hope, . . . hope that someone will show up with more
ambition and sense of urgency and caring for Tiny Tim than do he
and his deeply lobotomized family. What if your child was drowning
in a lake: would you just stand on the shore and hope that a Boy
Scout would show up looking for a daily "good deed" to
perform? What if you came upon a school building that was afire
and full of trapped, screaming children. Would you just stand there
and watch and wonder to yourself: "why doesn't someone
sound the fire alarm or try to rescue those poor children?"
Such would have been the response of Bob Cratchett; such is the
model of individual responsibility offered up to us by Charles Dickens!

Neither,
in this connection, can we ignore the behavior of Scrooge's nephew,
who pops into the story early enough to chide his uncle for his
miserly attitudes, and appears later, at a lavish Christmas party
feted for his "yuppie" friends. For all his sanctimonious
rhetoric about caring for others, why were no gold coins forthcoming
from the nephew's pockets on behalf of Tiny Tim? We see in this
nephew the forerunner of the modern "politically correct"
limousine liberal, who has all kinds of plans for disposing of other
people's money, while carefully shepherding his own,
a man Mark Twain might have had in mind when he wrote of those who
believe that "nothing so needs reforming as other people's
habits."

If
a lack of imagination and ambition is not at the crux of Bob Cratchett's
problem in maintaining his inert, status quo position for so many
years, then perhaps we should consider the possibility that this
man was simply incompetent. Cratchett appears to us as a
tenured example of the "Peter Principle," the recipient
not so much of an earned salary as a sinecure. He
was unable to obtain a more highly paid employment, I suspect, because
he was incapable of performing at any higher skilled level than
that of the bean counter he apparently was, and seemed satisfied
in remaining. Had he been more competent and energetic, he might
have sought employment from a competitor of Scrooge's, who would
have seen qualities profitable to his firm. But I suspect that,
had Cratchett approached any of these businessmen for employment,
they would have been observant enough of his elemental dullness
to have responded: "don't call us, we'll call you."

If
Cratchett's stagnating in the backwaters of Scrooge's shop was due
to his basically poor work skills, we are once again confronted
with the question: why did Cratchett not seek to enhance his
skills, as by learning a more remunerative trade? That would certainly
have been a great benefit to his family, including affording additional
resources with which to possibly rescue Tiny Tim from his malady.
But, alas, Bob Cratchett was, once again, either too unambitious
or too unimaginative to pursue this course of conduct. Indeed, about
the only gumption we see Cratchett exhibiting in this story is in
his groveling request for another lump of coal for the stove, or
his equally weak-kneed appeal for a day off on Christmas. Such is
the extent of his courage, ambition, and love for his family.

My
client — whatever his reasons — has seen fit to keep this incompetent,
noncreative dawdler on his payroll. But instead of being praised
for not terminating this slug, he stands condemned for not
paying him more than he was marginally worth; more than any other
employer would have paid him if, indeed, any other employer would
have hired him in the first place! Perhaps my client's retention
of Bob Cratchett should be looked upon as the most charitable
of all the acts engaged in by anyone in Mr. Dickens'
story!

As
I have already suggested, you can see that Bob Cratchett is not
an active party in this conspiracy of terror and extortion against
my client. He is both too dull and too lazy to have participated
in such a scheme. Had this plot depended upon mobilizing the imagination
or energies of Bob Cratchett, Ebeneezer would have spent a quiet
night of sleep, without being intruded upon by the snarling and
clanking Jacob Marley, let alone the associated bogeymen and shakedown
artists who show up to terrorize my client.

You
are now able to see the fundamental contrast of characters presented
to us by Charles Dickens. Scrooge — the only person in the novel
exhibiting any creative intelligence, and the only one who
produces anything — is the villain because he
has not given an unearned portion of his wealth over to Bob Cratchett
— a man presented to us as a victim incapable of producing
much of anything! In this brief synopsis, you see the thoroughly
dispirited nature of socialism, a philosophy for losers,
that feeds upon, and requires the continuing nourishment of, the
mindset of victimology.

The
morally culpable wrongdoers in this shakedown of my client, though,
have to be the spirits, who trespass, at night, upon the
quiet enjoyment of my client's premises to terrify him with previews
of his own demise should he not succumb to their demands to part
with his money. No more blatant act of criminal extortion could
be imagined than that visited upon my client by these spirits. If
these forces are representative of the denizens of the allegedly
heavenly planned community, I can only wonder how more unbearable
it could be to spend eternity in warmer climes! At least
"Old Scratch's" subdivision has the honesty of not pretending
to be an idyllic paradise while peddling guilt and terror!
Perhaps it is a tipoff to the diabolic nature of the prosecution
in this case that the name "Dickens" has long been a synonym
for the devil!

It
might be argued that Dickens' spirits were simply interested in
the reclamation and rehabilitation of my client's soul, and that
such acts of terror had the well-being of Scrooge at heart. Such
were the arguments used, during the medieval Inquisition, to justify
the torture and burning-at-the-stake of heretics or, in later
generations, to the persecution and hanging of witches. Lest
you accept this shabby explanation for their behavior, ask yourself
this question: would these spirits have deigned to visit Ebeneezer
if he had been a penniless beggar? Would they have bothered this
man for a single moment had there been no money to squeeze from
him? The spirits informed Scrooge that he needed to think of more
than just himself, and to consider the interests of posterity. But
what had posterity ever done for him?

Furthermore,
at any point in the story, did these spirits demonstrate regard
for the well-being of other persons who might be inconvenienced
by Scrooge's being terrorized into giving away his money? If my
client is to throw his money around, or pay more for services than
what they are marginally worth to his firm, what is to happen to
the plans of those who had arranged to borrow money from Scrooge's
firm, only to be later told that the funds for such loans were no
longer available? Do the spirits have any way of compensating them
for their disappointments or, like socialists generally,
are they totally indifferent to the unintended consequences of the
events they set in motion?

It
is at this point that my strongest condemnation for these spirits
arises. Any decent person in whose veins course even a minimal level
of humanitarian sentiment must look upon the spirits with utter
contempt and moral revulsion. Keep in mind, these
specters are possessed with the powers to suspend ordinary rules
that operate throughout the rest of nature. They can successfully
defy gravity, move backwards and forwards in
time, cause matter to become invisible, raise the
dead, and foresee the future. Having all of these
amazing powers, why did these spirits not intervene to cure
Tiny Tim of his ailment? The answer is quite clear: like socialists
and welfare-staters generally, they didn't give a damn about Tiny
Tim's plight! This poor, crippled boy was nothing more to them than
an opportunity, a convenient resource to exploit in furtherance
of what was important to them: to wring from my client whatever
amount of money they could. The fate of Tiny Tim was held hostage;
left to the outcome of an elaborate blackmail scheme! Assuming
that Ebeneezer has free will, he might have chosen to resist this
campaign of terror, and to awake on Christmas morning more determined
than ever to protect his assets from these psychic extortionists.
Too bad for Tiny Tim, in that case, for the spirits were more interested
in furthering their abstract ideological interests — including obtaining
power over others — than in stooping to actually help another human
being in need. If the campaign against my client failed, they would
simply have moved on to other more profitable causes, leaving Tiny
Tim to face an early death which, presumably, it was within their
powers to prevent.

Had
the spirits been truly desirous of helping the Cratchett family,
they would have been better advised to focus their time and energies
upon this family rather than upon my client. The "Ghost
of Christmas Past" could, perhaps in some proto-Freudian style,
have taken Bob Cratchett back to his youth, to help him discover
why he had become such a passive, wimpy recipient of other
people's decision-making. Then, perhaps, the "Ghost of Christmas
Present" could have appeared to warn Cratchett of the dreary
fate awaiting his family as a consequence of his incompetence, laziness,
passivity, and psychic bankruptcy. The prospect of Tiny Tim's death,
and of his own family ending up in a dismal poor house, might have
been enough to stir some semblance of ambition in this hapless
lummox.

These
spirits might even have offered him more positive assistance, perhaps
by encouraging him to develop better marketable skills, in order
that he might remove his family from the dire straits to which Cratchett
seems all but indifferent. What level of paternal love is exhibited
by this totally inept member of the boobeoisie, who has no
more imagination or motivation on behalf of his ailing son than
to sit around whining that his son will surely die unless someone
else, . . . somehow, . . . at some uncertain time,
shows up to bestow unearned riches upon his family? Bob Cratchett
represents that growing class of mathematically challenged men and
women who believe that a lottery ticket is the most realistic
means of acquiring riches!

The
Cratchetts are good for little more than sitting around the house
spouting empty bromides and homilies, seemingly oblivious of the
need to make fundamental changes in their lives. At no time in the
story do we find either of the adult Cratchetts considering alternatives
by which they could improve their economic condition. We do not,
for instance, read of Mrs. Cratchett telling Bob — as they huddle
around their rapidly-cooling fireplace — "Bob, I saw Sally
Struthers on the telly today, and she was advertising for a correspondence
school where you can learn all kinds of new skills. Perhaps you
could study u2018charter accountancy,' Bob, and make more money."
Neither is any offer made by Mrs. Cratchett to seek employment in
order to earn money that could be used to help their ailing son.
Tiny Tim continually reminds them "God bless us, every one."
But let us not forget that other admonition long since lost on the
Cratchetts: "the Lord helps those who help themselves."

You
can see that Tiny Tim is not the only cripple in this family!
His parents are existentially handicapped and show no disposition
to change. If there is anyone to whom an accusing finger should
be pointed, here, it is not my client, but that hapless,
helpless, and hopeless brood known as the Cratchetts; a weak-kneed
gaggle prepared to do little more on behalf of the ailing Tiny Tim
than to sit around hoping that my client will experience
a transformation in consciousness sooner than will they, and that
he will agree to pay the inept Bob Cratchett more money than he
is worth!

Of
course, any suggestion that the Cratchetts exercise independence
and self-responsibility in their own affairs would run counter to
the political and social agenda that Dickens, through his assorted
spiritual operatives, have over such proto-proletarians. To have
the Cratchetts of the world become truly self-governing and autonomous
would be fatal to the socialist mindset, which requires a passive,
compliant, conscript clientele, only too willing to exchange one
master for another. Neither Charles Dickens — nor his intellectual
heirs such as Frank Capra — could have enjoyed financial success
in a world of independent, self-liberated, self-conscious, and self-directed
men and women.

As
we reach the end of the story, we see my client reduced to such
a state of psychological terror at the prospect of his own death,
that he awakens and begins throwing money out the window to a stranger
in the street. In the mind of Dickens, Scrooge has now justified
his existence by abandoning the rational decision-making that has
made his firm successful, and adopting the mindset of a social worker
who barges into the Cratchett household and begins running their
lives. While Ebeneezer's post-nightmare behavior reflects what can
only be described as the most immature understanding of how wealth
is both produced and exchanged in the marketplace, they also represent
significant legal issues. I would suggest that a man who has been
induced, by dread fear of his own death, to part with his money,
has available to him the claim of duress to restore to him
what was involuntarily taken from him. The basic principles of property
and contract law support the conclusion that transactions
entered into under duress are voidable, if not void absolutely.

Secondly,
the fears generated by the aforementioned spirits have probably
risen to such a level of influence upon my client's mind that, in
addition to his claims of duress, he could be said to have lacked
legal capacity to exercise rational decision-making over
his property. What sight could be more demonstrative of this incapacity
than the spectacles of Scrooge throwing money out into the street
to a stranger; bestowing gifts upon a thoroughly incompetent and
ungrateful employee and his family; and giving this sluggard an
unearned pay raise?

In
the final analysis, this case against Ebeneezer Scrooge comes down
to an emotional appeal based upon the resentment and envy that is
at the core of every second-rater's personality. Such charges as
have been leveled against my client only serve to confirm, in the
minds of far too many, that the success of the few is always bought
at the expense of the many, and that financial wealth is only accumulated
through fraud, corruption, exploitation, dishonesty, and a depraved
insensitivity to human suffering. With such beliefs do the unmotivated
or the unsuccessful soothe their shabby egos. "I may be poor,
but at least I didn't sacrifice my principles" is the common
defense of those whose accomplishments come up short in comparison
with their more prosperous neighbors. It would be unrealistic, I
suppose, to have expected a different result from a collectivist
such as Dickens, who had a most restrictive and depressing view
of the human spirit.

Still,
I cannot help proposing a settlement offer that would produce a
different ending for this story. As I stated at the outset, my client
has not only been stereotyped as a tight-fisted man of commerce,
but he has bought into such stereotyping for his own sense of identity.
Scrooge did not experience any internally-driven transformation
of consciousness as a result of his encounters with the spirits.
Any change that he exhibited was superficial in nature, based upon
his attachment to material values: his life instead of his
money. But bear in mind that Dickens, like other socialists,
is an equally materialistic creature. Had Scrooge been truly transformed
by these experiences, his life might have been opened up to happier
and more pleasurable pursuits than can be had through the counting
of either his money or the remaining days of his existence.

Like
some, whose visions of a better world extend no further than transferring
vast sums of their money to politically-based organizations — instead
of helping to remove the barriers that restrain others from bettering
their own lot — Ebeneezer could have been more beneficial to the
Cratchetts in ways that money can never accomplish. Neither the
Cratchetts nor any of the spirits exhibit an interest in helping
Bob transform himself into a more productive person. If Ebeneezer
had wanted to help his employee become less existentially crippled
— instead of just making him the object of his gratuitous inclinations
— he could have taken Cratchett aside and told him: "Bob, you're
a loser! At this rate, you and your family are destined for that
long slide down the razor blade of life into total entropy. I recognize
that the nature of our relationship helped to condition you into
becoming the mess you are now. But what will your future be like
when I and my generosity are not around to sustain you? Let me help
you by providing some lessons in advanced accounting practices,
so that you can become marginally more productive to me and, in
the process, help you earn more money. This is the industrial revolution,
Bob, and opportunities have never been greater for anyone with a
creative idea. Why don't you get one? Even a boob like you
might get rich in this setting."

Still,
I doubt that Bob Cratchett would get the message. I suspect that
he would still cling to his tin-cup lifestyle, preferring to trade
upon our sympathies rather than develop creative talents;
never to experience the joy of existential equality and dignity
that comes from being a producer of goods and services that other
people value. Sympathy should take us only so far, and never become
a substitute for the self-respect that comes from being in control
of one's life. Tiny Tim may, it is hoped, rid himself of his crutch:
I have my doubts about Bob Cratchett doing so.

At
some point, we need to show some appropriate respect for the forces
of natural selection that have long directed the life process. We
ought to learn from the rest of nature: either we make ourselves
capable of adapting to an ever-changing world — by improving the
skills or other learning with which we act upon the world — or we
prepare to die. Dickens' approach, like the underlying methodology
of the welfare state, does nothing to provide long-term help for
the Cratchetts of the world. Scrooge's unearned generosity will
not only increase his costs of doing business — thus increasing
the likelihood of his own business failure — but, upon his bankruptcy
or eventual death, will leave Cratchett in the position of having
to find a new host upon which to attach himself for the remainder
of his parasitic life.

In
spite of all this, there may yet be some hope for Tiny Tim to escape
from the limited future implicit in the restricted imagination of
Charles Dickens. Tim may have some potential, if only he can be
freed from this family of whining misfits. If he is not rescued,
but manages to survive only as a result of the shakedown perpetrated
upon my client, his future may be a bleak one. He may even end up
confined to a "bleak house," or, worse still, spend his
adult years in the spiritually drearier position of being an executive
director of some political action group designed to mobilize other
social misfits, yawlers, and existentially bankrupt men and women.

As
part of a settlement offer, my client would consider adopting Tiny
Tim — should his parents agree — and cut loose the rest of the Cratchett
family to continue their mindless, unfocused, dispirited, and passive
bottom-feeding in the shallow and stagnant end of the human gene
pool. But let us have no more of these "drive-by" specters
from the netherworld, who feign their concern for crippled children.
Like other opportunistic parasites who tell us that they "feel
our pain" even as they are causing us more pain, let
us have no more of the self-serving guilt-peddling that keeps men
and women subservient to those who threaten to cut off their dependencies.

Tiny
Tim is young enough to be given the benefit of the doubt as to his
future. As for the other members of the Cratchett family, let us
allow the evolutionary processes of nature to dispose of these nonadaptive,
nonresilient, nonambitious leeches who exhibit not the least sense
of intelligence or creativity in the plight of one of their own,
for whom they exhibit only superficial concern.

The
claim against my client is without substance, and should be dismissed
with prejudice. It is the industrial revolution's version of a scapegoating
action, grounded more in bigotry than in fact or reason. In the
end, I can offer no better answer to such charges than those provided
by my client himself: "bah, humbug!"

The
defense rests.

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