• Ebenezer ScroogeButler Shaffer, who teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law, has written an excellent and highly entertaining article in the form of a legal brief in defense of Ebenezer Scrooge, with Charles Dickens acting as Prosecutor. Of the many books that have been promulgated as "classics" over the centuries, "A Christmas Carol" is surely one of the most destructive mind bugs ever to infect the human spirit. 

    A few passages from the article:

    "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!"

    But Mr. Shaffer, you can't be serious?!? Mr. Cratchett has surely demonstrated his worth by the simple fact that he exists as a physical being. Never mind the fact that his weak kneed will to better the lot of his family has been unceremoniously dumped in Scrooge's lap.

    The defense continues:

    "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!"

    And should you think that Mr. Shaffer's defense is somehow ready to rest, just wait, there's more... He now turns to the evil spirits that have assaulted his client in horrible, unearthly ways:

    "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 becomeinvisible, 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 Ebenezer 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 booboisie, who has no more imagination or motivation on behalf of his ailing son than to sit around whining that his son will surely die unlesssomeone 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 alottery ticket is the most realistic means of acquiring riches!"

    Hear, hear, Mr. Shaffer! I couldn't have said it better myself. Bartender, another glass of eggnog, please! The full article is here, enjoy!