An Economic Christmas Carol — What Economic Values Can Be Learned From Scrooge?
Originally Published: 29/November/2016
Coming into this time of year, reflection on the year gone by is on the minds of everyone. Those who we have lost, those who have come into the world, those who we have fallen out of touch with due to the hustle of everyday life, and those who have entered our lives. With that in mind, the economic repercussions to our living standards have been affected by these new people coming in or out of our lives in an immediate or distant manner.
Perhaps an immediate effect on your life would be that you have got that dream job and your new colleagues have become a second family to you. On the other hand you may have found yourself disenfranchised with the current state of affairs and yearn for a change politically with the hope of getting back to a better way of life for you and your family, so you vote against the status quo to allow someone have a representative effect on your life, but not in an intimate or immediate manner.
It’s these choices that have a far-reaching effect over a broad spectrum of people that the results will be seen at some stage down the line. You can see this presently on the macroeconomic telescope with decades of New Economic Policy that has the aim of total Globalisation, which has left millions of people behind. Yes, the overall welfare for society has increased but this is at the cost of an increase in the variance between socio-economic welfare classes (widening wealth gaps) and reallocation of wealth up said social class system.
Ebenezer Scrooge — A Christmas Carol
This battering that life indiscriminately gives to everyone (and it seems to pick some areas of society more than others) is prevalent in the classic novella ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, especially in its main character, Ebenezer Scrooge.
This character is a conduit (for the current world as a whole) as to how his past decisions has led to his current actions and demeanour to the world and those in it. To me this has allowed Scrooge to be the personification of years of economic hardship and fear, in either a fiscal, social, or a fiscal-social space.
The path back to virtue and kindness is played through the Ghosts of Christmas, each representing different time periods and the actions and consequences that came from them to lead Scrooge, through either choice or causality depending on your view, to where he is and to where he’s going.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Scrooge as a child was neglected and treated terribly by his father as it is mentioned the father was cruel, but he also was isolated as he was sent to boarding school and had no peer network since the other boys made fun of him. It is also implied that his mother is dead since no mention of her is made when Scrooges sister visits him one Christmas to tell him he’s coming home. This hardship and social solitary confinement on a child will have ramifications later on down the line as the world has made Scrooge bitter to all those in it. His young adulthood has hardened and entombed his heart in ice with the calling off of his engagement to his fiancé since he, as she put it, was replaced by Scrooges greed of money as he had a fear of being someone in poverty.
The Ghost of Christmas Past highlights the events that made Scrooge the person he is now and with a life as hard as that, you can understand how he has come to be, and even may show a bit of sympathy towards his situation. This reflection on the past state of his personal economic situation has forged his own decisions to currently reap what he has sown and horde his wealth out of fear of potential poverty and loss.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
The outcome from all of Scrooges economic decisions have a reaching effect on those in the community he lives. The Ghost of Christmas Present is the one to show him this. Bringing him on a tour around the city, he is shown festivities and deprivation. Sticking to Bob Cratchit’s house and his current state of affairs, Scrooge (the outcome of the world’s past decisions) looks upon the critically ill Tiny Tim (to me personifies society and the world in its current state with a bleak outcome for the future). Scrooge shows slight understanding of how his actions are impacting the world around him and how those actions are hindering the future and not giving it a chance to live by looking at Tiny Tim.
The Ghost of Christmas Present highlights situational and welfare economics, and that every day, many choices are taken that are dependent on the situation at hand. Each choice, individually and as a collective of people, has an effect on us and those around us but also those who are yet to come.
The Ghost of Christmas Future
Bringing Scrooge to look at the future, The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge how his actions will play out if he continues down the path he is on. Scrooge is shown how people react when he dies, with men laughing over how cheap the funeral will be since no one will show up or a couple rejoicing from being given some breathing space to repay a debt. This could be interpreted as the global population being happy to see an end to the constant mistakes made by a certain ruling class/generation that have ushered in eras of excessive greed and pointless conflict with the resulting economic hardships born from it.
Scrooge then finally sees the outcome for Tiny Tim and gets the message drilled home by seeing Tim’s mourning mother and father cry over the death of their child. This epiphany is what rocks Scrooge into becoming more aware of his decisions and the impact they will have on the living standards of those around him at this very moment and right into the future.
Thoughts on ‘A Christmas Carol’ Being Economically Influenced
What values can be learned from Scrooge and this story? The aim of economics is to efficiently use all available resources to increase the welfare of humanity. In the context of Scrooge, welfare can be increased by the giving of personal outcome but more importantly by the giving of opportunity.
However, if you can afford to give some of that surplus outcome you have amassed throughout the year, in a fiscal manner, you can have a bigger impact on those around you to unload a bit of the short term burden people may feel at this time of year. Giving away the surplus outcome of opportunity however, will give long term benefits to those that wish to avail of it. This is especially true during the Christmas period when the hardships of the year are more concentrated in a fiscal way with the buying of presents, food, heating, and possible travel to be able to afford coming home for Christmas.
This concentration of hardship is also seen in the social spectrum of economics because Christmas is seen to be a time for family and this unrelenting marketing can weigh on the mind of some people who have been cast aside by society and/or family and are therefore alone and forgotten.
Deeper thought on economic decisions needs to be made to ensure that those decisions don’t come back to haunt us. Unlike this novella, there is no heavenly intervention or miraculous turn around to forget the impact of these decisions. Yes we have come a long way in terms of overall welfare if we compare ourselves to 20, 50, 100 and more years ago and we must admit we are better off, but I think it speaks volumes that we as a global society demand that we as a species can do better, go further, and achieve possibilities that we can’t even dream of right now that will benefit the many and not just the few.
The only miracle is the hope that the Ghost of Christmas Future can illuminate those in the economic way of thinking across all aspects of society, to understand that more opportunity needs to be established to help those that need it, and that a blame game against those with different ideologies or political affiliations only detracts from progression of the real issues through doing what has allowed humans to get to where we are today by simply working together. But that is human nature and it is human nature that makes humanity great yet short.
Jonathan McEvoy is an Irish based border control post inspector for the Irish Government and Europe Union who took up his role in 2019 in response to British withdrawal of trade agreements, which was a position taken up after time spent working within the financial services sector in Dubai. He is an economics and finance postgraduate from Waterford Institute of Technology and a community stalwart in his home city of Waterford having been elected to serve on many boards of directors around the city in a voluntary capacity. His love of writing has a deep theme of economics in every published article which talk about history, philosophy, finance, politics, and society. His writings are grounded in practical observations away from the theoretical hypothesis of hypothetical potentials. If you are looking for a modern digestible viewpoint on modern economic ideas with a focus practicality and no holding back, he is a writer for you.
Find Jonathan on the social platforms @jonathanmcev0y
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