Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Contemporary Dickens Scrooge

..."If Dickens were writing today, his anti-hero would be a very different character. To be sure, he would still be "engrossed" by "the master-passion, Gain", but he would not be solitary.

The Scrooge of the era up to the fall of Lehman Brothers would not shut himself away alone in a freezing office in a foggy courtyard. On the contrary, he would be out and about, persuading people to borrow money they could not afford for purchases they did not need, or to invest in schemes which promised astonishing 10 per cent annual returns. He would be promoting "lifestyle". He would have lots of "friends" and fabulous parties. He would have wonderful PR. The stuffy old firm of Scrooge and Marley would be rebranded – as "S&M"? – to attract the cool young crowd.

The modern Scrooge would never want for company in his greed. He would be joined by some knaves and many fools – the latter including, as it were (and no offence intended), you and me. Pyramid schemes, like that apparently practised by Bernie Madoff, cannot exist without thousands of slaves to build the pyramid. In this, the first era of popular capitalism, many of us made ourselves willing slaves, as few had the chance to do at the time of Charles Dickens."

Read the whole thing here.

And, for those that would like to read the original or pass it along to your children or students, we have a wonderful audio text version of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" at the Adam Smith Academy site.

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