Libertarians Parodying Themselves
If this unintentionally funny op-ed hadn’t been published on the website of the libertarian think tank Ludwig von Mises Institute, I would be dead sure that this is satire. Apparently one libertarian is really trying to sell us the evil Scrooge of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” as the actual good guy, who just has been totally misunderstood:
>>So let’s look without preconceptions at Scrooge’s allegedly underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit. The fact is, if Cratchit’s skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit’s profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages.
No doubt Cratchit needs—i.e., wants—more, to support his family and care for Tiny Tim. But Scrooge did not force Cratchit to father children he is having difficulty supporting. If Cratchit had children while suspecting he would be unable to afford them, he, not Scrooge, is responsible for their plight. And if Cratchit didn’t know how expensive they would be, why must Scrooge assume the burden of Cratchit’s misjudgment?
As for that one lump of coal Scrooge allows him, it bears emphasis that Cratchit has not been chained to his chilly desk. If he stays there, he shows by his behavior that he prefers his present wages-plus-comfort package to any other he has found, or supposes himself likely to find. Actions speak louder than grumbling, and the reader can hardly complain about what Cratchit evidently finds satisfactory.
More notorious even than his miserly ways are Scrooge’s cynical words. “Are there no prisons,” he jibes when solicited for charity, “and the Union workhouses?”
Terrible, right? Lacking in compassion?
Not necessarily. As Scrooge observes, he supports those institutions with his taxes. Already forced to help those who can’t or won’t help themselves, it is not unreasonable for him to balk at volunteering additional funds for their extra comfort.
Scrooge is skeptical that many would prefer death to the workhouse, and he is unmoved by talk of the workhouse’s cheerlessness. He is right to be unmoved, for society’s provisions for the poor must be, well, Dickensian. The more pleasant the alternatives to gainful employment, the greater will be the number of people who seek these alternatives, and the fewer there will be who engage in productive labor. If society expects anyone to work, work had better be a lot more attractive than idleness.
The normally taciturn Scrooge lets himself go a bit when Cratchit hints that he would like a paid Christmas holiday. “It’s not fair,” Scrooge objects, a charge not met by Cratchet’s patently irrelevant protest that Christmas comes but once a year. Unfair it is, for Cratchit would doubtless object to a request for a day’s uncompensated labor, “and yet,” as Scrooge shrewdly points out, “you don’t think me ill used when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”
Cratchit has apparently forgotten the golden rule. (Or is it that Scrooge has so much more than Cratchit that the golden rule does not come into play? But Scrooge doesn’t think he has that much, and shouldn’t he have a say in the matter?)
Scrooge’s first employer, good old Fezziwig, was a lot freer with a guinea—he throws his employees a Christmas party. What the Ghost of Christmas Past does not explain is how Fezziwig afforded it. Did he attempt to pass the added costs to his customers? Or did young Scrooge pay for it anyway by working for marginally lower wages?
The biggest of the Big Lies about Scrooge is the pointlessness of his pursuit of money. “Wealth is of no use to him. He doesn’t do any good with it,” opines ruddy nephew Fred.
Wrong on both counts. Scrooge apparently lends money, and to discover the good he does one need only inquire of the borrowers. Here is a homeowner with a new roof, and there a merchant able to finance a shipment of tea, bringing profit to himself and happiness to tea drinkers, all thanks to Scrooge.
Dickens doesn’t mention Scrooge’s satisfied customers, but there must have been plenty of them for Scrooge to have gotten so rich.<<
And this is just an excerpt. I won’t waste time debunking every nonsense in there but will instead cite the American anarchist Alexander Berkman, who did not only show the absurdity of the op-ed above long before it has been published but who did also show the inconsistency of libertarianism in general long before it was called by this name:
>>The law says that your employer does not steal anything from you, because it is done with your consent. You have agreed to work for your boss for certain pay, he to have all that you produce. Because you consented to it, the law says that he does not steal anything from you.
But did you really consent?
When the highwayman holds his gun to your head, you turn your valuables over to him. You ‘consent’ all right, but you do so because you cannot help yourself, because you are compelled by his gun.
Are you not compelled to work for an employer? Your need compels you, just as the highwayman’s gun. You must live, and so must your wife and children. You can’t work for yourself, under the capitalist industrial system you must work for an employer. The factories, machinery, and tools belong to the employing class, so you must hire yourself out to that class in order to work and live. Whatever you work at, whoever your employer may be, it always comes to the same: you must work for him. You can’t help yourself You are compelled.
In this way the whole working class is compelled to work for the capitalist class. In this manner the workers are compelled to give up all the wealth they produce. The employers keep that wealth as their profit, while the worker gets only a wage, just enough to live on, so he can go on producing more wealth for his employer. Is that not cheating, robbery?
The law says it is a ‘free agreement’. Just as well might the highwayman say that you ‘agreed’ to give up your valuables. The only difference is that the highwayman’s way is called stealing and robbery, and is forbidden by law. While the capitalist way is called business, industry, profit making, and is protected by law. […]
You depend on your employer for your wages or your salary, don’t you? And your wages determine your way of living, don’t they? The conditions of your life, even what you eat and drink, where you go and with whom you associate, – all of it depends on your wages.
No, you are not a free man. You are dependent on your employer and on your wages. You are really a wage slave.
The whole working class, under the capitalist system, is dependent on the capitalist class. The workers are wage slaves.
So, what becomes of your freedom? What can you do with it? Can you do more with it than your wages permit?
Can’t you see that your wage – your salary or income – is all the freedom that you have? Your freedom, your liberty, don’t go a step further than the wages you get.
The freedom that is given you on paper, that is written down in law books and constitutions, does not do you a bit of good. Such freedom only means that you have the right to do a certain thing. But it doesn’t mean that you can do it. To be able to do it, you must have the chance, the opportunity. You have a right to eat three fine meals a day, but if you haven’t the means, the opportunity to get those meals, then what good is that right to you?
So freedom really means opportunity to satisfy your needs and wants. If your freedom does not give you that opportunity, than it does you no good. Real freedom means opportunity and well being. If it does not mean that, it means nothing.<<