Misunderstanding the Moral of A Christmas Carol

Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol is an extremely well known fictional character, and one people often like to use as the stereotype of corrupt businessmen who steal from people in order to enrich themselves.

Yet, even as a child, I understood that Scrooge wasn’t a criminal; he was a shrewd businessmen. He also wasn’t obsessed with material possessions, for he lived an austere life and ate meager meals. What made him disagreeable was his stinginess, his harsh demeanor, and his personal treatment of people such as his only nephew.

None of these things were illegal.

As a writer, Dickens’ solution to altering Scrooge’s conduct was not through violence, coercion, or aggression. No law is passed demanding that Scrooge hand over his money to the poor.

The three Spirits of Christmas merely show him things that were, are, and will be. Scrooge is then left to decide what he will do with the information given, and it is here he has a change of heart. What he does from thereon out is purely voluntary; it is true charity.

As he demonstrated previously in Oliver Twist, Dickens is making a critical point lost on so many social justice warriors who insist on using the state to redistribute wealth. True charity comes from the heart, and this can only be done through free will. If you attempt to bring out the end through involuntary means, you will fail.

Dickens is drawing a critical distinction between what is moral and what is legal, and how to respond. Scrooge’s behavior is selfish and therefore immoral, but selfishness is a moral issue, not a criminal one. He is not violating anyone’s rights. Therefore, the use of force against him is not justified.

The moral of A Christmas Carol, the message it conveys, is that the moral society is one in which the wealthy care for the poor of their own volition. A society which forces the wealthy to care for the poor is not a moral one because it relies on coercion rather than true charity.

The morality of every society originates from the heart of its people. It does not come from the state.

On that note, God Bless Us, Everyone (except the state).

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2 Responses to Misunderstanding the Moral of A Christmas Carol

  1. tiffany267 says:

    I would agree except that as an ethical egoist I must comment that (rational) selfishness (not brutish, short-sighted, of the more animal variety) is indeed a virtue – which is why I’ve always detested that story.


    • I don’t think Dickens was attacking the concept of self-interest in the story or the idea of keeping one’s own money – if he did, it would have been interesting for him to explain his trip to America, where a Federal Tax Lien was placed against the proceeds of his lecture tour and he escaped before they could get it – hard to not like an author who sticks it to the feds. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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