Ebenezer Scrooge for President
A few years ago, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) talked me into watching a classic—an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This was no small feat for her, considering that, like the movie’s central character Ebenezer Scrooge, I am largely immune to much of the Christmas spirit. Even so, I begrudgingly agreed and have no regrets. The movie warmly reminded me of my childhood when I would play the tale over and over. As I watched A Christmas Carol this time, however, I began to think maybe the tightfisted Ebenezer Scrooge wasn’t so bad after all. In fact—aside from his propensity for spiritual hallucinations and some other quirks—America would probably be better served had presidents and other elected officials been a little more like crazy old Uncle Ebenezer. For those of you who haven’t read the book or seen any of the movies (SPOILER ALERT), the beloved tale centers around an intolerable, miserly old businessman who leads a solitary life by choice and whose actions are guided by rational, calculated—albeit often cynical—thought. He has little need for emotions and is naturally disgusted by Christmas—largely due to a lifetime of misfortunate events. After years of such behavior, come Christmastime, the disheveled, elderly man supposedly witnesses supernatural experiences and believes that he has been briefly haunted by his one-time—but now dead—business partner and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. After visiting with these unwelcome guests, they melt his cold heart, and Scrooge miraculously transforms into an affectionate, generous and Christmas-loving person—although this dramatic personality change seems indicative of a very serious mental breakdown, rather than a Christmas miracle. Nevertheless, I can already hear my readers grumble to themselves about an article suggesting that the ornery Scrooge could do anything good—let alone being a partial model for lawmakers. To that, I say bah humbug, but hear me out first. I am a proponent of fiscal responsibility and a limited, effective government that is guided by science and sound economic theories, which is sorely needed. Our national debt is crippling; government has been growing exponentially for years; ever-expanding bureaucracies and regulations are frequently a drag on progress; and too often, knee-jerk reactions are the catalyst for the approval of misguided laws. Would the United States be in this position if Ebenezer ran the show? I don’t think so. First and foremost, Scrooge—while likely well-to-do—was beyond cheap, and I’d like to think he’d manage the country’s finances similarly. When it comes to being a steward of taxpayer money, we need more officials who will make sound financial decisions, balance the budget and reduce the debt. Indeed, Scrooge managed to run a business on the bare minimum—sometimes limiting his coal usage in the winter and operating out of a spartan office. Of course, you can be too parsimonious, but his inclination toward efficiency would be a welcome change in our spendthrift government. In fact, odds are with Scrooge’s business acumen and dedication toward efficiency, he would support limiting the size and scope of the government to save a buck and allow business to thrive. That means smart deregulation and reforming wasteful agencies. Something tells me that he would lead by example too. Scrooge was apparently well-known for working long, hard hours—even during the holidays. If he was president, he would probably demand that his bureaucrats maintain a better work ethic as well. While I am not suggesting that we should force people to work grueling long hours, in freezing cold offices or on holidays by any means, I think we can all agree that some government agencies could work harder. Finally, time and again, Scrooge made decisions guided by rational thought and even attempted to explain the apparitions’ appearances through deductive reasoning (maybe they were a manifestation of bad food?). Unfortunately, critical thinking is not always thoroughly employed before moving legislation in today’s day and age. Perhaps under a Scrooge administration, it would become commonplace. All of this is not to say that Scrooge would get my ringing endorsement. At a personal level, he is wholly unlikeable, heartless and is shockingly averse to charity. He even suggests that those in need should check to see if jails are still open and have room for others. In reality, his approach to helping the underprivileged is nothing short of deplorable. What’s more, he seems like a terrible boss to work for. Despite these flaws—and certainly a few others—he is far from a total loss. Indeed, this Christmas, I’d like more elected officials to consider Scrooge’s penchant for fiscal responsibility, efficiency and rational thought when governing the country. If they do that, then we will have a very happy New Year.