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22 December 2014

Yes, Virginia, Scrooge Was A Liberal!

By John Merline

Just about every year at this time, "A Christmas Carol' shows up somewhere on TV, as do headlines about how one Republican or another is the modern equivalent of the tale's greedy miser, Ebenezer Scrooge. 

"The GOP's sad Scrooge agenda." "GOP Protecting Ebenezer Scrooge." "Maher Likens Republicans to Ebenezer Scrooge." "Republicans play the role of the stingy Scrooge." 

You have to wonder if these folks have actually read "A Christmas Carol" or spent any time pondering what Scrooge actually says and does. Because if you do, you come to realize that Scrooge more closely resembles a modern liberal than a conservative. 

A major clue comes early in the story, when two men collecting for charity arrive at Scrooge's office. After asking Scrooge for a donation to help the poor and needy, Scrooge responds: "Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operation? The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor?"

He goes on to say, "I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there." 

Modern translation: I pay taxes to support the welfare state, why should I give money to you? 

Turns out, that's a decidedly liberal viewpoint. 

Studies have consistently shown that big-government liberals donate far less money to private charities than conservatives. In his book "Who Really Cares," Arthur Brooks notes that households headed by conservatives give 30% more to charity than households headed by liberals. Another study found that even poor conservatives donate more than rich liberals.

There are other facets to Scrooge's character that line up better with modern liberals. 

During that same conversation, Scrooge says it might be better for the poor who are unwilling to go on welfare to die "and decrease the surplus population." 

Cold and heartless, yes. But which side is always bemoaning overpopulation? 

From Paul Ehrlich in the late 1960s to environmentalists today, it's been a fixation of the left, not the right. 

Al Gore, for example, once urged making "fertility management ubiquitously available" to fight the scourge of carbon-producing people. 

Also like most liberals today, Scrooge was clearly a religious skeptic and not a churchgoer. 

A 2012 study in Social Psychological and Personality Science concluded that "religious individuals tend to be more conservative." A Gallup survey found that 55% of conservatives, but just 27% of liberals, are "frequent" churchgoers. And a Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey found that religious conservatives outnumber religious liberals in America nearly four to one. 

Scrooge was also unhappy, a mood found more frequently on the left. Pew Research, for example, found that conservative were 68% more likely to say they were "very happy" than liberals, and that this "happiness gap" has existed since 1972. 

Want more? 

The fact that Scrooge was single and childless puts him on the left side of today's political spectrum. Writing in the New York Times, Brooks notes that 53% of conservatives are married, vs. 33% of liberals, "and almost none of the gap is due to the fact that liberals tend to be younger." Conservatives also have more kids than liberals. 

Finally, lest you think Scrooge was intolerant -- the one sin the left still abhors -- consider how he instructs his nephew on the virtues of tolerance. 

"Keep Christmas in your own way," he tells Fred, "and let me keep it in mine." 


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