In Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", the miser par excellence, Ebenezer Scrooge, is frightened by the Christmas ghosts into uncharacteristic acts of generosity. But I have always wondered how long his change of heart lasted. After all, Christmas lasts less than 2 weeks....then the decorations come down, the lights go out and we all start our post-Christmas diets. The abundance of Christmas is followed by the scarcity of Lent. I fear that Scrooge's habitual miserliness would have made a swift return once the visions faded and the grim reality of a diminishing hoard started to bite. As Fagin says, "In this world one thing counts,/ In the bank, large amounts".....even if the price of your wealth is the poverty or the loss of others. Scrooge and Fagin are brothers under the skin.
Yet our economy runs on generosity. Everything we have, we have because of the generosity of others - the people who produce what we invent, buy what we produce, give us their time, their effort, their talents and - one way or another - their money. I call it generosity, though it goes by other names too - "spending", "producing", "consuming", "donating", "helping". Wealth is created by doing things for others. Doing things primarily for yourself may also benefit others - this is what my parents call "enlightened self-interest", though we also know it as "trickle-down economics". But too often doing things primarily for yourself impoverishes both you and others: you, because self-centredness cuts you off from the richness of human interaction, and wealth is no substitute for love: and others, because your greed deprives them of wealth and your selfishness deprives them of your company. Selfishness and greed don't cause poverty, they ARE poverty.
Humans are, as a species, innately wealthy. We are intelligent, resourceful and creative. And when times are good, we are generous. But when times are hard, our concern for others is diminished due to our fear for our own future, and we withhold from others all that we have to offer. This is natural and perhaps understandable, but it is neither morally right nor economically sensible. When we withhold our natural wealth from others, we do not keep it safe - we destroy it. Ideas that never become reality are worthless. Money that is not invested productively generates no economic growth. When we fear scarcity, we create poverty.
The hoarders of wealth depend on the generosity of others to create the future prosperity upon which the value of their hoard depends. John Galt rejected the people who demanded that he share his wealth: but in rejecting them, he brought about the very thing he feared. A small enclave of like-minded people could not possibly have consumed enough of his ideas to give him the material wealth he craved. For that, he needed the purchasing power of those he rejected. Without it, he was condemned to a life of poverty without reprieve. "Galt's Gulch" would perhaps be better named "Galt's Ghetto".
And "Atlas Shrugged" should be subtitled "the Folly of Selfishness". For folly it is. Scrooge's story shows that greedy and selfish people are eventually rejected by the people whose generosity they depend upon. "Hating on bankers" is society's rejection of people in the financial sector whose greed and selfishness caused economic disaster in 2008. "Hating on the rich" is society's rejection of people whose wealth has been maintained through extraordinary economic measures while everyone else has been feeling the pinch. What is seen as "unfair" - rightly or wrongly - ultimately is rejected, sometimes painfully. Fagin was hung...... and in the vision of the Ghost of Christmas Future, Scrooge's tombstone lies forgotten and neglected, for he died unloved.
We can have prosperity. We really can, and for everyone, not just a fortunate few. But it depends on whether we are willing to let generosity become something we practise all year round, not just at Christmas. And that can only be achieved if we vanquish the real foe - our fear of scarcity. The terrible children of the Ghost of Christmas Present, Want and Ignorance, are spawned by that fear. When we vanquish our fear, they too will vanish.
Our wish that it could be Christmas every day could come true. It is up to us to make it happen.
The death of John Galt - Pieria
Does charity end after Christmas? - A dragon's best friend