KE Cellars

What Scrooge teaches about greed & charity.

Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM & FM, Friday, Nov. 4, 2011.

An idea that Rush Limbaugh put forth on his program a few days ago set me thinking. The question Limbaugh asked was which has been a greater force for good in the world, greed or charity?

That’s a particularly timely question. One of my favorite pieces of literature is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. You know the story. A mean and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge hoarded money while turning a blind eye to the human want that confronted him everywhere on the 19th century streets of London. In the Christmas season, when, to quote the story, “want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices,” Scrooge was having none of it.

Of course, as we know, Scrooge was ultimately redeemed by the visitations of the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. Scrooge’s miserly old heart was touched, and he became every bit as charitable after his enlightenment as he had been cruel and stingy before.

From the uplifting story of “A Christmas Carol”, you might reasonably conclude that charity has done more good in the world than has greed.

But let’s take a closer look.

First we need some definition. Webster defines greed as, “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed.” By that definition, greed is not such a good thing.

But the definition of greed has been corrupted and that corrupt definition animates our politics and policy discussions. For many, particularly those on the left, greed is defined as trying to do well for oneself.

We are endlessly subjected to the president and his followers railing against corporations and small business owners and investors, calling them greedy simply for wanting to succeed and in so doing, make a lot of money.

But that isn’t greed. It’s capitalism – an economic model that has done more to lift humans out of poverty than any other economic system ever tried.

Charities, to which most of us give, are always needing more. To whom do they go? I have now served as president of two non-profit boards. When we needed money, we didn’t go to the poor. We sought out the wealthy.

I don’t know what Scrooge did to become wealthy. But absent that wealth, his ability to help the family of his long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchett, and his ability to alleviate the misery on the streets around his home in London, would not have existed.

Scrooge’s success in business is what enabled his charity.

What liberals denigrate as “greed” is in fact what has made poverty the exception that it is in the America of today as opposed to the rule that it was in the England of Charles Dickens.

As Adam Smith said, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.”

Self interest, despite what liberals say, is not greed. The freedom to pursue self interest is what has lifted countless millions from the grinding hopelessness of poverty while concurrently enabling charity on an industrial scale.

Charity is good. But for all that is good about charity in the end it can feed only a few.

Capitalism, even if you call it greed, feeds everyone.


  1. Linda E. Montrose says:

    Heard the speech Rush made on the subject after a caller open the subject up. It is not so much “greed” as it is self-preservation. Scrooge was more of a hoarder than just greedy in my estimation. Charity MUST come from the heart as this Christmas tale points out…Scrooge’s change of heart. What the goverment would have us to believe is that only the government is “charitible”…taking care of the unfortunate with housing, food,etc. In reality, this is NOT the case. The government can NOT be charitible because nothing is done from the heart, for there NO HEART in government! Nothing is given by the government freely, there is always an exchange for the “charity” it gives…NOW THAT I would call GREED! Churches and charities give from the heart because those that fund these projects give from their hearts for a good purpose, unlike the government who takes our money without input as to where it goes. BIG difference between charity and greed I would say. Capitalism can not be greedy because one is not forced to buy anything, what one buys is of their own free will. I can shop prices if I want, say a television, for the best deal. I CHOOSE from whom to buy what I want at the price that best fits my ability to pay for it. How can that be greedy?

  2. Doug Beader says:

    Doesn’t matter at this point. Republicans in the senate just gave Obama the White House in 2012 by blocking the payroll tax cut extension. All those people who want their tax cuts “paid for” will change their minds and stay home or vote Obama in 2012 when they get a smaller paycheck. Not disagreeing with you Paul, just saying it doesn’t matter at this point. Senate Republicans would have been better of extending the tax cut and sticking with the mantra that tax cuts pay for themselves.

  3. The Marxist/Socialist/Democrat Left has corrupted the English language in equating Capitalism with Greed, Charity with Welfare, and Honest Work with Exploitation of the masses. In all of this demagoguery the theme is the same, “trust in your benevolent Government to GIVE you what is rightfully YOURS and don’t trust in your ability to provide a service or product to your fellow man in order to be self sufficient (and potentially wealthy).”

    Clearly a society built on self sufficiency by its citizens creates wealth by definition. Wealth is the by-product of labor that is rewarded by a market that is willing to pay for it. Wealth is stored-up labor that has VALUE. Every time that wealth is re-distributed by force without a corresponding effort by the recipient to work for it, creates a dependent society that consumes (dilutes) wealth instead of producing and expanding wealth. Margaret Thatcher said: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

    Make no mistake; the Marxist idea of spreading the wealth without the WORK to earn it is NOT spreading Capitalism that creates wealth in the first place. It is spreading poverty, envy, covetousness, and dependence on government largess that purposefully buys votes for the Marxist elite (legalized theft). The “pursuit of happiness” (wealth or property) only comes to those that are willing to work for it. The work ethic is the enemy of Socialism. Wealth inequality can be cured by a better re-distribution of Capitalism not Socialism. It works every time it is tried.

  4. Brent Horton says:

    I feared the day when Gordon Gekko was viewed as a hero & it is here – thanks, again, to Rush. I think the majority of intelligent citizens on both sides of the political spectrum know the different between “greed” and “capitalism” … and to assume non-conservatives are “confused” by the differences is sheer pile-on hyperbole. Someone convince me that the majority of American corporations operate under an umbrella of integrity and honesty while “striving to be the best” & will join this flippant concept that greed is not a prevalent.

  5. Orville Wilson says:

    The middle and even lower classes also give to charity, so people don’t have to be wealthy or ‘greedy’ to give to charitable causes, now or in the past.

  6. The true GREED of the “champions of Marxist/Socialist fairness” in the federal government (to the tune of an additional $4 trillion of national debt being forced on to all of us in the last 34 months) dwarfs anything that unscrupulous corporations have ever done in all of human history. Where is the Hollywood movie about this?

  7. ExxonMobil is always in the crosshairs of the liberals when they talk about corporate greed. I wonder how many libs have actually looked up the charitable contributions made by ExxonMobil as compared to some of the “green” companies Obama is so in love with.
    You also hear about the huge salaries and bonuses made by the CEO’s of these big greedy companies, but you never hear about the bonuses, salaries, and benefits paid to the employees of some of those greedy mean ole big corporations.
    What some forget is there is not one big ole mean corporation out there that wasn’t started 1 or 2 people who laid everything on the line, worked endless hours for it to be successful and become a big corporation. Colonel Sanders sold chicken out of the back of a car to get started. Read about Frank Phillips and his brother. Quite a story for it to now be ConocoPhillips. How many who voted for Obama even know the story behind Microsoft?
    I’ve not met a single person who started at the bottom with one of these companies, worked 20 to 30 years and then retired broke.
    The lowest paid person who works in the field with my company is $19 per hour. That is entry level and all that is required is a high school education, a willingness to work and travel where the work is. We have people in that position making $70,000 per year due to the overtime, per diem, travel pay, and bonuses. For the last 7 years we have failed to fill all those positions each year.

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