Jeff V. sent me an article last Christmas, but I never got a chance to mention it. I’m making amends today.
Three years ago at Slate Magazine, Steven E. Landsburg wrote an article in praise of misers: “What I like about Scrooge”. Though the piece is funny, its message is very serious: saving is a good thing and ought to be rewarded.
In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser — the man who could deplete the world’s resources but chooses not to. The only difference between miserliness and philanthropy is that the philanthropist serves a favored few while the miser spreads his largess far and wide.
If you build a house and refuse to buy a house, the rest of the world is one house richer. If you earn a dollar and refuse to spend a dollar, the rest of the world is one dollar richer — because you produced a dollar’s worth of goods and didn’t consume them.
This makes a certain sort of sense, I must admit. You earn money through your efforts. But when you delay spending this money, you’re essentially providing your services for free (at least until the money is spent).
Landsburg’s conclusion busts me up, but maybe that’s just because I’m a money geek and a lit geek:
Great artists are sometimes unaware of the deepest meanings in their own creations. Though Dickens might not have recognized it, the primary moral of A Christmas Carol is that there should be no limit on IRA contributions.
I’ll never look at Scrooge the same way again…
[Slate: What I love about Scrooge]
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