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Stingy News: Scrooge
[Full Length | In Brief]

So, Scrooge was right after all
12/21/08 Permlink | Christmas Scrooge
"It's a little-known fact that the first economic rationalist was Ebenezer Scrooge. That's because economists simply can't understand why people would do something as stupid as giving presents at Christmas. Conventional economics teaches that gift giving is irrational. The satisfaction or "utility" a person derives from consumption is determined by their personal preferences. But no one understands your preferences as well as you do. So when I give up $50 worth of utility to buy a present for you, the chances are high that you'll value it at less than $50. If so, there's been a mutual loss of utility. The transaction has been inefficient and "welfare reducing", thus making it irrational. As an economist would put it, "unless a gift that costs the giver p dollars exactly matches the way in which the recipient would have spent the p dollars, the gift is suboptimal". This astonishing intellectual breakthrough was first formulated in 1993 by Joel Waldfogel, an economics professor now at the University of Pennsylvania, in his seminal paper, The Deadweight Loss of Christmas."

What I like about Scrooge
12/21/08 Permlink | Christmas Scrooge
"Here's what I like about Ebenezer Scrooge: His meager lodgings were dark because darkness is cheap, and barely heated because coal is not free. His dinner was gruel, which he prepared himself. Scrooge paid no man to wait on him. Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that's a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?"

The case for Ebeneezer
12/21/08 Permlink | Christmas Scrooge
"As I became older, I decided that Mr. Dickens had given Ebeneezer Scrooge an undeserved reputation for villainy, placing him in such company as Uriah Heep, Iago, Dr. Moriarty, or Snidely Whiplash, to name but a few. It is my purpose, in making this holiday defense of my client, to present to you a different interpretation of the story, that you will see the villainy not in my client's character, but in Charles Dickens' miscasting of the true heroes of the time of which he wrote, namely, the industrialists and financiers who created that most liberating epoch in human history: the industrial revolution."

In defense of scrooge
12/19/08 Permlink | Christmas Scrooge
"It's Christmas again, time to celebrate the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. You know the ritual: boo the curmudgeon initially encountered in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, then cheer the sweetie pie he becomes in the end. It's too bad no one notices that the curmudgeon had a point - quite a few points, in fact."

A Christmas Carol
12/25/07 Permlink | Christmas Scrooge
"I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant, C. D."

Scrooge a man for our times
12/14/07 Permlink | Christmas Scrooge
"Christmastime is inevitably accompanied by allusions to Ebenezer Scrooge. As portrayed in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," Ebenezer is a thoroughly disagreeable, curmudgeonly, miserly misanthrope. I sympathize. And not just because similar contentions are routinely made about me. Enough is enough. It's time to move on, as they say, from the conventional view of the man as "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster." We as a society have come a long way in the 160 years since Dickens wrote his story. We're kinder and gentler and infinitely more accepting. Ebenezer would be perceived much differently today."

The corporate Scrooge contest
12/24/06 Permlink | Christmas Scrooge
"Our appeal for corporate Scrooges - tales of office parties canceled, miserly bonuses, and pathetic gifts - generated a generous response. Nearly 200 Slate readers wrote in, providing enough fodder for several episodes of The Office. We heard from employees of car dealerships, doctors, and small law firms, but also from blue workers at blue chips, including Burberry, Dow Jones, Goldman Sachs, Disney, Wells Fargo, and Wal-Mart."

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