I have no idea whether Charles Dickens, if he were alive today, would have joined the Occupy Wall Street movement. Given the revulsion he expressed when America’s riff-raff had the temerity to become overly familiar on his two visits to this country, one may doubt his commitment to overthrowing society’s class structure. Despite this, he may still be considered among the movement’s intellectual forerunners. For it was he, in the person of his literary creation Ebenezer Scrooge, who gave the world a character who embodied all of the evil traits the Occupiers attribute to today’s 1 percent. In fact, Scrooge might, in many ways, be considered the literary patron saint of the Occupy movement. Who among them does not dream of a time when today’s 1 percent will find the same inspiration Scrooge did, and give away their riches to “more deserving” folk? Oh wait. The occupiers don’t want the rich to give their money away to the charities of their choice. They want the government to take the wealth of the rich and give it away according to the Occupiers’ desirers.
Either way, such actions are not really going to do much to improve the human condition. I contend that Scrooge, before he became “enlightened,” was already doing more to help his fellow man than any of the other main characters we meet in A Christmas Carol. Moreover, by giving away a substantial portion of his accumulated fortune, he drastically reduced his ability to do even more good in the world.
Scrooge was a “man of business” and evidently a shrewd and successful one. Although Dickens fails to tell us exactly what line of business Scrooge is in, a typical 19th-century “man of business” could be expected to involve himself in many endeavors — what investment advisers today refer to as diversifying one’s risk. One can infer from A Christmas Carol that Scrooge was a financier, who lent money to both businesses and individuals. He also spent long hours at the Exchange, probably speculating on commodities, buying and selling government debt, and purchasing and selling shares in various joint stock companies.