Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Prisons & Workhouses—Scrooge Mirrors Republican Social Policy

(Blogger’s update 12/8/12—This post was written 5 years ago when George W. Bush was still President. It is still valid today. The idea that we don’t have work for all our people or that the poor should be tossed in jail or neglected is at the heart of conservative thinking right now just as it was in 2007 and in the time of Charles Dickens.)

It seems that the attitude and policy suggestions offered by Ebenezer Scrooge in response to a solicitation for charity at Christmas, would fit in well with Republican and conservative social policy in modern America.

This post is based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This book was first published in 1843.

Below in italics is text from the book— (Don’t miss the last paragraph. It sums it up quite well. I’ve put it in bold to further beat you over the head with my point.)

 “…..This lunatic, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

“Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,” said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. “Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr Scrooge, or Mr Marley?”

“Mr Marley has been dead these seven years,” Scrooge replied. “He died seven years ago, this very night.”

“We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,” said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

“… At the ominous word “liberality”, Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “ I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Click here for a good history of what a workhouse was in 19th Century Britain. There is also a good history of Poor Laws.

Read this about the contracting out the establishment and running of poorhouses. The worked was outsourced. Some things never change.

“….the actual running of workhouses was not necessarily undertaken by the parish itself. It could instead be contracted out to a third party who would undertake to feed and house the poor, charging the parish a weekly rate for each inmate. The contractor would also provide the inmates with work and could keep any income generated. This system was known as ‘farming’ the poor. The contract was usually awarded to the bidder offering the best price for the job which might take a variety of forms, for example maintaining all the paupers in a parish, or just managing the workhouse, or just a particular group of paupers such as infants and children, or lunatics, or providing medical relief.”

The link and the above paragraph are from Workhouses.org.uk

Click here for what a “treadmill”  was as mentioned by Mr. Scrooge.

Mr. Scrooge learned the error of his ways. Maybe three spirits will come to the White House and to Congress and our Republicans will be given a chance at redemption as well.

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December 17, 2007 - Posted by | Books, History, Politics | , , , , , , , , ,

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