It's Not a Black and White World.Submitted by Dixie-Paleocon on Thu, 08/16/2012 - 16:06
Last Saturday night I attended Sarah Skwire’s “Evening at FEE.” In her excellent lecture, Skwire, a poet and Liberty Fund fellow, debunked the myth widely held by classical liberals (and others) that Charles Dickens was consistently anti-market. She presented impressive textual evidence to demonstrate that while Dickens indeed portrayed some businessmen negatively, and wrote books like Hard Times that were critical of industry, he also created characters who were kind and capable businesspeople, who respected the value of hard work, and who were wise with their finances. Like any great author, his world was a variety of complex characters.
Because so many classical liberals believe this myth, or have only read one or two of Dickens’s novels, they often assume that the rest of his 15 novels (totaling over 4,000,000 words) are along the same lines. As Skwire’s talk (which will be available on the FEE website later this month) made clear, if we reject Dickens completely, we turn our backs on positive portrayals of businesspeople, work, and personal responsibility–and give up ground in the humanities we need not give up.
What struck me about this argument is that it applies to a larger problem in the freedom movement. We have a tendency to divide the world into “good guys” and “bad guys,” seeing thinkers and politicians in strictly black-and-white terms. So Dickens quickly goes in the “bad guy” column despite evidence that the record is mixed.