America has a fascination with ducks. They serve as mascots, heroes, villains, sidekicks, icons, pitchmen, etc. in our everyday culture and society. We’ve often anthropomorphically portrayed the duck in manner that is reflective of our overall mindset and values. If one wants to truly understand the American culture, look no further than our ducks…
Thus to explore American Capitalism using the wisdom of our waterfowl, we look to Scrooge McDuck…
One of the most defining characteristics of the United States society is our commitment to capitalism, and no duck embodies this American drive for wealth and achievement more than Scrooge McDuck.
Scrooge McDuck emerged out of the war-galvanized American ideals of the late 1940s. He embodies all the economic opportunitites of capitalism, and the ensuing responsibilities and hazards brought on by wealth and achievement.
His name Scrooge is an obvious reference to the cold-hearted miser Ebeneezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. When one examines his fictional background, immigrating penniless from Scotland, and becoming and American rags-to-riches success, it evokes the notion of fellow Scotsman and robber baron Andrew Carnegie. Thus in Scrooge McDuck we see that every American is afforded and opportunity to succeed, but we also see the dehumanization that takes hold when greed and materialistic gain is at the root of endeavor.
Scrooge McDuck often serves as a villain, evoking the public outcry of a dominant titan of industry interested in nothing but profits at any human expense. American culture as a whole despises him as we despise Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt for their opulence and greed. The portrayal of these characteristics in a duck somewhat satisfies the American psyche in that as one achieves more and more wealth, they become less and less human.
While Scrooge McDuck owns multitudes of wealth, in some regards he does not even own himself. His ambition and material greed have placed him up as a duck for sale, owned more by his riches and their ensuing responsibilities than his own character. Thus Scrooge McDuck may be able to swim through oceans of gold coins in his expansive mansion, but he will always be a goofy, waddling duck – holed up to live in solitude in his fortress of lonely extravagance.
However, our hatred for the capitalistic magnates is conflicted with our enthusiastic joy in the inherent and universal opportunity which capitalism and Scrooge McDuck present to one and all. This is evident when Scrooge McDuck offers sound economic theory and puts it into practice. As most of us carry a deep disdain for anyone higher on the capitalistic ladder than one, few of us would give up our own economic freedom which has enabled the financial success of Scrooge and others. Thus we humbly acknowledge and respect his economic outlook, just as we currently do with capitalistic sages such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.
In summary, Scrooge McDuck represents the American love-hate relationship with capitalism. We hate him for his success, and he hates us back. We take solace in knowing that even though he swims through money like duck in a pond, he is at times overcome with misery in light of the gravity of his economic alienation. Furthermore, we cannot deny that even though we hate his success, we would never deny our love for the opportunity to achieve a similar level of financial success. Thus we always respect the economic wisdom of economic titans such as Scrooge McDuck.