Statuesque Spendthrifts
by Carl Barks

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #138, March 1952

collected in —

The Carl Barks Library of
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories in Color
October 2012

Statues in the park

There is a golden plaque on the big building in Duckburg which states:




From time to time, though, there are doubters; or even challengers.

"Statuesque Spendthrifts" is one of the most famous of Carl Barks' long and excellent run of ten-page illustrated stories of the Disney Ducks. The title was assigned much later by Gladstone for their benchmark collection The Carl Barks Library, but it fits neatly.

In the opening scene, Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie witness the Mayor and the Park Commissioner being kicked out of Scrooge McDuck's office for daring to ask him for money:

Park Commissioner:

We asked him for a few paltry thousands of his moldy dollars.


We want to erect a statue of Cornelius Coot, founder of our fair city.

It would pay our debt to that brave old pioneer who carved this flowering townsite from the thorny wilderness!

Carl Barks
"Statuesque Spendthrifts"
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #138, March 1952
The Carl Barks Library of
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories in Color

Pioneer Monument, University of Oregon, Eugene When the ostentatiously rich Maharajah of Howduyustan arrives in Duckburg for a visit, from his limousine tossing a few thousand droopees to bystanders, we have all the setup for a contest: the reason or excuse, the champion and challenger, official goaders, and the citizen audience. Soon Scrooge and the Maharajah both begin building statues of Duckburg founder Cornelius Coot in the city park, in each round striving to build bigger, fancier, and more expensive than the other's.

The increasing distance required for Carl Barks' long shot views of the statues is beautifully handled, as is the suspense as we wonder what the contestants possibly can do next to top each other.

The sturdy pioneer Cornelius Coot is part of Barks' background history of Duckburg. I've long assumed that some such statue as the one illustrated here, the Pioneer Monument on the campus of the University of Oregon at Eugene — only blocks from where I lived as a boy — was partial inspiration for this story. Carl Barks, like myself, is a native of Oregon who later shifted his base to Southern California.

Monumental style

One of Ayn Rand's distinctive essays attacks socialism ancient and modern by pointing out, among other things, the difference in the kinds of monuments built by free societies compared with those by varieties of socialist societies — that is, command societies. In "The Monument Builders" under her column heading Check Your Premises, she says to the point at hand:

One may see, in certain Biblical movies, a graphic image of the meaning of public monument building: the building of the pyramids. Hordes of starved, ragged, emaciated men straining the last effort of their inadequate muscles at the inhuman task of pulling the ropes that drag large chunks of stone, straining like tortured beasts of burden under the whips of overseers, collapsing on the job and dying in the desert sands — that a dead Pharaoh might lie in an imposingly senseless structure and thus gain eternal "prestige" in the eyes of the unborn of future generations. ...

Rome fell, bankrupted by statist controls and taxation, while its emperors were building coliseums. ...

The great distinction of the United States of America, up to the last few decades, was the modesty of its public monuments. Such monuments that did exist were genuine: they were not erected for "prestige," but were functional structures that had housed events of great historical importance. If you have seen the austere simplicity of Independence Hall, you have seen the difference between authentic grandeur and the pyramids of "public-spirited" prestige-seekers.

In America, human effort and material resources were not expropriated for public monuments and public projects, but were spent on the progress of the private, personal, individual well-being of individual citizens. America's greatness lies in the fact that her actual monuments are not public.

The skyline of New York is a monument of a splendor that no pyramids or palaces will ever equal or approach. ...

Ayn Rand
"The Monument Builders"
The Objectivist Newsletter, December 1962

collected in —
The Objectivist Newsletter, 1962-1965
The Virtue of Selfishness

In light of the above, notice that Scrooge McDuck is a worker, a builder, an entrepreneur, and an investor; a Maharajah is a hereditary ruler. Scrooge supplies the money for his statues out of earned funds; the Maharajah pays for his statues from essentially government funds.

The statue-building contest between Uncle Scrooge and the Maharajah became ridiculous as time went on; I don't blame one woman for writing a letter saying that she thought it was a gross misuse of money. I wrote back to the office telling them that the woman had missed the point entirely. All the money that had been spent on those statues had gone into circulation, much better than if had continued lying in the Maharajah's money bin or Scrooge's money bin. That money had created a tremendous amount of work for jewelers and goldsmiths and concrete men and hydraulics experts. Everybody had a job out of that, so the money hadn't been wasted.

Carl Barks
quoted on the Contents page of
The Carl Barks Library of
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories in Color

a fuller version (albeit with plot spoilers) in —
Donald Ault, Thomas Andrae, & Stephen Gong
"An Interview with Carl Barks, Duckburg's True Founding Father", 4 August 1975
in Donald Ault, editor
Carl Barks: Conversations  (2003)

In this case, the work is performed by free labor; in fact, the free economy of Scrooge and Duckburg pulls money out of the Maharajah's command economy.

So "Statuesque Spendthrifts" is justly famous, and quite fun too.


© 2012 Robert Wilfred Franson

First-page multinational samples at the Inducks database:
"Statuesque Spendthrifts" at Inducks;

ArtWords at Troynovant
illustrated words, literate drawings;
cartoons, graphics, books about art

Ayn Rand at Troynovant


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