Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

EVERYONE knows that banks are the eternal enemy of mankind; that they lend money at higher rates of interest than they pay their depositors. Has there ever been a clearer case of exploitation than this?

As a matter of fact, as I shall relate, there has. For there are some people who fall below the purview of the banks, whose financial affairs are either so trifling or so precarious that those noble institutions wish to have nothing to do with them.

The urge to borrow money, however, is what distinguishes Man from the animals; and just because a man has no income with which to pay back a loan, that does not prevent him from taking it out in the first place. The more orthodox sources of finance being unavailable to him, he finds himself obliged to turn to what are known as loan sharks. For once the zoological comparison is not inapt.

My patient, now on remand in prison, was a man whose intellect was as limited as his pocket. Alas, he had a young son whom he believed he needed to deck out in designer clothes and the latest trainers (this being what counts as good parenting in much of England). But where to obtain the money to do so?

He turned to a local landlord, the owner of many flophouses and bed-sits and something of a moneylender. My patient borrowed 1,500 from him, but then, over a period of two months, failed to make his instalments on the loan. Had he done so, he would have had to pay back 'only' L (English pound)2,500.

`He must be a rich man by now,' I remarked. …

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