I am not Scrooge

Everyone loves to hate bankers. Even before WE* ruined the economy and took down a third of our own institutions, bankers were well known as miserly, humorless, unfeeling “covetous, grasping old sinners.” When someone mentions bankers, most people think of Scrooge.

But even before Scrooge, bankers had been treated with disdain or outright prejudice. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. In many parts of Europe, Jews were limited to acting as moneylenders, and the discrimination against the job and the religion became intermingled. Edward I (in coordination with the Catholic Church) compelled English the Jewish bankers to lend the crown and church significant sums, and then simply declared the debts to be gifts or else taxed heavily. As the Jews protested, rumors were spread of the faithful performing bloodthirsty rituals and eating babies, and in 1290, the Edict of Expulsion forced all Jews out of England.

Prejudice against the religion has since diminished (though not completely), but prejudice against the function has not. Yet it is a function that plays a key role in society – people do have a need to borrow money and to house it somewhere other than under their mattress. But when bankers are mentioned, everyone thinks Old Man Potter of It’s a Wonderful Life, forgetting that George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart’s character) was a banker, too.

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