FOUR

Is It Really “A Wonderful Life”?

Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.

Franklin Pierce Adams (1881–1960), American columnist

SOME WHO ARE UPSET about the financial turmoil since 2007 are nostalgic for the good old days, when banking was simple and bankers were serving their local communities. A model for this nostalgia is the banker George Bailey in the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life.1 In the small town of Bedford Falls, New York, his Bailey Building and Loan Association enables working people to buy their own homes so that they no longer have to deal with Mr. Potter, the local real estate tycoon, who is thinking only about profits and is demanding extortionate rents from his tenants.

In the movie George ...

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