George Bailey Rocks6th March 2012
Whenever I look at the news either broadcast or press, which I’ll admit is not very often these days, we seem to be tripping around the immortal words recession, double dip recession, slow growth and rising unemployment. Which is probably one of the reasons I avoid the news altogether. I figure if you concentrate on negative stuff enough, it usually winds up on your doorstep somehow. I much prefer reading the comment section of the newspaper where the reporters are giving a considered opinion rather than the gut-reactions and shooting from the hip reporting in response to news as it happens. What is clear though is that the world doesn’t seem to have any heroes any more. Where have they all disappeared to, or is it just that no one considers them newsworthy anymore. I for one love a good hero both in life and in fiction, and there is none finer on screen as George Bailey. George is the reluctant hero of It’s a Wonderful Life, played by the late Jimmy Stewart. For those of you who don’t know the story it is a tale of a man who finds himself at the end of his tether and wishes he had never been born. He is rescued by a guardian Angel called Clarence and because I don’t want to give the plot away, (you should really see it), George goes from being stony broke and on his uppers to finding himself the richest man in town.
The whole thing got me thinking though, where have all the George Bailey’s gone? George ran a small Building & Loan company and gave mortgages to all the little people in Bedford Falls. The taxi drivers and the restaurant owners alike. This little company, as George would put it, guaranteed that for all the people doing the living and dying in Bedford Falls, they deserved to do it in a couple of decent rooms and a bath. The a villain of the piece is Mr Potter who runs the local bank – the only other financial institution in Bedford Falls. Potter spends years trying to put the Bailey Building & Loan out of business, so he can swallow up all townsfolk’s custom. Sound familiar? It should because this is what the big finance houses have been doing for years. Which got me thinking – doesn’t the world need a few more Building & Loan companies? Small friendly societies, like the ones that existed before the welfare state? I can’t foretell the future, but I can see problems, big social problems arising from people not being able to get on the property ladder because the banks are no longer lending at reasonable rates. This is going to force young people to stay at home long after they should have flown the nest, putting pressure on the young people and parents who crave an empty nest. Not only that, the bank’s behaviour is stagnating the property market and thus further slowing the economy. It also got me thinking that parents who are thinking of helping their son’s and daughters onto the property ladder could maybe even club in together. Hook up with parents of their children’s friends to form their own small building and loan companies. They’ll probably make much more than they’re earning from savings because of the poor interest rates currently on offer.
These ideas might seem like wishful thinking but hey – every new idea, especially in business – starts out with a bit of a dream. The fact that a quarter of Britain’s GDP comes from family owned businesses shows there’s potential. A member of the banking institution recently said to me “that’s just business,” when I told her the banks had changed the terms of a loan and put a friend of mine out of business. It was a family run concern that had pensions tied up in the property and capital, so it was anything but just business to them. It was people’s livelihoods and incomes which, I think, makes it extremely personal. I also believe it is the small to medium sizes businesses which will turn the recession around. Lets face it; it won’t be the government that digs us out of this hole the banks have thrown us in. It will be the little people. So why not start some friendly Building & Loan companies offering a tasty alternative to the cold cuts currently being offered up by the banks. If we invest in each other the rewards are twofold and are both financial and socially edifying. So come on all you George Baileys and step up to the plate and find out how you too could find yourself the richest man in town.