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William Davis, A Day in Old Athens

 

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Page 8

Drawbacks to the Banking Business

 

    Nicanor has no paper money to handle, no stocks, no bonds,—and the line between legitimate interest and scandalous usury is by no means clearly drawn. There is at least one good excuse for demanding high interest. It is notoriously hard to collect bad debts. Many and many a clever debtor has persuaded an Athenian jury that all taking of interest is somewhat immoral, and the banker has lost at least his interest, sometimes too his principal. So long as this is the case, a banker's career has its drawbacks; and Demosthenes in a recent speech has commended the choice by Pasion's son of a factory worth 60 minæ per year, instead of his father's banking business worth nominally 100. The former was so much more secure than an income depending on "other people's money!"

    Finally it must be said that while Nicanor and Pasion have been honorable and justly esteemed men, many of their colleagues have been rogues. Many a "table" has been closed very suddenly, when its owner absconded, or collapsed in bankruptcy, and the unlucky depositors and creditors have been left penniless, during the "rearrangement of the tables," as the euphemism goes.

 

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