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Literary Economics

In The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne we find this discussion of mortgages:

The Mortgager and Mortgagee differ the one from the other, not more in length of purse, than the Jester and Jestee do, in that of memory. But in this the comparison between them runs, as the scholiasts call it, upon all- four; which, by the bye, is upon one or two legs more than some of the best of Homer's can pretend to;--namely, That the one raises a sum, and the other a laugh at your expence, and thinks no more about it. Interest, however, still runs on in both cases;--the periodical or accidental payments of it, just serving to keep the memory of the affair alive; till, at length, in some evil hour, pop comes the creditor upon each, and by demanding principal upon the spot, together with full interest to the very day, makes them both feel the full extent of their obligations. (Volume One, Chapter XII)

The narrator goes on to alert his readers that his Hero had "wantonly involved himself in a multitude of small book-debts of this stamp".  We have seen over the past couple of years that the effect of these transactions, when multiplied a thousand-fold and more, can wreak havoc not only on the finances of one poor traveler, even after seeking the advise of experts (at least those more expert than he), but also on the whole system of finance.  Our own government economists might learn some lessons in human behavior from reading Mr. Sterne.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
by Laurence Sterne. Collins Press, London. 1955 (1759-67)

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