Sunday, May 2, 2010

Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be, unless you're a country in crisis!

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3.

What would Polonius say about the crisis in Greece? The European Union will loan Greece 110 billion euros in an attempt to shore up the economy of Greece and lessen the impact of the economic crisis on other member nations.

This kind of borrowing and lending among nations may have been frowned upon by Polonius, but history has shown that at least one country has paid off such a debt and is rightly proud of that fact-of course, I could only be talking about Finland.

Did you know that Finland is the only country to have repaid the United States for loans made after WWI? You can read about this achievement here, but I will summarize.

After WWI there was starvation in Finland. The newly independent country borrowed 8 million dollars from the United States and, alone among the European borrowers, Finland continued to make payments of interest and principal during the depression of the 1930s.

During the 1930s Finland's debt repayment was big news in the US. You can read about it in the December 15, 1933 edition of the Milwaukee Journal or in the Palm Beach Daily News from March 9, 1969.

I wonder how many remember this history. I wouldn't know about Finland's history of debt repayment if Chris hadn't brought home the cartoon pictured above from the Fulbright conference in Tampere.

At the very top is our neighbor, known to us as "Whiskey's person". We are always delighted to pat Whiskey and we introduced Felice to his owner. He said to Felice, "You Americans love us, we pay our debts!" We didn't have the heart to tell him that the collective American memory isn't that long. So, I am retelling the history here. Pass it on!

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