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Friday, March 18, 2011

Furious at Finance | Advisor One

Furious at Finance Advisor One
Populist critiques of financial institutions draw on a long tradition

Negative sentiment toward bankers and brokers has been a notable feature of American public opinion and political life throughout the nation’s history, and it continues to offer a rich source of discontent for politicians and activists to draw upon.

Each year, the New Oxford American Dictionary announces a “Word of the Year” to highlight culturally significant changes in the English language. One of the finalists for 2010 was “bankster,” a word that originated in the 1930s and blends “banker” and “gangster.” The term has gained some cultural cachet lately, it seems.

There is always a need for thoughtful criticism and scrutiny of the financial services industry. There is also a need to be on guard against broad-brush vilification. Financial professionals should be aware that anti-financial populism is a tradition that, for better and often worse, is very much alive.

William Jennings Bryan, 1860-1925Image via WikipediaFinancial Wizardry? Was The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, intended as an allegory about monetary policy? In recent decades, some scholars have interpreted it that way. In this view, the yellow brick road represents the gold standard, and Dorothy’s silver shoes symbolize the populist desire to expand the money supply through silver coinage. Further parallels may include: Dorothy as the common people; the Scarecrow as farmers; the Tin Man as industrial workers; the Cowardly Lion as William Jennings Bryan (seen as ineffective in his advocacy of silver); the Wizard as American presidents of the late 19th century; the Wicked Witch of the East as banking interests (and that of the West as Western businesses or a hostile environment). Oz itself may be an abbreviation of ounce, and the Emerald City reflects the color of dollar bills.

Some scholars doubt this interpretation. One point made by skeptics is that Baum reportedly got the name Oz from the O-Z of a filing cabinet. In any event, any monetary allegory intended in the novel got muddied in the 1939 color film, in which Dorothy’s shoes were red, not silver.
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