“NEITHER a borrower nor a lender be”, said Polonius to his son Laertes - and that was only part of his advice.
Before Laertes set off for France he had to listen to a lecture on how to talk to people, how to dress and, not least, on money management, “for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry”.
And his reply?
“Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.”
At this point (Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3) Shakespeare may or may not reflect how things are today between fathers and sons, but it touches an uncomfortable nerve none the less.
The need for short-term borrowing brings many of us to the verge of desperation.
Some of the adverts may seem fluffy and reassuring, but the reality is different for those who suddenly find themselves paying up to 5,000 per cent interest.
Is Justin Welby the first Archbishop to come out of a commercial background? His instinct was not to legislate the pay-day lenders out of existence, but to compete them out of existence, for example by setting up many more Credit Unions.
I don’t know anything about Credit Unions, still less whether the Church could foster a network of them, but it’s an idea that has been welcomed by some of the pundits in the press.
For me, it takes nothing away from the idea that the Church Commissioners were found to have an indirect investment in one of the loan companies.
The Archbishop immediately said that this was an unwelcome discovery, and called for a review which was going to lead, I understand, to changing that investment.
Investors, admittedly, are also lenders. So are Credit Unions. For the time being, Shakespeare’s advice may be beyond our power to accept.
But Polonius ends with words that all in any position of power over the lives of others must surely heed:
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”