I listened to an item on this morning’s Today Programme (BBC Radio 4, 3rd July 2012, c.8:35am) about a man who was “victimised” by a loan shark. Apparently, he borrowed £250 when he was 17 to buy a car. He was then fraudulently squeezed by his lender to pay back a total of £90,000. There was a long interview with the “victim,” in which he behaved and was treated as if he’d been robbed at gunpoint. There was much rejoicing at the news that the lender had been sent to prison – moderated only by disappointment that the “victim” would not be able to claim back his repayments from the taxpayers.
I have no doubt that many small scale lenders are nasty people, who prey on the ignorance of their customers. This being said, the borrower here looks like a fool according to the facts as presented. No sensible man borrows money without first establishing the term of the loan and rate of interest, and so on and so forth, and getting it in writing. And, unlike some illiterate farmer in the third world who is forced to borrow immediately and at usurious rates to replace livestock or buy seed, this borrower only wanted to buy a car. It was the kind of purchase that could easily be put off while he made the normal enquiries.
I don’t think oral, or even written, agreements of this kind should be enforced by the courts. English equity law, indeed, allows the courts to vary or set aside burdensome contracts made by “poor and ignorant people.” The reasonable corollary of such laws, however, is that the poor and ignorant should be barred from voting. If they can’t be held responsible for their own decisions, they shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions that affect the lives, liberty and property of others.
Unless a deliberate fraud, mass democracy is based on the assumption that the overwhelming majority of voters are of normal intelligence, or at least act with some degree of common sense. One of the problems with modern England is that numbers of the unintelligent are rising all the time, and these are protected by various bureaucratic and policing agencies from the consequences of their actions – and they are allowed to vote.
No wonder England is in such a mess!