By Donncha Marron (auth.)
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Extra resources for Consumer Credit in the United States: A Sociological Perspective from the 19th Century to the Present
The lender thus governed the timeliness of repayments less by formal legal mechanisms of contract than by the social stigma within which indebtedness was held, for both chattel and salary lenders essentially operated outside the law, charging interest rates that were in excess of what was permissible under state usury ceilings of around 6 percent per year. With the former case, interest was charged at around 10 percent per month for amounts under $50, declining slightly for larger amounts. For salary Fishing for Sharks ● 23 lenders, around double the chattel rate was the norm.
Yet poverty, fostered by those very economic processes on an industrial scale, had not only failed to disappear but had grown. It became entrenched within the urban cores of Western societies, its presence contrasting with the growing wealth and refinement of a bourgeois elite, its proliferation suggestive of a willful opposition and threat to that elite’s supremacy (Katz, 1996). Now it seemed, not only was labor insufficient to depauperize the population, the labor process itself was now seen to be threatening social disorder and mass demoralization (Procacci, 1991; Dean, 1991; Harrison, 1997).
Not legal repression or philanthropy but only the careful organization of the economic was held to be sufficient to solve this now manifestly “social” problem (Neifeld, 1941). Given the highly decentralized and divided structure of the United States political and legal administration, usury limits nominally limiting small loan lending were enshrined in law by individual states and so would have to be amended on a state-by-state basis. As Carruthers et al. (2005) demonstrate, the wider problem of a lack of legal harmonization between 32 ● Consumer Credit in the United States states began to be tackled from the late 1880s when the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, an organization composed of practicing professional lawyers, advocated legislative templates or “model laws” for enactment by individual states.