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Merry Christmas!

December 25th, 2008 . by economistmom

Merry Christmas to all readers who celebrate the holiday!  Last night as I was wrapping presents I was watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on network TV, and thinking how the classic has a certain timeliness this season, with all that’s gone wrong in the economy.

But as this Orlando Sentinel column by Rachel Inez Lane observes, maybe this season we have reason to be optimistic about the new year, as we can hope that somehow wrapped up in the new President, Administration, and Congress, there’s a little bit of “Clarence the Angel” to be found in the federal government:

When George Bailey decides not to jump off that bridge, he returns home and discovers that everyone he had ever given a loan to has paid him back. The Baileys’ Christmas miracle comes when a bowl is filled with money. Clearly this may be construed as unrealistic, but people aren’t looking for economic theories or government bailouts in movies. They want magic.

In the film’s economic utopia, did the Baileys’ community take only what it needed? Or was it that one banker didn’t abuse the power of loans for personal wealth? To the public, today’s government bailout may look like Clarence, George’s older, graying and out-of-shape Christmas angel.

In recent years, some critics have said the movie has lost its original meaning because the historical context in which the film was made overwhelmed everything else, and we view this classic through a mythical past. But this year is different. We are in the midst of the worst recession in recent times. Americans may view the film with some of the immediacy of a Depression-era family.

We can hope that next year more angels, such as Clarence, will win their wings by saving more families from economic hardships. But the only wings American families have seen for the past few years have been those flying away with their money and mortgages.

If I were to create a Christmas movie today, I would show a working-class family trying to get through the hard times. I would return to the authentic meaning of movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life — that amid financial ruin, “true meaning” resides in family and hope.

And that last point seems exactly the best one to focus on this holiday season–that for most of us, our most reliable “angels” (our “Clarences”) are found right within our family and friends, as this psychology blog notes.  Since I began this blog in May, I have made many new friends because of it, and I have grown closer to many old friends through it as well.  This Christmas I count my blessings in all of you and wish you the most joyous of holidays.  Despite that nasty economy out there, it’s really a wonderful life.

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