Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

It's A Wonderful Life

  1. Dec 27, 2004 #1
    You know you need to go back to school when you start actually thinking in detail about stuff like this. But they won't let me back for another few weeks, so...
    Two nights ago I saw It's A Wonderful Life for the first time. And throughout the movie I couldn't help but notice that it really made no sense. I mean in the movie Potter is the evil guy who won't give out loans to people and instead prefers to collect meager rent to have people live in his slums. George Bailey, on the other hand, gives out loans to people which means that he gets all of his money back plus interest. So in a capitalist society Bailey should've beat Potter in the game a long time ago because he was a nice guy but this never happens!
    When I started wondering in detail about this out loud my sister yelled at me to shut up because that's not the point of the movie anyway. So now I wonder about it because I have nothing better to do. Ho-hum.
    So anyway, am I the only person who wonders about this or not so weird after all?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 27, 2004 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    George Bailey is so kind hearted he barely collects enough on the mortgages to cover his costs while the houses Potter rents have long been paid for and the rent coming in is pure profit. That's the point, George could be wealthy, but he cares more about his fellow men than money.
  4. Dec 27, 2004 #3

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    My take is that good people get rich, and bad people get rich. Although the movie exaggerates the contrast between good and evil [if you accept those concepts], I think the one point made is as true today as it was then. It is tough to run a business and be a nice guy. While I was struggling to start my business, I was forced to do sales in order to supplement my income. Not only was it the worst experience of my life, I actually had one boss that constantly stressed that "nice guys finish last". IMHO, what he meant was that nice guys usually have to work harder to make it; in the beginning. I also believe and have observed that sneaky, dishonest, or brutal tactics puts one at greater risk. This subjects a person more to other people who use similar tactics. So in the long run, nice guys don’t finish last, but they have a much less complicated life. I have one competitor who lacks a conscience who is constantly under the threat of law suits. I have only been threatened directly once; and this was in a very unusual situation. Also, he has gotten to a few of my customers and done some damage to my base, only to be ousted after they get a good taste of his tactics.

    On the other hand, I’ve been screwed more times than I can count and they seemingly got away with it for now. So…we put the left foot forward, then the right foot forward…repeat… :yuck:
  5. Dec 27, 2004 #4
    George Bailey drew a small salary as the chief officer of a small town savings and loan. The profits on such a "business" would be small and go to investors, the persons having savings accounts with the S&L, in the form of interest on savings.
  6. Dec 28, 2004 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I think this is short hand for "Insensitive people (those that just can't read people to save their life) shouldn't even try to be nice. They'll just bungle it up. They'll wind up insulting the person they're trying to be nice to and, half the time, they'll get taken to the cleaners by liars." Of course, if he can't read people, he won't even be a very successful liar so he'll have to work just as hard as the nice guy to succeed.

    There might be a small advantage in self-image to making 'nice guys finish last' a personal motto - insensitive guys who try to be nice guys tend to look a little wimpish and incompetent.

    Tatum O'Neal, in Paper Moon, shows better business sense than either Potter or Bailey.
  7. Dec 28, 2004 #6
    Actually, I think we're confusing fair with nice. Fair is letting people know everything up front and meeting your own contractual obligations. Most banks are 'fair.' That is to say, if you take out a loan you know that you owe the bank x dollars a month for the next y months. There should be no surprises if you don't pay the bank and they foreclose your house.

    Nice would be if the bank said 'don't worry about that loan, pay it back when you can.' Nice may happen sometimes, i.e., if you explain to the banker that you've had some hard times, but can catch up in the next 6 months. Being overly nice will make you bankrupt, because some people (probably the 'nice guys finish last' people) will take advantage of your generosity.
  8. Dec 28, 2004 #7

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    There is truth in that. One of the first pieces of advice given me was: "You're not a bank so don't act like one." He meant that being too nice and extending credit is certain death. I still think there are times when it pays, and it is right to be a nice guy...and I can give you two great examples. [sorry for the me, me, me, but that's where my experience comes from here].

    What first propelled me and my company to success was a customer with whom I had invested an inordinate amount of time, for free. I worked long hours on my own time to solve a problem that had eluded many efforts to do so. For me, I wasn't really being nice, I was investing in my reputation in part, and in part I just couldn't stand to let it go, but the result was the same. Without even knowing that it could, it eventually lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars of profit.

    I also invested two years in a project based on an eithical, or maybe a moral belief that it was worth doing. Tsu can tell you of the many nights spent worrying about whether I was being a fool. In the end, I had been foolish, but it payed off in ways that I never imagined, and it still does today. The project eventually died but a career was made. Also, the lone surviving product from this effort has helped to teach [by now] millions of people about energy and conservation. Was I really all that foolish to be a nice guy?

    So that's my story. Now I'm off to the welfare office to collect my check. :biggrin:
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2004
  9. Dec 29, 2004 #8
    Nope. Kindness is its own reward.

    My wife was upset one day because she had done a favor for someone and they cheated her. Even though the recipient of her generousity did not turn out to be what they claimed to be, doesn't change the fact that my wife had done a good thing. You can only control your own actions (and only this to some degree).

    My uncle told me once about a man who was selling a book that is usually passed from artist to artist, but he didn't know any personally. It was a book of designs through the ages. I looked at the book and saw that it was worth more than the $75.00 the man was asking, so I offered him $100.00 for the book.

    I took it home and showed my dad and he naturally said I should have only paid the $75.00 for the book. The book to me was obviously worth way more than that, it had hand pressed lithographs, gold leafed areas, individually colored pages each page full color even though the book was 150 years old. So because I was being told I was wrong to pay more I had the book valued to see if I was right. The man who valued it said it was worth $1400.00 (probably more because there are only three copies of it in the world. I think the man who valued it wanted to buy it from me and under valued it.)

    You might say that the book was worth $1400.00 weather I paid $75.00 or $100.00, but the point is, I would not have checked on its value had I paid only what the man asked. And, instead of feeling bad about it, I can feel all right about it because I gave him more than he requested before I even knew how much it was worth.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: It's A Wonderful Life
  1. Wonders of the World (Replies: 12)

  2. Just wondering (Replies: 1)

  3. Life is . . . . (Replies: 21)

  4. The Seven Wonders (Replies: 2)

  5. The Art Of Wondering (Replies: 3)