Westerners have long harbored a love-hate relationship with lenders, and their ambivalence shows no sign of abating anytime soon. What has changed over time is the perception of what constitutes “bad” types of lenders or loans. In various times and places, it was illegal/immoral to charge any interest at all, to exact interest from kinsfolk, to charge rates considered too high or to use violent collection methods. Today, it is lawful, and even somewhat morally acceptable, to charge any rate of interest to anybody willing to pay it. Reformers, however, want to protect borrowers from being cajoled, forced or tricked into borrowing at high rates for long periods.
The King James version of Exodus (22:25) states that “If thou lend money to my people poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as a usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.” Usury here is usually taken to mean taking any interest whatsoever, though at least one recent translation reads instead: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.” If the traditional interpretation is correct, perhaps early Jews lamented lost profit opportunities because Deuteronomy (23:19–20) clearly allows some lending at interest: “Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury.”