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Many politicians who are partial to big government, including Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are embracing a Jan. 27 proposal by the Postal Service's inspector general to allow the post office to sell prepaid cards and make small-dollar loans. Some have dubbed the proposal a "public option" for consumer financial services.

While the USPS inspector general envisions the private banking sector having some involvement in its proposal, many details of that role have yet to be determined. Countries around the world offer a variety of models on how to structure a postal bank. Following is a look at various approaches.

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