Ed Driscoll

Sympathy for the Madoff

Roger L. Simon has “Nostalgia for Bernie Madoff,” and wonders if the British Isles have lobotomized themselves:

The United Kingdom used to be a place filled with reasonably intelligent people, but these days it seems like the international home of the brain dead.  The thought that in this era of economic meltdown anyone could want to be governed by a minority coalition of Labourites and Liberal-Democrats (whatever that strange construction means) is beyond comprehension.

Have the British people had a collective lobotomy? (Well, certainly their elites have.)  Their country has a deficit worse than Greece.  And yet, as of 6:47PM Pacific Time, May 10, this coalition of Labour and Lib Dems seems about to inherit the British Isles;  that’s the same people that brought about the deficit in the first place – and they’re doing it at the expense of the only people who might (faintly, weakly, timidly) have the courage to stop it.

I’m beginning to have nostalgia for Bernie Madoff.   At least he knew he was operating a Ponzi scheme.  The clowns in charge of the UK have been running one for years and seem to be totally clueless about it. Or, perhaps more likely, they’re even more corrupt than Madoff.  They know the welfare state is a Ponzi scheme, but they need it to stay in power.  And they will stay in power at everyone’s expense, especially the working stiffs of the United Kingdom, the very people they pretend to help.

I wish I could find the article or blog post that explored one consequence of Madoff’s scam: he exposed the gullibility of the same leftwing elites who believe they should be running everyone’s lives. (Send me a link to it or post it in the comments if you know the piece I’m trying to find.) But this Wall Street Journal article from late 2008 hints at this theme:

What do George Carlin and Bernard Madoff have in common?

The late comedian immortalized oxymorons, those absurd word pairs like “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence.” Mr. Madoff just put the silliest of all financial oxymorons into the spotlight: “sophisticated investor.”

The accounts managed by Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC reported gains of roughly 1% a month like clockwork, with nary a loss, for two decades. Why did that freakishly smooth return not set off alarms among current and prospective investors?

Of all people, sophisticated investors like Mr. Madoff’s clients should know that if something sounds too good to be true, then it’s not. But they believed it anyway. Why?

Mr. Madoff emphasized secrecy, lending his investment accounts a mysterious allure and sense of exclusivity. The initial marketing often was in the hands of what one source described as “a macher” (the Yiddish term for a big shot). At the country club or another exclusive rendezvous, the macher would brag, “I’ve got my money invested with Madoff and he’s doing really well.” When his listener expressed interest, the macher would reply, “You can’t get in unless you’re invited…but I can probably get you in.”

About 15 years ago, Thomas Sowell vividly explored the “progressive” mindset with his book, The Vision of the Anointed. A big, big swatch of the list of clients scammed by Madoff were just those Anointed Ones, which proves that they can be just as gullible — if not more so — than anyone else. Which may explain why they’re always trying to press their own forms of Tulip Mania on the rest of us.

Meanwhile, at Reason, Mark Hemingway explores another reviled wealthy figure — this one on the right — from about that same period, and writes, “You Don’t Know Jack: What a new documentary gets wrong about Jack Abramoff and the lobbying-industrial complex.”