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Nobel Prize Winner Krugman Says We're All Ponzis

Nobel Prize Winner Krugman Says We're All Ponzis

When news broke last week that Wall Street investment wiz Bernard Madoff allegedly admitted to a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, it left me wondering how he managed to do this without alerting regulators.

This week, we found out that there were classic warning signs that the SEC admitted it should have acted upon. Well now, Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman says that Madoff's fraud is evidence of a systemic defect in our financial system — vast riches for those who managed other people's money has had a corrupting effect on American society.

For more on this, including an excerpt from Krugman's piece,

. Krugman explains:

Consider the hypothetical example of a money manager who leverages up his clients’ money with lots of debt, then invests the bulked-up total in high-yielding but risky assets, such as dubious mortgage-backed securities. For a while — say, as long as a housing bubble continues to inflate — he (it’s almost always a he) will make big profits and receive big bonuses. Then, when the bubble bursts and his investments turn into toxic waste, his investors will lose big — but he’ll keep those bonuses.

O.K., maybe my example wasn’t hypothetical after all.

So, how different is what Wall Street in general did from the Madoff affair? Well, Mr. Madoff allegedly skipped a few steps, simply stealing his clients’ money rather than collecting big fees while exposing investors to risks they didn’t understand. And while Mr. Madoff was apparently a self-conscious fraud, many people on Wall Street believed their own hype. Still, the end result was the same (except for the house arrest): the money managers got rich; the investors saw their money disappear.

Krugman's powerful piece goes on to lament the fact that many of the nation's best and brightest have been lured to Wall Street, instead of going into public service or science.

Do you think there's a difference between what Madoff did and what typically happens on Wall Street?


Join The Conversation
janneth janneth 8 years
Madoff took his "bailout" up front.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
I've observed quite a few times that one of our frailties is that if we happen upon a good scheme no matter how minor or major seemingly safe or harmful and we get away with it once, twice...three times the party is on and it becomes like a gambling addiction. Even the best of us must be reminded our better selves.
stephley stephley 8 years
Nope, there's not a whole lot of difference. There's always been sanctioned cheating for one class of people, while others are chastised for doing the same things with slightly less finesse.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
For some reason, I've always felt that the practice of accumulating wealth through moving other people's money around is a recipe for disaster anyway.
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