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Bernie Madoff’s Sentencing Over – Good News?

posted by Ethan Nichtern

You know Bernie Madoff, of course. The guy with the onomatopoeia for a name? The Madoff sentencing is now complete. Bernard Madoff is going to jail for an 150 year sentence for his $50 billion Ponzi Scheme. The list of Madoff victims is as vast as the sky, and mostly Jewish (why screw others when you can screw your own people?).

Madoff.jpg

Firstly, why don’t they just convert it to a life sentence? Do they really think Madoff’s going to make it to his early 220’s?


More seriously, I am a little worried about this. So many of us are clearly fed up with the overwhelming greed in our culture. But our media has this beautiful and devious tendency to focus all attention on the worst and most obvious offender in any given instance, leaving the much more widespread practice of greed untouched in mainstream discourse. As Paul Krugman and others have pointed out, the entire financial sector might be one big Ponzi apparatus.

On a deeper level, we need to create a system that privileges generosity over greed, and privileges those whose careers create great benefit to others over careers where individual profit and get-rich-no-matter-what mentalities dominate. If our system doesn’t stop incentivizing greed, there will be no way to stop an army of mini-Madoff’s in the future. And at the same time, we have to find compassion for Bernie by paying attention to the get-rich-quick schemes constantly arising in our own minds.

One man being sentenced does pretty much nothing to change these dark forces of the mind that have consumed our economics. In fact, the way our media scapegoating works, Madoff’s sentence might just act as a cloak for a much much deeper problem.



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Comments read comments(8)
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Julia May

posted June 29, 2009 at 2:39 pm


I suppose the Madoff sentence is a symbol, but I agree there’s something too gleefully punishing about the number of years.



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A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

posted June 29, 2009 at 4:17 pm


Hi Ethan. Interesting post.
I think summing the sentences for multiple crimes is standard practice; the most serious offenders often get multi-century prison terms. I wouldn’t characterize this sentence as “gleeful” as Ms. May did.
On the whole I agree that Madoff’s sins are a sideshow compared to, say, Countrywide’s or AIG’s, and the main difference is that his malfeasance was obviously illegal, whereas the really big Ponzi schemes might have been mostly legal, though just as unethical. Compensating executives based on long-term performance, and forcing boards to remain independent of executives, could go a long way toward fixing such problems.
But in the end our essential delusions will persist: During a bubble, it’s so comfortable to believe the good times will continue, and so hard to remember impermanence.



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Greg

posted June 29, 2009 at 8:26 pm


@Tom
I’m not seeing the relevance of your post here other than to plug your blog. Madoff wasn’t a blue collar worker. Your situation sounds unfortunate, but not relevant to this forum. If there is a moderator here, please consider removing this irrelevant and self-interested post.



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Bill

posted June 30, 2009 at 12:15 am


@Tom and Greg
I dont quite get it either, but … here is another suffering human being. Lets not compare, but simply offer companionship to all. Nothing to lose, nothing to gain ….



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Julia May

posted June 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm


Wow. Quotation marks *and* a Ms.? What did I ever to do you, Jesse?



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Lane

posted June 30, 2009 at 6:44 pm


It’s correct what you’ve said about greed. It amazes me how people flock to buy lotto, especially as it was $90,000,000 yesterday. They don’t realise that you couldn’t trust anyone if you owned that amount of money. They think it would ‘fix’ everything… wow.
We’re all looking for some ‘easy’ way to get ahead. Hard work and sacrifice just don’t cut it anymore. It’s been “better to receive then give” now for a while.
Hopefully people will wake up and figure it out and those of us who already know the truth will work at keeping our integrity and not becoming self-righteous and judgmental in the process.
I feel sorry for Madoff… some things you can’t fix in this life. Maybe he’s in that role so that we can look in the mirror? Examine our own hearts… that kind of thing?



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Nancy McIntyre

posted June 30, 2009 at 8:54 pm


I am sick to death of a society where I feel we are ‘obliged’ to pass judgement on strangers with very few facts on which to base it.I don’t want to be the conscience for Mr. Madoff or any other human on this planet. I would rather leave that up to those of us who are sinless and thereby qualified to do so. I am very depressed with the way this planet runs and I’d just as soon withdraw and become a total recluse. I’m more than halfway there now and the more I see, the more I am convinced that its the right path to follow.



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Julia May

posted July 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm


Nancy, I often feel the same thing. Then I think, if I’m so against passing judgement then I can’t pass judgement on the judgement passers, either.



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