As if the news about the economic crisis could not get worse. The Economist just reported how a Bernie Madoff, a popular financial adviser, managed to pull off a massive Ponzi Scheme that saw him take billions of investors’ dollars and declare he had nothing to show for it.
The articles titled, Ponzi Squared, and Con of the Century, talk about how Madoff created fabricated investment returns by using new investor’s money to pay for older investors’ returns. Close to fifty billion dollars (thats $50,000,000,000.00, yikes!) was invested into what amounts to little more than a large pyramid scheme. Amazing.
Supposedly the people who invested with Madoff were sophisticated investors who never bothered to ask how Madoff made his money. Talk about stupid!
What does this prove? That some people are crooks? Yes, but it also proves that people are idiots. They are the authors of their own misfortune. The Buddha said over 2,500 year ago that “Life is Suffering”, meaning that no matter what we do, there is also going to be loss and difficulty in life. I would say that Scott Adams helped update the Buddha’s message with his pithy statement, “People Are Idiots”:
“… after careful analysis I have developed a sophisticated theory to explain the existence of this bizarre workplace behavior: People are idiots. Including me. Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with low SAT scores. The only differences among us is that we’re idiots about different things at different times.”
(Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle, Page 2)
What I find most disturbing about the Madoff scam is that when it comes to money I would have thought that we would be more intelligent. In a place like North America where materialism and short-sighted thinking abounds, surely our most financially successful people would be more careful. Not!
People being idiots helps explain why the human species is in the trouble it is in. Adams’ perhaps less than noble truth, helps to tell us why life is so full of difficulty and waste.
We do it to ourselves because we simply don’t know better.