The Madoffs: Shamed, Isolated, Disgraced
Published on: November 2, 2011
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  • Corlyss

    “the pain and shame endured by the Madoff family”

    This justice IMO. They shared the fruits. They endure the consequences. I’m confident they were all, for the most part, quite smug when the money was rolling in.

  • Luke Lea

    Sociopaths don’t care, and the women who marry them pay the conequences.

    Unfortunately, a lot of sociopaths inhabit the business world. They are especially drawn to running limited-liability, joint-stock corporations registered in New Jersey, which are themselves “persons” without conscience — and who now, thanks to Citizens United, have a legal right to spend as much money as they please to influence the political process.

    Which makes it a problem for the rest of us.

  • elisa

    Had Madoff made his career in government, he would still be walking around free today. When will we see justice done on the government malefactors? When will they feel the heat?

  • Luke,

    Spare us all talk of sociopaths in the business world. Every type of personality is likely randomly distributed across all domains and in every strata.

    Hyping big psycho concepts from your overpriced college courses doesn’t make you arbiter of the social mental health of entire classes of people.

    I hail from Illinois, where piggish public employees raped the taxpayer and their lower level public brethren through purchased politicians and actuarially impossible pension spikes and perks.

    For every sociopath in the business world, I can show you one in the public sector, two if we look at public education.

    You might argue that the business people do more damage, but even there, IL and CA are bankrupt, and the entire nation will suffer to bail them out.

    Let’s dispense with the “my side’s poop doesn’t stink” nonsense. The meltdown, Maddoff, his victims’ suspended disbelief, and all the financial problems confronted by the world right now, are the product of man’s fallen nature.

    If all of us were better people, the world would be a better place. Layer after layer of cross-purposed Regulation isn’t going to solve the problem.

    Self government, self regulation, and expansion of same will outperform every Dodd-Frank invented by mankind.

  • Toni

    “Why shouldn’t the families of prominent financial criminals have to look for jobs as store clerks and security guards when millions of honest Americans work at hard jobs for little pay every day of their lives?”

    Because in America, the Founders bequeathed us a priceless right called due process. If “the families of prominent financial criminals” haven’t been tried and convicted in a court of law, by law and in practice they should be judged only by their own deeds.

    To visit the sins of the father or mother on their sons and daughters is archaic and un-Christian. God sees each of us as individuals. I thought we were expected to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    “The shame and disgrace that will stick to newly impoverished family members of big financial criminals and fraudsters is not a bad thing.”

    Should we also shame and scorn the family members of murderers and rapists? Shouldn’t we especially shun burglars’ relatives? Burglary is also misappropriation of property; it’s a matter of degree.

    What a lovely world that would be, if the transgressions of all our relatives were held against each of us. Me, I prefer the Sermon on the Mount. A couple of bits come to mind.

    “Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.”

    “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

  • Malesch Morocco

    Well said Bruno Behrend!

  • Since this post a good deal of cold water has been splashed on the Heaven’s Gate theory of the family Madoff. Also his sociopathy is far from demonstrated. If that were the case there would be none of this self-flagellation. But in pure scale Madoff is hardly noteworthy. Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson of Fannie Mae, Barney Frank on the other side of that self-dealing bit of piracy and Stan O’Neal, the greatest private bundler of MBSs have bilked the nation of far more lucre than Madoff but they deploy the shield of government and media and their own peculiar protections as homosexuals or blacks. When one or more of these villains misses a meal we will be on the road to rationality. If not, then not.

  • Luke Lea

    @ Bruno – “For every sociopath in the business world, I can show you one in the public sector, two if we look at public education.” Fair enough. About one percent of the population has sociopathic tendencies, or so we are told. Presumably they are on a scale from one to ten or some such.

    The problem is that limited-liability, joint stock corporations, particularly the very large ones with many millions of shares, are themselves “sociopathic” institutions by most measures. They will do anything that is legal to make money, and a lot of illegal ones if they think they can get away with it.

    Pair one of those with a sociopathic CEO (most aren’t, btw) and the potential for damage is much greater than with most public employees, POTUS only excepted. Thus even assuming that highly intelligent sociopathic personalities are not disproportionately attracted to the corporate ladder, that still leaves quite a few corporate monsters out there roaming the landscape, disposing of the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars.

    All I’m suggesting is that we need to be aware and on guard. They look like distinguished gentlemen. They are distinguished gentlemen. “Please allow me to introduce myself. . .”

  • Can’t really quarrel with you on this one, but Bill Rochelle, Bloomberg’s bankruptcy correspondent, offers a provocative sidelight. Bill thinks that Bernie knew it would unwind someday–how could he not? But (per Bill) Bernie figured that the fateful day might be the day of his own death. And he figured the least he could do was to set the kin up with a defense of ignorance. Just speculating, but worth a thought.

  • juandos

    Why should the Madoffs be castigated more than FDR?

    The Madoffs at least didn’t force anyone to be part of the Ponzi scam they were running…

    Can’t say that about FDR…

  • crankyoldlady

    Oh yeah verily, punish those who share his DNA through seven times seven generations. Enslave his children, his grandchildren, his wife and his dogs. Dig up his parents and spit on their remains. Then dance for the justice you’ve wrought.

    Happy yet? Need more vengence? Feel more more human?

    We have a constitutional amendment that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment to protect us from our basest instincts. Thank goodness for the foresight of our ancestors!

  • Anna Keppa

    “The problem is that limited-liability, joint stock corporations, particularly the very large ones with many millions of shares, are themselves “sociopathic” institutions by most measures. They will do anything that is legal to make money, and a lot of illegal ones if they think they can get away with it.”

    What an incredibly arrogant assertion, one that condemns tens of millions of Americans as aiding and abetting “sociopathic” institutions.

    Luke Lea, I can say with confidence that unless you live Ted Kaczwinski-style out in the woods [now there was a sociopath!), you could not live ONE DAY of your life without the products, services and support of corporations. Not…ONE….DAY.

  • Again, help me here:

    Does anyone know what I mean by a kind of human awareness – it may be such as exists within a single individual or group of individuals, an institution, or an organization – an EXTREME awareness of the dependence of large numbers of people on the FORMER’S diligence, wisdom, productivity? An awareness of how much all those others depend on HIM, whereas he barely depends on them at all? Or even if he does depend on some of them (and knows it), still it behooves him, in the interests of clearer authority and a smooth, unbroken chain of command, to ACT as if he didn’t? Even – or especially – in the case of those junior associates (all easily replaced within a day or two, if not a few hours) on whom the Great One most immediately depends? The kind without whom his operation could not run smoothly even for ONE DAY? I’m imagining a sort of awareness – some might even call it arrogance – that finds itself asking, “Why CAN’T I [individual, institution or organization] do as I bloody well like with those I feed, clothe and shelter? Where would they all be without ME?” I’m not suggesting anyone STARTS OUT thinking that way – only that it is a pattern of thinking in which we can all easily END UP, given the right measure of unbroken success, and the habit of attributing that success solely to ourselves (or to our favorite institutions, etc).

    I get the feeling this kind of arrogance, productive as it may be, has existed throughout history. I wonder, for example, how many diligent and otherwise conscientious plantation-owners saw themselves and their slaves as existing in a similar relationship of strictly non-reciprocal dependence (“Where would they all be without ME?”). And in whatever degree these owners’ perceptions could be construed as accurate and justified, might it have made the exercise of their authority that much more brutal, invasive and unsparing?

  • Jim.

    The issue here that Mead did not adequately address is to wat degree the Madoff family fortunes depended of Bernie’s ill-gotten gains.

    If any of them had made an honest living in their own right, that should not be touched, obviously. But the financial state of the family that might result from the return of Bernie’s loot should not be taken into account. If it leaves them in desparate straits, so be it.

    I am certain that even the charity hardest hit by the Bernie’s crimes has many souls great enough to take pity on Madoff’s (obviously repentant) sons. Let those charities share what they can with all the victims of Madoff’s crimes, his family included. Further, let his able-bodied sons get honest work, even lowly-paid work, to support themselves and slowly restore their family’s honor.

    That said, I agree with Mead’s central point. We need to expect far more of those who hold so great a public trust. Morality has slipped much too far, and we are seeing the consequences. Those who have enjoyed the benefits should feel the consequences, there’s nothing wrong with that, provided that those consequenes are simply immediate cessation of those benefits.

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