Is Sympathy for Bernie Madoff’s Millionaire Victims Misplaced?


By now, most of us have heard the sad, sob stories of millionaires (and multimillionaires) who have lost there life savings to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme; life savings in the millions, and in some cases tens of millions. But I can’t help wondering if maybe we’re being a bit to sympathetic to them.

Ponzi investment schemes, like most other “get rich quick” cons, work because they exploit their victims’ careless and overzealous greed. Their victims naively assume that they can shortcut the hard work that honest, successful people undertake to get the equivalent rewards. Such schemes bring out the worst in people; not only as evidenced by the crooks, but by their victims as well.

Take, for example, the case of Nobel Prize Lauriette and Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel.

Now, granted, I deeply respect Mr. Wiesel for his accomplishments and I am in no way diminishing his legacy of hardships. However, Mr. Wiesel blew over 15 million dollars that was supposed to be set aside for his charity, The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, on this get rich(er) quick scheme.

Due to Mr. Wiesel’s apparent shortsightedness and desire to, in his own words “make so much more profit”, a fortune which would have otherwise provided aid for thousands of Jewish refugees, has now evaporated into nothing, thus negating his charitable foundation’s plans to open a center in Jerusalem.

It is a sad irony that Jewish refugees, who in the last century have survived Nazi monstrosities, are now forced to suffer because of a green-eyed monstrosity.

If such fortunes had been lost to equally foolish enrichment gambles such as horse races or Nigerian inheritance schemes, popular opinion would be against these victims. But because Bernard Madoff is such a hateable crook (and marketable poster-child), we all seem to excuse the victims and absolve them of their responsibility.

If we should cry for victims of financial ruin, why not cry for countless people who have lost their life savings due to health care costs, natural disasters, atrocity, or the economy? Why not cry for the people who, due to live long impoverishment, have never had finances worthy of ruination in the first place?

The true cost of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme is not among those who sought profit, but for those to whom these millions of seemingly expendable dollars could have been given in charity. I sympathize with the people who need more money, not with the people who want more money.

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One Response to “Is Sympathy for Bernie Madoff’s Millionaire Victims Misplaced?”

  1. wreckanize Says:

    What about the charities that had invested with Madoff? Hundreds of people have lost their jobs because of him, numerous projects have been cancelled, etc. It’s not just individual millionaires that had their money invested with him.

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