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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Worse than Madoff!

Madoff caused people to lose billions of dollars. The U.S. government has caused people to lose trillions of dollars, and it’s not finished yet. The public’s losses mount during every minute of every day. By its effects in discouraging work, saving, and investment, and thereby reducing capital accumulation, the U.S. Social Security system has caused the nation’s gross domestic product to fall significantly below the levels it would otherwise have reached. According to Professor Edgar K. Browning, a leading researcher in this field, “the available evidence suggests that Social Security has reduced [current] GDP by 5 to 10 percent.” Ten percent of GDP is now approximately $1.4 trillion – or about 28 times the maximum amount Madoff is believed to have cost his clients. Moreover, Madoff’s harm is a one-shot loss, whereas the U.S. government’s Social Security harm is an ongoing loss that grows annually. In the future, the annual loss will be even greater than the currently estimated $1.4 trillion or so. . . .

Madoff, in contrast to the government, carried out his fraud in a civilized way: he merely misrepresented what he was doing, purporting to invest his clients’ money and to obtain a high rate of return on these investments. People dealt with him voluntarily. Those who suspected something was fishy did not do business with him, and some people went so far as to give substantial information to the SEC to show that Madoff’s business had to be fraudulent (which information the SEC ignored for years on end, of course).

The U.S. government, however, does not bother to claim any prowess in investing the money it forces people to surrender to its scheme. It admits that the “client’s” return is now close to zero (varying a bit according to the client’s age and other factors). Nor does it carry out its admitted Ponzi scheme in a civilized way. Not only is participation in the scheme involuntary, but the government threatens violence against anyone who fails to participate as it commands him. Thus, the government operates its Ponzi scheme in a markedly more thuggish manner than Bernie would ever have dreamed of. He might have been a crook, but he was not a thug.

Everyone (including Bernie himself) agrees that Bernie Madoff was a crook. What is the correct term for the U.S. government, or does the word government tell us everything we need to know about the honesty, humanity, and justice of its actions?
--from "Bernie Madoff Was Only a Petty Crook Compared with Uncle Sam" by Robert Higgs


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