The Dialogues of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi Fraud: An Exploration of the Discourses of Greed, Cliques, Peer Pressure, and Error

The Dialogues of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi Fraud: An Exploration of the Discourses of Greed, Cliques, Peer Pressure, and Error

Joel West (University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/IJSVR.2017010106


Bernie Madoff defrauded billions of dollars from his victims. The crime of fraud and the so called sin of greed have been with us throughout known human history. Instead of looking at mere greed as the cause for fraud, this retrospective of Bernie Madoff's fraud will examine the other reasons why, despite multiple warnings and red flags, smart savvy people who had been advised otherwise, still invested with Madoff. The culture of secrecy that Madoff constructed is deconstructed and explained as creating community. As well, the first person account of an academic who specializes in mental lapses, and who invested with Madoff, is given a textual analysis and some lapses are revealed and discounted.
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A Short History Of Greed

What do we mean by the word “Greed”? Merriam Webster defines greed as “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed (Merriam Webster 2017).” Moreover, greed is shrouded in the mystery and the shame of being one of the seven deadly sins of Western culture. As Catholic theologian Christopher Kaczor explains, greed is classified amongst the other six “as one of the seven “deadly” or “capital” sins because it leads to other sins (Kaczor 2011). He goes on to explain that greed may lead to lying, to cheating, to stealing and to defrauding others and that therefore greed is viewed as one of the especially repugnant sins. But, to emphasize, greed, as a sin, is not seen as inevitable because the Christian view is to view sinfulness as a personality defect to be overcome through belief and work. Therefore, this explanation of greed describes why, as a culture, and even in the breach, we can point our fingers at the greedy fraudster. Greed, according to this view, and therefore fraud as a result of greed, has nothing to do with psychological issues and is instead seen as a moral failing. Therefore, in our culture, we feel free to criticize those who have been caught being greedy because we feel morally superior to them.

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