Bernie Madoff was in the news a while ago for allegedly having scammed a bunch of people out of a bunch of money. What surprised me about his story was the way people reacted to him. Instead of treating his case as yet another corruption scandal, people seemed angry and devastated as if Madoff was some serial killer who had murdered their families. I particularly remember one person claiming that there was a “special place in Hell” for Madoff.
But from what I can tell, the only thing Madoff did was steal money, which doesn’t seem like that heinous of a crime. Even if he stole huge amounts of money, it’s all still just an abstract representation of supposed real-world value. Our whole capitalist economy is a scam anyway, with microscopic crimes happening all the time. Madoff just took it to such an extreme that people were able to notice.
Take the price of gas as an example. If you had $30,000 in the bank when gas was $1.00 per gallon (the price when I was a kid) then you effectively would have the ability to buy 30,000 gallons of gas. Now, gas is $3.00 per gallon or more. So now you would only ever be able to buy a total of 10,000 gallons of gas, a loss of 20,000 gallons. Who stole all that gas that you supposedly earned when the price was set lower?
Personally, I try not to amass too much money. I once had a lot of money, and I gave a bunch of it away to charity because I couldn’t think of anything better to do with it. The only long-term investments I’ve made during my adult life are in my own intellectual and spiritual growth. Although I appreciate material possessions, I don’t like to place too much hope in something transient that could be lost to a bad economy, a natural disaster, or some politician’s foolish war.
I realize that businesses, on the other hand, do need to amass large quantities of money to run in a capitalist economy, so I can understand why Madoff’s clients might be a little annoyed that he interfered with their money planning, but if there was a “Hell”, I don’t think it would be stocked with white-collar criminals. There are much more malicious crimes that do permanent physical and psychological damage.
A monetary scam is the easiest crime to recover from, because money isn’t real. It’s just an abstract representation of physical materials that may or may not exist in the real world. Don’t place too much importance on money, because in the end it won’t save you.