Ponzi Was A Piker

Saturday's Wall Street Journal has an interesting column on the Madoff scheme, "How Bernie Madoff Made Smart Folks Look Dumb."Here's its beginning:

What do George Carlin and Bernard Madoff have in common?The late comedian immortalized oxymorons, those absurd word pairs like "jumbo shrimp" and "military intelligence." Mr. Madoff just put the silliest of all financial oxymorons into the spotlight: "sophisticated investor."

And its ending:

If you invest with anyone who claims never to lose money, reports amazingly smooth returns, will not explain his strategy, refuses to disclose basic information or discuss potential risks, you're not sophisticated. You're an oxymoron.

If I remember rightly, Ponzi preyed on immigrants with no pretense to sophistication nor membership in elite country clubs. They just wanted to put food on the table -- the poor of the land.

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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