Category Archives: Madoff, Bernard

Madoff’s masterly $65bn sucker game

Web of exquisite lies

Bernie Madoff, writes Dalrymple, was the type of swindler

who is hyper-respectable and sober in appearance. How gladly I should have entrusted my savings to him if he had asked me! Such a calm, intelligent face, full of strong but discreet character!

His Ponzi scheme

was so brilliant that even now it excites my admiration, though I know that it was wicked.

Madoff offered

not huge and spectacular gains, but steady, invariant, yet more than adequate ones that could plausibly have been the fruit of unusually wise investment in turbulent times.

The gains were offered

only to the people whom Madoff accepted as clients, who then came to think of themselves as specially privileged to be taken into his embrace, which turned out be more spider’s web than sheltering fold.

How to join the 1%

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 12.33.35Theodore Dalrymple answers your questions

Should we wish to be of the 1%?

Wealth as such is not a very elevated aim in life.

What about you, Doctor?

I have never made it my principal aim or goal.

To have a sufficiency, though, is both necessary and gratifying, is it not?

A degree of prosperity is at least some evidence of worldly success — an imprimatur as it were, to which I have never been quite as indifferent as perhaps I ought to have been.

Do you feel wealthy?

Not enough to feel that a new car would not be an unwise extravagance if it were unnecessary.

What do you look for when buying a car?

My main desideratum is that it should start first time in the depths of winter. For many years I owned cars that could not be relied upon to do so.

How did you get into the 1%?

My wife and I lived well below our income for more than 20 years and invested the rest under the guidance of an adviser.

What criteria did you apply in selecting this adviser?

I had no real evidence of his superior financial wisdom, other than that I liked him.

Does such wisdom exist?

I am not convinced that it does.

How would you rate your own judgment in financial matters?

Let me admit that if I had had the misfortune to meet Mr Madoff before his scheme was exposed, I should have trusted him implicitly. He had such a trustworthy face.

What is your pattern of consumption and mode of life?

It does not differ conspicuously from those of many of my peers, except in so far as I have no television and buy many more books than most.

What do you fear?

To be poor — and to end up in the hands of the State, whose charity is simultaneously patronising and heartless, rule-ridden and capricious.

 

How the Greeks were most ably assisted by Goldman Sachs

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 22.09.15Dalrymple writes that the Greek government,

ably assisted by Goldman Sachs, cooked its books and was allowed to join the euro, the European leaders having been duped, or at least having allowed themselves, or pretended, to be duped; whereafter the banks felt emboldened to lend colossal sums in Greece in the full knowledge that default would not be permitted, and that they never would have lent if Greece had retained its drachma.

What was the vast influx of money used for, apart from the inflation of the value of assets, to the great comfort of the possessors thereof?

Why, to pay the salaries of a bloated bureaucracy, reliant for its good fortune on the political parties that hired it, and which it did nothing to justify, at least from an economic point of view.

It was all

a rather beautiful, smooth-running mechanism, in a way, a bit like that of Mr Madoff’s splendid pyramid scheme that seemed so solid and dependable for a time.

Goldman Sachs, Greek economics and the Madoffian model

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 22.40.46In Greece, all roads lead to disaster

The pyramid scheme that was the Greek economy

Most of the Greek population appeared to benefit from the scheme that has now collapsed, Dalrymple writes. The two main political parties before the rise of Syriza

operated a system of patronage paid for by borrowing on a huge scale. The system would have been corrupt even if no politician had enriched himself personally. And the European élite believed, or affected to believe, that the national accounts concocted by the Greek politicians in collusion with Goldman Sachs qualified the country for membership of the euro.

The country having acceded to the euro,

French and German banks proceeded to act as if Greek debt were more or less the same as German debt, because membership of the eurozone was supposedly irreversible.

When the equivalence of Greek and German debt

turned out not to be the case, as any tolerably observant visitor to Athens for half an hour could have told them, the fool’s paradise in which the Greeks were living collapsed.

Today

the circle cannot be squared. There is no way out that could possibly justify the hopes placed in Tsipras and his party.

Barthes advanced learning by about as much as Madoff advanced Wall Street’s reputation for rectitude

Dalrymple on the 'abject, shallow' nonsense of the French charlatan-philosopher

Dalrymple on the abject, shallow nonsense of the French ‘structuralist’ charlatan-philosopher (2010)

Certain shortcomings of people who work in broadcasting

Dalrymple has not had one since 1973

The idiot’s lantern

People who work for TV broadcasting companies, writes Dalrymple, are

the most disagreeable people that I have ever encountered. I far preferred the criminals whom I encountered in my work as a prison doctor, who were more honest and upright than TV people.

TV people, he says, are

as lying, insincere, obsequious, unscrupulous, fickle, exploitative, shallow, cynical, untrustworthy, treacherous, dishonest, mercenary, low, and untruthful a group of people as is to be found on the face of this Earth.

They

make the average Western politician seem like a moral giant. By comparison with them, Mr Madoff was a model of probity and Iago was Othello’s best friend.

The secret of Madoff’s success

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 21.51.22The appeal to snobbery was part of it, explains Dalrymple. (As Aldous Huxley notes in his essay ‘Selected Snobberies’, we are all snobs about something.) Bernard Madoff’s originality, writes Dalrymple,

seems to have consisted largely of offering not fabulous, but steady profits; his pretence of being indifferent whether anyone invested with him or not; and the successful creation of an impression that his fund was for an élite, not for the hoi polloi. One of the reasons for his success (if success is quite the word I seek) was his appeal to snobbery. His story is proof, if proof were needed, that in finance, as in art and science, originality is not in itself a virtue.

The pyramid scheme that is modern Britain

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 21.51.22Forget the Cyprus sideshow. It is Britain that is likely to collapse, sooner rather than later. God help us, says Dalrymple, if the inevitable British collapse

should happen in winter, though against this it must be admitted that rioters and looters prefer fine weather.

Compared with all British government ministers over the past few decades, Bernard Madoff

was a moral giant, for at least he had to solicit his funds from his clients rather than extract them under duress.

What is to be done?

Preventive detention for any Briton who expresses political ambitions before the age of fifty. I would advise a similar proceeding in the case of those who want to be architects.