Bernie Madoff set himself up for a fall the minute he adopted the goal of only making money. The fact that he had to resort to doing it fraudulently only worsened his crime. Madoff set in motion the seeds of his own destruction and he set himself up for his own downfall.
Money is not a product or a service. It’s a reward for creating and exchanging an honest product that others find desirable.
A product is a finished, high-quality article or service in the hands of the consumer in exchange for some valuable consideration. Money is a method of facilitating the willing exchange between buyers and sellers.
Money is an idea that is backed by the confidence that it will be exchangeable with others for what you need and want. Others accept money only if they also believe they will be able to exchange it for what they need and want. In our current society based on fiat money, money has no intrinsic value. It isn’t “backed up” by anything. It is what it is. A Federal Reserve Note is not “exchangeable” for anything except another Federal Reserve Note. In and of itself it is worthless. It’s value is in the confidence that you will be able to exchange it for something that you do want. If that confidence is gone, money is valueless.
When the entire focus of an activity is money, it eventually tends to deteriorate into a criminal activity, that is: taking something from people and giving nothing in return.
When what you exchange with others is only partially workable, to that degree you’re moving in the direction of criminality: you’re taking something and giving less than what you promised or what they expect. For instance, if you borrow money but don’t repay it when or as promised; or if you provide a meal, but it’s cold and unattractive it is a partial exchange only.
In honest business activity – unlike the type of criminality so prominent in the business news of the day – there exists an exchange that is fair to both parties, known as fair business practices. This has been the order of the day in American business for many generations. Of late though, it seems to have changed into the idea that business is “what you get away with” and the public be damned.
The best businesses know from long experience however, that to attract customers who keep coming back and tell others enthusiastically about your product or service, the focus must be on giving them more than they expected every time they interact with you.
This concept is in fact the easiest way to run any business successfully. Give them more than they expected; a better quality product, better service, friendlier staff, better organization, comfortable facilities, pleasant surroundings, attention to details that are most important (the customer).
Con-men and other criminals waste their most valuable assets (their attention, energy and creativity) on finding ways to get something for nothing. Bernie Madoff apparently thought he could change the laws of nature and avoid the inevitable consequences. He failed. Fraud is always eventually found out, and he will pay the ultimate price.
Words have meaning and actions have consequences. Always. Their entire focus is to find ways of avoiding any real interaction with people or with life. Criminals can’t produce. They can’t work. In the end, con-men and criminals version of help is inevitably an unmitigated disaster for anyone connected with them. It is never otherwise.
Their outward persona may tell you want you want to hear, but they’re not telling you the whole story. Their normal level of social intercourse is lies, generalities, deception and manipulation. Inside, they are not happy people. They are getting something for nothing and deep down they know it. No matter how well justified, they eventually are exposed for what they really are: weak, needy, arrogant people who leave destroyed lives of others in their wake. This is not a route to happiness, health or prosperity. Criminals hold the misconception that money IS a product. But it’s not. Money is only an IDEA supported by the confidence that others will accept it in exchange for something else.
The easiest way to avoid following that sorry path is to keep your focus on the right target: giving help, effective assistance, exchanging friendly, efficient, excellent services or products that customers need and want. This way you’ll never fall into the trap of believing that you can get something for nothing; you can’t. And it’s just not worth the effort to try. I guess I have to say that criminals do produce something though: misery, turmoil and stress for everyone around them, including themselves.
The age-old idea of karma does have some relevance here too.
In Dante’s Inferno, the greatest sin was treachery and betrayal of trust. Maybe Madoff will get what he deserves after all. His 150 year sentence certainly seems to be some indication of the sentiment held by some for the crime of fraud.
daniel w. jacobs
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