Thursday, February 26, 2009

Call me Ponzi

In the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal, I have been doing some reading up on Carlo Ponzi, the early 20th Century Italian conman who pioneered the kind of sham investment scheme that now bears his name.

I have been suggesting to friends that I might try something of the sort here in China.

I am being facetious, of course. I merely throw the idea out there as a provocation to discussion.

The trouble is, I'm finding it harder and harder not to take the idea seriously now. I had expected that my friends would all remonstrate with me, and remind me of all the moral objections to such deceptions. But they haven't. Every single one of them has greeted the idea enthusiastically and encouraged me to start making earnest plans for executing such a scheme.

Anyone rich enough to drop a few hundred thousand RMB on an investment scheme probably isn't going to be that badly impacted by the loss of the money. And after all, any investment can fail: you shouldn't gamble if you can't afford to lose the money.

Anyone greedy enough and dumb enough to give his money to a stranger to invest, without carefully checking his credentials, pretty much deserves to have his wealth redistributed in my direction, I would say (or rather, my friends have been saying it, and they're starting to win me over to their way of thinking). And Chinese fat cats are a particularly objectionable bunch, for the most part; it's hard to have any sympathy at all for people who've become obscenely wealthy running mines or brick kilns or chemical factories in this country. Some might say there's actually a moral imperative to relieve such people of some of their ill-gotten gains.

Yes, I'm giving it some thought.

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