His­to­ry of Greed: Finan­cial Fraud from Tulip Mania to Bernie Madoff

David E. Y. Sarna
  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
David Sar­na, author of the sad, unfor­tu­nate saga of the his­to­ry of Ponzi schemes, shares a basic rule with his read­ers: If it sounds too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is too good to be true — a rule we should all take to heart.

Some of the tales Sar­na tells in His­to­ry of Greed are bone chill­ing, oth­ers are mere­ly har­row­ing. Charis­ma and charm are the hall­marks of a good schemer. Ele­gant attire and fine man­ners are de rigeur. Char­i­ta­ble giv­ing is a plus. They are the keys that allow Ponzi scheme mas­ter­minds to enter into the hearts, minds, and pock­ets of oth­er­wise smart and savvy peo­ple and to dupe them out of their hard earned life sav­ings.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, so many of the schemers described in this book were Jew­ish — many of the vic­tims were, too — that the book could almost be re-named From Gan­nuf to Gan­nuf”— but finan­cial fraud is not the exclu­sive domain of Jews. Sar­na devotes a chap­ter to explain­ing how fraud­sters in gen­er­al, not mere­ly Jew­ish fraud­sters, tar­get and then take advan­tage of peo­ple from sim­i­lar back­grounds.

The details of each sto­ry are com­pelling. The shame of it is that scam­mers, until caught, live life in the pub­lic eye inspir­ing respect and admi­ra­tion when what they are real­ly doing is reel­ing in their prey, dri­ving more and more peo­ple to invest in their paper pyra­mids.

The worst part of it all is that almost no one described in this book, almost no per­pe­tra­tor of finan­cial fraud, showed any remorse for their crimes.
Mic­ah D. Halpern is a colum­nist and a social and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Ter­ror, and main­tains The Mic­ah Report at www​.mic​ah​halpern​.com.

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