Bernie Madoff And Wealth Without Work

By Thursday, March 12, 2009 2 0

I’m more interested in Bernie Madoff’s financial victims than his bail situation or sentencing. I would love for those people to be made whole, or at least experience some healing. Though Mr. Madoff won’t be able to make restitution, I have a thought or two on how Bernie Madoff’s victims and people in general can minimize risk of such financial trauma, in general.

Our culture needs to stop expecting wealth without work. Mahatma Gandhi, who liberated India from British rule into self-governance,  warned us against wealth without work. I think we can all agree that Ponzi schemes are an extreme example of wealth without work. Get-rich-quick notions set up unrealistic expectations, and make us weak.

Look at it this way: if you were to lose a small fortune you built through your own work (natural disasters come to mind here, and major shifts in the marketplace) you at least have the skills gained through your hands-on work experience to move forward from your loss and still take care of yourself in the world.

But not so if you had just been resting idly, forging a lifestyle of consumption and expecting your money to multiply itself magically.

As a sidenote, I too have been a victim of financial crime. It’s hard to describe the level of trauma. Rather than prosecuting the person (he even admitted to the crime) I chose the path of a Victim-Offenders Restitution Program. We met with a trained mediator, agreed to a realistic plan for repayment, and the perpetrator followed through. I wish Mr. Madoff’s victims could experience something similar. But since that isn’t possible, I’m interested in prevention of such suffering for all of us in general.

If we’re expecting pyramid schemes or exceptional returns on investments or even just investments to ‘earn’ our whole way in the world without any true work on our part, we weren’t ever showing up in the workplace where the value of actual goods and services is created by most of the world’s inhabitants on a daily basis. It’s a form of laziness to expect to live off of work done by others, without adding anything of intrinsic value to the world, ourselves. I realize that sounds almost heretical by now in this culture. But that just shows how far away we have traveled from common sense, and the willingness to do real work.

Life contains a lot of trauma, and that’s more true now than ever, at least in the financial arena. I’m a proponent of constructive, healing paths. Foundational to our culture’s financial healing is to stop expecting wealth without work. Or stated more positively, we need to embrace real work and right livelihood as the cornerstone of our financial security.

  • Wayne
    March 12, 2009

    I don’t mean to be a knit picker but his name is Bernie Madoff….and I agree with everything you said (besides the name thing). Great Gandhi insight, and it’s reassuring to hear that there are people in the world who value work.

    There are too many people with hands out…to take. right livelihood is a forgotten ideal anymore.

  • Esther Penatac
    November 10, 2011

    You have got some genuinely valuable information published here. Excellent job and keep posting good stuff.

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