The Sociology of the Ponzi Scheme

There is an intriguing message that appears whenever brought up: Why was Bernie Madoff the only Wall Street investor facing jail time? The text argues that it was because Madoff ripped off the 1%–the rich elite. The meme is inferring that justice is not served for the 99%, the working classes, who have been fleeced by Wall Street practices.

There is a grain of truth to this message, but not quite in the way you might think. White middle class and upper class people are more likely to be convicted of white collar crimes and are less likely to get severe prison terms relative to minority first-time offenders who are caught for blue collar crimes.

The punishment of any crime is a tricky cultural terrain. Society gives higher penalties for some forms of crime that ensure more poor people who were conned by Madoff we’re rich so they had more resources and could be better organized to seek justice.

Sociological research also show that most Ponzi schemes operate through gendered norms, meaning that they’re directed at particular types of men who have a high opinion of their financial abilities and who want to make a quick buck.๐Ÿ˜’๐Ÿ˜’๐Ÿ˜’

So why no justice for the 99%? Because the growing disaffection with the 1%, the 99% did not organize through the legal system or seek policy reform. Movements need resources, strong social networks and policies to effectively make reforms work. Power structures elevate and fund some causes over others. This doesn’t mean that we have to give up, it just means that social transformation requires activism alongside clear policies and legal avenues to ensure changes that will stick.

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