Free Bernie Madoff

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Bernie Madoff stole billions from the customers of his phony investment funds, running a racket rather than a financial service. People who aren’t even his victims are furious, and nearly everyone enjoyed a 10-minute sense of vengeance when the judge threw him behind bars for 150 years.

Let me weigh in with a contrary view. Free Bernie Madoff, I say.

His life is already ruined. He is a pauper. He will never again do business. From the innovative genius whose information technology in the 1960s became the basis of NASDAQ, he rose to the heights and fell to the depths where he will stay this way until death. He won’t be able to be seen in public for the rest of his life without encountering scorn and derision from everyone around him.

Maybe the idea of jail is punishment. I don’t see how it can be a worse punishment than he would face on the outside.

Maybe the idea is to impose on him a feeling of remorse. But does he not already feel regret, even deep sorrow? This man who was widely considered to be a historic phenom is now disgraced, forever. We all have one life to live, and his is now a complete wreck, going down in history as the worst financial criminal of all time.

What, then, precisely, is the point of jailing him? He is no direct threat to anyone. Society would not be safer because he is in the slammer. He is not going to rob people or beat people up. He might write a book and donate the funds to charity or make some restitution to his victims. I, for one, would like to read that book.

Instead, taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab for his living expenses. Victims get nothing. That’s not justice. That’s inhumane for both sides of the transaction: Bernie and us.

Will jail "rehabilitate" him? It’s ridiculous. His rehabilitation, if there can be one, is probably already complete. Consider the dilemma in which he found himself. It began small, a simple scheme that anyone can play. His problem was that it worked better than most.

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Jeffrey Tucker [send him mail] is editorial vice president of www.Mises.org.

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