Dear NY Times: Speaking of Ponzi Schemes

Editor, The New York Times

229 West 43rd St.

New York, NY 10036

To the Editor:

Like many people, Ben Stein was assured that Bernard Madoff "never lost money" ("They Told Me That Madoff Never Lost Money," Dec. 28). Unlike many people, Ben Stein wisely understood this assurance to be nonsense.

Americans should apply Mr. Stein's wisdom to the greatest Ponzi scheme going: Social Security.  Many pols and pundits assure us that this program is a great financial deal for ordinary Americans. But in principle Social Security is identical to Mr. Madoff's fraudulent scheme: rather than generate wealth through productive investments, both schemes transfer wealth from newer 'investors' to older 'investors.' As long as a sufficient number of newer 'investors' keep coming aboard – either by being duped a la Mr. Madoff or by being coerced a la Social Security – such schemes appear brilliant. This appearance, however, is a dangerous apparition.


Donald J. Boudreaux 

Don Boudreaux is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University and a Business & Media Institute adviser.