How ironic is that, the moment after I finished my last post, I read an article on BBC that Bernard Madoff gets 150 years in jail. Follow me and explore the analogies between Madoff and 15th century Hungarian mercenary Dózsa.
Like I wrote in my last post, Dózsa was of Hungarian mercenary, according to some – nobility, who became a crusader but because he got screwed over by the other Lords he turned on them with his peasant army. His punishment became (to ward off any others from following his tracks) was to be seated on a thrown of glowing hot iron with glowing hot crown on his head.
Madoff, according to the BBC article, started his career at the age of 22 with $5000. In the sixties his investment and securities company became one of the largest ”market-makers” (whatever that means) and he became the chairman of the Nasdaq. His company did so well that it was investigated eight times in the past 16 years by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. It was finally brought down by the financial crisis when he couldn’t cough up 7 billion USD’s.
Now, for the analogy. Dózsa and Madoff were both self-made men. They excelled at something the top classes needed – Dózsa was a hell of a military man and Madoff was a hell of a businessman. Dózsa protected the Lords from the Turks, Madoff allowed the cream of the crop to get richer.
And as long as they held up their end of the bargain they were allowed to mingle with the Lords. But then something happened – they betrayed their ”Masters”, they no longer knew their place. Dózsa incited a mutiny against the Hungarian nobility and Madoff decided that his pockets were more important than his clients’ pockets. They became traitors. Of course, while they were doing what they were expected to do, nobody questioned the means of their success. The Hungarian nobility didn’t care by what means Dózsa was protecting them from the Turks as long as he did and Madoff’s little business couldn’t have been ”investigated” too thoroughly if eight investigations couldn’t reveal his scam.
But once they crossed a line (took up arms and couldn’t pay anymore respectively) they were deemed as traitors. And traitors need to be dealt with harshly. So they were put on trials (if you can call it that) and given the maximum penalty. Of course, the Lords of Hungary at that time had no means limiting their cruelty, so only the limits of their perverse imagination held them back from coming up with even more bizarre punishments. Unfortunately for the rich of today, they have a bit more limitations. But their thirst for vengeance is the same, so Madoff gets the maximum penalty for whatever he is accused of.
Now, on the flip side of things we find similarities as well- How many of the Noblemen’s soldiers were punished for killing prisoners, women and children and soldiers who had put down their arms during the uprising? None… How many bankers, economist, advisers, analysts bank boards were put on trial for gross neglect? None… And what is the average punishment level for blue-collar crimes? I don’t know but I’m sure its not 150 years – unless a bunch of rich folks were affected. Meaning – the arrogance of the rich and powerful drive them into finding a scape goat to take the fall.
So in conclusion, once again it seems that the basic human emotions of the elite classes is very much the same as it was over half a millennium ago. Absolute power corrupts absolutely – and when the absolutely powerful get pissed off, when they feel betrayed, then heads start rolling. (Literally and unfortunately only in best case scenarios – the unlucky had and still have a lot worse things to expect then their heads hitting the ground.)
In all fairness I have to say that neither Dózsa nor Madoff were/are saints. Tens of thousands of Dózsa’s followers were killed and as the BBC put it ”But it is not just the elite and large firms who were victims of the fraud. School teachers, farmers, mechanics and many others have also lost money. ” But of course, history won’t be telling their tale.
The arrogance of the rich and powerful drive them into finding a scape goat to take the fall.