On June 29, 2009, Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. According to The New York Times, Madoff was guilty of running “the largest, longest and most widespread Ponzi scheme in history.”
The point is, I do not believe jail-time is the appropriate punishment for Mr. Madoff.
(1) If Madoff told his customers that he would be investing their money in a way he did not, then he committed fraud, and his punishment should be to pay back his customers in full plus extra for time preference. If he has less money in his name than he owes to his victims, then he should (A) ﬁrst pay what he has and (B) then have his future wages garnished to pay those to whom he still has debt. (He should also pay back his poorest victims ﬁrst, working his way up the ladder until he either pays off his entire debt in full or dies, whichever comes ﬁrst.)
(2) If he did not lie to his customers about what he was doing with their money, then he committed no real crime, and should not be punished at all.
Either way, he should not go to jail.
As Mr. Jeffrey Tucker writes,
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.
—Alexander S. Peak