Six degrees of Madoff

Good for a chuckle, but of course not for the unfortunate people who invested with Bernard Madoff:

Bernard Madoff’s Bacon number is 1

Yes, even Kevin Bacon and his wife got taken in.

There is another angle to this story that is not at all funny. It has to do with the way that the Madoff Ponzi scheme has revealed the internal support struts of our economy. The not-so-rich now have a much clearer glimpse of the specifics — names, amounts, relationships — of how the rich invest; indeed, of how rich they are (or aren’t). It’s a little like dissecting a familiar creature and being surprised and slightly grossed out at how the guts all fit together. The koala is extremely cute, but you do look at it differently once you learn that it has a brain not much bigger than a walnut and that 40% of its head is filled with fluid. Our economy and the people at the top of it are very impressive and intimidating, until you learn the specifics of their power and wealth network. And the Madoff scheme was a microcosm of how our entire economy has been run for a long time.

So why isn’t this funny? Only because it’s unlikely that such a loss of control over the facts is going to be allowed to snowball. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that there is a collective drive to maintain a status quo of power that favors this or that group of people who wield more power over the lives of others (as an American, I recognize I belong to the group that currently has the upper hand, even though I tend to personally identify with those who don’t). And we weren’t supposed to be able to view the specifics that have emerged from the reporting on the Madoff case. We were only supposed to get a vague general message that “the economy is bad, and we’re all going to suffer — the poor more than the rich, of course.”

When “the powers that be” lose control over the facts, it’s a serious threat to the status quo. And keeping in mind that war is not only “politics by other means,” but “economics by other means,” I don’t particularly feel like laughing.