I just read a phenomenal piece of original writing/thinking by Joe Nocera in today's New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/business/14nocera.html?pagewanted=1&em
It gave me that very distinct feeling that you get when you see/read/hear something that hits you in all the right places and makes you say, "I wish I had come up with that." With a tip of the hat to Mr. Nocera, I just want to say that the main thrust of his piece is that the *victims* of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi Scheme are not entirely without blame themselves.
I had been kicking that around in my head for a couple of days through constant media exposure to the "I hate Bernie Madoff more than you do" sweepstakes infecting the commentariat and the hard news itself. After all, there are only so many people who lose $5 million I can feel sorry for -- how many Americans will ever have $5 million to lose?!?? Also, any investor anywhere should appreciate that with the chance for gain should come the chance for risk -- if these very same people had continued to get the 10-12% steady returns ad infinitum, they wouldn't be queuing up to claim that it was somehow unfair or that some score ought to be settled.
Anyway, Nocera explains this all far better than I could dream to, and gives tons of other great examples where ordinary investors got screwed over by bad ideas, shaky investments, and yes, Ponzi schemes, without ever seeing any of it back.
If you've got the time, this is a great read.