Why do people keep falling for it?
Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, which was, until last week, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange, is today facing prison time for allegedly defrauding his customers of billions of dollars. Bankman-Fried, 30, donated to many progressive causes allied with the “effective altruism movement,” including pandemic prevention and response. He spoke at, and presumably donated to, the World Economic Forum’s Davos conference last May and the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative in September. Bankman-Fried is similar to Bernie Madoff in that both men used philanthropic giving, and the veneer of humility, to create a positive reputation while running pyramid schemes that should have set off red flags among investors, regulators, and journalists.
In truth, the Bankman-Fried scandal shows that all do-gooder capitalism should set off red flags. Bankman-Fried claimed he was only trying to get rich in order to raise money for charity, and investors and journalists overwhelmingly took him at his word, even while visiting him at his $40 million home in the Bahamas. “You were really good at talking about ethics for someone who kind of saw it all as a game with winners and losers,” a Vox reporter said to Bankman-Fried last night, to which he responded, “ya, hehe… I feel bad for those who get fucked by it. By this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths [sic] so everyone likes us.”