[personal profile] forsyth
"Well hey, if they're dumb enough to fall for it, that's hardly my fault, is it?"

Con men are fun and glamorous in stories. Because in the story, we're in on the con. We get to feel smarter than the victims, because we know everything that's going on. We get the same high the con men do. And we got to feel superior, because we're too smart to fall for that kind of setup.http://drmcninja.com/page.php?pageNum=18&issue=10

Except, con men have a saying. The easiest people to con are smart people, because they think they can't be conned. For starters, nobody has time to be smart about everything. That's why we have specialization and experts. And we pay somebody else to be smart on our behalf about stuff we don't know. Especially technobabble, that sounds important and meaningful, but is actually gibberish. Nobody wants to be the one who's not good and smart enough to see the emperor's new clothes.

And then of course the con man can salve his conscience with his ill-gotten gains and the fact we gave them to him of :our own free will" 'cause we should have known better. It's all the victim's fault, for not being smart enough, or not paying enough attention, nevermind the fact the conmen were deliberately trying to keep you from paying enough attention, or bringing your intelligence to bear.

Just look at the subprime mortgage mess. Many of the people who should have known better, even Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, got behind these. The banks got behind them because they made more profit than a regular mortgage. And the banks, the investment companies, and the independent loan people all pushed them on all of us, even people who could have qualified for regular loans. Nobody listened to the naysayers, because for years, housing prices kept going up, and going up, and every year they did, it "proved" people were wrong when they said this couldn't last forever. And now here we are, and the stock market is shocked, SHOCKED that loans made to people who couldn't afford more than the interest aren't being repaid.

When the experts, who are hired to be smart and supposed to know these things are either conned, or in cahoots with the con men, or just pushing things because it makes them more money, what are regular people supposed to do?

Which is why I'm not convinced by conservatives' refrains of "Personal responsibility". Yes, we really do need to provide people with better financial education. But saying that's all we need, and people should know better and read the contracts and so on only goes so far. It ignores the willful deception on the part of the lenders, who pushed these kinds of things as far as they could, and got rich off it. And now they've left a lot of other people holding the bag. Trying to make it into a matter of "personal responsibility" becomes blaming the victim.

Anybody can get taken by a con man. It doesn't do any good to blame the victim, the fault lies with the con man, who ran the actual con.
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