Sunday, April 3, 2016

Too good to be true

The ability of Ioan Stocia to secure "investments" in Caritas relies heavily on the appearance of honesty and virtue kept by himself and the company. Like many who run pyramid schemes an overwhelming charisma masks the age old rule of if its too good to be true than it is probably too good to be true, and like Ben Franklin this appearance was central to his success. Caritas was able to manipulate so many into buying in but interestingly adopted some of the same favoritism that existed within the socialist structure. For instance a receipt was needed for every thousand or so leis that were deposited/withdrawn and therefore limited the amount of transactions per day for the average invester while allowing those with inside connections to bypass the receipt rule and withdraw others money before they were able to. What was interesting to me was how many Romanians reasoned that the money was being made, from shady deals to arms trading the idea of fraud was not present until the collapse of Caritas was imminent. Making money from money was not a part of the socialist manifesto and was a foreign idea to many Romanians. The combination of a good reputation and a foreignness to financial capitalism really allowed Stocia to flourish.
The collapse of Caritas, though like every pyramid scheme inevitable, did seem to be orchestrated by the Romanian government through their interviews on state TV and subsequent investigations. As the payouts rivaled the state budget it would make sense that they wanted Caritas to be shut down. I think that as Caritas grew to be a cult like movement it defiantly rivaled the power of the government and could be a cause for worry. These schemes certainly happen outside the post-communist world but I do not believe they garner such a wide cult like following because mechanisms like community funds are not ingrained in the culture. Where you do see pyramid schemes in the U.S. is in those types of mechanisms like profit sharing schemes as I have learned from watching Stacy Keech on MSNBC's American Greed.

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