We should harness SBF to catalyze global finance for the purposes of social good, instead of merely putting him in jail.
I guess numerous assorted lawyers, traders and financial guys are watching the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF). You know the wunderkind multibillionaire who minted it all on his ownsome and is now on trial for his temerity, oh yes and also for using his customer’s money for his own inscrutable purposes.
If you are anywhere in the financial world, or a philanthropist, or even a lawyer, you should read up on this, probably through Michael Lewis’ book “Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon” which is otherwise an amusing little read.
A short digression. “Sam-I-Am” is the main character of the famous Dr Seuss story “Green Eggs and Ham” which you probably read to your own kids as well as almost certainly having it read to you by your own parents. The unnamed co-star of the story is being pushed by Sam-I-am to try said dish, but after trying it in several situations tells Sam-I-Am that he just doesn’t like green eggs and ham.
But then Sam-I-Am tells him to try it by himself without listening to all these hangers on and suddenly the co-star discovers he LOVES green eggs and ham. Could that be a metaphor for the Feds needing to try the green eggs and ham cooked up by SBF and his merry men, because it would be good for them, even though they haven’t tried it yet?
Moral: make your own assessment and don’t rely on others.
Sadly, probably SBF is going to get convicted anyway for what the Feds seem to view as the bank robbery of the century, but I have my doubts. Yep, he did take a lot of his customers’ money without them knowing. On the other hand, they had given it to him since he seemed to be – in fact he indubitably was – a financial prodigy.
His customers clearly weren’t widows and orphans; in fact, they were and still are the most sophisticated financial people on the planet who certainly had the education and contacts to make their own judgments, just like Sam-I-Am’s gustatory friend.
No matter your perspective, there’s no doubt SBF was/is a financial and social visionary albeit an odd one. Kind of Asbergerish. He didn’t just make a lot of money in an unprecedented time. He had, and still has sharp but weird insights into finance and society that we of the rest of humanity just don’t understand or appreciate.
Ironically SBF is himself a child-like figure, a naif in so many ways, so the Dr Seuss story about green eggs and home is doubly fitting. Michae Lewis has some very funny stories that are not so funny at all – they reflect a childlike innocence that many people took advantage of and allowed him to do things that others wouldn’t normally have let someone in his position promote. In other words, I don’t believe he had evil intent. I believe that by following his ideas he got in way over his head and his own total lack of empathy made him blind to the effect on others.
Go deeper and you find that SBF was an early adherent of the doctrine of effective altruism, that in order to m world a better place we should adopt altruistic approaches based on utilitarianism. This approach prevents the charlatans, narcissists and cheats taking over the philanthropic role for their own selfish purposes which does nothing for society, except make it even worse.
Ironically it’s just come out that the Feds are sitting on $5 billion of Bitcoin. A question for you. What do you think they are going to do with it? Would they even know?
They haven’t figured crypto out yet after more than a decade of mulling it all over and doing absolutely nothing. SBF wasn’t able to do what he would have liked because the Feds had no strategic and policy framework, let alone figured out how to regulate the markets. After all the government’s proud talk about spurring innovation they screwed up totally one of the most talented innovators we ever had and now want to put him in prison.
Maybe the Feds, instead of sending him to jail should do to him what they (supposedly) did with Frank Abagnale Jr. as shown in the movie “Catch Me If You” namely having the FBI hiring him to show them the tricks he used to carry out his frauds, so that society could benefit from his amazing skills of presenting himself in so many other guises.
If SBF is convicted why don’t the Feds do a deal with him that makes everything right? Here it is. You have been sentenced to 10 years (let’s say) in prison with time off for good behavior, say two years. If you agree to work for us (the Feds, SEC, any of the alphabet soup of finance agencies and regulators) we will allow you to serve the sentence from your parents’ home. Your job is to fix the whole crypto area.
Oh, one more thing. We like the idea of this EA stuff. We want you to radically transform the whole area of philanthropy and global welfare using the principles of EA; our expectation is that you can raise $1 trillion in crypto and channel it through your EA friends and network. Whenever you get to the $1 trillion mark, you get out of your home prison scot-free.
If you can do that in a year, you’re free to walk. Even to set up a new crypto business which will now have to follow the regulations you helped develop.
Is that too much to hope for?
Do we lose anything by trying?
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