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Posted: January 1, 2009 5:01 p.m.

Trust? In a den of thieves?

Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme brought down individuals, charities and damaged banks and investment funds around the world. More precisely, the exposure of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme brought them down.

Until recently, all his investors kept making money in good markets and bad.

Several commentators have said Madoff’s scheme struck at the "trust" that underlies capitalism. I admit that I had to blink a couple of times and re-read those claims. Trust? In the den of thieves of corporate America?

The corporate America that denied that cigarettes caused cancer? That in every administration, Republican or Democratic, buys and sells access to the White House and members of the House and Senate? Where a defense contract that excluded bidders convicted of or under investigation for fraud would have no bidders? That corporate America?

Madoff’s "victims" are getting a rare taste of the sort of abuse the average citizen suffers day in and day out. We buy poor quality products and suffer from lack of service (if my call is important, why not answer the phone?). The customer is presumed to be lying, cheating or otherwise at fault in any dispute. There is very little "trust" in the capitalism I experience.

Trust isn’t inconsistent with capitalism, but it does require something more than getting the "lowest" price. I should order books at a local bookstore rather than Amazon, request special items at the local grocery/hardware store than ordering off the Web, buy locally grown produce and shop at smaller stores than large barn-like warehouses. The more of us who shop locally, the more merchants there will be for us to patronize and trust. I would rather have someone I can trust than a lower price. How about you?

Patrick Durusau is a local resident of Covington. His column regularly appears on Fridays.

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