Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Academics and Con Men

The academics seem to have a fascination and soft spot for the old cons: Salon Books "The Big Con" . Maurer's study is one of the best books on the confidence man and was the basis for the movie, "The Sting." . It seems Maurer was a linguist who got sucked in by the lingo.

Edwin Sutherland's venerable"Criminology" textbook devoted a whole chapter to circus grifters. Very edifying for us rubes.

I remember a poli sci class where the professor described a political graft process as akin to a pickpocket team and went on, gleefully, to describe how the cannon and wire man worked to rob their mark and took advantage of the legal system to protect the actual pickpocket from prosecution (the pickpocket hands off the evidence very quickly). We were stunned.

Incidentally, the big con lives on, and I suspect the modern counterpart was the dot com. Millions evaporated and there was very little public reckoning. The investors for the most part were pumping up companies for the IPO and eventual ousting of the founders, so there was a con process in motion involving different sets of suckers who could also at some point be players.

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