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Commentary By James B. Meigs

Twilight of the Tech Gods

Economics Regulatory Policy

Maybe a few years in a federal prison will be good for Sam Bankman-Fried. The high-tech grifter went from billionaire to broke in a matter of days when investors realized that his FTX crypto-currency trading platform had vaporized their money. FTX was a Ponzi scheme purpose-built to snare investors like them—people who thought they were smarter than everyone else. Up until his arrest on December 11, SBF, as Bankman-Fried styles himself, was still giving interviews. Like a frat boy who got caught “borrowing” the college president’s car, he seemed to think he could still talk his way out of this mess. But he’s about to learn that embezzling money is a crime. Even when the alleged embezzler is a fuzzy-headed nerd who convinced everyone he was just trying to save the world.

He’ll have time in the pokey to reflect on his place in history. Because, like John DeLorean, or Bernie Madoff, or those jerks at Enron—or, heck, like Charles Ponzi—SBF is going to be remembered as the face of an era. For decades to come, he will symbolize a turning point in our culture: the moment we stopped believing in the limitless genius of our tech gurus.

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James B. Meigs is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a City Journal contributing editor, cohost of the How Do We Fix It? podcast, and the former editor of Popular Mechanics.

This piece originally appeared in Commentary