From the July, 1979 edition of High Times comes Michael Chance’s fascinating story, “Scams: The Greatest Hustles, Cons and Rip-Offs of Modern History.”
The Western world loves nothing more than a great scam. Give them a simple thief and they will jail him for life. Give them a good con man and they will elevate him to the highest office, apotheosize him in the arts and literature, and throw fortunes at his feet. The victims of a scam may arouse our sympathy, but the perpetrators often elicit awe, envy and maybe a few books and a movie. Indeed, con artists, hucksters and magic beans have never had it so good.
The players and their marks are now so numerous that a language has followed in their wake. Such commonplace terms as rip-off, fix, and kickback were virtually unknown a generation ago. The word scam has only recently attained dictionary status and appears routinely in quotation marks in that most bottom line of language, the New York Times. Etymologists claim…
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