Selling Angel Feathers: The Rise and Perhaps Finally Now The Fall of Multilevel Marketing


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Burke Koonce and John Fichthorn discuss the latest topics of interest in politics, financial markets, and the cultural forces that shape the world around us. Today we visit one of our favorite topics, multilevel marketing.

John, who is executive chairman of Maven, owner of among other media properties, and Burke, who runs the Capitalism Maven site for, have a long history together discussing markets, politics and contemporary subjects.

In this episode, we are joined by Robert Fitzpatrick, multilevel marketing (MLM) expert, who has just written a new book, Ponzinomics. The book is a comprehensive account of how multilevel marketing was created in America, escaped criminal and civil prosecution, and spread all over the world. Fans of Betting On Zero will remember Bob from the film, giving articulate testimony about the nature of multilevel marketing companies and their insidious nature.

This is a fascinating episode. Of course, we think any discussion of MLM is fascinating, but this is top-notch because Bob is uniquely gifted at articulating the particular and peculiar nature of MLMs not as an industry but as a belief system.

Bob takes us from MLM's early days as an evolution from the Dale Carnegie sales mentality into something a little darker. As pressure on America’s middle class grew, the allure of MLMs grew more enticing. And just when the feds had their clutches around the industry’s neck, powerful backers intervened. Within years, U.S. presidents were speaking at MLM gala events and just a few years later, a future U.S. president was not only hawking his own MLM, but honing the skills that would carry him to the White House.

The last time John, Bob and I were together was in a little bar down the street from the West Manhattan studio where John Oliver records his Last Week Tonight show, after the episode that put Betting On Zero on the map. That was fun, but this visit was perhaps even more fun.

We hope you enjoy this lengthy but action-packed episode.

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