In 1994 a Russian "financier," Sergei Mavrody, created a company called MMM and proceeded to sell shares, promising shareholders a rate of return of at least 3000% per year.
The trouble was that the company was not involved in any kind of production and held no assets, except for its 140 offices in Russia. The shares were intrinsically worthless. The company's initial success was based on a standard pyramid scheme..Despite repeated warnings by Government officials, including Boris Yeltsin, that MMM was a scam and that the increase in the price of shares was a bubble, the promised reurns were just too attractive to any Russian people, especially in the midst of a deep economic recession.
Mavrody tried to blackmail the government into paying the shareholders, clamining that not doing so would trigger revolution or civil war. The government refused, leading many shareholders to be angry at the government rather than Mavrody. Later that year, Mavrody actually ran for Parliament, as a self-appointed defender of shareholders who had lost their savings. He won!
Postscript: I was reminded of this post in Free Exchange, which quotes Anthony de Jasay
There is a subconscious belief in France that the state does not pay Paul by taking the money from Peter. It just gives it to Paul, and Peter is not made worse off. This is so because the money sits in an imaginary reservoir and the state can "unblock" it (debloquer is the French word used to describe this happy event). . .