I believe a Ponzi scheme is when you pay "interest" to early investors, via investments from new members. There is never any income generating activity other than recruiting new members.
I don't think Ponzi applies to Spacex.
often, people just use it as a drop-in replacement for the term "organized fraud"
"isn't JetBlue air-miles just a classical Ponzi scheme?"
Difference of Pyramid vs Ponzi
- Ponzi: the fund manager/fraudster is the one who recruits new members
- Pyramid: existing members have to recruit other new members
In both schemes, there is no underlying product/service. Money contributions from new members are used to pay existing members.
To be clear, Tesla/SpaceX is NOT Ponzi, NOT Pyramid.
A Ponzi scheme purports to have some amazing business opportunity, but secretly pays returns using money from new investors. They will often use MLM/pyramid-style recruiting tactics, and not solely rely on the fraudster for recruitment.
It's true that MLMs pay out fees collected from newer recruits, but everyone knows where the money is coming from. Usually MLMs also have some semblance of actual business activity (Mary Kay, Amway, Herbalife, etc.)
This doesn't involve paying anyone out.