Have You No Shame, America?

A German billionaire killed himself after hefty stock losses. A French money manager committed suicide after losing billions to Bernie Madoff. Is shame confined to the Old World?

If Alexandra Penney is any indication (note: poor example), the American response to losing tons of money is to become a hilarious blogger. And why not! Over here we generally have a national understanding that money comes and goes, and if you're not wagering more than you should on bets that are too risky, what kind of cowboy are you? Losing money is not the sort of thing we're ashamed of. We're more angry. But no guts, no glory, etc. Big swinging dicks! Greed is good! Bet the farm! Let it ride!

Elsewhere shame seems to be felt much more deeply. Hell, Merckle surely wasn't likely to have gone hungry even if he did dissolve his entire financial empire. Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, the French hedge fund guy, was so ashamed of losing other people's money with Madoff he felt he had to off himself. It's safe to say most American hedge fund guys would be relieved they lost someone else's money.

And the Japanese! Shame is an essential business skill over there. So much so that Sen. Chuck Grassley figures we need to emulate them, or something:

“I’ve suggested it wouldn’t be a bad thing that the leadership of these [US] institutions would take a Japanese-style approach to corporate governance, and I’m not talking about going out and committing suicide as some Japanese do in these circumstances, but I am talking about scenes I’ve seen on television where in belly-up corporations the CEOs go before the board of directors, before the public, before the stockholders and bow deeply and apologize for their mis-management."

Good luck! All groveling in American business is done with the strict subtext that it's not sincere. They'll apologize, but don't ask for more than they're prepared to give, or fuck you, they're calling the lawyers. Does the US have a shame deficit? Do we need to be more like these guys? Should losing tons of money be considered a morally horrible act?

Nah. Unless you're an actual morally repugnant criminal like Madoff, losing money should be its own penalty. There's not need to press it. And there's certainly no need to kill yourself over it. Save that for the terribly embarrassing revelation of some sexual proclivity that doesn't fall squarely in the Puritan mainstream, okay.