Shame and Greed (the AIG experiment)

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested earlier this week in an interview with Iowa radio station WMT that AIG executives should follow the old tradition of the disgraced Japanese samurai to commit the ritual suicide (hara-kiri) and rid society of themselves.

Grassley’s spokeswoman Jill Gerber later told the political web site Politico.com that the senator didn’t mean what he said literally and that he was speaking rhetorically, referring to the lack of “shame and acceptance of responsibility” for the executives’ management of the company, not that he really wanted them to commit suicide.

I believe her. While I personally think that suicide should never be an option whatever the circumstances, this article is not about suicide, it’s about shame and greed.

Senator Grassley is only one of the plethora of politicians, pundits and economists that voice their disagreement with the way AIG handles the taxpayer money used to bail out the troubled financial giant, and shame (and its derivatives) is a word often used to describe the actions of the company executives.

Yet, I think that we shouldn’t be surprised even one tiny bit. While shame is one of the feelings that are supposed to keep us safe in our civilized society, we all forget one fundamental truth about it.

Shame and the all-powerful unabated Greed can rarely be used in the same sentence, let alone expected to coexist. Let’s see which one prevails in the AIG experiment.

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