Some consider justice to be a form of vengeance against evildoers. Others consider it to be a means of compensating the victims of antisocial behavior. Still others consider that punishing evildoers is primarily a way of discouraging additional crimes.
Being no saint, I like all of the above. In this, I seem to be in agreement with Maureen Dowd whose op-ed in today's NY Times criticizes Obama's apparent low level of anger at some executives of the AIG company - who appear to have negotiated and received huge bonuses as a reward for staying and containing the consequences of the ruin of their own company and their country's economy. Her op-ed is also culturally instructive. It offers one of her father's favorite Gaelic sayings, "never bolt the door with a boiled carrot."
To digress briefly, I am also fond of pithy proverbs. The Greeks have a saying, "a fish starts rotting from the head," and the Japanese have a beaut in, "the nail that stands up will be hammered down." The English language seems not too well endowed with such. Despite this, the early days of computer science added a bit of spice by using a language translation program to translate English sayings into Chinese and then back into English. Putting "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" through this process was reported to yield, "the liquor is good but the meat is rotten" and "out of sight out of mind" came back as "invisible idiot."
To get back to the case of the of the retention bonuses, some harsh measures seem to be called for. Consequently, some harsh authorities will be needed. There are some of these in the Congress who at least talk a good game. Except for Rahm Emanuel, I haven't noticed enough of those in the White House and I am unaware of any that may be in the Treasury Department. I have a modest suggestion. Rehabilitate Elliot Spitzer and put him in charge of AIG and the insolvent banks. It would be good for him and good for America.
Unpleasant, perhaps, but a fitting riposte to the massive economic destruction we have experienced. Alas, politically impossible.
According to the testimony of Mr. Edward Liddy to the Congress today, the guilty parties have been removed from AIG. If this is true, we are faced with the concept of collective guilt. When a nation is at war, innocent people normally pay a heavy price for it and even more so if they have lost. Perhaps that should be true of great corporations. Millions of innocent people have been injured by this financial disaster. Maybe the collective guilt of the AIG employees is not perfect justice but it may be a deterrent.
Justice is a hard row to hoe.
The Islamic teacher in the latter video observes that freedom of conscience entails freedom of heresy. I concur.