The man who takes risks, even ones which seem extreme, and wins becomes a hero in American capitalism. Today, as he filed Chapter 11 for his financial firm MF Global Holdings, Jon Corzine, 64, is certainly not that. Instead, diverse constituencies wonder yet again about the nature of risk. When should a leader be stopped?
Professionally, Corzine lived a life of risk. He frequently made career changes which would have been radical to some. He had been a big wig at Goldman Sachs Group. Then he became Governor of New Jersey. After that he headed up MF Global Holdings. There he took out a bet on European sovereign debt. The latter didn't pan out and so MF Global becomes yet another distressed company in America that is striving to fix itself. Time will tell if that's possible.
However, the monster question of risk will never be answered. Sure regulators can set rules and active investors can have their say. But, in essence, risk is in the eye of the beholder. Ken Binmore, an economics professor at University College, London, wrote a book "Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction." According to Game Theory, a way of thought popular at universities when News Corps head Rupert Murdoch was a student at Oxford, rational human beings can have very different ideas about risk. That is, what seems nuts to one group might represent a wise course of action to another.
There are times when we Baby Boomers look over our lives with deep regret. However, perhaps we should halt that process. The risks taken or not taken that is opportunities missed have been measured and assessed in our own minds. And, perhaps the minds of our critics. Otherwise, there's no other reality associated with them.