Monday, February 13, 2006

New vs. Old Japan

So Takefumi Horie's Livedoor boys have spilled the beans, admitting guilt in respect of, amongst other things, securities law violations as accused by the authorities. This comes as no surprise to the more cynical (and older it must be said) observers who view such meteoric and iconoclastic rises (in share price and public notoriety) with a healthy dose of skepticism - especially where accompanied by shenanigans that push the limits of what even an optimist might call the "invisible hand" of the market.

I do not wish to judge Mr Horie too hastily despite the fact that his minions HAVE already admitted guilt. But what really strikes about today's admission by Mr. Horie is his decidely un-Japanese way of confronting what, in all probability, is the objective reality of his guilt. For he has rather shamefully denied it in all respects. Thus, Mr Horie really is NOT "old Japan", which to his credit, he has consistently distanced himself from, and tried to upstage, but rather "New America". For rather than "fess-up" and apologize when caught red-handed (like almost all of the more honorable Japanese businessmen and politicians), Mr Horie has taken a page from the infamous legal playbooks of Bernie Ebbers, Richard Scrushy, Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, the Rigas', and yes, the King of Dishonorable Denial, I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, and deny both responsibility and guilt.

But the equivalence between Mr Horie and new America stops there. For while "New America" is driven by the same unadulterated avarice the seemingly drove Mr. Horie, and while the American justice system allowed Mr Scrushy to get off Scott-free, I do not believe Mr Horie will be so fortunate. I say this because the greed factor of "New America" was parochial and not only wasn't it a direct challenge to authority, it was in complicity with it (until the Cheney Administration and other politicos cut them loose when they were an embarassment). Mr Horie on the other hand was directly and unabashedly challenging established authority, practice, privilege and control in a society where the "wah" (harmony) of the house has traditionally been a cornerstone to the healthy functioning of Japanese society. And it is this "crime" which will insure that whatever Mr Horie may or may not have done, he will not get off so lightly as many of his "New America" counterparts.

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