Stock market’s not worth loss of lives

Everyone knows by now about the stock market crisis. Wall Street is on a rollercoaster ride, and no one is having any fun. Market speculators are finding out the true meaning of the word “gamble.”

On Monday, Arthur Kane walked into the Miami offices of Merrill Lynch, pulled a gun from his briefcase and shot two stock brokers and himself. One broker survived, but will be paralyzed from the waist down. Kane and the other broker both died.

The apparent reason for this terrible incident is that Kane held his stockbroker responsible for his losses in the market. This is a man who was described by people in the business as having a “passion” for the market, understanding it “perfectly” and knowing what he was doing. But he had bought stocks on margin—by borrowing from the brokerage firm—and had experienced heavy losses in the recent decline.

It’s unfortunate when someone suffers great financial losses, and certainly it is not difficult to feel for Kane’s family members. They now face not only financial ruin, but the tragic manner in which their husband and father chose to leave this world.

But if Kane really understood the market “perfectly,” then he knew perfectly well that it is always a gamble. And it was a gamble he chose to take—time and time again, for many years. It is entirely possible he received bad advice from his broker, but no one made him take it. He wasn’t too inexperienced to make his own judgments.

While buying on margin may not seem like a bad idea when the market is flourishing, Kane and all the other market speculators out there should have remembered the lesson of the 1929 Crash. The market was doing just fine back then, too. But it doesn’t take long for things to go sour, and those who buy on margin are those who lose the most.

There’s a lesson in this—somewhere. Maybe it’s that people shouldn’t blame others for their own questionable decisions.

Or maybe it’s that people should keep a more watchful eye on family and friends who become distraught over crises in their lives. Someone should have gotten to this poor man and helped him before he took his own life and that of another.

Either way, there’s not much to comfort the real casualties here—the broker who faces life in a wheelchair, and the families of the broker who died and Arthur Kane. Those who pray might want to remember them tonight.