A few moments ago, a French friend posted on Facebook this query in English: "So, how does it feel to be a degraded country?" And I pointed out that it is unfortunate that the French translation of "downgraded" is "dégradé," which takes us from the language of bond traders to that of honor, as though France had been derelict in its duty and had its sword broken over its commander's knee.
This amusing anecdote unfortunately illustrates a larger truth: the tendency to moralize economic matters and to think in terms of dereliction and sin rather than better and worse choices among competing economic alternatives. The economic problem is difficult enough. Let's not compound it with an unnecessary overlay of virtue and vice.
As for France's "degradation," bond traders don't find it particularly humiliating. The price of French 10-yr bonds has barely flickered since the downgrading.