Monday, April 16, 2012

Must Read of the Week

Great lineup of papers from the Russell Sage Foundation and Century Foundation conference on the financial crisis on Friday.

Behavioral finance, efficient market theory revisited ... your inner finance wonk will rejoice. (The only one so far that I've found head-wagging is "Shadow Finance" and its theory of "cream skimming," which seems way out in left field -- more on that later, I hope.)

The "talker" of the set is this paper that, fundamentally, questions the intrinsic value of financial innovation by showing that, over the last century and a half, the industry has become more inefficient at its core role of intermediation, not less. Yes, there are numbers and charts.

In brief:
The finance industry that sustained the expansion of railroads, steel and chemical industries, and the electricity and automobile revolutions was more efficient than the current finance industry.
The conclusion:
In the absence of evidence that increased trading led to either better prices or better risk sharing, we would have to conclude that the finance industry's share of GDP is about 2 percentage points higher than it needs to be and this would represent an annual misallocation of resources of about $280 billions for the U.S. alone.