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It’s a wonderful life?

April 12, 2015 1 comment

from David Ruccio

Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan is worried that too many of his students are taking jobs in finance. He should be worried for other reasons, too.

Mullainathan’s concern stems from the idea that much of the activity in the financial sector involves “rent-seeking”:

Instead of creating wealth, rent seekers simply transfer it — from others to themselves. . .

The economists Eric Budish at the Booth School of Business and Peter Cramton at the University of Maryland, and John J. Shim, a Ph.D. candidate at Booth, have shown in a study how extreme this financial gold rush has become in at least one corner of the financial world. From 2005 to 2011, they found that the duration of arbitrage opportunities in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange declined from a median of 97 milliseconds to seven milliseconds. No doubt that’s an achievement, but correcting mispricing at this speed is unlikely to have any real social benefit: What serious investment is being guided by prices at the millisecond level? Short-term arbitrage, while lucrative, seems to be mainly rent-seeking.

This kind of rent-seeking behavior is widespread in other parts of finance. Banks sometimes make money by using hidden fees rather than adding true value. Debt collection agencies may use unscrupulous practices. Lenders to poor people buying used cars can make profits with business models that encourage high rates of default — making money by taking advantage of people’s overconfidence about what cars they can afford and by repossessing vehicles. These kinds of practices may be both lucrative — and socially pernicious.

Read more…

Categories: exploitation

“A great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”

January 16, 2013 4 comments

from  David Ruccio

“relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money,” Matt Taibbi observed back in 2009.

And, in 2012, Goldman Sachs [pdf] made an extraordinary comeback in terms of capturing a larger share of the available surplus, with net earnings of $7.48 billion (compared to $4.4 billion in 2011), based on growth in the bank’s trading activity and “principal transactions” while keeping compensation and benefits close to where they were in the previous year.   Read more…

Categories: exploitation

Poverty and exploitation

September 19, 2012 4 comments

from David Ruccio

What would happen if the concept of exploitation became the entry point into our analyses of poverty?

According to Thomas B. Edsall, Matthew Desmond, an assistant professor of sociology at Harvard, asked exactly that question at a recent symposium on inequality at Yale:

If exploitation long has helped to create the slum and its inhabitants, if it long has been a clear, direct, and systematic, cause of poverty and social suffering, why, then, has this ugly word — exploitation — been erased from current theories of urban poverty?  Read more…

Categories: exploitation, The Economy
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