Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Financial Innovators

Gordon Crovitz had a decent column on financial innovators in the WSJ on Monday. He compares financial innovators to other, more physical innovators, who have provided incalculable value to civilization. I particularly like this passage:
The innovators who thought up the elevator, the cotton gin and space travel didn't intend to kill or injure people as they perfected the technologies. Likewise, today's financial engineers never imagined their miscalculations could result in a global recession.
Now, as any thinking person understands, their miscalculations resulted in a global recession because they assumed a normal level of risk in the system, as opposed to a government-subsidized, fucktardedly high level of risk. Regardless, the appreciation for innovators is welcome. Crovitz discusses how sometimes failure is necessary to learn how to do something right. A good lesson, and I think there's a Thomas Edison quote to that effect that I'm sure I've mentioned before.

On the other hand, Crovitz goes on to quote Robert Murton, a famous Harvard economist who's screwed up quite a few times. He produced this gem back in '94: "any virtue can become a vice if taken to extreme, and just so with the application of mathematical models in finance practice."

No, Bob, if your virtue becomes a vice when taken to extreme, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! Still, the article is worth a read.

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