7. Financial Engineers and Their Creations

The Italians make designer sunglasses, the Japanese manufacture precision vehicles, Russian vodka has no comparison, and until the subprime financial shock, everyone wanted some of America’s financial ingenuity. It was thought to be our comparative advantage. The efficiency of the U.S. financial system was the envy of the world; it could take the nation’s paltry savings and direct it to financing investments that reaped big returns. Why save 50% of your income—as they do in China—or even 10%, as the Germans do, if you could put aside close to nothing and get the same returns or better simply by making the right kind of investments? The U.S. financial system was better at this than anyone; the wizardry ...

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