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The End of Financial Triumphalism?

CAMBRIDGE – Will today’s ever widening global financial crisis mark the end of the era of financial triumphalism? Ask a lay person to list the ten great innovations that drive our world today and you probably won’t find too many who mention the Black-Scholes formula for pricing options. But for the financial community, pioneering formulas that paved the way for modern hedging strategies should get just as much credit for the passing period of rapid global growth as cell phones, computers, and the Internet.

Until the last 12 months, finance advocates seemed to have a strong case. By helping to spread risk, high-tech finance could help economies grow faster. Macroeconomists celebrated the “Great Moderation” of the global business cycle, with recessions seeming to become milder and less frequent. And, of course, the financial community was making money hand over fist, creating scores of millionaires and even billionaires worldwide.