Dec 18, 2008

Does anyone really understand money?

Posted by: Marian Salzman In: sightings from the zeitgeist| the economy| trendspotting

It’s sobering to think that humans have harnessed electricity, mastered supersonic flight, tamed nuclear energy, enabled instant communication around the world and mapped the human genome, yet we still haven’t mastered money.

We thought we had it nailed, more or less, but then the current economic crisis proved us all wrong. It’s not surprising that many ordinary citizens became dizzy in their money management, but now it’s startlingly clear that high-flying financial professionals did too. Where did all those hundreds of billions come from and how did they just disappear? How could financial instruments that were supposed to spread risk ended up amplifying it?

Now authorities are doing whatever they can to keep even more money from disappearing into a vortex. But not even the loftiest can be sure that their initiatives will do the trick, because we’re in uncharted territory. We’ve never before lived in a world where news circles the globe instantly and where so much money exists only in electronic form.

Assuming things return to “normal,” will we be any closer to mastering money, or will it always be more powerful than its creators?

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