The financial industry is a lot bigger than a giant vampire squid

Systemic Disorder

The size of the financial industry bears no relation to the economy. Self-mythological panegyrics aside, the finance industry confiscates money; it doesn’t create it. How much? Get out your calculators, and maybe you’ll have to find a way to add a couple of digits to what your screen can hold.

Perhaps the total amount of money extracted by financiers (or, more to the point, speculators) is not quite as large as Douglas Adams’ description of space in the, yes, increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhikers’ Trilogy, as “Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.” But it’s close.

OK, let’s put down a couple of numbers here. The numbers on their own are so absurd as to defy easy comprehension, so let’s try to find a way to situate them.

  • Total amount of debt outstanding: US$305 trillion (€304 trillion).
  • Total amount of financial instruments traded, on average…

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