Thursday, April 2, 2009

Devil Take The Hindmost

A lot of investors have been complaining about the lack of regulation and failures of our regulatory authorities to police the markets, but in reality the system we have set up in the United States is the result of four hundred years of evolution of the financial system and it provides a lot of protection.

I am currently reading “Devil Take The Hindmost,” by Edward Chancellor. The book is a comprehensive review of the history of speculative activity in the financial markets, starting mostly with England in the 17th through 19th centuries and continuing into the U.S. I am getting to the end of the section on England and came upon a listing of the purposes of some of the companies that accessed the capital markets in the 18th and 19th centuries.

One company tried to raise funds "to drain the Red Sea, in search of the gold and jewels left by the Egyptians, in their passage after the Israelites." Another company called the Fish-Pool company claimed a patent on a boat "to bring live fish to the London market," and yet another to extract silver from lead.

No system is perfect, but is it possible that the one we have now strikes the proper balance between too much and too little regulation.

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