Wall Street seems to have learned a neat trick: how to make more money while producing less.
Between 1980 and 2010, the U.S. financial industry nearly doubled in size, relative to the overall economy. Yet in terms of what the financial industry actually produces -- liquidity, assets, anything of measurable benefit to society -- the sector appears to be doing less these days than it used to.
That, at least, is the contention of Thomas Philippon, an associate professor of finance at the New York University Stern School of Business whose 2011 paper -- "Has the U.S. Finance Industry Become Less Efficient?" -- is circulating the blogs this week.