Monday, April 14, 2014

Efficiency For Whom

Paul Krugman points us to a short paper by Thomas Philippon, Finance vs. Wal-Mart: Why are Financial Services so Expensive? which I would recommend to anyone working in ed tech:

Historically, the unit cost of intermediation has been somewhere between 1.3% and 2.3% of assets. However, this unit cost has been trending upward since 1970 and is now significantly higher than in the past. In other words, the finance industry of 1900 was just as able as the finance industry of 2010 to produce loans, bonds and stocks, and it was certainly doing it more cheaply. This is counter-intuitive, to say the least. How is it possible for today's finance industry not to be significantly more efficient than the finance industry of John Pierpont Morgan?

This paper in particular gives you something to throw in the face of anyone -- particularly in finance -- who brings up the old trope about every industry in the country but education having been transformed by technology.

The Wal-Mart vs. banks comparison is particularly nuts. For all the many, many important and well documented downsides of Wal-Mart, they do at the end of the day deliver everyday low prices, whereas our financiers can't even do that.

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