Cherished myths fall victim to economic reality

By Paul De Grauwe

The financial crisis continues to create victims. Not only people but also some of our most cherished ideas risk falling by the wayside. Take the hugely influential idea that financial markets are efficient. Its proponents told us that when financial markets were left free, they would work miracles. Savings would be channelled to the most promising investment projects, thereby boosting economic growth and welfare. In addition, these financial markets would spread risk around over a large number of participants, thereby lowering the risk of doing business, again boosting growth and welfare. In order to achieve these wonders, financial markets had to be freed from the shackles of government control.

The country that embodied these principles most was the US. Helped by the missionary zeal of successive American administrations and pushed by international financial institutions, country after country freed their financial markets from pernicious government controls, hoping to share in these economic wonders.

The remainder of this column can be read here. Debate from our panel of economists appears below.