Andrew Leonard of Salon writes that the world is on the verge of a nervous breakdown:
It doesn’t seem healthy, but we’re going to have to get used to it. Volatility and vulnerability are built into the infrastructure of our modern world. The jury may still out on the chaos theory question of whether a single butterfly flapping its wings in Botswana can cause a typhoon in the Philippines, but we now know without a shadow of a doubt that the relative success or failure of a troubled European government’s attempt to raise cash can send instant shock waves across financial markets across the globe.
And we know, intimately, that it doesn’t take much to set off a cascade of trouble — after the great global crash of 2008, traders everywhere are in a state of permanent PTSD. Beyond the obvious surface connections between markets — that European recession slowing U.S. economic growth — there are abundant linkages beneath the scenes that are obscure and hard to unravel, interconnections woven by complex derivatives and hedging strategies and computer-driven high-speed trading algorithms that instantly translate woe in one market to panic in another.
The inescapable conclusion: Our modern high-tech markets, in which more money than ever before swirls around the globe in a blink of an eye, are better at transmitting panic and fear than anything heretofore created by humans. If civilization is supposed to imply progress, then something has gone very awry: In the second decade of the 21st century, our infrastructure is increasingly fragile, increasingly prone to disruption. The sword of Damocles hangs above everyone’s head, and the thread that keeps it from falling is fraying perilously thin.
Read the full article here. Read the New York Times article about traders in the U.S. waking up in the middle of the night to keep abreast of events in Europe here. Read the Wikipedia article on financial contagion here.