Dumb Networks and Smart Capital

Wriston, Walter B.


The Information Standard


Unlike all prior arrangements, this new system was not built by politicians, economists, central bankers, or finance ministers. No high-level international conference produced a master plan. The new system was built by technology. While clearing systems reside in real buildings, the new world's financial market is not found on any map, but consists of more than 200,000 electronic monitors in trading rooms all over the world linked together, and the value of any currency is determined by the price that the market will pay for it in exchange for another. Whatever price the market puts on a currency, it is almost constantly being condemned by someone somewhere as too high and by someone somewhere else as too low. Few governments are entirely satisfied with the value the market places on their currency. Someone is always demanding that government do something to push the value of its currency up or down, depending on how one's interests are affected. But the market is so huge that intervention by central banks has become an expensive exercise in futility. Indeed, the market has overpowered one of the most important aspects of national sovereignty. Peter Drucker [6]  put it this way: "Control over money was at the very center of what came to be called 'sovereignty.' But money has slipped the leash.... It cannot be controlled any longer by national states, not even by their acting together." Indeed, moments after the president makes a statement in the Rose Garden, thousands of screens light up, and traders all over the world vote on whether the new policy is good or bad. That vote is instantly recorded in the value of the currency. There is no longer any place to hide. Good economic policies are rewarded and bad ones punished.

The recent experiences in Thailand and Malaysia are only two of dozens of examples. No matter what the politicians and the spin masters of the world say, the market will remain a giant voting machine that records in real time, real world evaluations of the value of currencies. Increasingly, currency values reflect less the power and privileges of the sovereign as much as a discipline on the economic policies of imprudent sovereigns.


[6] Drucker, P. (1993) Post-Capitalist Society. New York: HarperCollins: 143.