This column from the New York Times is a great take on the history of the current economic explosion, with its focus on the growth of the financial services industry and its closeness to Washington DC.
"What happened to the global economy? We seemed to be chugging along, enjoying moderate business cycles and unprecedented global growth. All of a sudden, all hell broke loose.
"There are many theories about what happened, but two general narratives seem to be gaining prominence, which we will call the greed narrative and the stupidity narrative.
"The two overlap, but they lead to different ways of thinking about where we go from here.
"The best single encapsulation of the greed narrative is an essay called “The Quiet Coup,” by Simon Johnson in The Atlantic .
"Johnson begins with a trend. Between 1973 and 1985, the U.S. financial sector accounted for about 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In the 1990s, it ranged from 21 percent to 30 percent. This decade, it soared to 41 percent.
"In other words, Wall Street got huge. As it got huge, its prestige grew. Its compensation packages grew. Its political power grew as well. Wall Street and Washington merged as a flow of investment bankers went down to the White House and the Treasury Department.
"The result was a string of legislation designed to further enhance the freedom and power of finance. Regulations separating commercial and investment banking were repealed. There were major increases in the amount of leverage allowed to investment banks.
"The U.S. economy got finance-heavy and finance-mad, and finally collapsed. When it did, the elites did what all elites do. They took care of their own: “Money was used to recapitalize banks, buying shares in them on terms that were grossly favorable to the banks themselves,” Johnson writes."