Web shopping: Ferguson and the importance of financial (and economic) history

Niall Ferguson

Just a quick note for today. Googleing for some other stuff I found an interview with well-known financial historian Niall Ferguson in Harvard Business School Bulletin of March 2009. He makes the case in this interview for studying financial history in business schools (a case that can be generalized to economics and humanities faculties, I think).

Here, an excerpt:

[…A:] Economists with their more mathematical approach to social science conspicuously failed to anticipate this crisis, whereas a sense of history made it clear that we were vulnerable to a liquidity shock because of the extent of leverage, of debt that had emerged in the system.

Q: So the lack of knowledge about financial history, in your view, contributed to the current global financial crisis?

A: I really believe that. It’s very striking that the majority of people, whether investors, households, or masters of the universe on Wall Street, rely on their own personal experience when forming judgments about the financial future. That means the average chief executive of an investment bank was working on data going back no further than, say, 1980, which was just completely insufficient to prepare for what was coming. My view is that you need at least 100 years of data to have a sense of the potential risks that globalization runs.

Q: Do business schools teach enough financial history?

My impression of the major business schools in the United States is that there is not sufficient emphasis on financial history or indeed any kind of history. Finance is often taught as a branch of mathematics in a rather technical way without adequate reference to past experience.

One Response to Web shopping: Ferguson and the importance of financial (and economic) history

  1. Ben says:

    Ferguson rocks

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