"The stock market has been big news in recent days," with Deutsche Börse making a big play for the New York Stock Exchange and the Dow topping 12,000, says Felix Salmon in The New York Times. But while these tidbits are flashy, "there's less to them than meets the eye." A healthy stock market doesn't really tell us much about the economy these days, as companies increasingly seek to stay private. As a result, the "shareholder democracy that America forged" is being left in the dust. Here's an excerpt:
"[A]s the number of initial public offerings steadily declines, the stock market is becoming little more than a place for speculators and algorithms to compete over who can trade his way to the most money...
At risk, then, is the shareholder democracy that America forged, slowly, over the past 50 years. Civilians, rather than plutocrats, controlled corporate America, and that relationship improved standards of living and usually kept the worst of corporate abuses in check. With America Inc. owned by its citizens, the success of American business translated into large gains in the stock portfolios of anybody who put his savings in the market over most of the postwar period.
Today, however, stock markets, once the bedrock of American capitalism, are slowly becoming a noisy sideshow that churns out increasingly meager returns. The show still gets lots of attention, but the real business of the global economy is inexorably leaving the stock market — and the vast majority of us — behind."