July 2009 (17.07) issue
By Daniel Roth
Walking around Wall Street these days is like being trapped inside the videogame Resident Evil. There are the dead (Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns), the undead (AIG, which survives only as long as the government needs it to), and the living scared (every suit who still has a job). Even with the occasional announcement of a good fiscal quarter from one of the banks, it's hard to see anything but neutron-bomb-like decimation. The glory days of Wall Street's dominance are done.
No one likes to see an industry die, but there is an upside: Often, smart cubicle refugees will seize the opportunity to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, unleashing waves of innovation upon society. The death of Big Steel in the 1980s gave birth to nimbler, more competitive mini-mills. The decline of the Hollywood studio system in the '60s gave us independent films. And the current demise of print media is giving us new sources of information, as journalists band together to reinvent news coverage.
Wall Street's turn is next, and we should all be praying for one thing: that many of those liberated innovators seek playing fields outside of finance. (more)