Wriston (Risk and Other Four-Letter Words, 1985), former chief of Citibank and an emir of Wall Street prior to its Era of Excess, ponders the future and finds it pretty good. Information, factual and financial, electronically girdles the globe like the rings of Saturn. Knowledge, more than ever, is power in the global village, and information is wealth. Information, resolved into the thousand points of computer light on the trading floors of the world, is a form of wealth, Wriston says, that no sovereign nation or transnational corporation will be able to control or contain. With the advent of instantaneous communication, national borders dissolve. Mighty enterprises are no longer situated in particular places, subject to simple authority. Current accounting theory is inadequate and the notion of gross national product is outdated. Information, the author continues, is ``the virus that is carrying the powerful idea of freedom to the four corners of the world, and modern technology assures that sooner rather than later everyone on the planet will have heard the message.'' Wriston places scant value on the future value of fixed wealth, like real estate, and he doesn't discuss oil. He assumes that the information forming the new wealth will be true (he spends some time on cryptography) and that the messages of freedom will be honest. He doesn't discuss the need to handle the handlers, the creators of the S&L debacle, and the junk-bond pirates, all masters of misinformation through modern technology. His thesis, nevertheless, is potent and curiously attractive. Discursive, thoughtful, and full of significant implications for the future of world economics and public policy.
Read full book review >