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“Derivatives”:  When Wall Street Went Postmodern!

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Ever since Michael Moore’s 2009 film,  Capitalism, a Love Story, in which Moore stood outside office buildings on Wall Street asking “Can you explain to me what a derivative is?”  the question has stuck in the back of my mind.  What is a derivative?
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the end of Communism; 2008 with the biggest financial institutions in the world on the verge of collapse was the end of Capitalism.  In 2008, the world’s leading capitalists—bankers, executives, CEOs, stock-market gurus—became nouveau socialists accepting hundreds of billions of dollars in government bailouts.  (Welfare is so much easier to accept when it isn’t being wasted on poor people like homeless vets and single mothers in need of daycare.) 
But what caused the immanent financial collapse?  Subprime mortgages (poor people again, screwing up the system buying houses they can’t afford) and “derivatives.”  That question again, sounding like a bad joke:  what’s a derivative?  Since they just about…