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To answer the question, we first need to look at where finance firms make their money. I'm actually going to answer the wrong question and just look at Goldman Sachs, since detailed data is easier to come by for a company than a sector. Since they're usually held up as the worst of the alleged parasites, I think this is fair.

http://www.goldmansachs.com/media-relations/press-releases/current/pdfs/2015-q1-results.pdf breaks down the sources of Goldman's revenue; http://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/041315/how-goldman-sachs-makes-its-money.asp provides some simpler explanation.

On the one hand, I don't see how any of these things could be coercive, and their clients mostly seem like they should be too smart to get conned for millions.

On the other hand, I can't justify how underwriting a high-profile IPO can cost millions, and investment management is pretty well known to not be worth it. Together these form around 33% of revenue.

Around half their revenue comes from market making and information trading. I believe that the way exchanges resolve trades rewards extremely low latency out of proportion to the value it creates; but there's no mechanism by which this can harm anyone except information traders like Goldman Sachs.

Commercial lending seems like a pretty straightforwardly productive thing.

All in all, for most of Goldman's earnings, there is no reason to believe they are parasitic, and the fact that they are freely chosen by customers again and again suggests they are productive. Since it is highly expected that the sort of accusations we see would crop up against a productive financial sector (the bias against intermediaries is ancient and pervasive), I conclude that finance is probably productive.






the fact that they are freely chosen by customers again and again suggests they are productive

Iím not entirely convinced by this argument. Take, for example, actively trading mutual funds. It has been statistically proven that such funds on average have lower returns than the index funds and that the financial expertise of the people in charge of them brings no value to their customers. Yet, people continue to invest money into them out of their own free will.
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melian
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