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You're holding up an impossible standard. You could just as easily say that people sometimes choose to eat apples but that doesn't mean they derive any real value from it.

I do believe that retail day-trading is essentially a slot machine, and probably worse on net than the ones in casinos, but most of finance doesn't provide that kind of entertainment value or sporadic reinforcement or whatever, so I'm not sure what's causing the money to flow unless it's helpful to the parties involved.

I can refer to nutrional values in the case of apples and show how eating an apple confers an advangtage regardless of whether it was bought or not. I can also argue that forcefeeding someone an apple is likely to make them healthier. The real value of apples doesn't come from that people want to eat them. It comes from fructose and such being a powerful body building ingredient.

The standard you are setting is trivially easy to fullfill to the point that it makes it not a standard at all. If people constantly doing it is grounds to prove that is providing them real value then 1000 flies liking shit can never be wrong. Thus any question of the form "people constantly do X but does it provide them real value?" can be answered in the affirmative regardless of the value of X. In order to question whether they should want to do it constantly we need to be able to imagine a scenario where it is an error to want that. For example preferring uncut hair to cut hair would be inferior on esthetic grounds (or one could try to argue that a cut hair is too "fake" and "kitch" so uncut hair is more organic and thus esthetically superior. Regardless there are esthetic standards (even if they are nebolous) on which we can rate different options).

It is easy to see how a poisoned apple fails at its function but it is very hard to pinpoint what goes wrong when a financial instrument fails to do its function. For example not being profitable doesn't seem reason enough to turn away (as similar profits can be racked in without them).
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